MUSIC

Megan Washington grows positivity and Batflowers in lockdown

AWAKENED: Megan Washington says the coronavirus lockdown made her realise she needed to concentrate on making music.
AWAKENED: Megan Washington says the coronavirus lockdown made her realise she needed to concentrate on making music.

IT'S impossible not to be captivated by Megan Washington's positivity.

Maybe it's the endorphins flowing through her body after stepping out of a pilates class, or perhaps it's the warm Brisbane sunshine she's basking in while we chat over the phone.

Nonetheless, Washington sounds happy.

COVID-19 has delivered a wrecking ball to the music industry over the past six months. But in many ways, the restrictions of the pandemic have suited Washington.

As she explains, much of the old way of life was "about the performance, not the actual thing," like an office worker getting dressed in business attire instead of just walking into their home study dressed in track pants.

"In the olden days, pre-pando days, making music was probably one of the smallest pieces of my activity pie," Washington says. "Life was a lot of time on planes. A lot of the time was travelling. Now I don't do any of that anymore, because I can't.

"There's heaps more time to do what I'm supposed to be doing, which is supposed to be the point because I love singing and writing songs. So it's actually been amazing for me in that way because I've had more opportunity to do things I love to do, like make this record."

The record Washington refers to is Batflowers, her fourth album and first since 2014's There There.

Plenty has happened in Washington's world since the release of There There, which was written in the aftermath of a painful relationship breakdown.

COVER: Batflowers is Washington's fourth album.

COVER: Batflowers is Washington's fourth album.

The 34-year-old married film-maker Nick Waterman, welcomed two-year-old son Amos, voiced Calypso in hit ABC Kids show Bluey and starred and co-wrote musical-comedy podcast series CrossBread.

Work had already begun on Batflowers when the coronavirus forced Washington into lockdown in Brisbane, but it made her more determined to complete the album.

"There's something incredibly cathartic to have this finished and have it out for my own artistic metabolism," she says.

In typical Washington fashion, Batflowers is an idiosyncratic listen, full of intriguing twists and deviations.

It ranges from the sci-fi synths of Not A Machine to the sweet pop of the title track, to the piano ballad Catherine Wheel, which had it's fragile vocal captured on an iPhone.

"I wanted the record to be fun to make, and the fact it was a record I had to make in lockdown, that was a very easy feeling to follow," she says. "The thing I really craved after a day in lockdown was some fun.

"I was able to lean into that, and for me, it was a magic bullet once I figured I'm supposed to be having fun while I do this."

Anyone expecting the pop immediacy of Washington's ARIA Award-winning debut I Believe You Liar might be disappointed. There's no indie-pop bangers like Rich Kids, Sunday Best and Clementine.

Batflowers' charms are buried deeper. They're in the synth-soaked drama of Lazarus Drug, produced by electro whiz Japanese Wallpaper, and in the bluesy lament of Kiss Me Like We're Gonna Die.

"Escapism implies that you're avoiding reality by escaping into the art," Washington says. "But for me, I wanted to create an alternate universe where you can go and hang out for 12 tracks.

"That's why there's so much sound design in the record. There's all those bird songs and that moment of drifting into space because I just wanted the whole thing to be a mini little trip."

Batflowers is also the first time Washington was involved in the aesthetics of art direction, photography and animation. She credits motherhood with this explosion of creativity.

"Ultimately I would say having a kid has really reconnected me to something deeper and more powerful and is actually the most magical thing you can find, which is the power of just playing," she says.

"The idea that I'm not gonna tell my child his painting isn't professional because he's two, right? Because I'm not a professional painter, but why can't I paint as well?

PERFORMER: Megan Washington on stage at Lizotte's in 2015. Picture: Simone De Peak

PERFORMER: Megan Washington on stage at Lizotte's in 2015. Picture: Simone De Peak

"Surprise, instead of painting, I draw and do animations and I animate all of my lyrical videos now. I started awakening my inner visual artist because you're always playing with canyons."

Washington's positive view on the impact of lockdown and parenthood on the creative process has extended to live performance. She believes musicians need to embrace social distancing restrictions rather than view them as anathema.

Washington will return to the stage in two weeks for three shows at Brisbane's The Tivoli, which can cater for 350 seated people under COVID-safe measures. She says musicians should approach smaller capacity shows like theatre seasons and use them as an opportunity to hone their stagecraft.

"I just think it's an amazing opportunity for musicians that can be found, we just have to invert our concept of what's required," she says. "I think society also has to invert it's concept of how valuable the arts are, especially our government."

Washington's album Batflowers was released on Friday.

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This story Megan Washington blooming with happiness on Batflowers first appeared on Newcastle Herald.