Angie McMahon peppers her beautifully bittersweet songcraft with tasteful covers on the satisfying new EP Piano Salt — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
The keyboard-centric followup to her 2019 debut album Salt, the seven-song EP takes McMahon back to her humble beginnings, with stripped-down versions of the songs from her ARIA-nominated album, joined by some of her favourite numbers from Lana Del Rey and Bruce Springsteen.
“Piano is the first instrument I learnt and the one that made me first love singing,” the singer-songwriter shares. “My favourite piano song when I was young was k.d lang’s cover of Hallelujah. So this EP feels like a return to my piano-cover-loving inner kid. It’s been a really nice creative opportunity to recreate the feeling of some bigger songs off my first record, give them a new life, and cover some of my favourite songs too. It gave me something to do when we went into quarantine. The creative process also helped me shed some fear around sounding too cheesy on the piano, or too sad — I realized that doesn’t matter so much because I just love to play and sing.”
Her fans love her back. And no wonder — McMahon is a twenty-something heroine you can relate to and root for; the star of her charming, honest songs about life, love, and comfort food. And both Piano Salt and its predecessor are stocked with the raw, honest anthems that have enraptured fans, charts, media, and the Melbourne music community. Drawing inspiration from Springsteen, Lianne La Havas and Big Thief, her music ranges from punchy rock to whispering ballads, but hums with the humanity and realness of a true original.
It’s all there in her charismatic, cathartic Slow Mover, which shot McMahon from relative anonymity to one of 2017’s biggest success stories. Her bruised, bluesy followups Missing Me, Pasta and Keeping Time cemented her stature. In just 18 months, McMahon rose to playing Australian festivals Splendour In The Grass, Laneway, Groovin The Moo, and supported slots with Father John Misty, The Shins, Alanis Morissette, Angus & Julia Stone, Leon Bridges, Mumford & Sons and Pixies.
She won the 2019 Grulke Prize for Developing Non-US Act (SXSW), Best Live Voice of the Year (National Live Music Awards), and was nominated for Breakthrough Artist of the Year (AIR), Unearthed Artist of the Year (J Awards), Best Solo Artist, Best Victorian Breakthrough Act (Music Victoria Awards), Live Act of the Year (National Live Music Awards), and Best Independent Release (ARIAS). Most recently, she became one of the recipients of the Levi’s Music Prize, in partnership with BIGSOUND, amongst some brilliant company. This round was awarded to McMahon, L-Fresh The Lion, Mo’Ju, Jesswar and Eliza and the Delusionals. This is the third time the independent Melbourne artist has applied for the prize and she is honoured for her work to be recognized among the other incredible local artists.
Not bad for a naturally introverted teenager obsessed with Missy Higgins, k.d. lang and Adele. Honing her knockout voice by out-brassing the horn section of a nine-piece soul band, McMahon slowly built her confidence and songwriting over time. While pursuing a literature degree and working at a local bar, booking solo gigs for herself and other aspiring songwriters, she sought guidance from classic songwriters (Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen), Song Exploder podcasts, and a workshop with Melbourne musician Jen Cloher.
This winding period of self-discovery manifested in material that put her youthful uncertainty front and centre. Angie’s powerful voice and performances swell with magnetic vulnerability and refreshing self-deprecation. Unwilling to be fake, she’ll reel you in with a witty line about fried chicken or her dog’s medical troubles, then break you apart with a lyric reflecting how — like the rest of us — she can feel embarrassed, exhausted, lost, lonely and undervalued. McMahon leaps out of the stereo as a recognizably three-dimensional human being, offering up normality but rendering it in remarkable songs that — like all stories worth telling — can make you laugh, make you cry, make you think and feel.