pictures /Matthew Sprout
When I first heard Meg Mac’s music, I would have never pictured that this huge voice—comparable to the vocal lovechild of Adele and Fiona Apple—would come from such a quiet and reserved person. In Australia, her soulful anthem “Roll Up Your Sleeves” has become an underground hit, and her killer rendition of Bill Wither’s “Grandma’s Hands” has been sending chills up the spines of her newly devoted listeners since September.
After hearing about the enormous impression that this Australian up and comer had made recently on the South by Southwest crowd, I was almost caught off guard with how soft spoken and casual she was when she walked into the downtown café where we met. Her striped shirt and bright red lipstick made her look like a playful French girl but her quiet Aussie accent gave her away. She opened almost immediately with the news that she had just signed on to be the opening act for D’Angelo’s newest tour. She was humble and almost shy as she said it, but you could see in her eyes that this was a turning point in her career.
How did you get into the music business?
If I think about it, I always had an obsession with singing ever since I was a kid. I was taking lessons as I grew up. There’s a website in Australia where anyone can upload music to it. I uploaded my song, “Roll Up Your Sleeves,” and everyone started downloading it and playing it on the radio. People were kind of freaking out so, I wrote some more songs. I released an EP in Australia and toured around a bit. Then someone from the radio station in New York heard my song. I flew to New York in November and signed with the label. So now I’m here in the states writing and touring. It’s actually getting announced today that I’m touring with D’Angelo, so that’s a big deal.
What was South by Southwest like for you?
Well I came out in March to do it, and it was my first show outside of Australia. I had built it up to be this really huge deal in my head and then when I was doing it, I realized it’s just singing in front of people, that’s what I do. After the show we were offered a tour, which was exciting, but I wasn’t really prepared for it. Suddenly I’m in a van traveling around America seeing all of these places that I’ve only ever seen in movies. It’s the same with this trip, I came here for one reason and I’m leaving in a van again!
So “Roll Up Your Sleeves,” has become a very popular song. What is that song about?
It’s kind of about what I was thinking at the time. The beginning of the song is different to the end of the song. I feel like the beginning of the song I’m talking about how it’s easier to pretend that you don’t care and avoid a situation but in the long run it’s not. So it’s just saying roll up your sleeves and take care of it, face it. There’s always a choice. If you choose to do the right thing everything will be fine. I almost felt like I was writing it to myself. Sometimes you just need to hear that everything is going to be alright.
What’s different about the Australian audience and the American audience?
The main difference right now is that people don’t really know me here, where in Australia people are buying tickets to see me. I will say though, I’ve never seen audiences dance like they do in America, I feel like American audiences have private moments at shows, where they’re closing their eyes and sort of moving around. It’s really amazing to be singing and see someone grooving along to your music.
What is your tour style like?
Well I’ve got a portable steamer so that’s really important! But I like to wear a lot of black. I like suits, jumpsuits, and when it’s cold I have this really amazing black velvet cape. I like being dramatic when I’m on stage. I’m very quiet in real life, but I sing really loud so I feel like with clothing I like to put on a show.
What are you working on now?
In the few weeks before the tour, I’ll be writing. I found a room here in New York that has a piano where I can just be by myself and write. My songs are never about the same thing. I guess a lot of them are about new experiences. I was really scared about America in the beginning and now I’m not so I think you’ll get sense of that. I’m just really hoping to just soak up some genius from D’Angelo.
A lot of people compare you to Adele because of how soulful your music is. Will you be staying in this genre as you right your new music?
I try to never really think about my genre. When I’m writing it’s just me and a piano. I’m not trying to be super soul. Everyone is put into a genre after the fact. I like to just do the music and then it will fit wherever it fits!
Meg’s EP is available in the US now. She is currently on tour with D’Angelo.