Episode 19 Transcript: Grace Shaw AKA Mallrat
Grace Shaw AKA Mallrat & Danny Carissimi From The Sugar High Podcast
Danny: How old are you?
Danny: You’re 18.
Mallrat: Yeah, but I think some people think I’m 13.
Danny: You’re the youngest person I’ve had on this show. Wait, what year were you born?
Danny: God. So you’re from Brisbane.
Mallrat: Yeah. Have you been to Australia before?
Danny: I have been to Australia, I went last year for a month. I call it America 2.0. I would live in Australia, except for the 15 hour flight it requires to get over there. What do you do on a flight that long?
Mallrat: I don’t watch the TV shows most of the time, because I get stressed out about the headphone thing. Like, I’ll bring my own headphones, and it’ll only play out of the left year, or like, I just - I don’t know, I just don’t like watching the TV stuff. So, I just try and sleep.
Danny: Where is Brisbane?
Mallrat: It’s kind of north of Melbourne and Sydney, and it’s on the east coast, but it’s half the size of Sydney and Melbourne.
Danny: So you were born there, and you still live there?
Mallrat: Yeah, I’m moving to America though.
Danny: You’re moving to America? Holy shit. Where are you going to move to in the U.S.?
Danny: Is this your first time here?
Mallrat: It’s my second time; I was here in October.
Danny: Are you a bit nervous about that?
Mallrat: No, just excited.
Danny: Why are you moving here?
Mallrat: Just music.
Danny: Do you feel stunted in Australia?
Mallrat: I don’t think I should say that, but Brisbane especially is quite small, and I was going to move to Melbourne anyway. So this is skipping the Melbourne and going to L.A.
Danny: Do your parents play any music?
Mallrat: No, not really.
Danny: Do you play any other instruments?
Mallrat: Not super well, but I’m trying to get better at guitar. One of my goals for this year that I can play it in my live set, so I’m just trying to work towards that.
Danny: Do you produce?
Mallrat: I haven’t produced anything that’s out yet.
Danny: I’ve only heard the EP that’s out on Spotify, but you’ve been releasing stuff for a while now, right?
Mallrat: Just that EP.
Danny: Just that EP?
Danny: Oh, so there was nothing before that?
Mallrat: Yeah, the first song I put out from the EP, “Suicide Blonde,” was like the first song I put out.
Danny: Was it reproduced and put out?
Mallrat: No, I just looked for a nice beat. I messaged some producers, and then wrote it from that.
Danny: What did you listen to when you were younger; what did your parents get you into?
Mallrat: The stuff I listened to when it was my parents choosing the music, I actually really liked. It was like, The O.C. soundtrack, Jackson 5 compilations, Johnny Cash compilations.
Danny: The O.C. soundtrack, the TV show?
Mallrat: Yeah. So good. Yeah. The Jackson 5 compilation CD; also, lots of country music.
Danny: American country?
Danny: So you didn’t play any instruments when you were younger; did you start singing?
Mallrat: I was in school choirs and stuff like that, and I really loved singing. I would always sing in the shower, and blah blah blah.
Danny: How old were you when you got into choir?
Mallrat: Maybe like, 8 years old. Basically did it through most of school.
Danny: Did you start writing songs pretty soon after that?
Mallrat: No, I probably started writing songs when I was in grade 10 or 11 at school. Probably grade 11, I think.
Danny: You started writing songs pretty recently; was this your intention, to be a musician, prior to this?
Mallrat: Well, when I was little it was, but then I thought it was like, an unrealistic thing. Like, no one’s actually a musician.
Danny: So you started singing at 8, and by 10 you’re like, “There’s no way I’ll ever be able to support a family doing this.”
Mallrat: Yeah. And then I realized, when we had to start looking at what I was going to do after school, like, if I wanted to go to university or something. I realized that I didn’t want to do that, and that all the universities I was looking at were international ones. I realized I just wanted to travel, I didn’t actually want to do the work.
Danny: So you were looking at like, Tokyo University, and you were like, “Why not?”
Mallrat: I literally was. And…yeah. And then I went to Allday’s concert. I was a fan first, and that was like, when I had a bit of a moment when I was like, I want to tour like this. Then I went home and was like, “But I don’t make music, so how am I meant to tour?” And so I started making music.
Danny: You were like, okay, I want to write songs, I want to write stuff like Allday, so...you just went online and found producers?
