It’s been a few years since Meg Mac burst onto the scene, but those years have seen us receive some exciting music from the talented Melbourne muso. From her first singles back in 2013, to her self-titled EP the following year, it’s been an amazing journey – and now, Meg Mac celebrates the release of her long-awaited debut album Low Blows.
Recorded in Fort Worth, Texas, and mixed at the legendary Electric Lady studios in New York, Low Blows sees Meg Mac deliver powerful personal narratives with the raw emotion and feeling that we’ve come to expect of her, bolstered by new layers of finesse.
Keen for an insight into the anticipated release, we’ve asked Meg to take us through each of the tracks on the album, from the long road back from rock bottom on ‘Didn’t Wanna Get So Low But I Had To’, to the regrets of its beautiful title track.
Low Blows is out today via littleBIGMAN Records, and you can read along as you stream it below. If you like what you hear, you can catch Meg Mac as she tours Australia later this year, dates below.
I had this vocal riff that I had sung into my phone over and over again, no words, and it was just sitting in my phone with a million other ideas. In a hotel room in America, somewhere in the South, on tour I found it and started singing over the top of it.
The notion that you don’t have to be weak to be nice is where ‘Grace Gold’ came from. She is an imaginary person I made up. A role model, she is perfect. She is the perfect balance of strong and soft. She is nice but you can’t push her over because she is made of gold. I want to find her, I wanted to be like Grace Gold. So when we were recording we built the whole song around that vocal riff from my phone.
I wrote ‘Low Blows’ in my bedroom in Melbourne. It’s about looking back and wishing I’d spoken up, how things would be different if I knew how to stand up for myself. It’s about being uncomfortable in yourself and everything that goes along with that. It was a piano and vocal demo, that’s what I walked into the studio with. We played it out on the floor as a band over and over again until we found that drive and momentum to carry us through the song, because the chords are so cyclical it had to have that feeling.
You can hear the two parts that create this song very distinctly. Somehow these two ideas I had, at different tempos joined together and became ‘Kindness’, and together they seemed to sum up how I felt about people and the world. It was a mood I was stuck in for a little while there. On the day I started writing this song I felt that kindness was overrated and I was sick of being nice.
I don’t feel like this usually, but this day I was over being nice and over everything. Realising that one minute you can be living alongside someone in the world and then one day it’s like it never happened. Like you can be kicked out of someone’s world. “Well I’m sorry to step into your world, for a second I used to live there with you.”
In LA I was working on this song by accident, it wasn’t planned at all but I had this snare sample playing over and over and all I could hear were my chords for ‘Kindness’. And then every single part of this song happened by accident, no plan. All the backing vocals, I have no idea what made me sing like that. Bringing in my chorus at a different tempo somehow made sense and it was the only thing I could hear in the song.
I’d been thinking about old folk songs and how they can just be sung without any music and be so powerful. My Mum is always singing old Irish songs by herself and I love that it’s just the words and the melody being sung and it’s complete. That’s how I wrote this song, no music. Then I brought in the piano afterwards.
I started realising that no one really knows what they’re doing, and I don’t know either. I started to imagine everyone I knew in cages. And everyone has a different one and in our own ways we are all trying to get out of our cage. Words can put us in there, people can put us in there. But it’s like we are all trapped and we have to work out how to get out of there. That’s where I thought, October, please be the time for me, set me free. “Just like you, I got charmed by the words of the day and just like you, I lived by these words”
Didn’t Wanna Get So Low But I Had To
This song is about losing, and then losing again and again when you were already down and low enough. When you just keep going down and then you realise you had to. You can only ever see that afterwards, but you know that you had to and it was part of it. I wanted this whole song to feel like it is one big build up, like it’s stuck in this feeling of sadness and helplessness until you hit the end and the drums come in and it’s okay and you’re looking back now, you’re out of it. I think this song is really sad, because I can look back on it now and see that it really was, and I almost feel sorry for myself in a way.
This song came to me at a time when I was just thinking that whatever happens just ride it, good, bad, whatever, just ride it. Like something I could say to myself, get you through any sort of thing. It made me feel better, what else are you going to do, you have to ride it. This is definitely the loudest and heaviest song on the album, it was recording this song that made me go out and buy my first electric guitar.
