Angie McMahon: “You Have to Experience All of the Things That the Chapters Hold for You”

Angie McMahon
Angie McMahon | Credit: Taylor Ranston

Angie McMahon has been slowing down, searching for equilibrium. The Naarm/Melbourne songwriter’s debut album, Salt, came out in mid-2019. It was one of the year’s breakout releases and a moment of self-actualisation for McMahon, who’d dedicated years of effort towards the goal of turning songwriting and performing into a stimulating career.

But then life came along. Covid, loss, change, depression, Fred again.. – McMahon has seen and felt a lot in the four-plus years since Salt came out. She attempts to parse a good portion of these experiences on album two, Light, Dark, Light Again, which is out now. But more significantly, McMahon has been able to cultivate a sense of self-possession and inner harmony away from her work as a popular musician.

The album is better for it, and so is McMahon’s mental health. In the lead-up to the release of Light, Dark, Light Again – which includes tracks with such illustrative titles as ‘Making It Through’, ‘Exploding’ and ‘Letting Go’ – Music Feeds spoke to McMahon about time, turmoil, and making it through.

Angie McMahon: Light, Dark, Light Again

Music Feeds: How are you feeling? Have you been impatient for the album to come out?

Angie McMahon: I need my brain and my body to slow down a bit, so I think I’m not feeling impatient. I’m ready for it, for sure, but I’ve been moving around a lot and it’s nice just when time moves as it should, you know?

MF: Yeah. Our perception of time – for all of us – is different, but it’s so affected by what we’re going through. I was just thinking about how Salt came out four-and-a-bit years ago. It feels like a different time period.

Angie: Yeah – I will clarify that I have been very impatient over the course of that time. But now, finally, I have self-control.

MF: You’ve got to go through a lot of turmoil and strife to generate things that are meaningful to you – well, I don’t know if that’s a rule.

Angie: That’s it. You have to experience all of the things that the chapters hold for you. I have had some big moments of loss and change over the last few years, and every time I’m feeling like I’m in a hard thing, my distraction is to wish the record was coming out. Because you’re just like, “All I care about is putting out a record and I wish it was happening right now.”

But, in fact, all of the things had to happen to me and I have become – not every day, but some days, on a good day when I’m practising it – a more accepting human in the sense of, you are where you need to be. That mindset has been helping me a lot more than the anxious, urgent one.


MF: It’s hard, though, to keep believing that you are where you need to be, but also to keep that composure in your brain. It’s not as simple as just telling yourself something like that and then the feeling goes on forever.

Angie: No. I find when I write it down or when I say it, I believe it again, so I need to practise it. But maybe that comes from the moments when it has felt so true – like if you’ve seen supernatural beings and now you will always believe in supernatural beings, or something.

It’s like, I have had moments where the universe proved to me that I am where I need to be and I have felt, on a deep level, like I can recognise the evidence or the patterns happening in front of me that give me faith in that idea. And then I totally forget the idea and it’s the same as forgetting that I should meditate every day and it’s got to be mindful and in the present. But then when that particular thing comes back into focus in front of me, I am like, “Oh yeah, I believe that.”

MF: I think it’s a sign of a lot of growth to be anchored by that sort of thing.

Angie: When I remember to be.

MF: Well, you know, every day is full of confusion. There are many things to distract you. You were saying that whenever you’ve been going through difficult times, your crutch would be to look forward to the record coming out. Do you think of writing songs – and writing songs that are intended to be shared with the public – as central to your understanding of yourself?

Angie: I think it used to be more that. There’s obviously an element of external validation that comes with this role and I realised that I was relying on it a lot and not validating myself, or [not] validating myself outside of songs and music. Growing that practice and working on basic mental health as an adult – separate from being a musician and my identity as a songwriter – has been so important.

I never really had that before. This was always the one thing: this one-track-minded ambition that drove me. That’s obviously pretty risky. Like, I would feel such deep, deep failure if that wasn’t happening the way that I thought it should happen. For example, having a record come out 18 months after the first record and developing in a clean and linear way as an artist.

When it all gets messy and you’re relying on it to validate you, I just realised that wasn’t going to work anymore.

‘Making It Through’

Angie McMahon’s new album, Light, Dark, Light Again, is out now via Gracie Music/AWAL. Stream it here and purchase it here.

Further Reading

Angie McMahon Details New Album and Announces Australian Headline Shows

Jess Ribeiro Releases New Single ‘Summer of Love’ via Poison City Records

ZK king 劉: “This Record Felt Nostalgic Even Before I Had Finished Making It”

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