Meg Mac has had quite the year. Her third studio album, Matter of Time, finally brought the singer-songwriter her first chart-topping ARIA album. With her first two albums coming tantalisingly close to the top spot, it makes Meg’s new album title feel positively premonitory.
It could all have went a lot differently. While preparing Matter of Time, Meg grew disillusioned with the collection of songs she’d made, and bravely threw them out entirely.
She decided to move to a secluded cottage in rural New South Wales, seeking space and time to make her third album properly (in a recent interview with Rolling Stone AU/NZ, Fazerdaze discussed similarly taking her time between album releases, waiting until she was in a healthy mindset to make the music she really wanted to make; more artists would do well to follow her and Meg’s example).
In that NSW cottage, things eventually came together for Meg. Upon release, Matter of Time was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2022 J Awards; it was hailed as a “grand statement” in Rolling Stone AU/NZ‘s review.
Following a successful supporting slot for fellow vocal powerhouse Jacob Banks in the Northern Hemisphere, Meg has celebrated being back on home soil with the release of Live At Golden Retriever, a special 5-track EP of select songs from Matter of Time.
Recorded at the titular Marrickville studio alongside her live band prior to the release of her album, the EP captures Meg’s voice at its potent best.
Ahead of the release of Live At Golden Retriever, Rolling Stone AU/NZ spoke with Meg about her huge year and her new EP, as well as looking forward to her 2023 Australian and New Zealand tour.
Meg Mac’s Live At Golden Retriever is out now.
RS AU/NZ: First of all, congratulations on Matter of Time reaching the top of the ARIA Albums Chart. How did it feel to get your first number one? It must be a dream come true.
Meg Mac: Thank you! It was a bit emotional to be honest. I already knew I’d made the right decision to start the album again but this just made it a little sweeter.
So you threw out a full album of material before making Matter of Time? Were your team and confidants anxious about this decision?
I was so scared to tell my label and everyone that had worked on the album. I’d built it up in my head to be this giant problem so I left it to the last second when it was honestly almost too late. I regret that because when I found the courage to tell my team, no one cared or questioned me once.
What was wrong with that album of material? Were you just not feeling the songs?
I think the best way to explain it would be that I wasn’t in a good place when I was making it and so I think you can hear that. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t right. I felt sick when I would think about it and when the first single was about to come out I finally snapped. The moment that song was pulled I felt a wave of relief.
Did any songs survive the cut?
One song made it – funny that it ended up being the title of the album, “Matter of Time”. If you listen to the lyrics it’s like this spooky premonition about what was going to happen.
So you moved to the NSW countryside to make Matter of Time? Was being surrounded by nature a huge influence?
I call it my great escape, running away from my troubles. For whatever reason I needed to feel like I was far away from everyone and in my own little world to figure everything out. Now I’m back in the city and it seems like a weird dream that we actually moved there.
Which other artists and singers influenced the sound of the album? Who were you listening to a lot in your countryside cottage?
I went through this massive Enya phase during the second lockdown. I got so obsessed with how calming and peaceful it was and how she used her voice. You can definitely hear my Enya-inspired BVs I put in all over the place.
I liked this quote you said about the album: “I wanted to just start again and do everything without compromise.” It takes real guts to do that as an artist. Is it difficult to get to that point as a creative person who is also aware that they have a huge expectant fanbase?
You can know it’s right for you but people are going to react and you don’t know if it will be good or bad. At the end of the day I have to feel good about what I’m doing. It was 100% worth the pain to feel good about myself and my music again.
I think it’s notable that the songs on Matter of Time aren’t all just straightforward pop. There’s a lot of different stylistic touches. Was that a conscious effort on the production side?
I love the production on this album. The Donuts were a big part of the sound. We took our time too, months of work went into this going back and forth until we got it right. They were so creative and brought so much more to the music than I could’ve imagined.
What’s your songwriting process like? Is it a very private thing or do you allow a lot of collaborators to help out?
It always starts as a very private and personal process and once I’ve got my idea that’s when I bring in the right people to help structure it or flesh it out. Sometimes that’s just production and sometimes more. Kind of depends on the songs and the idea so just have to go with the flow.
What inspired you to make Live At Golden Retriever?
I’d started putting my band together in Sydney and playing with musicians live again for the first time in years since COVID. I don’t even remember when we decided to do it, but I was feeling so good and excited that I thought it would be fun! We didn’t use any track and wanted to do record and film it all live in one take with one camera. I wanted it to be real.
Your sister and brother feature on it? That must be a lovely and emotional thing for your family.
It was so nice actually. Hannah is in my band but I haven’t sung with my brother since I was a kid so it was a pretty special opportunity to sing together like this. And no one harmonises better than siblings.
I’ve been asking this to every artist recently: how have you found touring post-pandemic? Responses have been…mixed.
I’m on tour right now and I’m this weird combination of happy and exhausted. It feels good. I’m in Amsterdam right now and I’ve been doing non-stop touring for the last couple of months. It feels so good to be busy and productive – you get into your own head when you spend too much time at home, you have to live in the moment more here.
How did the link up with Jacob Banks – another artist with a huge voice – come about? How has it been being on the road supporting him?
It’s been a dream, I’m so grateful he’s taking me out on this tour. Originally it was just for the US and now I’m on the Euro run too. I got up and did a song with Jacob last night in Rotterdam too, very special.
You’re both such powerful vocal performers: do you often share notes, thoughts, tips on singing?
We are so different backstage, he doesn’t warm up! And I’m the nerd backstage doing my lip bubbles 20 minutes before I go on stage. I love singing and his voice is so powerful, you just get instant goosebumps.
I’m sure every support act is always weary about how they’ll be received, but how have Jacob’s audiences taken to you? Surely quite well considering your sonic similarities?
I think it’s cool to have an opportunity to make a first impression. I’m in these cities I’ve never been to before, some places they don’t speak English, and you can walk out and no one has any idea who you are. There’s some freedom and that doesn’t happen much anymore.
Have you had a favourite venue in North America or Europe so far?
I had so many good shows but there are always your special favourites, just something in the air. Phoenix had that special something for me in the US and in Europe, I’m still in the middle of it but Madrid was a dream. I want to move there.
Are you looking forward to your Australia and New Zealand tour next year? When was the last time you did a national headline tour on this scale?
It’s been a long time actually so I’m a little bit nervous to be honest. I’m doing things different this tour and bringing in some new elements, so I’m getting excited to start pulling the show together when I get home.
What about the future? Do you have an entire album of music ready to be shelved once again?!
I will NEVER do that again!!! I’ve learned my lesson and if something isn’t feeling right I’ll stop and change direction, I promise. I’ve started writing and planning a new album, it’s early stages but keeping me inspired.