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Renowned For Sound

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Interview: Megan Washington

11 min read

Beloved Aussie singer/songwriter Megan Washington has been busy the last year or so; she kicked off the Autumn season this year with a national headlining tour in some of Australia’s most intimate venues, premiering the new tracks we’ve been longing for and playing some of her old fan favourites. Megan also recently gave a TED Talk raising awareness of a stuttering condition she has been living with since the age of 5, an aspect of her speech concealed when singing and on television.

There There-Megan WashingtonNow the ARIA award-winning starlet is back for more, her second studio album There There is due for release on September 12th; it follows up from where she left off with her debut album I Believe You, Liar and her mini album Insomnia, two releases that cemented Megan’s songwriting ability as one of Australia’s finest. Currently on a tour around Australia, Megan kindly made some time to speak to us about her recent goings on and the new album…

Marcus Floyd: Hi, how are you Megan?

Megan Washington: I’m fine thanks mate, how are you? Actually, I’m not. I’m really sick, but…

MF: Yeah, I did read that earlier! I hope you’re not too bad, you’re in the middle of a tour and everything.

 MW: Yeah, it’s not ideal, but we’re doing what we can.

MF: I’m sure you’ll be alright, the flu’s not avoiding anybody this season!

MW: Yeah, I think it’s evolved.

MF: Let’s get down to business! First of all, it’s a pleasure to be talking to you, I’m a huge fan!

MW: Aww, thank you very much.

MF: That’s alright, but I’ll try to be as professional as I can! It’s been four years since the release of I Believe You, Liar, did you approach writing the new album There There any differently to when you were writing that album, or was it a similar experience?

MW: Yeah, absolutely I think the process probably couldn’t have been more different, you know? I kind of wrote I Believe You, Liar from 2007 to 2010 before it came out, it was sort of a long period of experimental writing and there was a lot of time in between the songs that ended up going on the record, so there were songs that were written up to eighteen months to two years apart that ended up on the same album. I think that had to happen because I was figuring out how to do it, you know what I mean? But for this record, once we had a good game plan and we sort of had a bit more of a sense of what the point of the album in three weeks.

MF: That’s pretty cool, it’s not often that an artist can say ‘Yeah, I put this album together in like, three weeks’.

MW: Well, what you don’t know is that three months before that we were writing, and writing, and writing and looking for the right combination of elements. Once we figured out what we were doing, it came together really fast.

MF: Perfect! When you were establishing your career, you were known simply by your surname WashingtonNow, in light of There There, why have you decided to use your full name on your work? Is it because you’re now looking on a more personal level when bringing your music out or do you just feel it’s time to give the full picture, the complete Megan Washington experience?

MW: It was kind of a combination of factors, one was because I wanted there to be a real point of difference between this and everything I’ve done before, because it really does feel like a different project. All of that music was kind of written and recorded with the same people, all the music before had everyone else’s fingerprints on it as it did mine, but this record is so personal and all about me that it just didn’t seem to belong to the same family. Also,Washington is hard to Google!

MF: True, I was actually thinking about that the other day! When you search for the name ‘Washington’ there are so many other results coming up, it’s like ‘well that’s not what I was going for’.

MW: Lots of pictures of Obama and the Whitehouse.

MF: Well we’d like to see more of you! You recently did a TED Talk about your stutter, and it was inspiring for a lot of Australians and people alike suffering from the same condition growing up. We may have never picked up on it because we are so used to listening to your voice when you sing; was it a daunting experience for you to present your speech about your condition, or had you finally decided that it was time?

MW: No, it was horrible, but I felt like I had to do it, so I did. I was so nervous.

MF: Naturally, I don’t blame you, but at the same time it’s nice because when you sing and you’re on stage you come across as this confident and strong person. It makes you all the more strong for coming out and saying ‘yes this is happening to me, it’s been happening to me for ages’ and it’s just so truly inspiring.

MW: Aw, thank you. That’s truly lovely for you to say.

MF: That’s alright, I would say anytime, but you know…Now I’ve done a little research and followed the recording process of There There, Sam Dixon played a huge role in that process. Can you tell us about your writing relationship with Sam, or just about your relationship in general?

MW: Sam’s obviously become a close friend, we’ve spent a lot of time in each other’s pockets. You get to know somebody really well when you’re sitting in a room with them for 8 hours a day for three months, you know? But he’s been a huge influence on me both professionally and personally, and I think that he did a really amazing job in helping sort of mid-wife this album.

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MF: Yeah, he really put you to work.

MW: Yeah, but you know I think he has a lot of faith in my ability to make something good at the end of the process, but I think there are a lot of old habits that I had to break and a lot of new ground I had to find, Sam was so patient and encouraging. It’s weird, producers are kind of like a coach for an athlete, it really is that sort of relationship. It’s hard to find someone who really works well with you and I’m really glad I found him.

MF: The time was right.

MW: Absolutely.

MF: Who Are You is intriguingly written . Why was it selected as the first release from There There?

MW: Who Are You was released first because it was mixed first, nothing else was mixed or mastered. It was the first to be ready and we were already behind, so we just released it, that’s why it doesn’t have a music video.

MF: That’s ok, it’s an amazing track anyway, it’s definitely one of the strongest tracks from the album.

MW: Aw, thank you.

MF: The video for Limitless was the right amount of awkward, what was the inspiration behind the never ending ride up the disco lit elevator?