Danny: How did you find the producers?
Mallrat: I checked all the credits on stuff I was listening to, and I added as many people as I thought -- I just added lots of people on Facebook, because I wanted to see how their world worked, you know what I mean? Like, I just knew people from school; I didn’t know anyone making music. I just wanted to reach out to people and get some advice while I was figuring out how to write music.
Danny: Is there any sort of music scene in Brisbane?
Mallrat: Yeah, we’ve got lots of indie bands, and there’s a little bit of a hip hop scene starting to happen as well, but I don’t think it’s broken over here.
Danny: I was reading, though, that you don’t really consider yourself hip hop?
Mallrat: No, I’m really influenced by hip hop, and I wish it was hip hop, really, to be honest, but I don’t think it is. I think it’s like, pop; indie pop, or maybe pop/hip hop. I hope it’s hip hop, but I don’t think it is, realistically.
Danny: I like what it is. I don’t know what it is, but I like what it is.
Mallrat: Thank you; that’s the goal.
Danny: Has anyone given it a label yet?
Mallrat: I think “bubble rap” makes sense.
Danny: It’s called “bubble rap?”
Mallrat: Yeah, I thought of that in the car. I don’t know what it is; it’s just a bit of everything. I think it’s just interesting pop music, maybe; because it’s a little bit strange. I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone’s doing the same thing, but I’m influenced by a lot of people. You know what I mean? It’s a bit of everything.
Danny: Yeah. Okay, so you go home, and you start finding producers online, and then basically the first person that you find---
Mallrat: Yeah, the first beat I get sent.
Danny: That’s “Suicide Blonde.” And that was the first song you wrote ever.
Mallrat: Uh, yeah.
Mallrat: I tried to write some stuff over Flume; I would listen to Flume and would write stuff over that. Or like, there’s some [???] songs, and I’d try to fill in the instrumental parts. But it wasn’t ever a full song, it was just trying to figure out how to write lyrics. To be honest, I was a very scheming young person. I was about the songwriting, but I was also in the back. I knew I wanted to make it a serious thing, so I was always thinking about branding and how people market themselves. I was always watching that and trying to pick up on that, and turn that into something. And I realized, I watched so many interviews every single day; I just wanted to learn everything that I could. And I realized that the people that the people that stand out -- and this is kind of just common knowledge, but I really wanted to apply it -- the ones that stand out and get my attention are the ones who are not trying to be like anybody else, and they’ve got an honesty to them. And I was just like, that’s really important for me, and that’s what I want to do. And also, I love pop music, so it’s got the like, pop sensibility to it; short, sweet, I’ve got a short attention span, so it’s perfect.
Danny: So you’re a young, cool artist, but also a ruthless record executive at heart.
Mallrat: Yeah, I think I’d be very good at that.
Danny: Is that a long term ambition?
Mallrat: I think I’d be pretty good at being a social media manager, but I would rather do other stuff.
Danny: I was interviewing an artist recently, and she’s huge on social media; that’s her thing. She’s massive. And her argument was that it’s a skill in and of itself. And it’s funny, I was hanging out with my friends last night, and let’s say this group is like, 30-33, and they were having a hard time buying into that. I’m not saying it’s true or it’s not, but I think it is. Do you think that it’s a skill?
Mallrat: I think of it like, learning how to present yourself. It’s like, now, I think it’s more important than resumes, how you present yourself in job interviews, the way you treat people in real life, to an extent. That’s not what I value, but--
Danny: What do you mean by that, it’s more important than how you treat people in real life?
Mallrat: It’s like, when you meet your fans and stuff, you know them online. So it’s like, the relationship is online.
Danny: But isn’t that exhausting? To talk with so many people all the time?
Mallrat: That’s the fun part!
Danny: Like, I can barely remember to text my family back.
Mallrat: It’s easy to fall behind, but it’s just cool to learn. It’s like a whole other language; that’s how I think of it, I think of it as another language. I think it’s going to be a really important skill for young people. I’m really interested to see how like, etiquette will develop. You know your parents are like, when you sit at a table, keep your elbows off, this is how you set the cutlery, chew with your mouth closed; I feel like, in a few years, people are going to start teaching their children these things. Like, if you’ve met them in real life, you have to follow them back.
Danny: Totally, and I agree with you.
