Next Wave #913: Angie McMahon
To show vulnerability or self-doubt is a sign of inner strength. It is not about weakness. Melbourne based songwriter Angie McMahon lives to tell the tale. Growing up to become the person she is now has been a winding road of self-exploration and constant reflection on the world.
‘Salt’ is the title of McMahon’s witty, honest and at times self-depreciating debut album. Written over a period of several years but seen from the perspective of a thoughtful, young artist, the record documents a large part of her life.
Making a powerful record and playing live shows, not just in Australia, but around the States, the UK and Europe are giant steps in her journey. She is enjoying the positive response she has been getting. Performing at SXSW earlier this year was “a bit overwhelming” but enjoyable, an experience she learnt lots from. The recent UK live dates went beyond expectation.
“I was writing a lot of songs. I always just look at them as a body of work because they are all from separate periods of my life”, she explains. “I see different parts of myself in each song, it is nice to see that reflection.”
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The influences are there but are not easy to pin down. Contemporary and inventive with nods to iconic folk and rock artists she adores, the richly textured melodic songs depict light and shade, vulnerability and strength, wit and sincerity. She worked on the record with her friend, bass player and co-producer Alex O’Gorman.
“Alex came to me at the start of our work together”, she recalls. “He said ‘I can make this record with you. We can do it in a way that’s really genuine and simple’. We had much fun and a big experience working together. We produced it and he mixed it. He is a big part of it.”
The desire to name the debut ‘Salt’ came from within. The word salt is a multi-layered metaphor, a feeling that just sits with her, “The feeling of salt after water has evaporated”, she reflects. “I can get salt in a wound. Salt is cleansing but it’s also something that stings. I look at it as a reminder of my experience.”
Something tangible needs to be there. Her chosen topics are far-reaching and profound. The idea of writing songs about nothing seems to hold little appeal, “The themes are multi-layered because some of the songs initially were purely about heartbreak and processing that”, she explains. “Looking back, they are reflections of me growing into a woman, navigating my own anxieties and reflections. It is about the world, the things that are part of growing up to become a young adult.”
The song ‘Pasta’ was written during a retreat where she experienced an extreme burst of creativity. Her perspective is everything. Inequality and feminism are key topics, and feminist undertones are present on the record. Written after a frustrating experience she had, ‘And I’m A Woman’ is a direct response. Having the freedom to speak out and express what needs to change in the world is clearly something she is passionate about.
“I do want to be part of that because it upsets and frustrates me when you see all these things going on whether it’s the violent stories, or in the industry or politics”, she insists. “It’s everywhere.”
“If there’s anything that artists can do to contribute to that conversation it’s a privilege to be able to. I want to talk and write about it. I feel satisfied when I am able to write songs that express those feelings. It is mature songwriting.”
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Angie McMahon's debut album 'Salt' will be released on July 26th.
Words: Susan Hansen // @SusanHansen3
Photo Credit: Paige Clark
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