There’s a genuine, intimate sense of honesty and relatability throughout Angie McMahon’s first album, Salt. The Melbourne singer-songwriter talks of musically channeling Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and Bon Iver, but her songs’ themes are completely personal: love, heartbreak, friendship, equality…and lasagna. Above all, these songs came from those moments of experiencing emotions, rather than suppressing them. “You really have to let yourself go through things,” she tells Apple Music. “It’s so full-on, but so cathartic, to express things instead of pretending you're not feeling it. You’re just like, ‘No, I'm feeling it and I'm going to ride the wave. Here it is.’” Read on to learn more about the stories behind all 11 tracks on this assured debut.
”Play the Game” “This started as a songwriting exercise. I’d gone away to write some songs, but I wasn’t getting anything done. I started just playing and singing the word ‘helpless’ over and over again, like the Neil Young song. I didn't know what it was about, and I still don't think it has one meaning, but I was writing about what was happening inside my head while I was navigating things like relationships and anxiety and how to be myself. It’s so intimate and honest. It feels like a lullaby.”
“Soon” “It's one of the first full songs that I remember writing. It's basically a snapshot of how I felt when I was 19 and didn't really feel ready for things, and I was feeling myself change and grow up, and I thought that falling in love was going to be the answer to all my problems—but it wasn't in the end.”
“Keeping Time” “This one was really exciting to write because it felt like my first rock song. It was liberating to play this bulldozer guitar riff over and over. At the time, I was struggling with myself as a songwriter, and the song itself is about songwriting and about pushing through that lack of self-discipline. I want to write more songs like this one.”
“Slow Mover” “It's kind of about being a snail—like a human snail. A celebration of taking my time with things and connecting with that side of my personality and accepting that I'm someone who needs to sit with things for a while and not move too quickly through the world and absorbing things at your own pace.”
“Missing Me” “This is a classic heartbreak banger. It was about releasing all the angst that I was feeling when someone was letting me down, trying to keep everything under the surface, but then letting it out and feeling much better afterward. You feel much more powerful by facing your emotions, instead of letting them keep you down.”
”Push” “I don’t always feel connected to ‘Push,’ because it’s the oldest one on the record and it’s about my first heartbreak. But it’s really fun to sing. It's me roaring and wounded, and it made me want to write honest songs. Sometimes it feels a bit juvenile, but I think you need to go through that process when your heart is broken, to really feel the experience deeply within you and to just let it all out.”
“Pasta” “I wanted it to be a rock song. I wanted to channel Springsteen, particularly at the end. I was really in my own head about it, and this song was the way that I wrote myself out of that headspace. ‘Play the Game’ was the songwriting exercise and ‘Pasta’ was the accomplishment. It was the finished thing that came after clearing out my head. I ate a whole lasagna that week.”
”Standout” "I wrote this in stream-of-consciousness from beginning to end. It’s about leaving somebody behind, parting ways with them and not really saying the things I wanted to say. I couldn't express myself in the conversation, and this song was the way that I said all those things. It’s like writing a letter that you need to send because you haven't said everything out loud. But I never gave it to him. I just wrote the song.”
“Mood Song” “This was written in my bedroom with all the lights off and candles lit. Basically I was trying to be Bon Iver in the demo, with all the big vocal doubles. I had run into someone that I used to really love. It was the first time I’d seen him in a long time, but it was a really unsatisfying experience. To me it's kind of half a song: It feels unfinished, but in the perfect way. There’s a bit of trumpet in the end—I played trumpet when I was in school and hadn’t really picked it up since, but I wanted to put it on the record somewhere.”
"And I Am a Woman” “This is my favorite song. Again, it's about trying to express myself in conversation and being unable to. Equality is such an issue in our society, and this is about our bodies and personal space. When we recorded it, it felt so right with my band. We did this one live. I was so excited to do it, we were having a really nice day in the studio, and then the pickup on my guitar broke and I couldn't play it. But we’d rented the studio for one day to get it done. I was really sad—I rely on my guitar sound—but we just borrowed one from the studio and did it anyway. I’m really glad that we did, because I feel like we got the performance that we wanted.”
“If You Call” “It was raining outside when we recorded this, and there was just one microphone, a nylon-string guitar, and me. I was kind of channeling Bruce Springsteen—Nebraska vibes. I used to think it was cheesy, but now I really love it. The idea behind it is that when your life is full, hectic, and overwhelming, and your friendships are falling low on your priority list because you can't keep track. But you want that element of a friendship where if they need you, they can call you and you can can drop everything to be there for them, even though you're going through shit too. It’s a sister song to ‘Play the Game,’ and it just makes the whole record feel complete.”


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