Interview: Meg Mac

Sydney-born Megan McInerney, better known as Meg Mac, captured the attention and the souls of the nation when her first track Known Better hit the Triple J airwaves in 2013. Mac’s dulcet tones and distinctive vocals saw her crowned Unearthed Artist of the Year in 2014 and she’s since cemented herself as a crowd favourite.

In the five years following, the singer-songwriter has gone from strength to strength collaborating with the likes of Dan Sultan, touring the globe and releasing heartfelt, honest tunes along the way.

We caught up with Mac ahead of her One Night Stand performance in Lucindale, South Australia to talk her recent European tour, songwriting and mini-album Hope.

For someone who started as a Triple J Unearthed artist and got discovered through that, you’ve come around full circle and now you’re one of the main acts at Triple J’s One Night Stand, how does that feel?

It feels good when you think back to the moment I uploaded my first song and you kind of have no expectation. I’m so glad I decided to upload my song to Unearthed.

Was that a big moment for you, making that decision?

Yeah I had this one song that I’d recorded. I’d saved up all my money to go into the studio and record it, I made a profile and all the social media accounts and then, yeah, just to see what would happen.

 

You’ve previously spoken about being shy as well – on stage that must be so hard, how do you tackle that?

For some reason I’m more confident on stage than off stage and singing is natural for me but speaking I find more difficult.

Does it help having your sister there too? Is she going to be here today? That must be such a cool dynamic.

She’s here today, yeah. There’s not been that many shows I’ve done without her. We’ve been touring a lot and we’ve lived together and been housemates, yeah.

You were touring over in Europe earlier this year, what was that experience like and the contrast of being here in Lucindale now?

It was really cool, I was doing places I’ve never done before. The weirdest was I played a show in Berlin and then I realised I’d have to learn how to introduce myself in German and say thank you. It was cool because I’ve done a lot more stuff in America so to do stuff in Europe was really, really cool.

What was the reception like from the crowds and what was the atmosphere like over there?

It was really good and I got to play songs that people hadn’t heard. I got to meet people after the show, lots of Australians would be there and it was really nice.

It must be pretty surreal being an Australian artist and heading over to Europe and having crowds of people knowing who you are, what is that experience like?

It’s really nice to get to go overseas and you just wonder ‘how did you find it, how did you hear about my music?’ and it’s really cool.

Was there a point in your life when you realised you could make a career out of your music?

I remember hearing my song on the radio for the first time. I’d never thought about it and then I was listening, all my friends were there an we were waiting for it to come on. I never thought I’d get to be on the radio so the first time it happened was like ‘oh wow’.

Was there ever a contingency plan if music didn’t work out?

No I guess I never thought that far ahead. I feel really lucky to be still doing it.

Of course, Give Me My Name Back and your latest album Hope has had a really good reception. What’s it like making a song that is so honest and having it met with such positivity? Has that given you a freedom to explore your songwriting?

I think I was really nervous about being open about what the song was about before I released it. Then when I was I had such a positive response from people, and people telling me their personal experiences, people telling me their stories and things they’d never told people and how the song Give Me My Name Back made them feel and that was really important for me because now I’m like ‘oh I should be more open about what I write about’ where normally I just write it.

Is there a pressure to keep that honesty going and keep sharing your stories?

I think it depends on what type of song it is. Like, if it is a song that is kind of raw then it’s personal to share that. It just depends what you’re writing, sometimes it’s just fun but sometimes it’s deep.

Who have you been listening to lately?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Nina Simone, she’s my favourite. And I really like Didirri, he’s playing with me today, he’s my special guest tonight and I’m really excited to sing with him. I think there’s something about his voice that’s really powerful and there’s so much emotion in it and getting to sing with him is really cool.

 

There’s probably new music on the way?

Yeah I’ve got something new coming out really soon.

Before the end of the year?

Yeah.

We touched on it before but have there been any ‘crossroads’ moments in your life where you’ve had to make a decision in order to move forward?

When I finished high school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and I went and studied digital media and I hated it. But I’m so glad I did it, even though I hated it. I’m so glad I did it because it’s what made me realise how much I love music. So everyday instead of doing my assignments I’d sit at the piano. Because I didn’t have school anymore, I had all this free time and I would just sit at the piano and sing.

What would you say to other young people struggling with a similar situation?

I would say remove the pressure. Even though I hated it and you could look at it as a year wasted, it taught me so much about what I really like. Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you’re doing something you really don’t like. Sometimes you can make a list of what you don’t like rather than what you do like, and that’s also important.

That ties into something that you’ve talked about learning not to take other people’s ideals on board as much. Was that a difficult process for you?

Yeah I think it’s hard for a lot of people, especially young people because you look up to people and you look to people for answers. Especially when you’re in a new environment. When you leave uni or you leave school, you have to use other people to help you make decisions.

That’s something a lot of our readers can probably relate, being a youth platform, does there come any kind of responsibility with the fact that people are now looking to you for those answers?

I do get asked about starting in music and things like that. I think it’s nice because I was that person once who would ask what it’s like to do music. I’ve asked all the questions that people have asked me, definitely.

Illustration by Emily Savage
Photography by Ben Neale