COVID-19 proves the chance for Megan Washington to ‘unlock’ a new type of artist

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After six years of creative expansion and attempts to unearth an authentic next album, acclaimed Australian singer-songwriter Megan Washington has finally delivered Batflowers — and isolation was just the spark she needed to make it happen.

“I’ve just been trying so hard,” she told The Mix.

The Aria award-winning artist, known by her stage name “Washington”, unlocked a new and “free-er” tone in title track Batflowers earlier this year.

“I was on this new vibe with songwriting and it just felt really fun, stupid and playful,” she said.

“I really wanted to keep moving in that space and not just quit because of COVID.”

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The events of 2020 have been a source of inspiration for Washington. She wants artists to use their crafts to help others.

“Despite the fact that the world is terrible, there’s almost more motivation for artists because that’s actually our job,” she said.

“You know, our job is to provide ‘not reality’.”

An evolution years in the making

Washington’s six-year album hiatus has allowed her time to develop a more holistic and satisfying creative process, adding skills like music production, recording and engineering.

“I used to just write the song and sing the song and maybe, like, pick what I wore,” she said.

“There’s just so much about being an artist that I thought I wasn’t allowed to do for some reason.

This period of pushing her artistic boundaries also led to an array of other projects.

She regularly voiced the character Calypso on popular children’s program Bluey, co-created a recently released podcast CrossBread (a musical mockumentary about a Christian rap duo), and composed the music for director Warrick Thornton’s documentary, The Beach.

Washington even achieved a dream of appearing on Playschool, which she described as her “dream working environment”.

“It’s so quiet, it’s so calm, and you just sing your song, and everything is beautiful and there are toys everywhere.”

“It’s actually heaven — I honestly think that working on that show would do wonders for your mental health.”

Move over sourdough: Meg’s iso animations

When isolation hit, she added another creative layer to her Washington toolkit — unlocking her repressed inner visual artist, via a children’s animation app downloaded to her phone.

Washington used time in COVID lockdown to teach herself how to animate; developing graphics and clips for the brewing Batflowers album.

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“I’ve always drawn, but I guess I just never thought that I was a professional because I’m friends with a lot of Australian painters and I don’t paint like them — I just assumed I’m not pro,” she revealed.

“I did that music video [Dark Hearts], and by the time I finished it, I kind of knew how to animate! Now I’m still doing it.”

New year, new Washington

A decade on from first bursting onto the music scene, Washington said her early pop star self is just “dust and memories” now.

“It’s so hard to even imagine what kind of space I was in because I’m not even the same person I was last year. Is anybody?” she asks.

“I always thought I had to kind of be fancy or act a certain way, just because you think that when you’re perfect, you know you’re a professional.”

However, she says she’s learned that professionalism and creativity aren’t good friends.

“Because if you’re being really creative, you don’t know what you’re doing, right?”

In stark contrast to the “troubled artist stereotype”, Washington said for the first time in her life, fun is front and centre of her craft.

“They tell you that to be a good artist, you have to sort of suffer and be, like, tortured. So everybody does that because that’s what you think makes you legit. And I did that. I think we all do it.

For now, she has a simple goal: keep making music.

“I think people really need art.”

“My job is the best job ever. So, I just want to get to work you know, and just keep making silly, fun, beautiful, stupid things.”

The Mix airs weekly on ABC and News Channel — or catch up on ABC iview.

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