Meg Washington’s Eight Biggest Career Highlights

17 January 2024 | 11:16 am | Ellie Robinson
In Partnership With Sydney Symphony Orchestra

February will see the indie-pop icon perform an unmissable concert with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Megan Washington

Megan Washington (Supplied)

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Meg Washington is one of Australia’s most renowned voices in both the pop and indie music spheres, and for good reason: her songs are driven by authentic emotion and palpable energy, and it’s clear with every performance that she’s putting in her entire heart and soul.

Meg Washington’s live shows are always enchanting, but in 2024 she’ll crank that spirit up to 11, embarking on an ambitious tour where every show will see her accompanied by a full symphony orchestra. On Saturday February 3, she’ll perform an unmissable show at Sydney Town Hall with the one and only Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

She’s no stranger to the Sydney Symphony – which first formed some 92 years ago in 1932 – having previously linked up with the Orchestra in 2017 (an effort we’ll talk a bit more about in just a sec). Together, they’ll reimagine songs from Meg’s four-album catalogue, as well as previously unheard material from her upcoming fifth studio album. Tickets are on sale right now (find them here), but we know for certain they won’t last long.

Ahead of this career-defining tour, we’re taking a look back at Washington’s story to celebrate the eight biggest moments she’s delivered thus far…

Her first time headlining the Sydney Opera House

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Meg first took to the Sydney Opera House stage for the 2010 ARIA Awards, where she performed her breakout single Sunday Best for the stacked crowd of industry heavyweights. She was a relative newcomer then but had burst on the scene with her debut album, I Believe You Liar, released just a few months prior and nominated for six awards; she left the ceremony with two (Breakthrough Release and Best Female Artist).

Just over a year later – on January 25, 2012 – Meg returned to the Concert Hall to showcase her spellbinding Insomnia project: a four-chapter multimedia special framed around the titular EP she released in 2011, paired with a show-exclusive suite of instrumental interludes and videos. Each chapter was named for a different drug – Opiate, Amphetamine, Barbiturate and Nicotine – and across two magnificent encores, Washington also performed Sorry For Everything, Something Small and 80 Miles.

Her first collab with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Though her songs had always shone brightest with soaring strings and pulsating percussion, Meg unlocked a new level of magnificence in September of 2017, when she performed three iconic shows at the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony. The sheer might of the orchestral backing gave new perspective to her catalogue, expanding all the aspects of her music that we love most, and revealing new textures and elements we hadn’t heard before, beginning with Achilles Heart and The Give, followed by Kiss Me Like Were Going To Die and Catherine Wheel at the very end.

The shows were of course immortalised on tape, and after six years, Meg recently shared the official recording of Catherine Wheel (which you can hear below). This year’s gigs promise a similar format, once again reinventing songs from her existing catalogue, and showcase material from her currently untitled fifth LP. If these gigs shape up to be half as great as 2017’s were, we know we’re in for a night to remember.

Her standout voice role on Bluey

When she’s not melting hearts on stages around the country, Meg can be seen (or rather, heard) gripping kids’ attention as Calypso, the bubbly teacher character in Bluey. The megahit cartoon has a knack for casting musos in voice roles – after all one of its main characters, Bandit, (the titular Bluey’s dad) is voiced by Custard frontman David McCormack – and Meg’s character has fast become a favourite with the tikes enamoured by Bluey.

Calypso first appeared in her own self-titled season one episode, and has since returned in a further 13 instalments – each time voiced by Meg. She also popped up on this year’s Dance Mode! soundtrack album, joining Bluey for The Gnome Song.

Her earwormish theme song for Bed Of Roses

It was long before Bluey that Meg became a household name on the ABC. In 2008, she released an acoustic cover of Ross Wilson’s 1989 classic Bed Of Nails. The haunting rendition caught the ear of the ABC Drama Department, who saw it as the perfect theme song for the Kerry Armstrong vehicle Bed Of Roses. So the song can be heard in all 26 of the series’ episodes, which aired between May 2008 and February 2011. Meg herself cracked the mainstream in that time, so shortly after the series ended, the cover was issued as a proper single.

Her gripping collaboration with Greta Thunberg

In 2019, acclaimed climate activist Greta Thunberg dropped jaws around the world with a searing address to the United Nations, demanding more from global politicians in the fight against climate change. One of the most iconic political moments of the 2010s, the speech resonated deeply with Washington, who linked up with composer Robert Davidson to shape into a haunting musical work called Crystal Clear.

“Greta’s speech is the definition of punk,” Meg said upon the track’s release, “and more important than any song that has been written in my lifetime, so I couldn’t ‘look to the future’ without including it. I really hope this video moves people, because it’s time for people to start moving.”

Her inspiring TEDx Talk

Meg has given plenty of her own soul-stirring speeches, including this riveting delivery at TEDxSydney in 2014. Over the course of her 15-minute presentation – which also featured a performance of the as-then-unreleased To Or Not Let Go (which later made it onto her second album, There There) – Meg candidly opened up about her battle with a speech impediment, and how she refused to let it impede on her artistry.

She revealed that she’d long lived with a “mortal dread of public speaking”, and developed “this loophole method of using speech where right at the last minute, you change the thing and trick your brain” to overcome it. It’s an engaging and inspiring speech, to say the list, and gives fans an intimate insight into the way Meg’s brain operates.

Her full-length Killers tribute album

Meg has never shied away from embracing her own influences. Case in point: her complete reimagining of The Killers’ epochal debut album, Hot Fuss. Where the original 2004 album was steeped in theatricality by way of towering guitars and soaring synth tracks, Meg’s take (which arrived in December 2022) achieves its grandeur with an airy and ethereal soundscape, taking arena-rock classics like Mr. Brightside and Somebody Told Me and recontextualising them with a sparse, piano-driven beauty.

“There’s sparkling crystal in these songs,” Meg herself said upon the album’s surprise release. “What began as piano practice turned into covering the entire [Killers] debut record.” She co-produced – or “lovingly spiderwebbed” – the album with Danny Harley (aka The Kite String Tangle) and was joined in the studio by Jack Colwell (who blessed the record with some magical nylon-string guitar work) and Edward Fairlie (who played trumpet and flugelhorn).

Her celebratory new concert that teases the future

Armed with a stellar new live concert to kickstart her fifth album cycle, Meg is starting 2024 on one hell of a high note. These upcoming shows with the Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra will serve as an introduction to a new artistic chapter for Washington, which she first teased in July 2023 with the single Eastcoaster. That short and sweet ballad will undoubtedly shine as a highlight in her setlist, but even more exciting is the prospect that Meg might play even more new songs for the very first time.

For these two ultra-special performances Meg will be accompanied by guitarist Ben Edgar, with the orchestras conducted by the brilliant, versatile Vanessa Scammell. Just thinking about all the kaleidoscopic oddities Meg has in store for these shows – all the halcyon oasis she’ll transport us to – has our minds racing. We truly cannot wait.