A chat with Meg Mac
We caught up with the lovely Meg Mac on a sunny winter's day in Perth to chat about baby albums, naming guitars, where we (legally) watch TV and, burgers.
So I got to have a sneaky little pre-listen to your album, which drops July 14th, if I’m not mistaken. It is so soulful and delightful! So, how big a role do you have in the production once everything is written and recorded?
Oh thank you! Well, a big part really. All the songs are written on piano, and singing, which I write like that, and then when I got into the studio it was about bringing that to life. So, we would work for ages, just playing all together, I was playing keyboard and piano - on pretty much most of the songs I am playing piano. Just really working together to get the feeling that the band would have, so it was a pretty interactive process making the album.
Cool. How do you feel about releasing this album to the world?
You know, I’m only a little bit nervous about it because I’ve not released an album before, but mostly I’m excited to get to do a tour, and get to play a show because I feel like the album kinda…
...translates well live?
Yeah, it’s meant to be played live, and that’s what I’m most looking forward to; having the album out will mean I’ve got all these new songs I can now play at my shows.
Awesome. So you have a really unique voice. How much of that is an innate talent, and how much is a conscious and curated decision?
(Laughs) I have no idea.
I dunno, I think I found my voice when I started writing. So when I started making up something that no-one in the whole world had ever sung before, that was a really big realization for me. That I could sing something no-one has ever sung before, and that has an overwhelming amount of possibilities and ways to sing like one word. I guess I sound the way I do because I spend so much time singing, and making up my own music. Maybe that’s part of it.
How long did it take for you to develop that voice and become comfortable in the style enough to share it, I guess?
I dunno. I guess I started writing songs when I was 18? And then, I didn’t release my first song until I was 22. So from when I started writing songs it was quite a few years of writing and stuff before I ever even recorded a song. It took a while, I guess.
There seems to be this awesome surge of female musicians in Australia, but I guess with that there comes this discourse of sexism. Have you ever experienced any of that, personally?
I don’t know if I really have. I mean, I know it’s a big conversation at the moment, but I tend to just do what I do and stick to myself. Yeah, I feel really lucky to have been able to make the album I wanted to make. I feel like I’ve managed to do what I want to do, and stay true to that.
Where do you see the direction of your music heading?
On the album, one of the songs when we were recording called ‘Ride It’, it has lots of guitar on it, and I just saw myself playing guitar and singing, and I was like “I don’t play guitar, all of my music is based around piano. Like everything.” And then, I suddenly wanted to play guitar. So that’s something I’m working on at the moment, I’m learning guitar, and I’m learning how to play, and I really wanna start writing on guitar, to start writing using guitar. I imagine I’d start writing differently because the style of my songwriting is very much dictated by my piano skills, which are quite limited but it has created my style. So that’s something I really, really wanna do. I’d love to be able to play guitar on stage.
So do you own a guitar now?
Yeah, I got one – well I saw the one I wanted in New York, I was mixing my album at Electric Lady, and there was lots of really cool guitar stores so a friend of mine took me around and I found the one I wanted, and I got it when I got back to Australia.
Does it have a name?!?
Yeah it’s a Fender Thinline, and its like a shimmery blue…
It’s really nice. Do you play guitar?
Yes. I have a semi-hollow body Gretsch called Giselle that has a gold sparkle top.
Did you call it Giselle?
Ah actually the person before called it Giselle and it was too fitting to rename it. And I’ve got a tele and an entry-level Yamaha acoustic. I think naming guitars is really cool.
I haven’t named mine yet.
I think you have to, if it’s shimmery blue, it sounds lovely.
It’s really nice. I’m working on it, so when I can actually play it I’ll give it a name. But my dream would be to play it onstage.
So you’re doing lessons now?
Yeah, I just had a friend kinda teach me, but probably gonna try and teach myself.
I think that’s kind of interesting as well, when you’re self-taught? I think that kind of gives you a new direction.
