Australian singer and songwriter, Meg Mac is known for her distinctive raw and soulful vocals across the globe.
From humble beginnings winning the 2014 Triple J Unearthed Competition, Meg has been lucky enough to tour alongside the likes of Clean Bandit and D’Angelo.
Having also been nominated as ‘Best New Talent (2015) ’ by Rolling Stone Australia and prepping her latest album in the US, it has definitely been a whirlwind couple of years.
We took some time to chat with Meg one-on-one about her new album, ‘Low Blows’ and all things music.
So, how did the creative process begin for the album?
I’m always writing, that’s something that was happening already so I didn’t feel like I had to write an album.
I heard the Leon Bridges album and I really loved that and got really excited about the way it was made and how it was put together.
When Leon was here for Falls Festival, I met him and some of his team who had worked on his album. Then we organised for me to come over to their studio, so we flew to Dallas and tried a song in their studio and I loved it.
We recorded one song and we did it to tape and that was all live. I’d never heard my voice on tape or anything, so that was the reason why I made my album in Footworth, Texas.
So, I guess that’s were it kind of began, after that one day in the studio, I was like yep that’s where I’m going to make my album.
What was the experience like in the studio and working alongside Leon’s producers?
It was really fun and all about how the songs feel and really based around the songs. Not like somebody’s sitting on a couch while someone’s on a computer, we were down on the floor playing through the songs as a band, getting the feeling, the structure, what’s the vibe of the song and then we would record. I am playing a lot of piano on the album, and I guess everything was very real.
The studio had a really nice atmosphere, it looked like an old 70’s studio.
My video for ‘Low Blows’, I edited that myself and that footage was from the studio and kind of shows a little bit of what it was like.
Did you feel being in the USA changed your musical production or style?
I think your environment always effect’s the way you’re seeing and the way you make music. Being in that studio and being surrounded by all these old instruments and synths and organs, it definitely had an impact on the sounds of the album.
And the guys I was working with and the way they approach music, definitely I think became apart of my songs and brought them to life.
Was the track ‘Brooklyn Apartment’ based on your own real experiences?
I had been spending a lot of time in America and when I’d stay in Brooklyn, I would stay in Airbnb apartments not like a hotel. With all that travelling, the overall track was really built around that idea of the main line, “ a home near you, is nothing like a home near me”.
I just found it really weird being in apartment block and hearing people next door, and you would step outside the front door and they wouldn’t even say hi to you or like look you in the eye and that was just strange.
I was listening and trying to imagine what life was like, using my imagination to kind of picture what it looks like next door and how that’s different to me and overall building to how that’s so different to my home in Melbourne.
And how everyone has different lives I guess, and through travelling working out that people live differently to me.
Do you base a lot of your songs from real life experiences or make-up narratives, or both?
Yeah, it’s always a very cathartic experience for me. Song writing felt like an impulse and like an emotion reaction to what I was thinking and how I was feeling.
And song writing and just singing at the piano is what I go to when I’m not feeling good. It’s how I get myself motivated, it’s like I write them to help myself. I always say just write it, just write it, you’ll be fine.
When writing the album did you go through writers block or did you have any moments of self-doubt?
I think those moments started to creep in a lot more afterwards. I feel like I’m the healthiest and most sane when I’m doing shows because every night I’m just singing and it feels normal to me. Then to have such a long period of time not singing it kind of made me question, what if I never get to do a show again, like those really ridiculous thoughts that start creeping in and that definitely started to happen, more when the recording process was over and waiting for things to finish.
Did you have a way of overcoming those thoughts?
Um, I don’t know how I dealt with it (laughs). But I guess singing, just singing by yourself. Not doing a show is one thing that sometimes you forget, it sounds ridiculous but doing what I do there’s so much stuff that’s got nothing to do with the music and there’s so much stuff you can get stressed about that’s got nothing to do with you just singing, that you forget to sing sometimes.
So sometimes just going and sitting down and singing no matter what it is, at home by myself, I’ll like reconnect and remember this is fine, this is why I do what I do.
In 2015, you toured with D’Angelo in the US, what was that whole experience like for you?
It was probably one of the most inspiring experiences of my life, to be honest. I learnt a lot about music, about the way he works with the band, the way he interacts with the audience and just getting to watch it every night.
People regard the players in his band as the best musicians in the world, so sneakily watching them sound check and soaking that up was a really big thing for me and made me fall in love with music even more.
Did you find that influenced your current album?
I’m sure it did. When I think of touring, I just go back to those moments in my head and him working with the band, but it was about the feeling and about the power that the songs had for the audience listening as well.
Why did you choose the title ‘Low Blows’?
Well, the first single was called Low Blows and all of the songs were pretty personal. I almost thought about each song on the album’s like it’s own low blow in my life or something that happened to me that I was strong enough to write a song about it.
So it was like, you know, an album full of ‘Meg’s Life Low Blows’ or something.
Do you feel vulnerable to performing and releasing the songs for the first time?
I recently did two showcases where I got to sing through the album in front of a small audience, it was unfair it was like a tease to me.
I’m more excited about just being able to play it and bring it to life, and I feel like the album is made to be played live. To really understand it, you need to see it.
If you had to pick one dream artist you would like to collaborate with in the future who would it be?
I mean I always pick dead people, I would love to sing with Edith Piaf but she’s dead, they have to be alive so that doesn’t count….I don’t know (laughs), umm I love Boy and Bear.
Your due to head out on a national tour in September, and your first Melbourne show has already sold out. Do you find you prefer the smaller gigs or big festivals?
There’s something really nice and charming about playing at a smaller venue with lots of people, because I love to look at people while I’m singing.
But then a festival has its own unbelievable energy, to walk out to thousands of people, they all become like one.
Do you find you just get blown away each time?
At any show where there are people that have bought a ticket, it’s really exciting, electric energy I guess that can come from an audience is really cool.