MW: Well, I don’t know, like when we were talking about it a lot of my videos before were quite performance based. I sort of wanted to do something that was a bit more subtle I suppose, and the director Gabe he said the song really inspired a sense of emotion of travel; so he kind of wanted to create a space where we can kind of hint at that without doing one of those dumb videos, like me in a car at night, it kind of just evolved. On the day I did a couple of takes where I forgot to sing, in rehearsals I didn’t have to and Gabe said that he liked it when I didn’t.

MF: Well it worked perfectly.

MW: Thank you.

MF: Now I’ve actually listened to There There about three times today already, not just in prep for my interview with you today, but because I’ll also be handling the album review for Renowned For Sound as well, so I’m excited on more levels than one now I’m doing this with you.

MW: Oh wow! That’s great!

MF: Yeah! Compared to I Believe You, Liar and your mini album InsomniaThere There comes across as more raw and personal. Did a series of significant events in your life determine the nature of this record?

MW: Well, I think the series of significant events in my life in terms of content of the record and what it’s about and the sort of nature of it…I don’t know, I think that it was sort of the next natural, evolutionary step for me as a songwriter to kind of go deeper. I think that with Liar I was exploring style and genre, we had Motown references, disco references, folk references and jazz references; but with There There it’s straight up pop and the challenge for me was not to go from left to right but to go from up to down, I was exploring meaning a lot more. So it’s natural that I wrote about things that were deeply personal because that was kind of a challenge.

MF: That’s what pop music really needs these days, it’s all fine to party every night but there’s another form of pop music; it used to be a world of music where everybody was telling their stories, but now some of it’s all cliche and it’s nice to hear something refreshing and raw.

MW: Yeah, I feel like I wanna make music people can come back to. I wanna make records that if you hear it this year it’s fine and if you hear it three years from now you don’t go ‘oh my god that’s so 2014’. You know what I mean? I really wanted to make something that could be a nurturing listen. There are albums that I own like Graceland and albums like Poses by Rufus Wainwright, they’re records I come back to and every time I hear them I scan them a bit more, and they’re really enriching and rewarding; and all that pop world, it’s great but without meaning I think that life sort of has no purpose, and without meaning I think music is sort of purposeless as well.

MF: True, well you’ve definitely achieved that purpose.

MW: Aw, thank you.

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MF: So during the writing process, and obviously the recording process, there’s obviously more elements that come into play when you’re recording a track, did any particular artist or genre of music inspire you or influence you when making There There?

MW: Yeah, we sort of knew when we started making the record that I thought I wanted a sort of late 60’s, early 70’s, like Shirley Bassey sort of (sings) ‘Goldfinger’, like a western sort of sounding record. As we explored that world, I had heard a song by a band called Talk Talk that’s called I Don’t Believe In You, and I went to the studio and told Sam how much I loved this single I had heard, he said ‘man, have you checked out all these other bands?’. All those bands were kind of from mid-80’s, before the 80’s got really tight and blippy, when it was like super romantic. I fell in love with bands like Tears For Fears, and we really referenced that music and used a lot of the instruments that they used and we went pretty far down that road; but I think the reason why There There doesn’t sound like it’s from the 80’s is because the writing is so me, do you know what I mean?

MF: I definitely know what you mean. My Heart Is A Wheel is being launched as the next single, what are your personal feelings towards this track? Again, it’s raw and you’re laying your heart on the line.

MW: I don’t know, I sort of wrote My Heart Is A Wheel straight up as a pop song. I was thinking that there were heaps of songs like ‘girl, I’m a player’; I really like Runaway by Kanye West and I was thinking about that song and about how a man writes lyrics like ‘I’m a womaniser, sorry I can’t help it’, I sort of wondered what it would be like if a woman said that or how a woman would say it. A woman wouldn’t say ‘hey, I’m a player’ or ‘I like to get around’, what would we say? I thought that the best sort of reason for a woman to have a changeable heart is because she gets bored easily, so that’s the angle I went with.

MF: If you could pick one favourite from There There, and you can pick more than one if you like it’s completely up to you, which track would you choose and why?

MW: I think Begin Again because I’ve never written anything like it before. Sam came up with the piano part independently, he said he was trying to write like me, and it was funny because it sounded familiar but I never would have written it if you know what I mean. Then I sort of wrote the lyrics in honestly about an hour, and the melody, and it just came together really fast and I love it when that happens; I still hear it and I can’t believe that I wrote it, it just doesn’t sound like anything I would have ever made.

MF: Well some of the best songs are written in the shortest amount of time because you’re in the spur of the moment. I’ve got one more question for you Megan; I was very lucky that I got to see you play at Howler in Melbourne this year.

MW: Oh, awesome!

MF: Yeah you were, I had never seen you before so it was a great experience! Can we expect a massive national or international tour to launch There There?

MW: Yeah, next year. Like, next Marchish I reckon we’ll do it. I can’t wait!

MF: Yeah, it’ll be awesome! I’ll have to come out and see you again I think!

MW: No worries Marcus, it was lovely to meet you over the phone.

MF: It was lovely speaking with you, you’re an awesome artist and we hope you keep doing what you do.

MW: Aww thank you, I look forward to reading the article!

MF: Thanks Megan!

Megan Washington’s new album There There will be out on September 12th. Make sure you visit for special pre-order bundles and touring announcements!