Yeah. When I started writing songs, my sister was like “Oh you just go like this on the piano, and then you change like the middle finger, and it sounds sadder. So you basically just do that wherever you want on the piano.” And that just blew my mind, and then suddenly I was writing songs; before that I always thought of piano as like reading music, and I can’t read music. So hopefully on guitar, learning those chord shapes, I’ll quickly be able to start writing songs on guitar.
Yeah, not talking about majors and minors, just ‘moving a finger so it sounds sadder.’
Yeah! It was so simple, but that moment changed my life. Because I suddenly realized that I could make music.
What are you listening to right now?
I’ve been listening to lots of Bob Dylan, Solange, Alabama Shakes… I dunno, I’ve been getting into making Spotify playlists, so I’ve started trying to show people what I’m listening to.
And that its diverse, too.
Yeah, and a mix of old music and new stuff as well.
Yeah, Bob Dylan has got some simple guitar parts-
Yeah, I think I’m gonna learn how to play one of his songs. Definitely.
*A man waves to us*
That was my manager. I think my albums have just been delivered, the physical copies are done, and he missed the delivery at his house, so he’s going to pick them up.
So you haven’t held one in your hand yet?
No, so I think that’s where he’s going. I think I’m gonna be able to hold my album for the first time.
That’s an exciting moment, it’s like your baby, -
its been gestating -
It kind of is like that, yeah.
So "Roll Up Your Sleeves" was featured on Girls. Which show, or movie could you imagine your music being the soundtrack to. Any of your music, what would you pick?
Ooh. I’ve never thought about this… I dunno, I’d probably just- My favourite T.V. show is Mad Men, but I don’t know if my music would work on Mad Men.
I think you could find something, they use some great music on that show.
Yeah, I love Mad Men, so I’m gonna say Mad Men. But it’s over, the show is over.
It is over, depressingly. So what was the last show you binge watched then?
Rewatched Mad Men recently. I’m waiting for tour to start, and them I’m gonna start Game of Thrones. I’ve never watched it, it’s always been that one where I thought “I’m gonna wait until I can dedicate my life to watching.” It’s gonna take over my life, a bit. So maybe when I start my tour at the end of the year, I might start watching.
Well if you like Elizabeth Moss, from Mad Men, she’s in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Oh yeah! But I don’t know how to watch that! What site is it on? Because it’s not on Netflix.
I’m not sure I should disclose that – I’ll tell you later. What’s been your favourite venue to play?
One of my favourites, definitely was in Melbourne, when I was on my last tour I played The Corner Hotel in Richmond, but I got to do 4 shows in a row! It was so cool, we set up for the first show and after the show was over I just went home, I lived so close that we didn’t have to pack up, didn’t have to set up the next day. It was 4 nights of that, and it was so nice just driving from my house to there every night. It just has a really nice vibe in that room. The stage is pretty small, but it’s really nice, so that has been one of my favourites.
Sounds like a residency almost.
Yeah, it kind of became like that. And I hadn’t had that before, especially being able to sleep in my own bed, it wasn’t like a tour, which was nice.
Do you miss living in Perth?
Well today, the weather is nice, and Melbourne is freezing right now, and this is so amazing. I used to live in North Perth, and everyone’s so nice and chill here.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a big country town here.
Its not very stressful here, life is nice here, so I do miss that. Looking up to the sky now, its amazing.
Not seeing clouds.
Not that grey, depressing Melbourne. But I love Melbourne as well.
Well this brings me to my final question, which is double-barreled. And food orientated.
The Chicken Big Mac is very popular right now, would you ever consider partnering with McDonalds for like a Meg Mac Big Mac?
Well, there’s actually a Mega Mac. I don’t know if you’ve seen that, but I have had so many people send me photos like of the Mega Mac sign. But I’ve never eaten a Big Mac.
Neither have I. What would be in your Meg Mac Big Mac?
Mine? Probably something really lame, like a gluten free bun… Nah, I dunno. I’ve never thought about it.
Yeah, can’t imagine you would.
And I like Grill’d burgers, so I’d probably prefer a big, Meg Mac but Grill’d burger.
Fair enough. Well thank you, its been lovely chatting to you.
And then-and then can you tell me where you watch A Handmaids Tale?
Oh my god yeah I can!