Mallrat: Yeah, and I’m really interested to see what that’s going to be like.
Danny: And parents don’t have this etiquette.
Mallrat: It’s dangerous if they think that they’re confident with social media when they’re not. But it’s not even about rules, it’s just about knowing how to play those things. I think it’s like a fun game, and it’s like a fun hobby to see. I don’t know, it’s just like another fun thing to figure out. It’s completely separate from music, in a way.
Danny: So you enjoy it, you don’t view it as a hassle? You’re not like, “Oh I wish I could just be writing song writing now.”
Mallrat: No, it doesn’t take up that much time. It’s just something that’s in the back of my mind, that I think is fun.
Danny: So did your friends at school know you were writing music?
Mallrat: Um, I didn’t really talk about it. I was pretty embarrassed by it, in a way. I don’t know, I just didn’t want to talk about it.
Danny: So you were like, moonlighting as a songwriter.
Mallrat: Yeah, after school I would like, go to the studio.
Danny: You had a studio?
Mallrat: No, no, no, I didn’t have one. But when I started recording, I would just duck off to the studio and just record. Which is a very strange thing, because I didn’t really understand how it worked, and, yeah. It was a very, very strange experience, but it was a cool one.
Danny: I mean, did you just pop out to the Guitar Center, or whatever you guys have out there, and just buy a mic and go home?
Mallrat: No, I just recorded on to the side of my computer.
Danny: Oh, you just plugged a USB mic in.
Mallrat: No! Like, the actual - maybe it’s on the other side. On my computer, it’s next to the headphone jack. It’s just these two little dots.
Danny: You have a newer computer than me, I’m assuming.
Mallrat: Yeah I think it might be a little bit newer. Actually, I think it just died, so I’m going to get a new one when I get home. Anyway, it was these two dots, and I would just hold the laptop up so it’s just sitting, and I’m just recording into that part of the computer, the actual computer mic. That was just for demos, not actual recordings, but that’s how I figured out how to structure things.
Danny: How long was it before you started to get attention off your songs?
Mallrat: It was pretty crazy, because like, it pretty much like, the first song --
Danny: You just posted it on SoundCloud?
Mallrat: No, I wanted to do it properly, even though I didn’t know how to do that. So like, I emailed people, and I got a premiere, and I was trying to figure out doing PR as well, which is pretty interesting.
Danny: So you just emailed like, blogs, and you just said, “Hey, check this out; I’m working with this amazing artist called Mallrat.”
Mallrat: I’m trying to remember - I definitely thought about making a fake management email, but I think I just used my own email. But, yeah, it was pretty crazy, because I was learning how to do PR at a very rookie level, when I should have been doing year 12 work, which is different. But, yeah, I just wanted it to be as professional as possible from the beginning, and I wanted it to be as a legit as I could make it.
Danny: So it came out, and the response was pretty instant?
Mallrat: It was crazy, like, the premiere was one day, and then I uploaded it to Triple J a couple days before, because it takes a couple days to process, but it ended up being up just before the premiere, and I woke up one morning, and I’d woken up, and I’d already gotten label emails. I was like, “What the hell, this is so weird.” It was just a really cool, very strange experience.
Danny: And then when you went to school, you were mugged. You couldn’t go to class. Did kids at school know what was going on?
Mallrat: Yeah, but I don’t think they realized that it was like, an actual thing. They thought it was just like, “Oh this girl does music; she shares links on Facebook sometimes.” Then all the teachers were like, “So you have to apply for something for uni,” and I was like, “No, I’m not going to go,” and my mom was like, “So you’re going to university,” and I was like, “No, I’m not,” and then she goes, “Oh, you’re taking a gap year, so you’ll apply and then defer.” So I applied and got into stuff, but then canceled.
Danny: There’s way too much social pressure to go into college right when you get out. Were people, your family, were they supportive of you?
Mallrat: I don’t think my mom gets it, but my dad’s been really supportive, and, yeah, he’s the best. And yeah, at school there aren’t many situations like that. It doesn’t make sense, really. They were just like, giving me the advice.
Danny: They don’t bring you in a room and are like, “Your future’s on the line here!”
Mallrat: No, they just like, don’t really get it.
Danny: Okay, okay cool. Yeah, thank you so much for taking the time, and I’m really excited to see where your career develops from here. I think it’s going to be awesome.