Interview: Meg Mac on her new album, playing live and travelling

Friday, June 7, 2019
Photo by Metaxia Coustas

Meg Mac continues to reaffirm her status as one of Australia's hardest working musicians. From playing in the US, UK, and Europe, to selling out shows at home, she's accomplished a lot across her career. Today, she unveiled her impressive sophomore album HOPE. We had the chance to ask her about working on the album, live shows and her travels.

HOPE's coming out tomorrow, how are you feeling about it all? 

I'm really excited. I've been playing some of the songs on tour before they've been released, so I'm really excited for everyone to get to be able to actually hear the whole album.

The album is in a mini-album format, which is different from the last one. Why did you decide to keep it tightly curated? 

I think when I started working on this record, I didn't have a clear idea in my mind whether I wanted to do an EP or an album. I was just working on individual tracks and then we got to where we are now. The seven tracks on the album felt complete, so we made it into a mini-album.

Did you encounter any challenges when deciding what songs to put on the album? Or did you know it was always going to be those final seven tracks??

Not really. We were working on the tracks until it got to a point where we had these seven songs that we felt really good about. Once we had them, we always knew it was going to be this set of tracks.

For Low Blows, you worked on it in Texas, where did you spend most of the time working on HOPE

The album was made in Melbourne with Myles Wootton. He lived down the road from me in Melbourne, so it was a really nice experience making the album because I would just go to his house, I could just walk there. I'd go there in the afternoon and just bring the latest track I was working on and show Myles and then we would just start working on it. It just came together like that. A lot of the tracks were made in a bedroom. A lot of the vocals you hear on the album were just me in the bedroom. I really enjoyed making HOPE because it was a different process. Low Blows was made in Texas, so obviously I had to go overseas and everything was scheduled in. But this came together over a longer period of time in a no pressure environment, which I enjoyed.

What were some of the things that you learnt the first time around that helped with making HOPE?

You never stop learning especially when you write songs because you just never stop writing and there's always something that you might do differently — you're continuously doing it. After I made Low Blows, I released it and then I went on a tour and it was the biggest tour I've ever done. That was such an amazing experience, hearing the audience sing the songs and hearing the album come to life on-stage was really inspiring. In-between that tour and when I got home, that's when I started writing HOPE. The Low Blows tour really influenced what I wrote next.

At your show in Melbourne last month, before playing the track 'Hope', you said that hope isn't something that's always positive. How did you want to capture that on the track and on the rest of the album?

I wrote it about hope, but when you think of the word 'hope' you normally think of hopefulness and positivity and things like that — but I was really interested in the other side of that, the flip side of hope. Things like the desperation and the sadness that goes along with that feeling. I think as humans, we are all living in hope in some way for something, and I think it's interesting looking at the desperation behind it. When I was writing it, I had this novel sitting on my piano and on the front is this picture, a portrait of this woman and she's looking down. I was writing this song on the piano, just staring at this picture and I started thinking about it and decided I would write about this woman. She looked so defeated and sad, but she also had this glimmer of hope in her eyes and I found myself sucked into her world — so it emerged from there.

When I listen to your music, I instantly picture it in a live space. How does the live aspect of what you do shape your sound? 

Playing live is the most enjoyable thing that I get to do — playing with my band, singing live, the harmonies, and bringing the songs to life with an audience is why I do what I do. It's very important to what I do. I love playing the songs live a lot.

Do you enjoy testing out new stuff before it's released in a gig to help rework it or reshape what you are trying to achieve? 

Yeah, sometimes we like to do that. It's interesting, one of the songs on Hope is called 'Before Trouble', and it's a song I used to play live but I never recorded it. I'm so happy that now I've finally recorded it and I'll get to play it live.

And playing live and your music has taken you to so many different parts of the world, how has this influenced you? 

I just feel very lucky to be able to go overseas and take my music to different parts of the world. Spending more time overseas has definitely influenced what I do. I made my first album in Texas, and I've spent heaps of time in New York. Probably one of the most inspiring things I've done is support D'Angelo in America, and then I got to watch him play every night and watch his band play every night and be surrounded by that world and that had a massive impact on me.

Do you have a favourite place that you've visited so far? 

Right now I'm in LA and I have really been liking it, but I think I really like London. I would love to spend more time there.

What's coming up for you once HOPE's out in the world? 

Once it's out, I'm finishing off my tour, I've got a few stops left. I'm also playing Splendour in the Grass in July. I'm in LA at the moment just working so I'm going to keep doing that and see what stuff I can create.

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)

Listen to HOPE below:

Watch 'I'm Not Coming Back':

Follow Meg Mac: