With her first single ‘Slow Mover‘ launched just last October, Angie McMahon has gripped Australia and the world with her emotive, relatable tunes. They’re cathartic in all the right ways, and they make you want to cry and strut down the street like nobody’s business – all at the same time.
The Melboure musician snapped up #33 on Triple J’s Hottest 100 this year, and both ‘Slow Mover’ and ‘Missing Me‘ have reached millions of listens on Spotify already. She’s also received airtime overseas, and has already supported the likes of Angus & Julia Stone, Alanis Morisette and The Shins. Not bad for a girl who says she never practiced enough in music class…
We had a chat with this beautiful human and talented soul ahead of her upcoming tour which celebrates new single ‘Keeping Time’.
How long have you been playing music?
I started with piano lessons when I was four. The nature of those lessons is that you’re always learning classical music, but I was terrible at practicing. I realised I wanted to play pop music… I was always better at that.
I started playing trumpet and guitar through school and singing in choirs, too. I was never good at practicing but I always got it done in my own little way.
Music was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I’m not very business-minded, so it took me quite a while out of school and uni to be properly prepared for it. Writing songs and singing songs was the only thing I thought about…being inspired by singers and songwriters was all I ever wanted to do, which is why it’s embarrassing to say I didn’t practice much!
Where are you based?
I live at home in Melbourne. Melbourne is pretty great – I love it as a home. I love it in a nature sense and a community sense with the music industry. With a music career, there’s often cause to move around a bit so you have to play it by ear a bit – whether it’s touring or relocating or moving for a little while.
How did you turn music into a career?
It was several years of working towards this point… there’s turning points in your confidence and organization along the way. I did an Arts degree at uni, knowing I wanted to take it slow and work on my writings skills. Through my degree I was writing and doing gigs, but the idea of releasing music and entering the industry properly came about when I was out of uni.
First year out of uni (2017) I was starting to apply for grants and thinking about releasing music. The process of applying for grants makes you more organised. It makes you have a six month plan, so that was quite pivotal and that was when I met my manager, too. It was lots of years of knowing I had to write a lot and gig a lot.
What’s the last year been like for you?
I feel like everything in the past year has been a massive learning curve…you’re kind of juggling making the album with the first tours and the first big opportunities. That in itself is hard. To rest and switch between the mindsets of live sets and recording is hard – it’s the two parts of the job every musician struggles with. Trying to be in the right mindset is tricky because you might get to a studio day and not realise how exhausted you are. I’m lucky I work with really wonderful people who are so emotionally intelligent which makes easy.
Tell us about your hit singles ‘Missing Me’ and ‘Slow Mover’.
‘Missing Me’ was actually written before ‘Slow Mover’. I wrote the singles around two years ago now, but the body of songs that I have at the minute have been written over the last few years, so its’ hard to pinpoint when I wrote them. Slow Mover took me a while to finish, actually.
What was it like hearing your songs on radio for the first time?
Before we released ‘Slow Mover, a Melbourne station called Triple R played the YouTube version of the song, recorded in my backyard which was cool. The first time they played it on Triple J, I was at a gig with my manager. I stole my mate’s car keys and we sat in his car and listened to it. It was in pouring rain and I think I danced in the rain outside the car.
How important is support from radio stations in starting a career?
Triple J have been wonderful and so supportive. They have a lot of artists coming through there and you never know if they’re going to pick you up. They have a lot of influence. We’ve also had a lot of support from community radio. I really appreciate what they do. But you’ve got to keep making good stuff and hoping people appreciate that.
Any hints on the release of your debut album?
It will hopefully be out by the end of the year but anything could happen…I’m rolling with the punches.
How would you describe your music?
The style feels, for lack of a better word, very ‘me’. It feels like it tells the story of my early twenties, because the songs were written around that time. They’re moody and varied, but they’re all in the same voice.
I don’t know what the next record will be…maybe more political or worldy. This first album is a good foundation for my style and my voice and I’m looking forward to building on that
What do you love most about your job?
I think probably the live shows I love the most. There’s nothing quite like having a crowd stare at you while you play. It’s a lot of attention and pressure, but because I’ve always wanted to do it and I’ve always pictured myself up on the stage, I’m always going to love that.
It’s quite intimate, particularly with moody, intimate songs. It feels special to connect with people in that way. I think with social media and all that, it feels like you’re connecting with people but when you play at a gig, you realise that’s really genuine. I’ll never take that for granted.
How have people responded to your music?
I feel really lucky to have people reaching out and telling me they really connect with my songs through social media. A lot of that stuff comes through social media can get overwhelming to read…sometimes you’re just starting at your phone and it doesn’t feel real, but the response I’ve got has been amazing.
You want people to relate to it and connect to it – it makes me feel like writing more is a good things and you just hope people will connect with it.
Have you played in Adelaide before?
I played a Porch Sessions gig a while back. It was a really fun show, and such a nice way to enter into Adelaide. It felt really special. I think Sharni [founder of the Porch Sessions] is the most magical human. I got to talk to people and make Adelaide friends, so that was nice. I also played the Angus and Julia Stone show at the Uni as well, which was great. I have really loved both of those gigs. Years ago I went Thebarton Theatre, which was beautiful.
Angie McMahon plays Adelaide UniBar September 15 at 7pm. Tickets $24