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Washington Interview October 2011

Catherine May

Triangle

When I speak to Megan Washington it’s 9am in her New York base. Yawning, she seems somewhat distant from the world which only serves to offer a deeper insight into the mind of the award-winning Australian singer songwriter.

Her debut UK album, I Believe You Liar, is being released on 7 November, more than a year after it’s Australian release. When I ask Washington about promoting it as a debut after all this time she says “It’s a funny sort of process”. She speaks timidly – a far cry from the confident persona I’ve seen on prime-time Australian panel show Spicks and Specks – and goes so far as to say “I’m just glad it’s out at all”.

Her November tour will be the first time she’s played outside of London in the country. “Because the record was coming out, we decided to give it more than just one London show”. Is there anywhere in particular she’s looking forward to playing? “Everyone always talks about Manchester because of the music scene and history there. I mean, I love London but I’m looking forward to seeing more of the country.”

Just last week, Washington finished a US tour culminating in the release of her album in the States whilst a new record, Insomnia, is being released in Australia in the next week. The girl’s got a lot going on internationally and it’s no wonder she’s tired. Is there one place she prefers to tour? “Everywhere has it’s own thing. Touring the US was an eye opener as I’d only been to LA, New York and Boston before. I mean there are great things about America, but there are crappy things about America. There are great things about Australia, there are crappy things about Australia…”

Talking of the Australian release, Washington dismisses the idea that it’s an in between record saying “It’s just a thing that I made”. This ambiguous response reflects Washington’s vague nature. Originally thrown into the spotlight by Triple J [An Australian Radio station who support homegrown talent], she’s gone on to win two ARIA awards and has just received nominations for another two. She is very thankful for Triple J’s support – “When they get behind you, they really get behind you” –  but the commercial success seems to be somewhat of a secondary perk for the dazed singer; she received the ARIA for Best Newcomer a year ago but still isn’t sure what that even means.

“The ARIAs are obviously lovely and very exciting but I do feel like I’m still finding my way. I certainly don’t have a clear vision. I mean, I won Best Newcomer so I must be broken through, right? But I don’t really feel like I have.”

She also finds it difficult to describe where she is right now. Very humbly, she says “Artistically, I don’t really know what I am. I’m sort of topsy-turvy.”

Previously, Washington has said she finds it hard to take time off from writing so when I ask where her most unexpected inspiration has come from she pauses to reflect. “It’s a good question and I don’t really know. For me, the process of writing music is quite an unconscious one. I’ve started writing things and realised they sound really familiar, like music from an ad for a carpet company in Queensland or from a record we’ve been listening to lots on the tour bus.”

Washington reassures me that any music she writes that has subconsciously been copied gets discarded, but says “I’ve certainly magpied things from all sorts of places.”

It seems there’s an influx of Antipodean artists playing in the UK this Autumn. We had Brooke Fraser on the touring circuit last week, Josh Pyke’s just arrived and Pete Murray and Alex Lloyd are heading our way before Christmas.  When I suggest that it’s about time one of them properly made an impact on the UK charts, Washington draws comparisons between her homeland and the UK. “Australia’s quite funny really. We feel the impact of British artists when they’re breaking the UK charts but who’s to say what happens the other way round”.

She goes on to say that some Australian artists have had a recent impact, Empire of the Sun for one, but when she questions whether Gypsy & the Cat have had similar success I have to point out that they aren’t exactly household names.

On her UK audiences, she says “I feel like the crowds are certainly a little bit more researched over there; they seem more informed.” For an artist who has performed at huge festivals across Australia, I guess a gig at Bush Hall or Manchester’s Deaf Institute will offer a more intimate atmosphere and it should be a great opportunity for Brits to catch a glimpse of the abundance of talent coming out of Australia at the moment.

Our conversation draws to a close and I leave Washington to start her day (or perhaps to go back to sleep). She apologises, once more, for being sleepy. “I’m trying to make words but all I can hear is these trombone people from a cartoon.”

Megan Washington is an interesting character. And she certainly deserves further investigation. I just hope she can get some sleep before her UK shows.

I Believe You Liar is released on 7 November and Washington’s tour begins in Edinburgh on 1 November.

www.washingtonmusic.com.au