“A song of sacrifice to be sung on the altar.”
By now, most of us know Megan Washington – after all, the ARIA-winning singer-songwriter let us in, completely in, with her 2014 LP There There. That album – her second – was intimate, honest, unwavering. It was bathed in the sunlight of truth, with none of the dramatic complexity of her first album I Believe You Liar.
For all the frankness of There There, for many fans, it’s the shadow side of Meg Washington’s enigmatic talent that brings the shivers – the deliciously difficult chanteuse who stretched imaginations with breakthrough single “How to Tame Lions”, a bittersweet prophet who teased us with a personality that was tantalisingly, thrillingly more than just intimate and honest. No Meg, no Megan, only . . . Washington.
“I don’t think it’s the name influencing the songs, I feel like it’s the songs influencing the name,” says the artist of her alter ego. “There was a certain headspace that I was in when I was Washington, but when I made There There, it felt like a different intention, and for me then it felt disingenuous to not be wholly and entirely a person for that record. Now I feel like there’s a lot more fantasy and drama that’s bled back into my mind. So it’s Washington again – she rises from the black depths.”
As comfortable and captivating as that character is for its creator, the integrity with which Meg has approached her entire career should be evidence enough that a mononymous Washington would never re-emerge without good reason.
“I feel like she is only interested in the darkness and beauty of the world,” says Meg of Washington. “This entire record focuses on the Faustian pact of love and the inherent sacrifice that you make in order to love something … I’m thinking a lot about the claws of love, black roses, sweet pain. Rose Noir. I’m just into that shit.”
The first new taste of that curiously old creative imaginary – a bit Meg, a bit Washington – is disarming first single “Saint Lo”. Written and recorded in L.A. with producers Eric J Dubowsky (Flume, Chet Faker) and Dave Hammer (Thundamentals), “Saint Lo” is at once a return to the dark innocence of Washington’s early evocation and also an evolution of the restless spirit at the heart of all this.
“I wanted the song to feel like falling and flying at the same time,” Washington says. “It’s sort of a meditation on how much we give to love, and how much we take from each other – the vampiric nature of all emotional exchanges.”
Like the themes that carry it, “Saint Lo” was created through a challenging give-and-take dialogue – this was Meg letting go with people she thought she trusted, to see what Washington could find.
“I knew from the outset it had to be a haunting song,” says Meg, “because the emotional DNA of the harmony was really haunting. And we [Meg, Eric and Dave] passed it around, like a pass-the-parcel, and each person sort of removed a layer of something or added a layer of something. And it just went around the three of us until it was done. It was quite a beautiful process actually.”
The result is, fittingly, equally beautiful. It’s a song that could only come from Washington, but also a song infinitely more intriguing now that we know just a little bit more about the charisma behind the character.
“I’ve been really loving the gore and the viscera of writing this record,” says Meg. “It feels really natural, really native for me to create this world; I want to live in it.”