Annah Mac's lifelong wait over

LONG WAIT: Annah Mac's debut album is available now after the xongstress worked on the record for two years.
LONG WAIT: Annah Mac's debut album is available now after the xongstress worked on the record for two years.

Annah Mac's bio reads like something a 40-year-old would be proud of. So to find out the singer/songwriter is only 20 is a bit of a shock.

By the age of 19, the Southland export had already been mentored by some of New Zealand's top producers, opened for Kelly Clarkson and The Script, won a grant to hone her songwriting skills in Nashville and had been awarded the Smokefree Rockquest Female Musician award and the Play It Strange songwriting competition.

And that's not to mention the three Gore Golden Guitar Awards under her belt as a nine-year-old.

All of this is not really surprising, considering she won her first singing competition when she was six years old.

Although Mac does not have fond memories of her early success.

"My mum's Norwegian so I was dressed in traditional Norwegian outfit and I got on stage and started to sing the only song I knew at the time, which was a Seekers song.

"I got told I was going to be in the paper because I'd won, and I was so excited - I'd seen a friend in the paper the week before and it looked really cool.

"Then I came to school the next morning and in the picture I had my mouth wide open, and my teacher put it at the front on the white board. I was crying and it was just horrible."

But she's over that now, which is a good thing considering she's about to hit the big time with her debut album Little Stranger, which has been a lifetime in the making.

Mac was born and raised on a sheep farm in Tokanui - 60km outside of Invercargill - with two sisters. She says the isolation that came with being in the country helped cultivate her love of music.

"When most kids would go to the dairy or play Playstation after school, we would go home and we didn't have any neighbours. So if we weren't working on the farm with Dad, we were playing music - that's really it."

She says she can't pinpoint when she started to make music, but says writing her own songs came, strangely, out of laziness more than anything.

"My whole family loved to sing, so that's where it started. We just loved writing. And I've always liked making up stuff, ever since I was a little kid - it was much easier because you didn't have to follow what someone else has done."

Mac moved from Southland to Auckland when she was 17 to pursue her dream of being a musician. But it took another Kiwi success story to make her believe it was possible.

"Someone that really inspired me when I was a kid was Brooke Fraser. At the time I really loved singing, I really loved songwriting, but I thought I had to be American if I wanted to do it - everything we were watching was. And then Brooke came along and showed that it could be done."

After working on Little Stranger for two years, Mac is about to join her idol on the list of successful Kiwi musicians.

But the prolific songwriter - she's written more than 30 songs this year alone - says it was tricky to pick which tracks would make it to the album.

"It's like having 20 babies and letting seven or eight of them go.

"But by the time we got to Celia, which is the last track we recorded, I think that is a good representation of where I'm at as an artist - it's the best track we've recorded and it's showcasing what I've been through to get here."

Little Stranger is out now.

Watch: Annah Mac - Celia

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