Posts Tagged ‘Salt’

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A good friend with whom I exchange music tips across hemispheres pointed me in the direction of Angie McMahon before the UK release of ‘Salt’. I was won over by a song called ‘Pasta’ but the album is a much more complex listen, showcasing her remarkably emotive and gnarly vocals. Electric folk is probably the label to use, but there’s some variety here with ‘Keeping Time’ offering a scuzzy strut and the more jagged end of Mazzy Star being evoked at times. Good stuff.

Angie McMahon released a breathtaking cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs,” a piercingly beautiful song of heartbreak that started as a b-side and has since become a classic in its own right. We’ve been playing this in our set for a long time, and had a moment to record it in Nashville this year

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Angie McMahon is an Australian musician who loves honest songwriting and romantic melodies, with songs that ruminate on life, love and takeaway food. Angie loves to write and perform across the full dynamic spectrum, shifting between gravelly intimacy and pounding rock.

One of the standout discoveries at this past South By Southwest, was Australian artist Angie McMahon has now released her debut LP on Dual Tone Records, a partnership she announced during the festival where she was awarded the Grulke Prize for Best Developing International Act. Considering she has only released five or six tracks for us to spin incessantly since then (and they are, by all means, each incredible) we’ve been ready for this album since first hearing McMahon’s guitar fill the vaulted ceilings of a church in Austin. 

McMahon’s gorgeous vocals range over somber folk melodies, evoking passionate emotions in anyone within earshot. Look no further than the stunning energy of “Keeping Time” for the essence of one of the finest vocalists and songwriters we’ve had the pleasure of discovering this year.

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Taking inspiration from losing inspiration is almost its own songwriting genre. Angie McMahon can relate. The Melbourne-based singer-songwriter first made headlines in 2013 after winning a Telstra competition to support Bon Jovi, but having done the shows, she halted the momentum to evaluate the quality of her material and start again from scratch.

Pressure. It’s the uneasy bedfellow of perfectionism. And McMahon finds herself thinking about pressure a lot – its effect on her, and its effect on others.

“In the paper the other day I was reading about growing rates of depression in children and how looking after mental health has to become part of the school curriculum. I was like, ‘Yes!’” she tells Guardian Australia. Sitting in a Melbourne bar, she cups her face and doesn’t so much lean on the table as slump cooperatively towards the recorder.

“Without getting too personal, I’ve heard of two men I knew, who were really successful, and who were loved, who died from their depression. You just can’t imagine how different it might have been if they had known a culture from birth where you get to talk about that. It makes me so sad there’s that attitude of having to be closed off. I feel like the only way to help cure that is for me to be the opposite.”

Six years since she took time out, McMahon has just been awarded the Grulke prize for developing non-US act at the SXSW music festival and conference (an award previously won by Courtney Barnett, Haim and Chvrches) and is releasing her debut album “Salt”, which almost feels like a greatest hits, compiled as it is of her contenders for Australia’s largest national music poll, the Triple J Hottest 100, and the single Slow Mover, which was certified gold on the Australian music charts.

And yet, the lyrics of one single, Pasta, reveal the paralysis that still blights her. “I just sit in my house making noise for fun / And I’m not moving much / Or proving much to anyone,” she sings, languishing on a couch in the video, kept company by a sympathetic dog.

“I found it really hard coming home from the last tour,” McMahon says. “All I could think of doing was sitting outside in the sun and staring at birds and smoking cigarettes. It’s interesting to write about because it kind of gets you through it. It’s a form of productivity in the feeling of lethargy.”

McMahon doesn’t shy away from discussing the conundrum of the sensitive artist, under pressure to promote themselves while remaining authentically troubled. She recounts a recent conversation between two of her friends. One had remarked on how well McMahon was doing, securing lots of tour dates and international showcases. The other friend was concerned. “Yeah, but Angie is meant to sit in her room in the dark and write songs. She’s not meant for touring,” the friend said.

McMahon had long experienced elements of depression and anxiety, but as long as she stayed in her comfort zone, they didn’t flare up too dramatically. Then came the success and the touring, include much-coveted support slots with the Pixies, Father John Misty, the Shins, Mumford & Sons and Alanis Morissette. “I’ve probably had more life experience in the last year or two than I had in my whole teens. I was super-reclusive then, and now I’m out in the world. Welcome to my anxiety,” she laughs.

While McMahon’s guitar playing is accomplished, it’s her richly reverberating voice that is the obvious drawcard, whether in the more intimate folk numbers or a soaring track such as Keeping Time. It sometimes draws comparisons to Florence and the Machine, though she was reared on kd lang.

“I don’t know if the way I sing is technically very good,” she says. “In fact, one time I was talking to my friend Ainslie Wills about it. She’s a wonderful singer and she watched me sing, saying, ‘You put your tongue really far back in your mouth.’ Apparently that’s not normal, but I think originally I was trying to emulate kd lang and Tom Waits, and even Missy Higgins – there’s a low register to her voice that made her stories connect with me.”

Growing up in Fairfield in inner Melbourne (the kind of place commonly described as “leafy”) with her three more rambunctious siblings, music became McMahon’s particular corner. These days, people are uploading their own covers of McMahon’s songs to Instagram and tagging her. She feels awkward enough trying to represent herself on Instagram as it is. “I don’t really know what to do,” she squirms. “I just ‘like’ them. I’m just like, ‘Good’.”

