GEORGIA MCDONALD, AKA GEORGIA MAQ of Camp Cope, begins by offering to record this interview for me, to make sure the sound quality is the best possible. “I’m a professional audio engineer now,” she says nonchalantly.
Although she is ostensibly promoting a new solo EP, Live At Sydney Opera House (not exactly a sequel to her 2019 album, the fuller-bodied Pleaser, but sharing its song-based, almost elegant manner), Melburnian McDonald is in LA, where she’s lived on and off for some time.
“I love it so much,” she says. “I’m staying in Glendale though …
[For those playing at home, that’s the haven for Kardashians if you didn’t know, as embarrassingly, I didn’t.]
“I haven’t seen any yet: they’re all out at Calabasas. I haven’t been to Calabasas but, yeah,” she drawls. “I’m just living it up.”
Melbourne to LA, Glendale to Calabasas, Sydney to wherever, I wonder whether McDonald travels with music, a bag of CDs or something similarly old school.
“In my handbag – it’s a fake Birkin bag, a Hermes Birkin bag which is valued at maybe $30,000, but I picked mine up, a knockoff, from Canal Street, in New York City – no, I don’t travel around with music,” she says, before itemising everything she’s just dumped out of her faux Birkin and onto the bed. “I carry around gum, sunscreen, sunglasses, eyedrops, hand sanitiser, make up, Sudafed, headphones, lip balm, lip oil, my wallet, three tarot cards, and a book.”
Wait a minute, let’s go back a bit. Tarot cards? Three of them? Is that enough to tell a future, or character, or whatever?
“I got these from my dear friend’s house, Ben Lee and Ione Skye, his gorgeous wife. Their dog had ruined a deck of their tarot cards so he let me pick out a couple,” McDonald says as if this is perfectly normal. “I chose three because that’s like a past/present/future reading. I got the Tower because I just like the way that it looks; I got the Chariot; and the Ace of Cups.”
Okay then, what do they represent or what can they tell us about Georgia McDonald that this EP (or maybe its cover of Samson, by a touchstone artist for her, Regina Spektor) doesn’t?
“Okay, let me guess. So, it’s a burning building with people falling out of it, but the tower’s really cool and big, so that might represent like you are powerful but you are falling apart a little bit,” she says authoritatively, before laughing. “This is all completely wrong by the way.
“The Chariot, you’ve got some things that are taking you somewhere but you are in charge, ultimately. And then the Ace of Cups, just a cool cup with a bunch of water but you’re also in the ocean, so that might represent a reminder to drink water. So I’ll do that now. Cheers!”
Does she trust in anything like that: stars, palms, religion? Is there any value in having such a belief system? She is wearing a crucifix at the moment, for example.
“So, I only wear this because, one, it was my Nana’s, who we sadly lost this year, and her name was Georgia Manta. Because we have the same initials and I was her favourite grandchild it’s a crucifix with GM inscribed on the back. I also wear it because it’s gold and I have expensive tastes [she laughs] like my fake Birkin bag.”
She confesses that sometimes when friends would ask her to read out their horoscopes from the paper she would choose another sign and read it out, seeing “if they connected with it in any way”. Was this done for scientific purposes? “Really to screw with them a bit. Because that’s the kind of friend I am.”
Who would be a friend of Georgia McDonald, a woman who describes those concocting horoscopes as “some guy with a goatee who they’ve let write horoscopes in The Age”? What if her friend, a Scorpio, was basing her day on what the stars told her, only to find out that was all meant for an Aquarian? Wouldn’t she feel guilty?
“No, no. I wouldn’t feel guilty, but maybe I’d feel a little bit bad,” McDonald says. “I’m agnostic to everything. I think it’s arrogant to think you know anything. Just like [California punk band] Operation Ivy once said, all I know is I don’t know nothing.”
If we come away with one thing here it may be don’t trust a man with a goatee.
“Never fight one either,” she says with some conviction. A conviction borne of some bitter life experience maybe?
“I feel like if anyone has the confidence to pull off a goatee, they have the confidence to fight. But also, what if I just gave you that advice and so you didn’t fight the man with a goatee but actually fighting the man with a goatee actually was a good thing? Maybe he was a racist, and you should have fought him.”
Actually, let’s amend that lesson from today: never trust Georgia McDonald. Not with predictions of your future or facial hair warnings, not with anything.
“Why not?,” she demands, her voice rising with some indignation, before conceding some ground. “Okay, unless it comes to advice regarding your body. Because I’m a nurse. I know stuff. I know about electrolyte levels.
“What I know is if you’re hung over you need B12, so drink Berocca.”
Here’s a thought, relevant to Ms McDonald’s chosen career. If I were a fellow rockstar feeling the effects of a little too much rocking/a little too much rolling, would she be able to inject me with a B12 shot in the arse like they did in the ‘70s?
“Um … if there was a doctor’s order for it, and if I could check it with a registered nurse, then I could do it,” she says, coming over all responsible. Boring!
Suddenly, maybe with thoughts of health boards on both sides of the Pacific tuning in, McDonald looks concerned. “Is this like a recorded interview, or are you going to listen back to this and write stuff?”
I’m going listen back and make it all up.
“Oh, make it up. Fine,” she says. “You’ll tell lies about me then.”
Oh, I see. Miss ‘I’ll tell my friends whatever horoscope predictions I feel like’ has got her back up about lies now?
“This is like a stand-off,” McDonald says, eyeing me warily, as if I were a goatee-wearer.
Indeed, a stand-off. And still we haven’t talked about the new EP. So let me attempt a radical but oh so brilliant segue here. When she decided to play this intimate, gentle and quite beautiful live show at the Sydney Opera House that is the basis of the new record, did she do that with any planning, any prediction? Or was it a case of I’ve got these new songs, let’s throw caution to the wind?
“Well, I got a bit drunk because it was free champagne and it’s the Sydney Opera House, so …,” she smirks. “But I had practised for months with my stepmum. I’d always wanted to perform with her. I love singing and she loves playing piano, and I love singing to her playing piano, and she loves playing piano to me singing. And we love each other so much, because she is my stepmum! She is not my stepmum, she is my other mum. My mum and her actually call each other wife-in- laws. And when they get drunk they are like ‘we’re going to be buried together’.”
The turn to family relationships was unexpected, but it’s ok, we’re still hanging in here.
“I put out a song called Cold Summer, at the start of 2020. I had just for fun been playing with my friend Lucy Waldron, who played cello. I just liked go to her house and we’d play Gillian Welch’s songs, and she would sing the harmonies, and it was just so beautiful,” McDonald goes on. “Then I wrote this song and I thought I want to get my friend Lucy to play on it, then I thought I want violin on it as well, and I knew Lucy Rasch, who played violin, from years and years and years ago, so I invited her over to Lucy Waldron’s house and they instantly clicked and were able to play together so wonderfully, because they are both gorgeous, amazing people.
“They play in another band now together, so my claim to fame now is I introduced them.”
The two Lucys, her stepmother and McDonald had maybe three rehearsals before the Sydney show with McDonald claiming she didn’t know it was being recorded: it just happened to be the sound engineer’s habit to record shows in case somebody wanted it.
“What if I hit a bum note,” she wails comically. “That would be the end of me.”
Yep, she’d never work in this town again.
But hey, if things go to shit, check the handbag, maybe a career as a fortune teller awaits her.
Live At Sydney Opera House is out now, on Golden Friend.