Paul Mac recently ended his self-imposed exile in the Blue Mountains and returned to his hometown of Sydney in a bid to find fresh inspiration for his new album.
The Mountains, he decided, were all a bit done.
It felt a bit like early retirement up there, he said. It served its purpose because I wanted a bit of a headspace change and be more introspective. But after a while I wanted to be back around more people and a different buzz, so I didn’t start repeating myself too much in my music.
He moved into an inner-city house with underground rooms that he converted into a music studio. With the addition of a security system which allowed him to see who was outside the front door from down in his little bunker, Mac realised he had created something of a panic room, an idea which gave rise to the title of the album.
The songs on Panic Room are mostly about falling in and out of love, something he admitted is a direct reflection of his life over the last few years.
Yeah, most of my relationships get a song, however short or long they are, he said. I tend to write from personal experience. The music always comes to me first and then I try to find out what that song is about. Nine times out of 10 it falls back into the relationship angle.
It might be about the feeling of getting together, or breaking up, or that nice bit in the middle. I can’t help but do that.
Mac said he felt comfortable writing such personal songs only because he didn’t have to sing them. On this album he enlisted the vocal talents of Peta Morris, Sarah McLeod, Lenka from Decoder Ring and Luke Steele of Sleepy Jackson, to name a few.
Because I’m giving it to someone else it’s easier. You can go as close to your soul as you want and really reveal all, and then you end up casting singers to play those different parts of you.
Following the success of his debut solo album 3,000 Feet High and his collaboration with Daniel Johns on The Dissociatives (the pair plan to start work on their next album soon), Mac has found himself recognised everywhere he goes, something he has found pretty hard to handle. As a private person, he said he hated being in the public eye but conceded it was a necessary evil.
It has changed everything, he said. It’s changed the going out experience. It’s nowhere near as fun not being anonymous any more. I was out on Friday night at Manacle and the Shift, and there’s always someone coming over and wanting to talk or take a photo or whatever.
Not meaning to sound arrogant, because it’s beautiful if fans actually want to share their experience with me or say they like my music, but when it gets beyond that it’s sort of like -¦ [sigh].
Despite his privacy Mac has never made a secret of his sexuality. But he doesn’t want it to overshadow his music. My policy is I never talk about it but I never deny it. I think everyone in the gay community knows I’m gay. I never hide it. You can see me at Manacle on Friday night. But I’m not a -˜gay artist’, I’m a musician.
He’s wanted to be a musician ever since he was a child and attended the Conservatorium of Music. The Con, he said, made him employable enough to do all sorts of jobs including a stint playing piano on Play School and as music director on Good News Week. Success didn’t come overnight for Mac. In fact he was on the dole until the age of 30.
But it was worth it, I’ve done so much fun stuff along the way.
I just love music. I believe in making it as musical as you can rather than just slotting into pre-existing formats. I think that’s why my albums sound the way they do. They’re not particularly dance music, they’re not particularly anything. They’re this weird mash of influences and moods.
Paul Mac is playing at The Metro on Friday 25 November. Panic Room is out now.