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Meg Mac Switches It Up On 'Matter Of Time' In The Name of Control and The Love of Music

IT VERY WELL MIGHT BE A CLICHE, but sometimes you can't do anymore than to just believe, trust your heart and stay true to who you really are. That’s exactly the position Meg Mac found herself when approaching her third album. She had already fully completed one and was only a week or so away from the release of the lead single before having a meltdown, moving to the country and, at the eleventh hour, binned it all together.

“It’s not like it was bad,” she confesses, almost defensively, still clearly a little traumatised by the process. “I still really like all the songs, it just wasn’t right. It didn’t feel right and I knew that I could make something better or, more, I could put myself into it more than I had, those songs. I was so scared and I let it go for so long, I didn’t know how to navigate that or how to say that you want to scrap an album. Obviously there’s a lot of work, a lot of money, we’d even shot the music video for the first single, done photo shoots and everything. I felt like I’d be letting down the record label and .... everyone.”

Her team were supportive, as it turns out and took the news in their stride. Any possible lack of trust, after all, would have been reinstated tenfold upon receiving the rebuilt new album, Matter Of Time. Her risk was huge, comparable to similar acts performed by megastars, the likes of Prince or Dave Grohl, but it paid off - “I made the right decision,” she says.

Objectively, Meg was already a star and had rapidly achieved more than most young artists in a short amount of time. In 2014, she shot into the spotlight by winning triple j Unearthed Artist of The Year. The radio hits came quickly in the shape of 'Every Lie', 'Roll Up Your Sleeves', 'Grandma's Hands' and 'Never Be'. Debut 2017 album Low Blows topped the Australian charts and, by the time of 2019 follow-up LP Hope, the singer had racked up a bunch of ARIA nominations, had a track featured on HBO’s Girls and toured the US tour supporting D’Angelo, which she still today describes as a “life highlight". But internally, the singer was struggling and there were still a host of hurdles to overcome. “A lot of my songs back then were about fighting, or fighting for myself - trying to figure out how to be stronger and how to be more confident,” she recalls of those first years. “I’ve always struggled where I can sing really confidently and loudly, but when I was having to be myself or talk or make decisions - all the other sides of music - I found it really hard to have a voice.”

Without skipping ahead - spolier alert - Matter Of Time puts all this inadequacy to bed. It sees her building upon her award-winning foundations and taking them to new places of clarity and ambition. She sounds hungry, but binning an album and starting from scratch wouldn't be quite that easy and Meg admits to having “a bit of breakdown” before the songs eventually started to take shape. Under the ruse of taking a break, she decamped to country New South Wales, literal isolation, to consider her next move.

“I was a bit of a mess,” Meg reveals. “I know running away from your troubles isn’t always the solution, but I feel, in this case, it worked for me. <laughs quietly> I needed an escape and a change of scene. I really had to sort through everything in my life. I was living in this cute little cottage with sheep and cows across the road. You’d look out the window and it was just green and trees. People would ride their horses past the house - it was really wholesome and peaceful, the opposite of Sydney and Melbourne. I remember lying in the bath and all I could hear was birds.”

The realisation that she loved many of her rawly recorded voice memos infinitely more than those readied for release prior came quickly. Only one song - the title track - from the original readied album would make the cut on the new record. The cracks were certainly showing on that one: “I’m not great and I hate that I can’t say it”, she begins. But while ‘Matter Of Time’ earns title track status, perhaps for being so definitive, it was the now monster-sized lead single ‘Is It Worth Being Sad’, a remote lockdown challenge between her and a friend, which provided the pivotal change and sparked the entire fire.

“It’s very easy to just sit in your mess and feel sorry for yourself which is what I was doing - I was trying to write and I wasn’t getting anywhere and then this was the first song that I sang. I just had that vocal loop going and as soon as I sang <sings the hook> something just went <click> in my brain and it wasn’t like anything I’d written before and it felt like a new energy or something. I was able to hear ideas again.”

From then, the vision of Matter Of Time became clear and songs began to take shape, but also, demos that were previously overlooked started begging for attention again. It's bizarre to consider now that a song like ‘Something In The Water’ was sitting in a shared Dropbox folder unnoticed. It's been a much talked-about highlight of her recent sold out tour, is the same on this body of work and is Meg's personal favourite, quite literally capturing the early inkling that something was up. Similarly on the sparse and, quite frankly, breathtaking beauty 'Don't You Cry'. Featuring her sister Hannah on backing vocals and based around the guitar (unusual for a Meg Mac song), it's a tragic inner-monologue of Meg interrogating her former self, “oooh where’d you go?”

She's the original writer on every song on her record, but she selectively sought co-writing support to heighten the songs and her stories. PJ Harding, a frequent collaborator of Noah Cyrus, proved to be not only the perfect partner but brought guitars into Mac’s process for the first time. The L.A.-based Jesse Shatkin, co-writer of Sia’s ‘Chandelier’, came late in the process, helping complete the final writing puzzle piece and saw the call-to-arms stomp of latest single ‘Understand’ fall into place.

For production duties, rapidly emerging L.A. duo The Donuts came into play. They’d previously worked with the likes of SZA and had recently produced tracks on Kendrick Lamar’s latest, Mr Morales & The Big Steppers. On Matter Of Time, their work shines as they capture the raw beauty of Mac’s original demos, focussing heavily and putting time and attention to “the most important instrument” (her vocals) and bringing minimal instrumentation and male vocal choirs to the table.

“I couldn’t go over there so we were doing it via WhatsApp chats,” Meg remembers. “I’d record guide vocals and then we’d send them over and they’d send production back and I’d go up to Sydney to record final vocals and then send them over and so on. It was a really annoying long process. In some ways though, it was better, I would come up with ideas later - like I had this cool BV idea - and I could just record it at home and send it to them and they’d just add it in. In that way, it was good but it was difficult. The creative zone was hard to manage, you’d wake up early in the morning to a song, your brain doesn’t work yet and it was hard to just do that. But it ended up coming together. I went to L.A. at the end of last year and I got to meet them and actually be in the same room and do a little bit of work, but most of it was done.”

Considering the disjointed process, remarkable synergy can be heard across the entire record, from the woozy, unlikely jam of ‘On Your Mind’, the breezy swag of ‘Only Love’ and the intimacy of songs like ‘Something In The Water’ or ‘Lifesaver’.

Meg finds the solution to a puzzle she’s been trying to solve for years - how to be truly satisfied and to make a record that soars with zero compromise. On Matter Of Time, she has done it. It is an utter triumph and her best album to date, a remarkable feat considering her already storied career. You can hear her confidence building, her determination bubbling and her ambition and hunger is palpable. Any doubts that Meg Mac would go the distance longterm, would now be truly quashed, it is simply that good.

“I now can hear how unhappy I was,” she confesses. “Sometimes that’s hard to listen to and it breaks my heart to hear some of the songs. I just wanted to do the album how I’ve always wanted to do an album. Knowing when it’s not right, and having the confidence to say so and to take it in a different direction. I wanted to do it justice from beginning to end, right down to artwork and social media. I just wanted to do everything authentically. I needed a switch up to find the love for music again and it worked. Now for the first time, I really feel in control.”







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