IN early 2020 and Meg Mac was two weeks away from releasing the first single from her forthcoming third album.
The video clip had been filmed and the publicity vehicle was primed to kick into overdrive. But there was a major problem.
Mac had severe doubts about the unreleased album. So much so she was struggling to sleep.
"It's not like I had this terrible album and it was bad, it just wasn't right and I knew it wasn't right and didn't know how to stop," the softly-spoken Mac reflects two and a half years later.
"We kept going and kept going and I felt really sick about it, like I couldn't sleep.
"It wasn't until the first single was literally about to come out, I shot the music video, it was all done."
It reached the point that the Sydney indie-soul singer-songwriter "just snapped" and decided she couldn't release the record.
Mac was petrified of how her label, EMI, would react. But they were supportive of the move.
"Everyone was really fine with it and I thought I tormented myself for so long worrying what people would think and not one person said, 'Are you sure?," she says.
"I didn't just straight up say, 'I'm putting it all in the bin and starting again', I was like 'Let's pause and take a break' and then I slowly took a break and started to reveal I had this secret plan to re-record the whole album."
Scrapping the album also meant Mac - real name Megan McInerney - wasn't releasing a record as the pandemic was shutting down the music industry.
Instead she jumped online and randomly found a cottage to rent in the NSW southern highlands village of Burrawang.
It was in Burrawang's rural and relaxed atmosphere that Mac began writing new songs for her eventual third album, Matter Of Time.
The album's opening track, Is It Worth Being Sad?, was representative of Mac's new mindset.
"It's about being stuck and upset about what happened," she says.
"It was the first song I wrote for the new album in the country and it's the first song that made me believe I could write a new album."
Two songs from the scrapped album made the cut on Matter Of Time. They were the title track and Lifesaver.
"It's really crazy now because the lyrics I was singing, like how I'm trapped and how long will it take for my silence to break," Mac says.
"I had this thing I needed to do and felt trapped and scared to do it.
"The meaning of a Matter Of Time is literally what happened. I did snap and I did change everything."
Ever since being the triple j Unearthed artist of the year in 2014, Mac has continued her steady ascent thanks to her powerfully soulful voice and knack for melodic songwriting that straddles old-school R'n'B, pop and soul.
Mac's 2017 debut album Low Blows was built on her passion for traditional R'n'B, while the 2019 follow-up Hope, branched out into more contemporary pop arrangements by exploring co-writing with Australian Grammy-nominee Sarah Aarons (Khalid, David Guetta, Demi Lovato).
On Matter Of Time Mac worked with Noah Cyrus collaborator PJ Harding, Chandelier co-writer Jesse Shatkin and production duo Tyler Mehlenbacher and Sergiu Gherman, best known as The Donuts, who have worked with Kendrick Lamar.
Harding introduced a greater use of guitar on Mac's songs, particularly the title track, rather than the dominant piano of Low Blows.
"It was a song I just had on piano and it was a voice memo I had on my phone," Mac says. "When I found it, I thought, I love this.
"I worked with PJ Harding in Sydney on that one and he plays guitar and I worked on quite a few songs on the album with him.
"He was like, 'it sounds cool on guitar' and it turned into this guitar song.
"I started playing it on tour before I'd finished recording it, I hadn't done the vocals, then my sister [Hannah] was singing it with me on tour and it turned into this special moment at the shows."
With Mac finally ready to release her third album, she said the whole experience has been an important learning process.
"Making this album is me taking that step," she says. "Going forward I'll never go down a path if it doesn't feel right.
"You don't commit to anything until you're 100 per cent happy with it - that's probably the biggest lesson to take away having scrapped an album."
Meg Mac's album Matter Of Time is released on Friday.
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