It was really exciting to have a song like this where we had to leave in mistakes, I was just singing not thinking about how I was sounding or if it was perfect. You have to get into the rhythm of this song to perform it, because that’s what it was all about.
Maybe It’s My First Time
I know these things happen all the time but it’s my first time. The shock that hit me when my heart hurt was hard to put into words. I had never felt anything like it. For some reason reliving pain and going over and over the same thing in my head was addictive, I couldn’t stop. I don’t know why we do that to ourselves – I couldn’t get out of it.
That’s why in the bridge I am saying almost like a declaration “I only look back once,” but I have to try it again, because I keep going back.”I only look back once,” try it again. And then one day you won’t look back anymore. I thought wouldn’t it be nice if you could like the ferry going past the Statue of Liberty, just cruise past once and look at your pain like a tourist and then you’re done. You don’t have to see it ever again. “Oh my god, I’ll be cruising off this last time.”
This song is really just my life. My relationships, my friends and family, my work. Everything – it’s not as shiny and bright as I imagined it in my head but it’s my life. This is the song that came together in one go, we wanted it to be a performance, from beginning to end. So you hear me catching my breath, missing a note here and there but it’s real. As I get older I’ve started to work out that bad things are going to happen – and I find myself almost living in this state of waiting for everything to fall down rather than just living. We all know that the bad stuff is just part of life but when you actually realise that for yourself it’s hard.
This song we recorded at Electric Lady in the big studio downstairs. There are all these murals on the wall that Jimi Hendrix had commissioned, and they are these massive painting of space with aliens and so you just kind of stare into them while you’re singing. Just before my take of this song, John leaves me by myself in the room and from the control room told me about the ghost that lives in the corner of the room. People had seen her there and so I spent this whole song singing completely spooked as well
I spent a lot of time away from home in America, in between touring I would stay in Brooklyn. But I wasn’t on holiday in hotels, I was living in people’s apartments, living as they do. For the first time I found myself living in a tiny tiny apartment in one big building full of other tiny apartments. I could hear everything, and for the first time I was just one person in an apartment block.
I started to listen to everyone and think about what I was hearing. My life alongside everyone else’s lives – strangers in the same building. It was nothing like a home near me and this song is probably the first time I have listened and started to tell someone else’s story, not just singing about myself and what I think. I tried to work out what someone else was thinking.
We first recorded ourselves all clapping, then I played and sang piano over the top of that. And then the three of us around one microphone sang again over the top. It’s one of the most simple songs on the album, it’s just 3 layers. I wrote this thinking it seems like everyone is just walking around waiting for some to tell them they’re on the right track that they’re going okay.
But that person is never coming, no one is ever going to just come and tell you everything that you want to hear. So I thought it would be cool if I could take that idea away, take it off their hands. If you know that life’s not easy, then things should get easier. It only goes for a minute and a half, but that’s all I wanted to say.
MEG MAC TOUR DATES
Presented by triple j
WED 06 SEPT KAROVA LOUNGE BALLARAT VIC
THU 07 SEPT WOOL EXCHANGE GEELONG VIC
FRI 08 SEPT THE FORUM MELBOURNE VIC
SAT 09 SEPT THE FORUM MELBOURNE VIC
SUN 10 SEPT THE CAPITAL BENDIGO VIC
THU 14 SEPT HQ ADELAIDE SA
FRI 15 SEPT CLUB 54 LAUNCESTON TAS
SAT 16 SEPT THE WARATAH HOBART TAS
WED 20 SEPT ENTRANCE LEAGUES BATEAU BAY NSW
THU 21 SEPT UNI BAR WOLLONGONG NSW
FRI 22 SEPT THE ENMORE SYDNEY NSW
SAT 23 SEPT CAMBRIDGE HOTEL NEWCASTLE NSW
THU 28 SEPT EX SERVICES COFFS NSW
SAT 30 SEPT BLANK SPACE TOOWOOMBA QLD
FRI 06 OCT ROSEMOUNT HOTEL PERTH WA
THU 12 OCT MIAMI MARKETTA MIAMI QLD
FRI 13 OCT THE TIVOLI BRISBANE QLD
SAT 14 OCT TANKS ART CENTRE CAIRNS QLD