Despite the excitement surrounding the release of her debut album, Low Blows, Meg Mac cuts a relaxed figure as she ponders her career thus far on a sunny Friday afternoon at Perth’s Brisbane Hotel.
“You’re always trying to make a moment, I guess. Whether it’s for someone else or for yourself.”
The singer/songwriter is contemplating the diversity of stages she has played both here and overseas in the last two years. Intimate performances in clubs, industry showcases at Austin’s South X South West, headlining gigs in pubs, supporting US R&B artist, D’Angelo, in theatres and singing to sprawling crowds at Splendour In The Grass, Groovin The Moo and the Falls Festival.
“I just love shows,” she enthuses. “That’s kind of why I do what I do. It’s my favourite part about it. So all shows are different, and I love all of them. I did a support for D’Angelo and that was really different; supports are really different to doing your own shows. They haven’t bought tickets to see you and they don’t know your music so it’s almost like, a blank audience who don’t have any ideas about you.
“I remember coming home from the D’Angelo tour and the first thing I did was Splendour and I’d never seen that many people in my life. It was like people screaming and stuff and that’s just something that would not have happened on the shows I’d just spent a month doing. It was a great feeling; a really nice welcome home.
“So all shows are different. I just did some small showcases for my album, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne, and I loved that. I love the smaller shows. And the bigger ones. You just have to treat each one differently.”
Meg Mac released her self-titled debut EP in late 2014 and has been meeting increased demand ever since. Her first album loomed on the horizon during the aforementioned performance work and it was when she met Leon Bridges and the team who produced his 2015 Coming Home album that the stars aligned to kick things into action.
“I was really excited by the way that they made it,” she says, “it just sounds so real. I met Leon and some of the people who helped make his album at the Falls Festival, when they were playing there. Then I organised to fly to Dallas and spent one day in the studio trying out one song – a demo for Ride It – just to see if there was a vibe there. We did one song to tape, all live, and I just loved it. After that day, I was like, ‘yep, that’s where I’m doing it’.”
Mac returned to Dallas with 14 songs for what became a 10-track album. The newest song, Shiny Bright, was written just before she entered the studio, but her writing wasn’t geared specifically for the album.
“I just always write,” she qualifies. “I think when you plan things it doesn’t have the right sentiment. I don’t know… maybe it’s just because that’s the way I’ve always done it and when I try and think too much about what I’m writing I feel I can’t be creative.”
Low Blows was recorded at Fort Worth’s state-of-the-art Niles City Sound studio. Armed with the songs that were so close to her heart, Mac was an unfamiliar face in an unfamiliar place, but the songs soon brought the common ground.
“It’s definitely strange,” she says. “The first day I went in and I opened the door that led into the big room. And all the guys were wearing cowboy hats, and cowboy boots, and I was just like, ‘I am so far away from home’. It’s a simple thing, but it wasn’t a costume or anything, that’s their style.
“Being the only Australian in a group of Texans there’d be moments where I wouldn’t understand a reference and feel like, ‘I am so far away’. But when you play music it brings people together and it doesn’t matter where you’re from.
“Always, your environment changes the way you perform, that’s why all your shows are different. A different audience will make you perform in a different way. You’ll sing in a different way. If I don’t know someone I’ll probably sing in a different way than if it was a close friend or something. But I got comfortable. As soon as you start singing, everything kind of makes sense.”
As for the album itself, it reaches the potential hinted at on the debut EP and then some. The production and the team around Mac may be impressive, but it hinges on the singer/songwriter herself, and of course her songs. She is at the forefront at all times.
“I like how it ends,” she notes, “on a song called Morning, which is only a minute-and-a-half. It’s just piano, vocal and clapping. Piano and vocals were done at the same time, in one take. That, for me, is a nice way to sum up the album. Me and the piano and singing – the focus is on the song.
“I wanted to make the album have a nice flow. So it’s easy to listen to, I guess.”
With Low Blows now released (it debuted at #2 on the ARIA Album Chart) a national tour is the order of the day. It’s all about the shows, after all. And the audiences, of course.
“How weird does a venue look during the day or at a soundcheck?” she posits with a laugh. “You can have the most magic moments onstage and then after you see everyone cleaning up all the bottles and stuff and it’s like, ‘oh…’ Or at a festival and everyone’s rubbish is on the grass. You think, ‘but something really special happened there’. It’s people who create that.”
It’s only five short years since Megan McInerney graduated from WAAPA, pondering what was to come as she began her musical career.
“It’s definitely not what I imagined,” Meg Mac says now. “I think that when I thought about what I wanted to do, I probably had a more shiny view of what it would be like.
“But I think it’s a lot better than I could have imagined” she concludes with a smile. “To travel and play music and meet so many people… I’ve grown so much.”
Meg Mac performs five shows at the Rosemount Hotel from October 4-8. Full national tour details at www.megmac.com.au/tourdates/
In September, 2014, Meg Mac sat down with Bob Gordon and discussed some of her favourite songs…
“Camille the French singer, does all those looped vocals and stuff. That was the first time I heard someone singing not weirdly, but not that technically, in a sense. Being able to make sounds that could be great singing even if it’s a bit ‘weird’. I like that whole album (Le Fil), I just about lost my mind with how you could use your voice like that.”
2. Sam Cooke
Nothing Can Change This Love
“His voice is just amazing. It’s just so… simple? It’s just a simple, good song that makes everybody feel something.”
3. Bon Iver
“I love the vocals. I really like this song. He’s just special.”
4. Frank Oceans
“I first heard this on an aeroplane through the shittiest headphones., that were all like (makes hissing noise) but I listened to it like 50 times anyway on the way over to Perth. Then I listened on real headphones when I got home and I just about died. He’s modern, but it still sounds like soul, that everyone can relate to. It’s like he’s talking to you and it’s just so normal.”
5. Edith Piaf
Non, Je ne regrette rien
“I like all her songs… (sings Non, Je ne regrette rien). I feel like she’s a soul singer. She definitely isn’t, but she feels like soul to me. She is probably my favourite performer. During breaks at uni I used to sneak into the library and watch Edith Piaf DVDs. There was something about how she would just stand there. She pretty much died singing. I wouldn’t mind dying while I was singing (laughs).”