Melbourne indie artist Angie McMahon has shared an intimate live version of ‘If You Call’ featuring Leif Vollebekk, which NME Australia is exclusively premiering today (May 6).
The song originally closed out her debut album ‘Salt’. This stripped-back rendition, which was recorded live last year for Perth-based publication Pilerats, will be officially released to streaming services tomorrow (May 7).
Hear the song below:
Speaking to NME Australia, McMahon explained how she wasn’t even sure if ‘If You Call’ would make the cut for ‘Salt’, let alone become a favourite.
“I thought it was a cheesy song, particularly the chorus lyrics ‘if you call I’ll turn on the light for you,’ and never showed it to anyone. I didn’t trust that the song was cool,” she said. “But I sang it in soundcheck one day and the band told me they loved it, so I saw it in a different light: still uncool but meaningful.
“And maybe that’s relevant because at the moment we get to see things in a different light. We get an opportunity to be kind to ourselves and each other, and it’s a song about friendship and being generous with love. So, I think I’m particularly happy to re-release it at this time because it is cheesy and maybe we need some cheese at the moment.”
‘If You Call’ features Canadian artist Leif Vollebekk, who first joined forces with McMahon when he supported her on her 2018 nationwide tour.
“I am such an admirer of him, I was a fan long before I was his friend,” McMahon said of Vollebekk. “He’s such a wonderful person, a really dear friend, and he lives on the other side of the world, but we have a really beautiful musical chemistry and a nice friendship.”
The studio recording of ‘If You Call’ found McMahon in the middle of a room, wearing pyjamas, with just a microphone and a nylon-stringed guitar. It also captured rain in the background. Hear it below:
This new version with Vollebekk was recorded live at Perth florist Green Bunch.
“It just feels like a really warm version,” she said of the new version. “That was exactly how I wanted to end the record, with this really open space, lo-fi sound but then to give the song another life with Leif’s voice and the harmonies, which are really cool.”
In a statement, Vollebekk said, “I fell in love with this song the moment I heard it. Angie’s whistling is like an orchestra to me. I felt the lyrics before I understood them and now that I understand them, I feel them even more. It’s such a generous soul that wrote them. And every time I play this song with her, I know I become a little kinder.”
‘If You Call’ will appear on a new EP ‘Piano Salt’ set to be released later this year, McMahon revealed exclusively to NME Australia. It will consist of various stripped-back versions of songs on ‘Salt’, along with a few covers.
“I’m trying to arrange gentle piano versions of the cornerstones of the record,” McMahon explained. “’Salt’ has a few big rock songs on it and when I had finished those songs, I felt like I had the shape of the record. I felt like I had its heart.
“I wanted to take the rock songs and turn them into music the way, I guess it’s more Leif Vollebekk on my own record,” she laughed. “It’s music that I have always loved and listened to: people playing the piano and singing intimately. That’s definitely how I got into pop music in the first place, and music in general.
“I started on piano; I’ve been playing it since I was four. It felt like I nice time to return to that and wrap up the journey of ‘Salt’ by putting that part of my personality into it as well. It’s been a challenge turning a song like ‘Slow Mover’ into [what is] essentially a piano lullaby.”
McMahon decided to record and release ‘Piano Salt’ after plans for a one-off piano gig in May were dashed by the coronavirus pandemic. She will at some point perform the EP in full online via a ticketed livestream. Though no date has been confirmed, all the latest updates can be found on her website here.
Back in March, Angie McMahon teamed up with her manager Charlotte Abroms and producer/sound engineer Jono Steer to raise money for Support Act, helping provide financial support to musicians and industry workers struggling under the coronavirus pandemic. Their Facebook fundraiser surpassed its goal of $50,000 within a month.
“I’m privileged in that I lost work, like a lot of people, but I have work in writing songs at home – that’s such a big part of my identity as well, so I haven’t lost that,” McMahon reflected.
“As a songwriter, that’s a real lucky thing. But for my crew and the people in my team, it’s so different because the live shows are their career. I’ve been trying to check in on them.”
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McMahon said ‘Piano Salt’ also served as a work opportunity for members of her crew who have lost work to the pandemic, as she roped them into recording and producing the re-vamped songs. She will also involve them in the filming of her upcoming livestream, which will be ticketed, further generating income for McMahon and her crew.
“Industry-wide, [the pandemic] is a worrying thing because it’s so uncertain and unstable. It’s been really hard not being able to offer work to people I work with all the time, so we’re trying to find ways to do that. It’s definitely a real time of adaptation,” she said.