The Sound Cafe
Melbourne's Angie McMahon Amongst Incredible Talent on Dualtone's Anniversary Release
By Sarah Guppy.
Beloved Nashville-based indie label Dualtone Music Group has announced the celebration of their 20th Anniversary this year with the release of a brand new album titled Amerikinda: 20 Years Of Dualtone. Out on August 6, the album features a slew of Dualtone artists and alumni including The Lumineers, Brett Dennen, Gregory Alan Isakov, Mt. Joy, Shovels & Rope, and Langhorne Slim all cover each other’s songs in celebration of the label’s landmark birthday. Amongst the incredible talent is Melbourne heroine, Angie McMahon and her ineffable cover of ‘Tea, Milk & Honey’ by fellow Australian act, Oh Pep!.
Angie McMahon’s palpable charm and honesty shines in abundance through her equally captivating music that explores the intimacies of life, love, and comfort food. Angie’s debut album Salt catapulted her to the forefront of Australia’s indie scene as a leading voice of her generation. In the latter half of 2020, during ongoing Melbourne lockdowns, Angie performed her follow up release and sister EP Piano Salt to adoring fans across the globe in an intimate online concert. It was here that the world was treated to a live piano version of Angie’s Oh Pep! cover. With the addition of some lingering guitar notes and heavenly layered vocals, Angie is excited to now share the studio recording of her close friends and fellow bandmate’s stunning track on the upcoming Dualtone compilation. The cherished singer songwriter will also perform a live solo piano concert at the iconic Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid Live, as well as a local headline show at Melbourne’s West Set festival this winter.
"Oh Pep! are one of my biggest songwriting inspirations, as well as being beautiful friends of mine. I used to sit in the car outside my house after working long late night shifts, processing another day by listening to the magical words of Tea, Milk & Honey. This song is like medicine to me.” – Angie McMahon
"It's a joy and privilege for us to be a part of bringing such amazing art into the world for 20 years. So much of what we do is also based on "feel" when we are pursuing new artists. We were already mesmerized by Angie's music when we met her and her manager Charlotte in Nashville but the more time we spent with them, it just felt like 'home' being together. To work alongside incredible artists who also feel like kindred spirits is such an added gift. Angie McMahon is nothing short of a once in a generation talent, and her cover of "Tea, Milk & Honey" (from another one of our favorite Australian bands, Oh Pep!) is an absolute stunner.” – Paul Roper, Dualtone
Known for their incredible roster of artists who straddle the line between roots and AAA, Dualtone Records was founded in 2001 by Scott Robinson and Dan Herrington, joined soon after by Paul Roper, who quickly established the company as a label that would change the paradigm of what a successful independent model could be. Based around a co-operative approach built on fair, transparent partnerships, Dualtone bred a family atmosphere where artists could effectively build and grow with the label. Their format is now taught in business schools and is considered by many to have helped usher in a new era of more artist-friendly record contracts across the industry.
Inaugural releases from Dualtone included David Ball’s Amigo as well as the pivotal June Carter Cash GRAMMY Award-winning album Wildwood Flower. As the label grew, they continued to bring in elder statesmen like Guy Clark and Bobby Bare, while at the same time branching out to attract younger indie artists such as Brett Dennen, Shovels & Rope, Drew Holcomb, Noah Gundersen, Langhorne Slim, The Felice Brothers, Delta Spirit, Shakey Graves, Wild Child, Mt. Joy, Amos Lee, Gregory Alan Isakov, Robert Earl Keen, The Lone Bellow, Kathleen Edwards, and The Lumineers.
Amerikinda: 20 Years Of Dualtone Track List:
01) Wild Child - “My Favorite Picture Of You” (Guy Clark)
02) Mt. Joy - “Ain’t No Reason” (Brett Dennen)
03) The Wild Reeds - “Younger Days” (Mt. Joy)
04) Gregory Alan Isakov - “Salt And The Sea” (The Lumineers)
05) The Lumineers - “Caves” (Gregory Alan Isakov)
06) Angie McMahon - “Tea, Milk & Honey” (Oh Pep!)
07) Langhorne Slim - “Stubborn Love” (The Lumineeres)
08) Brett Dennen - “Life Is Confusing” (Langhorne Slim)
09) Drew & Ellie Holcomb - “Keep On The Sunny Side” (June Carter Cash)
10) Ivan & Alyosha - “Let Your Heart Hold Fast” (Fort Atlantic)
11) The Lone Bellow - “O’ Be Joyful” (Shovels & Rope)
12) Shakey Graves - “Cheers” (The Wild Reeds)
13) Shovels & Rope - “Dearly Departed” (Shakey Graves)
14) Hayes Carll - “Worry B Gone” (Guy Clark)
15) Radney Foster - “Riding With Private Malone” (David Ball)
Angie McMahon is the kind of indie film heroine that every twenty-something can relate to and root for, but instead of on-screen, her narrative plays out in charming songs about life, love, and comfort food.
Her debut album Salt (2019) exhibits all the talents that have seen the Melbourne songwriter quickly gather an impressive list of figures, accolades, and a reputation for filling some of Australia’s most revered venues, moving audiences who want to befriend her. The album debuted at #5 on the ARIA Charts, #1 on the Vinyl ARIA Charts and was nominated for Best Independent Release at the ARIA Awards.
