Megan Sullivan McInerney grew up in Sydney singing Irish folk songs with her mum and younger sister Hannah. “I was very quiet and shy, but for some reason I just loved singing,” she recalls.
Not much has changed. She still sings with her sister Hannah, except now she performs under the stage name of Meg Mac and her recent cover of the Tame Impala hit ‘Let It Happen’ has over a million views on YouTube. Her debut album Low Blows entered the ARIA Chart at No. 2. She’s toured the states with Clean Bandit and is about to perform to packed crowds at the Lost Picnic festival in Melbourne and Sydney this month.
We sat down with the powerhouse singer to talk about her new music, being compared to Adele and having the best eyebrows in the business…
MC: Your lyrics are so personal and vulnerable. Where do you find inspiration?
MM: Myself, my life and the people around me. Every lyrics I’ve written is something I’ve felt.
MC: Case and point... The opening of your single ‘Low Blows’ goes: ‘You're coming round too late. I've taken off my face. You won't like it. I haven't seen anyone in days.' How does it feel to bare your soul like that?
MM: When I first started writing songs, no cared and no one was listening. I was 17 and had just finished high school. I would sit at the piano and it made me feel good. That’s what made me realise I have something more to say and that people are listening and that they do care. I get messages from people and they tell me what lyrics they can relate to or the song that helped them. At 17, I wouldn’t have known that was going to happen.
MC: Is it daunting knowing that people are listening to your songs and relating to them?
MM: I think that makes it feel more worth it. It makes it feel important, but also, it adds an extra level of pressure.
MC: What’s your favourite song to play live?
MM: It changes a lot but I really like playing ‘Ride It’. Playing with the band we get to drop it down really low and get really dramatic in the choruses. The band revs up in the end and it’s like a big journey.
MC: What are you looking forward to most about playing the Lost Picnic festival?
MM: Any chance I get to play live, is what music is about for me. And Tash Sultana and Odette are playing, too. I haven’t seen them before so I'll be watching from the side stage.
MC: I am not exaggerating at all when I say you have the best eyebrows in the music industry. What is the maintenance like?
MM: I get so many comments about my eyebrows; people think they’re fake. I am too scared to do anything [to them]. My mum warned me about touching my eyebrows because she got rid of her eyebrows when she was young and they didn’t grow back. I just brush them into place because they’re a bit messy.
MC: Your sister Hannah is your backup singer. Did you grow up singing together?
MM: I had a lot of music growing up. My parents are Irish and my mum would sing a lot of Irish folky songs. It was so easy when I was writing at home because I started writing when I was 17. If I had an idea for my song and if she was around I would just grab my sister and ask her to sing certain harmonies when I wanted them.
MC: What were you like as a kid?
MM: I was very quiet and shy but for some reason I just loved singing. Now I am still really quiet, but when I am on stage or singing, I feel really strong and confident. I’m working on trying to get that confidence into other parts of my life.
MC: You’ve been compared to musicians such as Adele and Duffy. Who do you look up to for inspiration?
MM: When you get those comparisons, it is really nice. I really like Frank Ocean, Solange and I listen to a lot of old school music.
MC: Your cover of Tame Impala's 'Let It Happen' has over a million views on YouTube. What is your go-to karaoke song?
MM: Usually when people say they are going to karaoke I am going to pass. I tend to avoid those situations.
MC: It's almost a year since the Me Too movement started. Lily Allen has said Me Too hasn't really impacted the music industry. Have you seen change?
MM: I was a part of [the documentary] Her Sound, Her Story. When I watched that, it hit me because you saw stories from different people within the music industry. It put things into perspective for me; everyone has a different experience. I had never heard these stories before and they’re all really personal.
MC: What has been your own experience with sexual harassment in the industry?
MM: For me, I struggle with being able to stand up for myself. I tend to be really quiet and I let people make me feel smaller. For me it’s realising that and standing up and speaking out that you get your power back.
MC: Camp Cope have spoken about needing more representation on festival line ups and Drake called someone out for groping a woman in his crowd. What else needs to be done to make the music industry a safe space for women?
MM: I guess more people speaking up and telling their stories. Hopefully we will start to see change.
MC: It has been a year since Low Blows came out. When can we expect some more music? Please.
MM: On Monday on Instagram, I posted 5 words “Give Me My Name Back.” I didn’t give any explanation of what that was, but it is the title of my new single. Talking about the Me Too movement, it is a song for everyone who has lost an important part of themselves which they need to reclaim in order to move on with their lives.
MC: What is the hardest part about creating new music?
MM: Recording. I really enjoy writing and performing but recording is a challenge for me. When you get into a studio, you have the option to do another take and it’s just a curse. It is endless. You could do 100 takes. That’s one of the hardest processes because you have to get it right and get to the core of the song. With Low Blows I tried to leave mistakes and only record once.
MC: What are you listening to right now?
MM: I found this album by George Harrison called Early Takes. I think it’s just a demo but I’ve become so obsessed with it and I have been listening to non-stop.
Meg Mac is performing at Lost Picnic festival in Melbourne on October 7 and Sydney on October 13. Get your tickets here.