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A Moment Of Downtime With Australia’s Busiest Artist Mallrat

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Photos by Bianca Bosso.

"We fly back to Australia to do two festivals and then it’s looking like either that night or the next day I fly back to America..." Mallrat, born Grace Shaw, says as we sit down to eat the city's best vegan burger in New York's Tompkins Square Park.

"...and then four days later fly back to Australia and then the next day going back to America," she continues, barely taking a breath.

Keep in mind, Shaw is in the midst of a US tour and has just wrapped up an Australian jaunt when we speak. She doesn't sound exhausted, however, she sounds excited both about playing big shows in her home country and also raising her profile overseas. As Pilerats pointed out, Mallrat appears on more local festival bills this year than any other act. Most would be overwhelmed but Shaw sounds typically relaxed sitting in the park, carrying a paper bag of vintage finds.

"The shows in Australia are a lot bigger so this is like going back to square one and doing the club shows again," she says about touring in the US. While her show in New York a few days before was much smaller than the Hordern Pavilion, it was a sold out show full of fans singing along to favourites like Better and new one Charlie.

Despite a sound issue that took her off-stage for 20 minutes, Shaw put on a warm and relatable show, sounding at times as if she was holding each and every fans' hand throughout. When the sound cut, instead of panicking, she asked if anybody in the crowd had a birthday and proceeded to sing Happy Birthday. When the sound returned, she performed a crackly but tender version of Charlie with Japanese Wallpaper on guitar.

Shaw understands that cracking the US is a different beast to Australia but it's something that she's had her eye on for a while. From the beginning I acknowledged that Australia is a small place and there’s so much good music but it’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond," she says.

"I don’t get too caught up in it. I knew I wanted to travel. It’s humbling playing the small clubs in the US and Europe. I’m not that big here. I don’t have a weird ego about it."

For someone who is "not that big here" she's doing remarkably well for an artist only her third EP. A number of shows on the tour were sell outs and she returned just this week to play The Late Late Show with James Corden. The night before he was singing in a private jet with Kanye West to put it in perspective.

It seems it's difficult to inflate Shaw's ego though. She's pointedly analytical about her own performances and is excited by the prospect of improving. "In the last six months, I’ve improved a lot," she says, owing some of that to playing to smaller audiences and not having the energy of a large crowd to hide behind.

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Since the beginning of her career, she's been doing it her own way. She's purposely put out songs with an opposing sound, like Better and UFO, next to each other so she doesn't get pigeonholed into one sound. No one is quite sure whether she's a popstar, rapper or indie singer.

"You listen to so much music - rap, singers, country. All those genres go into your music," says her DJ Denim who is also on tour with her. The pair are both from Queensland and Denim has been with her since the beginning. The friendship seems to help the pair remain grounded amongst all the chaos. Before they tuck into their burgers, they quote Madeline, whispering, "...Most of all we love each other."

During the chat, Shaw and Denim discuss introducing elements of EDM and rap into their festival shows. "We need to stand on the decks," is one of the suggestions. "We need to throw water on the audience," is another. It's playful but given how mighty some of Mallrat's Aussie festival singalongs are becoming, it wouldn't be entirely out of place.

"When people come to your headline shows they want to hear all your songs performed really nicely but at festivals they just want a good time. That’s the time to put on a rap show," Denim concludes and we all agree.

Shaw's third EP Driving Music only came out in September but she's already looking towards the next step albeit not with a near-future lens.

"I’m doing an album now but I haven’t really started. I have a few songs that might be on it," she says, laughing.

Given her schedule over the next few months, we wouldn't be putting pen on the calendar just yet.