INTERVIEW: Mallrat releases new EP 'Driving Music'
Image: Tash Bredhauer
Interview: Jett Tattersall
Mallrat, born Grace Shaw, first started making music four years ago aged just 16. With her music stylings crossing over into indie, electronic and dreampop, she has steadily gained both critical acclaim and a devoted fanbase, with other 70 million worldwide streams to date and support from NME, The New York Times and Beats 1. Last year’s single ‘Groceries’ attracted attention worldwide and she has supported some of the biggest names in the industry including Post Malone and Peking Duk. Fresh off a completely sold out Australian tour and a EU/US tour supporting Maggie Rogers, Mallrat releases her third EP Driving Music this Friday. We recently chatted to Grace to find out more.
First of all Grace, how are things in the world of Mallrat, or shall we say Grace Mallrat Shaw?
Really good! I mean I'm just so happy. I’ve just put out a new song and I've got my new EP coming out. I've just been looking forward to that for so long.
Can I personally congratulate you on ‘Charlie’ which you just dropped from the much-awaited Driving Music. What a beautiful song! Can you talk me through the inspiration for that one?
Thank you! It's really hard for me to articulate because I don't think when I write songs, I know what I’m writing about but it’s kind of just a train of thought. Looking back on it’s about really caring about people. That's probably a bit of an annoying answer for you!
Your lyrics are always so to the point and they really hit people in the heart. Can you talk me through your creative process? I know you just mentioned they just come to you but is there anything in particular you do when you want to sit down and write?
It's different. Sometimes it starts as a note in my phone or they will start as a melody or sometimes the instrumentation happens and then I write the lyrics. It's a little bit different every time.
You've got this amazing way of layering your songs. ‘Nobody's Home’, your collaboration with Basenji, had these really raw lyrics over whimsical and nostalgic music, it's gorgeous. How does this contrast resonate with you?
I guess I write kind of dark things, but I don't want anyone to be worried about me, so I kind of hide it in melodies and more upbeat tracks. So I think part of it is trying to not make it too dark, but my feelings are confusing. Some of my favourite songs make me feel so many conflicting things. Like nostalgia for example is one of my favourite feelings but it's sad and it's happy at the same time.
Now in your music there are elements of rap, I'm getting synth pop, I’m even getting can I say it futuristic folk
Ooh. I love that!
You can have that! I want to know how you describe your musical style?
I honestly don't know. What you just said probably describes it. I think every song is so different to the others because I listen to everything really. I’m not too concerned with consistent production. Like on the new EP for example I don't want all the tracks to sound the same. I think that's partly because I get bored so easily. I think a little bit of everything. Every song is different. But I like you noticed the folk influence because although I don’t really talk about it very much, I like folk and country music.
Oh good, well it's definitely purring through. Did you always want to do this, make music?
Yeah, I did. Ever since I was little, I was like ‘I want to be a pop star.’ Except for a few brief periods where I wanted to be a dolphin trainer, or something with horses, or an MMA fighter. But that was only when I thought I couldn't sing or experienced self-doubt you know. But it's always really been like my number one love. There were definitely periods when I thought it wasn't a real job because I grew up in Brisbane and I didn't know anybody that did it and I didn't understand local music. I only understood pop music and obviously I didn't know Rihanna or anyone that was on the radio. So I thought it’s not something I could do. But when I realised that it was a real job I was like ‘oh that’s definitely the only thing I care about.’
You just mentioned Rihanna - can you tell me some more of your musical influences growing up? Who did your parents play in the car?
My parents are probably responsible for my love for country. We had a lot of compilation CDs. I can remember a Johnny Cash compilation CD and a Dolly Parton one and a Paul Kelly one. When I was a baby, they would always play that when I was crying to help me fall asleep. Even now when I’m on a plane I play those songs and it still relaxes me and gets me asleep. Also mum loved disco and she loves Ministry Of Sound. I remember her playing that a lot. We had The OC soundtrack as well which definitely made a big impact on me.
I think that's a beautifully eclectic mix. Now, speaking of in the car, what track on your new EP Driving Music is your absolute favourite?
I thought for a long time it was ‘Charlie’ but now that it's out I feel like I need to think about the other songs. I think ‘Drive Me Round’ is my favourite because I'm so proud I produced it. I'm so proud of the way the energy moves and the way that it feels. It's dancey stuff and I love dance music, but I haven't made very much. So it made me really happy that I could combine song writing, production and all of that in a way that I was proud of.
A recent study shows that the gender gap in the Australian music industry is narrowing. However, male performers still continue to dominate the scene. What do you personally find is the most challenging aspect of being a female solo artist in this industry?
I have to say I've had a really breezy experience. Like I feel kind of guilty saying that in a way because I know that there are so many people that haven't. Music is my life and it's so natural and easy and the stars have aligned, and everything has fallen into place and there have been no major difficulties so far. It’s quite miraculous really and I haven't felt othered by being a woman. I haven't felt disadvantaged by being a woman in music. I've honestly had a really beautiful experience.
Do you feel sexism in music is still there?
Yeah, it's definitely there. But I would say that it's changing because artists have more autonomy now with how they present themselves with social media. I would say that it's kind of becoming an industry that is more progressive than any other industry that I can think of. I feel especially internationally music is kind of leading the way for inclusivity and things like that.
You’re quite the activist as well which I'm totally digging. You're a vegan, and you have spoken about sustainable clothing. A girl who loves a charity shop is a girl after my own heart. What else are you encouraging your fanbase to do to raise awareness
It's a difficult one because I feel like the biggest thing is something that people don’t like to hear - eating vegan as much as you can. It's the biggest thing that people can do on a small scale. You can cut your carbon emission in half because dairy and meat generate crazy CO2 emissions. They use up so much water and so much land, but people don't like to talk about it. Talking about food in general is very touchy in this world. So, you have to be gentle with how you bring it up. It’s a tricky one because you want to be like ‘everyone go vegan!’ And like they’re ‘don't tell me what to do, fuck off!’
People will talk openly about sex but if you talk about their diet people get really defensive and freak out.
Yeah, and even money, people would rather talk about money than food. It's kind of bizarre. It’s weird that that's the culture, but it is.
Final question, your new EP is called Driving Music, what is your own ideal driving music playlist?
You immediately brought into my mind this memory of my friends and I driving around and listening to Jason Derulo. The first songs on this album in her car are the best songs - ‘Ridin’ Solo’ and ‘Whatcha Say’. So good!