Sydney’s iconic City Recital Hall is celebrating its 20th year, and to commemorate the occasion, a contemporary music event is being held in the venue on October 30th. Multi-platinum selling Aussie artist Megan Washington has curated the event, which will feature a selection of renowned artists coming together to celebrate both the venue and Australian music and culture.
In 2010, Washington won two ARIA awards for debut album I Believe You Liar, while 2014 saw her follow-up studio album There There reach No.5 on the ARIA charts. Over the past 12 months, the indie-pop artist has released a series of singles, including 2018’s ‘Claws’ which marked her first single release in 2 years.
We caught up with Washington to chat about We Are Twenty, how her recent collab with Japanese Wallpaper came about, and her latest podcast and book recommendations.
Music Feeds: Tell us a little bit about ‘We Are Twenty’?
Megan Washington: So, ’We Are Twenty’ is a concert that I’ve been asked to curate to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the City Recital Hall. We had a conversation about it pretty early on, and it became very clear very quickly that both the City Recital Hall and I thought that the program should be really forward-facing, you know? Not sort of… retrospective. I know that a lot of the classical repertoire can be pretty like, retrospective. A lot of the works are several hundred years old and that sort of thing, and we thought it was really important that like, the program really looks to the future. So, that was really at the forefront of my mind when I set about curating and thinking about what artists would be important for that.
MF: Sounds interesting! So, what can ticket holders expect from the night?
MW: Well, a good example of future-facing is… so, the commission that we’ve asked for from Robert Davidson and his ensemble Topology – are a modern chamber ensemble, I guess? Rob’s done a lot of compositions where he sort of, uses famous speeches, you know, [he’s] done the very famous Gough Whitlam one, and the Julia Gillard one, and so many more really amazing ones. He basically turns the phrases in peoples’ natural speech patterns into music. So, we’ve commissioned him to create a new work based on the speeches of Greta Thunberg which is pretty timely, you know, given what’s happening today, you know, the schools strikes for climate.
Electric Fields will be performing – I’m sure you know who they are – they’re an electronic duo and their lead singer Zaachariaha [Fielding] is a first nation Australians, so they’re bringing real depth and soulfulness to the program, which is going to be really amazing. They’ll be doing some of their pieces accompanied by a string ensemble.
Luke Howard is the musical director and the manager of the concert, so he’ll be performing some of his pieces that I’ve written new like, songs to, I guess. Then there’ll be me [laughs] doing whatever it is that I do.
MF: Do you have anything special planned?
MW: I’m pretty sure I’ll be performing in Rob’s work. I mean, I’ll just be sort of, being as useful as I can be, I think [laughs], in as many ways as I can do that. That’s sort of the plan at this point. We haven’t begun rehearsals yet, so I’m not entirely sure.
MF: You’ve released several singles over the last year, are there any plans for an album in place at the moment?
MW: Yeah, so I’m kind of working on finishing, I guess, version two of an album. I finished an album at the end of last year, but then right at the end of it I got really excited about new things that I started doing, so [laughs] kind of put that record in the fridge – not the bin, just the fridge! And now I’m just finishing off the next incarnation of that. So, we’ll see what happens.
MF: I know there was a recent collaboration you did with Japanese Wallpaper. How did that come about?
MW: We’re friends! Gab is a real musician’s musician, and I’ve just like known him for… well, forever, really. And yeah, when he heard ‘Claws’, my single, he said “I really, really love it, and I’d love to remix it”, and I said “let me send you the stems!”. So, I did, and then he did that. You know, he’s like, I mean, I don’t know if you’ve seen but I think he’s been in like, the band for four or five Like A Versions this year. He just really kind of, loves music and loves peoples’ projects and he just loves to play, like a proper muso.
MF: What artists have you been listening to lately?
MW: Oh, what have I been listening to lately? Hang on, I’ll just have a look at my Spotify! I was just listening to the new Jack Colwell album, been listening to a lot of Rosalía, do you know her?
Rosalia, she’s a Spanish artist, she’s like really incredible. Caroline Polachek, do you know Caroline Polachek? She used to be in Chairlift. She’s a really amazing like, modern singer, she wrote ‘No Angel’ for Beyonce, but she’s just put out a bunch of singles off her new record called Pang, and it’s really cool, amazing music.
MF: Do you take inspiration from anything else when you’re writing? I know some artists will sort of, have books of TV shows that inspire them. Do you ever find yourself doing that with songs?
MW: Yeah, I mean, I’m working on quite a few projects at the moment, like I’m writing music for a few theatre shows, and I’m also scoring a new TV series that’s coming out like, next year. So, I just kind of like, I guess when it comes to my work it’s really easy to kind of… because I’m doing so many other things that are very, like, genre-specific, my kind of, I guess, pop writing – if you wanna call it that – is just like, very not that [laughs]. It’s not music theatre and it’s not orchestral scoring, like, it’s just very easy for me to see what it is, you know, like, what that is, because I’ve had to define all these other areas. I mean, you know, I read a lot and I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I mean I’m still just really inspired by language and words, just the poetry of songwriting really inspires me.
MF: Do you have any book or podcast recommendations then?
MW: Oh my god, um, well, if you like true crime, the new ABC Radio Unravel podcast is really good, about this scam artist. I love like, scammers, and like, con-artist people. Obviously like, Dirty John is a classic. I’ve been listening to this really good podcast, it’s called Terrible, Thanks For Asking, where they basically profile people and they talk about their worst moment, and it’s kind of an exploration of like, failure and loss and grief and all the things that we don’t commonly talk about, that’s really good.
And I’m reading a book at the moment by an American author called Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, it’s called Friday Black, and it’s a collection of his short stories and it’s fucking really cool. He’s part of the new black surrealist wave, which I did not know was a thing until a few months ago.
MF: What are your plans for the rest of 2019?
MW: Do all my jobs that I said I would do [laughs]. Finish all my projects on time!
MF: Good goal, I like that!
MW: Yep! Just to do all the things that I said I would do. I find it really hard to say no to stuff when I get excited about it, and I’m just really overcommitted and working on lots of things and it’s really fun, but it’s scary.
MF: Do you think once you’re done you’ll have a bit more of a chill year next year?
MW: I doubt it, I doubt it, I doubt it. But, I’ve got a new song! Where you sing to the tune of ‘Be Our Guest’ from Beauty and the Beast, you sing [sings] “feeling stressed, feeling stressed, feeling very, very stressed!”, it actually really helps!
We Are Twenty takes place at Sydney’s City Recital Hall on Wednesday, 30th October. For info and tickets, head here.