Hailing from Melbourne, Angie McMahon is a singer-songwriter making waves in the Australian music scene. With her signature velvety vocals and raw, emotional music hitting home in all the right ways, the 24-year-old has racked up millions of Spotify streams, been Triple J’s Unearthed feature artist and had features on Apple Music. Her debut singles have been extremely well received, with ‘Slow Mover’ ranked number 33 on the Hottest 100 of 2017, and Missing Me having met rave reviews.
Backyard Opera had a chat to Angie to discuss her song writing process, future plans and the perks of the Australian countryside.
BYO: You’ve got a busy few months ahead! Announced on the Splendour line up, playing shows all around Australia, and Bushstock festival in the UK! Are you excited?
ANGIE: I’m so excited, they’re things that I’ve never done anything like before; I’ve never gone overseas and played festivals so it’s kind of hard to imagine what that will be like, but it’s a wonderful opportunity. I’m so excited.
BYO: What else do you have in the works?
ANGIE: I’m working on an album at the minute. Before that comes out there will be another single or two, but the plan is to release the album in a little while and then make a release plan around that. It’s a really big project, it turns out a lot goes into making an album! It’s taking a little while.
I’ve been in the studio – that’s where I am today, just standing outside the studio right now in Collingwood.
BYO: Did you collaborate with anyone in the writing or recording of it?
ANGIE: This is the first album I’ve done and it’s essentially just a collection of all the songs I’ve written over the last few years, like the best ones. All my songs for the Angie McMahon stuff is basically just done in my bedroom so it’s collaborative in the sense that I’m working with my friend Alex O’Gorman who is also the producer and my band is playing on the album.
BYO: Tell us about your new song Missing Me, what went into making it?
ANGIE: I’m really humbled, it was kind of scary to release a second single because the first single did really well and following it up with another one there was a bit of pressure. My manager Charlotte was sending me emails throughout the release and even still now with blog posts people are writing and reviews, so once I see that stuff coming in and the lovely stuff people say, it takes so much of that weight off.
BYO: Where were you when Slow Mover made its way into the Hottest 100?
ANGIE: Oh, I was on my couch! No, I was in my bedroom actually. I was just at home with my family, we were just listening to it on the radio, and then I went into my bedroom for something and then they came into my room and were like ‘it happened!’ but I didn’t actually hear it. The radio was playing out in the kitchen and I was in my room.
But it was really exciting, my phone blew up and I couldn’t look at my phone for 24 hours because there were too many messages. Just so many nice messages, I was a bit overwhelmed really. But it was a lovely thing to get.
BYO: Tell us a bit about yourself as an artist – how would describe your music in a sentence?
ANGIE: Umm, I think I’d describe it – that’s a really hard question! I think I’d describe it as emotional, moderate rock, or something like that. It’s like emotional-rock-pop-kinda-sadgirl, melodic shit, I guess. It’s really hard to give it adjectives because I’ve been thinking about it all the time, I’m working on it all the time. To put it into a sentence I would really have to turn my brain into a different gear.
BYO: How did you get started playing music? What’s the origin story?
ANGIE: I started playing piano when I was a kid because my parents paid for all my siblings and me to get piano lessons and I was the one who kept going. Then I started playing trumpet in year 5, so I was doing classical and jazz music throughout school. It got to year 9, when I was 14 or 15, and my love for singer-songwriters was as powerful as my love for doing music. I started to write songs at home and use my piano skills to teach myself guitar and then I had singing lessons. Being a teenager and being angsty, it was a really nice outlet to be developing those skills towards writing because I really loved writing. So yeah, the origin story is sort of playing instruments at school and then copying and learning from artists like Missy Higgins, and like Adele, and whoever else was putting out emotional albums when I was in school and envisioning myself in their place.
BYO: Did you develop your signature singing sound, or was it natural?
ANGIE: Yeah I think I did develop it! I think my voice was too gentle and didn’t sound the way I wanted to sound when I first started singing, so I guess over time, without really consciously doing it, I was singing like artists whose voice I really loved. I often talk about an artist called K. D. Lang, because she has this really deep mood vocal, and I think I listened to her a lot, and I loved the way she sang and the way she expressed her voice, so I was sort of shaping my voice around her.
I’ve recently been learning about vocal technique and a friend of mine who is a singer, but she also teaches singing. She was like, “You put your tongue far back in your throat” and I guess that’s what I had started doing when I was younger to get that deeper sound. I was putting my tongue deeper in my throat, which is not necessarily good technique! I was sort of changing around and experimenting with my mouth and with what my voice could do, and the tones that I liked. But now I sing like that out of habit. Maybe I was learning how to use my voice as an instrument and its translated into something more powerful.
I did have singing lessons throughout school for a few years. I had a couple of experienced teachers all of which were really wonderful. And I loved it because It felt like I was really practicing something that I really cared about, because when you’re at school and you’re doing whatever courses and you’re not really sure what you want to do, and you’ve got singing on Saturday and that’s the thing you look forward to and are excited for, you think “Well maybe this is what I want to be doing!”
BYO: Do you sing to tell a story or just to sing?
ANGIE: I think probably a bit of both! I sing to express myself, and I really love singing. I sing all the time and it doesn’t always have to be telling a story. But when I’m writing songs, I feel better if I’m writing it about things that I’m going through or that I think about, because telling a story is like framing my life in a way that makes sense to me and maybe in a way that shows what I’m going through.
Angie McMahon will be playing Splendour in the Grass and Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory in July. Tickets are selling fast, so make sure you get your hands on them before they disappear.
For more tour info, visit her website https://www.angiemcmahon.com/upcoming-gigs/