Angie’s raw, human songwriting hums with realness, coupling intimately relatable lyrics with guitar-driven, anthemic guts and delivers it in a disarmingly soulful voice that can stop you in your tracks.
It’s all there in her debut single ‘Slow Mover’, a charismatic, cathartic song about an impotent romantic encounter in an all-too-familiar late-night setting, which sparks an internal monologue that becomes a firework chorus. It shot Angie from relative anonymity to one of Australia’s biggest success stories, landing her at #33 in triple j’s Hottest 100 off the back of listener votes and love from fellow artists Julia Stone, Julia Jacklin, and Gordi.
In February, Angie followed up with the bruised, bluesy, but ultimately emboldening ‘Missing Me’. A brew of punchy chords and confessional vocals mixing sorrow and sass, it landed her at #49 in last year’s Hottest 100. With the release of her third single ‘Keeping Time’, she became the #1 most played artist on triple j and received high rotation across Australian radio, as well as cracked the AIR and Spotify Viral Charts. This year Angie’s song about feeling lost and having a gluten allergy ‘Pasta’ landed at #72 in the Hottest 100.
With over 30 million plays across Spotify and Apple Music, Angie garnered local and international support. In the first 12 months of her career, she rose from playing small rooms to selling out 1500-2000 capacity venues on her first headline Australian tour. She entered the nation’s festival circuit playing Splendour In The Grass, Laneway, Groovin The Moo, and has shared stages supporting Father John Misty, The Shins, Alanis Morissette, Angus & Julia Stone, Leon Bridges, Michael Kiwanuka, Mumford & Sons, and Pixies.
Angie 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), and Live Act of the Year (National Live Music Awards), Best Independent Release (ARIAS).
Not bad for a once naturally introverted teenager who grew up in Melbourne “writing and yelling at the piano,” obsessed by the likes of Missy Higgins, Mia Dyson, k.d. lang, and especially Adele’s power ballads. “I was never very good at communicating with people in my life,” Angie says now, at 25. “I struggle to be expressive without songs. I have to write down how I feel and sing it out to even understand it.”
At 19, Angie entered a local songwriting competition, “just to see if I was good enough.” She was, however, when the prize positioned her as the unlikely opener for Bon Jovi’s Australian stadium tour, she spiralled into a bout of existential confusion. When she first shook Jon Bon Jovi’s hand at a pre-tour press conference, “he offered some industry advice, ‘If you don’t use this opportunity, that’s your own fault. Do something with it’. And I thought, ‘I’m so not ready to use this opportunity. I don’t even know what this opportunity is. It’s so far from my world.”
With little direction or community to help her, Angie dug deeper into herself and focussed on modest goals: writing better songs, building her confidence, taking things slowly. While pursuing a literature degree and working at a local bar, she began playing solo gigs and booking shows for other aspiring songwriters. Searching for guidance, she read the memoirs of Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith. She dove into treasured lyric collections by Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, and Leonard Cohen. She studied Song Exploder podcasts and attended a workshop with Melbourne musician Jen Cloher.
All the while, Angie honed her knockout voice by out-brassing the horn section of the nine-piece soul band she’d joined as a teenager. It was an instructive experience, teaching her to carve a hook and develop her style of “yelling singing”. But working with eight boys and rehearsal-room microaggressions grew grating: “I didn't feel very feminine or empowered in that space.”
This winding period of self-discovery manifested in her bracing debut album Salt, which puts Angie’s twenty-something uncertainty front-and-centre, her self-awareness became a strength. “I was fostering some kind of power inside myself,” she says. “It gave me a stronger sense of self.”
Armed with a selection of bedroom demos built up over several years, Angie and her friend Alex O’Gorman (co-producer, bass player) retreated to a Victorian country scout hall to record 11 subtle anthems that possess a musical fluidity, ranging from punchy rock and propelling drums, to whispering ballads and moments of delicate isolation.
Her soaring voice cracks around the subtly devastating hook coursing through the smouldering opener ‘Play The Game’. In the evocative ‘Soon’, she’s all composed fragility, hiding tears from her mother before exploding into relief. Unwilling to be fake, she sings about being embarrassed by heartache and learning how “all the ways we can bruise are of use to us.”
Her powerful performances swell with vulnerability and a refreshing self-deprecating sense of humour. 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 lost, lonely, and undervalued, inspecting the sometimes quiet, brutal lessons that have come with growing into a young woman.
A personal triumph is ‘And I’m a Woman’, a feminist response to the infuriating experience of having to perform emotional labor during a dinner date: “This guy didn’t understand the conversation we were having,” she explains, “which was about women feeling safe at gigs, in public spaces, and having a right to our own bodies.” Unable to clearly express herself in the moment, Angie wrote the song next day.
‘Pasta’ is another thoughtful highlight, written during a self-imposed retreat where Angie’s creative productivity went astray. Feeling perilously stuck and distracted, she spent most of her time cooking gluten-free lasagna and binging Downton Abbey. “I had this dream of being a songwriter for so many years, but I was stumbling through it,” she says. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I felt tired all the time.” So she wrote the most honest thing she could: “I’ve been lost for a while,” she sings in a refrain that echoes long after the song is done.
On Salt, Angie 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.
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