Mark Van Doren was a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, teacher and writer from Illinois whose legacy is held in the highest regard at Columbia University, his former school where he taught. The institute honours a great teacher each year with the “Mark Van Doren Award” in respect to the incredible author’s heritage. To clarify the immeasurable aptitude of Mr. Van Doren’s influence, there is quotation he devised which should be instilled (and most likely is) into educators upon their venture into the world of tutelage:
“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery”.
If Melbourne-based indie-soul-pop songstress Megan Sullivan McInerney, more affectionately known as MEG MAC, could hypothetically recommend a musician for the Mark Van Doren Award who guided her as her mentor with the aforementioned quotation as his direction, Michael Eugene Archer aka D’Angelo would most likely be her selection. As she explains to GLAMADELAIDE, her 2015 tour of the USA supporting the R&B luminary was not only a milestone in her career; it was also a counselling in live performance of grandeur.
“I was super lucky and somehow I was asked to support D’Angelo on his US tour that was really a musicians dream come true. It was just amazing, I just had to soak it up every night and learn from him as much as I could. She continues – “The best was watching him from the audience’s perspective and how much he makes the crowd a part of his show. It’s not like he is on the stage and the audience is separated from him, everyone is together when he performs and it is so powerful and means so much to everyone involved. That was the main thing I took away from being a part of that tour.”
This tour could be seen as the initiation of sorts to MEG MAC’s affinity with the USA. In 2016 Ms. McInerney again packed up her essentials and talent and returned to North America, more specifically Niles City Sound Studio in Fort Worth, Texas; the studio where Leon Bridges recorded his acclaimed ‘Coming Home’ album. Effectively this was the true beginning to the adventure of creating her debut LP ‘Low Blows’.
“I had heard Leon Bridges album and fell absolutely in love with it. I became really excited about the way it was made so I met up with the guys (Austin Jenkins, Josh Block and Chris Vivion) and then I spent one day with them in the studio to get to know them and to record one song. Anyways I recorded the song onto tape and it was a life-changing experience for me, I had never heard my voice on tape and it was done completely live which was completely new to me too; it was such a cool experience but that day was why I recorded there.”
So it took just one day and one song to know the fundamental birthplace of the full-length?
“I came back to Australia to weigh the options in a way, but my decision was made already. The whole recording journey was a bit of a dream really because the place is a bit of a paradise. The studio itself is very classical in a sense, there weren’t carpeted walls and air-conditioning, it had a real 70s vibe, but not ancient.” She describes – “It was new, but in that style with a lot of vintage equipment like old microphones and antique instruments, I was lucky enough to play a piano that was 100 years old. It was a really inspiring atmosphere and that is WHERE you make live music, in places like that, it was really cool to be there.”
A gamble of sorts, but the results are nothing short of remarkable. The world had fallen in love with the 27-year-old back in 2012, namely with her soul-pop anthem Every Lie; so to suggest that the debut album was going to be beyond compelling would be more than just. The result is 10 songs of piano-driven-soul ballads that are so mature and brilliant in execution that to believe this is a debut full-length or a song-writer in her 20s is very difficult to fathom.
“I took my camera overseas and I literally filmed everything, I must have been so annoying (laughs). I ended up with the Low Blows video that I made myself and I just put the clips together that I had collected. I thought it was important to show the process that I was undergoing making the album instead of just making a film clip; people can see how I made the record and what I went through there and the environment I was in. I mean it definitely helped that the place looks so cool anyways.” She admits with a polite yet endearing laugh.
Unknown to most may be that the entirety of ‘Low Blows’ was not actually recorded in Texas (and New York’s Electric Lady Studios). In fact, one song was reworked to a degree and then, a completely new track that is even inspired by the country that she spent the majority of the time crafting the LP, were both recorded quite literally minutes from her home AFTER she had returned.
“It’s a bit of a funny story, there was one song that I actually had not recorded but I decided it just had to be on the album, I was already back in Australia by the time I had decided this, so I just recorded it here, as simple as that. Then the other track, I guess, I changed my mind on the idea of it, so I redid it when I was back in Australia.” She elaborates further – “It was actually really cool, because my friend Myles (Panics drummer Myles Wootton ) who lives just up the road in Melbourne, recorded it. The very last thing on my album was doing a vocal take on the song Brooklyn Apartment, in his bedroom. I worked in a studio in Texas and New York but the last thing I recorded was in my friend’s bedroom up the street, pretty funny really.”
Regardless, the outcome not only works, it astonishes. Driving this entire interview, MEG was persistently ecstatic to finally take these songs properly on the road after some small showcases and an appearance at this year’s Splendour In The Grass Festival. Having to alter the original touring plan (“Sadly all those tour dates have changed” – she confesses bashfully and slightly saddened), September will see the beloved songstress travel to every corner of Australia to perform these remarkable compositions exactly how they are meant to be heard: Live.
“This is an album that was made to be played live.” She clarifies – “It makes more sense when you can visualise me singing these words or better yet actually see me singing these lyrics. It felt really incredible to finally be in that scenario with these songs, I feel like it is how they are meant to be heard, it’s their true ‘life’. It’s much more exciting than actually releasing the music truthfully; I prefer to physically sing it to people.”
For you personally, how do the songs translate?
“They are a lot more, actually I’m not quite sure how to put this (laughing); I guess I want them to feel ‘real’. I am a real person and these are my songs that I wrote and I am singing to the listener and I want them to feel like they were there with me in every aspect, especially when I am in concert. I love that the most, I can’t get that feeling in any other way, on stage and singing to people is everything to me and I can’t top it.”
*OPENING UPDATE FOR HQ ADELAIDE*
Due to recent bad weather delaying the build of the new venue, we have had to move the following shows to new venues:
AFI – now at The Gov on the same date
MEG MAC – now at The Gov on Oct 1st
*ALL TICKETS BOUGHT WILL BE VALID FOR THE NEW VENUES*
‘LOW BLOWS’ IS OUT NOW through littleBIGMAN records / Universal
LOW BLOWS single https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbVceVtYoX4