Megan Washington will perform at Australia Celebrates Live. Photo: Scottie Cameron
Megan Washington is enjoying being back in familiar territory after almost a year working on her new album in London.
Living overseas can be exciting but it can also be exhausting negotiating the daily logistics of the ''new'' and feeling almost invisible in the hustle-bustle. Back in Sydney, she is enjoying the relative ease of everyday life, not having to second-guess anything, and the idea that she belongs.
''The thing I like about Australia, and this could be taken a few ways, but I love that it's small. Because … at least you know the company. You know wherever you are in Australia, if you need - I don't know, campfires - you go to Bunnings, that's where you go. But if you're in another city, the structure of society is a bit different and you don't even know the company name,'' she said.
''And everything you're doing, you're doing for the first time. So, even if you've been to a place 10 times, in Sydney … maybe even the staff know you but in London, you could go there 100 times and they still wouldn't know who you are. It's kind of exhausting … I love London and I had a marvellous time, but it's just so lovely to be home now and to feel just more plugged into something bigger than myself and feel part of something bigger.''
The introspection is appropriate as the nation prepares to celebrate Australia Day on Sunday. Washington will join the line-up for this year's Australia Celebrates Live concert on the lawns of Parliament House the night before.
She will perform as part of the Australian of the Year awards and the concert afterwards, along with Lior, Matt Corby and Havana Brown.
Washington, no stranger to awards herself, is particularly looking forward to sharing the stage with Corby, who recently won the 2013 ARIA for song of the year for Resolution.
''I met Matt Corby for the first time at the ARIAs last month and … this will be the first time we've shared a stage … It's also the first time I'll be playing some of the new songs from my next album. This one is going to be special,'' she said.
After releasing her debut album, I Believe You Liar, in 2010, Washington experienced massive sales and was named best female artist and breakthrough artist at that year's ARIAs. Her latest offering has been highly anticipated.
Washington has been in London since February writing with expat musician Sam Dixon, who has also worked with Adele and Sia Furler.
''I wrote with lots of people but we just really connected,'' she said.
''I went over to sort of work with him. We really didn't know what we were going to do. It's a bit like following the breadcrumbs when you're making nonsense like music. But he ended up producing the record, we co-wrote most of the album and I got there in February and we finished the last vocal overdub, the very last part of it all, in December in Sydney - he came out for the last couple of sessions. So it took 11 months, but it's done.''
The album - There, There - is due out mid-year but some of its offerings should be released in a month or two.
''It's really exciting,'' she said.
''It's funny, everyone asked what did I miss. And the thing that I missed most was playing live shows and having that daily experience of singing and connecting with humans. Now the album's done I can focus on what I want the shows to be like, what the band's going to do, what I'm going to wear.'' And that last bit is important, the committed fashionista laughs. She reckons she's thinking a green and gold number for the Australia Celebrates Live concert. We'll see. What is certain is that she's giddy about getting on the road again and getting her music out there.
''It's only been three years since Liar but it feels like 30. So I'm very, very ready to do it.''
And there have been some interesting influences on the new album. ''The things that I listened to [when making the album] were very lush, New Romantic, '80s bands like Tears for Fears and Talk Talk and Ultravox and lots of bands like that. Big, reverb-y drums and tight, slinky synths and big, beautiful, major chords and large vocal intervals, big melodic intervals. At least, that's what I heard in that music and I tried to use those devices and make something like that. It doesn't sound like a band from the '80s, I think, but that's what inspired it.''
She is bitingly honest when saying she didn't feel the pressure of having to follow up on her successful debut.
''Not really, because I made Insomnia in the middle of I Believe You Liar and There, There and it was a bit of a bridging record between the flavours of the first one and the flavours of the third one. And Insomnia was a commercial flop - so I've already done that,'' she said, with a laugh.
With the focus of the Australia Day festivities on Canberra, Washington concedes she's not overly familiar with the national capital. ''When I picture it, I often think I'm picturing Canberra, and then whoever I'm with says, 'No, no that's Adelaide','' she said, with a chuckle.
''I'm just really excited to be doing a gig,'' she said. ''Like, I'm at the place where I'd probably play your birthday party if you asked me. I'm really ready to go.''
AUSTRALIA CELEBRATES LIVE
When: The event will start at 5pm, with a one-hour tribute to the outgoing Australians of the Year. The concert is due to start around 7pm. The site will be open to the public from 3pm.
Where: The lawns of Parliament House.
Also performing: Matt Corby, Lior, Havana Brown.