“Salt” by Angie McMahon

If you’ve ever heard an Angie McMahon song, then you’ve heard just how big her voice can be, and how cleverly she can craft a phrase. In person, though, she’s more soft-spoken, her words carefully chosen—the former due to a compromised immune system thanks to a pretty hectic touring schedule. Not that McMahon’s complaining.

The Australian singer-songwriter is on one of her rare visits to the United States, where she just wrapped her first U.S. tour, which included several headlining gigs, a stop at South by Southwest, and opening for the Pixies in Knoxville. “We had a gig in Nashville that was a headlining show and it was really chill—it was a cool little venue which are the most fun to play,” she said. “And then we drove three hours to Knoxville to open for the Pixies at the Tennessee theater, which is this giant old cinema from the ‘20s. It was amazing. I’ve found the crowds really attentive. The hardest gig that we’ve played was the Australian South By showcase, because Australians are very chatty. That took a lot of energy. But mostly, the crowds have been so nice.

If you didn’t get the chance to check out McMahon or if you’ve never even heard of her at all, that’s soon about to change. Today, she’ll roll out her latest U.S.-released single, the crowd favorite “Slow Mover,” making the States aware of what Australia already knew: McMahon could be the next big thing.

Only in her mid-twenties, McMahon has been playing music since she was a teenager. “I started covering pop songs,” she explained. “I was really obsessed with female single-songwriters, but I would also cover like Maroon 5 or Bon Iver. I started uploading them to the Internet, and thank God they are taken down now, because they were not good. I just really love doing that in school, and I started taking singing lessons which didn’t last very long. After I left school, I joined a soul band and that was really good practice to play gigs and learn how to deal with crowds. I got sick of being around boys and the loudness, so I went back to doing my own thing.”

Over the past few years, she’s released a string of singles in her home country, and toured the area several times over. Soon, she’ll release her first full album, to be named Salt, which by McMahon’s own account, has been a long time in the making. “I wanted to take my time with making a record, so some of those songs are written a year or three ago. I feel like they’ve lived several lives,” she said. “It was probably a good thing, because it gave me time to feel good about my decisions. Because this is my first record, I didn’t want to fuck it up or rush it.”

Fans of the singer are already familiar with some of the songs that will appear on the album, including last year’s “Missing Me” and crowd favorite “Pasta,” which McMahon has taken to introducing by simply saying, “This is a song about pasta.”

“It’s about being tired and being down on yourself, but it’s easier for me to be like, ‘This a song about pasta.’” McMahon clarified with a laugh. “Now it’s a joke, though, so I should probably dial it back and be like, ‘I’m a serious songwriter.’ But it’s good to have humor. Even this industry can be sort of harrowing and I don’t want to lose this sense of humor that I have in my writing.”

She’s also trying to keep her stamina up, as well, thanks to a pretty busy schedule leading up to the album that includes a European tour and a stop at London’s All Points East festival alongside The Strokes and Interpol. “I’m trying not to get too burnt out,” she said. Luckily, there’s nothing like the adrenaline of releasing your first album—and what comes next—to keep you going. “I want to give this one away and have people enjoy it,” she said. “I’m ready to pass it on, so I can wash the slate clean creatively. And I’m excited to write new ones.”

Angie McMahon will perform at SXSW 2019.

There’s a low, gritty, bluesy rumble to Angie McMahon’s dramatic, poppy rock and roll — at times, she sounds like a one-woman reincarnation of Fleetwood Mac, which is a pretty lofty goal to set for yourself. In “Keeping Time,” McMahon has fun with sweeping shifts in volume, seemingly fading out until she hits a rousing chorus and unleashes a whoop worthy of her classic pop-rock forebears. At that point, the windswept drama of it all seems to transport her to another era entirely.


The Melbourne-born singer-songwriter is touring the United States for a run of shows that includes a date with Pixies in Tennessee, backed by a new two-track EP, A Couple of Songs, out March 7th on Dualtone Records. Videos for both of those songs — the already-released “Keeping Time” and the brand new “Pasta” — are premiering they make for a perfect showcase of McMahon’s gifts as a songwriter and vocalist.

“Pasta” is the standout though, an undulating rock song that McMahon says is “about feeling really tired, trying anyway, and wanting to rock out like Springsteen.”

That video has McMahon playing a show to (and sort of with) a pack of dogs. “When I needed to make merch for my first tour, I spent so long freaking out about it, worrying that it wouldn’t look cool and I wouldn’t be able to design something that felt genuine,” McMahon. has said “The day before it was due, I quickly scribbled this picture of some dogs lining up to go to a concert (dream come true). I got to the tipping point where I let go of the pressure and just did whatever felt good. This music video is a kind of adaptation of that. The gold star reminds me of being a kid and having encouragement, getting a tick of approval or whatever, but the adult version that I’m learning is that you just have to encourage yourself and not wait for other people to do it. And if you can’t make yourself feel awesome, dogs might make you feel awesome. It’s a reminder to go outside.”

Both of these songs will be on Salt, her debut full length, due out later this year.