Changes: Annie Macmanus
The audio version of this episode is available here.
Annie [00:00:03] Hello everybody, welcome to Changes. It is Annie Macmanus here as always but this episode of Changes is going to be very different from anything that you've heard before. This week we are turning the tables and your guest is me. I've never been interviewed on Changes before. My second novel is out this week. It's called The Mess We're In. And I thought this week would be a very good time to talk about my changes because that book is so laced into my own life experience and change. The book is about many things, but one of the biggest things is about the sense of being Irish in England. So, my interviewer today is Irish through and through, a fellow Dubliner who currently lives in London, when she's not gallivanting around the world touring, that is. It is one of Ireland's best, a former guest on Changes, the hugely successful comedian and co-host of the podcast My Therapist Ghosted Me, it is Joanne McNally. Joanne, hello.
Joanne [00:01:08] Annie, hello *both burst out laughing*.
Annie [00:01:11] She's so pro! You're a pro! She's got her notebook!
Joanne [00:01:12] Got my notebook! I was saying, I've never interviewed anyone before. This is my big break. This is not about you, Annie *both laugh*.
Annie [00:01:21] Well, listen. Thank you.
Joanne [00:01:22] I might put you out of this completely.
Annie [00:01:24] I'm honoured, because you are the busiest woman in the world. You've been touring the world. Now every time I look at you you're in Kenya, You're in Australia, you're in New Zealand, New York, everywhere!
Joanne [00:01:32] You're interviewing me. That's not how it works!
Annie [00:01:34] I know, sorry. But just thanks. That's all I'm saying.
Joanne [00:01:36] But this is what I was going to say to you without sounding like a wanker...
Annie [00:01:39] Okay.
Joanne [00:01:41] I am so glad that I met you.
Annie [00:01:44] Oh, really? Well we've only met today for the first time! But on Zoom you mean?
Joanne [00:01:47] On Zoom. So- because I obviously know the name Annie Mac, growing up, for years. But you were just on planet fame. I didn't know anything about you, really. I didn't know the detail. I just knew you were a world DJ.
Annie [00:01:57] Yeah.
Joanne [00:01:59] And then when I met you, I liked you so much. Obviously then I read your book. And as you know, was sending you voice notes about it regularly *Annie laughs*, like, just adored it. And so then I started listening to podcasts where you're talking about yourself, and I'm not going to use the term inspiring because I'd be mortified to do it, but I need another word. Do you know why? You feel very similar to me but you're maybe like a couple of years ahead of- in your journey, as they say.
Annie [00:02:30] Yes. Yeah.
Joanne [00:02:31] And you're spinning things and changing things. And you're moving from one big job and then you're kind of spinning all around. You're like, I'm not happy there anymore and you're doing something else. And you're talking of being in your forties and how women aren't served in their forties, their tastes aren't taken into consideration- all this stuff. And I was like, this just feels, just very I don't know, I find you reassuring.
Annie [00:02:53] Okay, good. That's great.
Joanne [00:02:55] I find you reassuring.
Annie [00:02:56] It sounds like we've got loads to talk about.
Joanne [00:02:57] We've got loads to talk about. So this is what I want to ask you.
Annie [00:03:00] Okay.
Joanne [00:03:01] Where did this change come from being a DJ, to being a writer? Was that always the plan?
Annie [00:03:08] No.
Joanne [00:03:09] That's a wild pivot.
Annie [00:03:11] It's such a pivot. It's quite a dramatic pivot. But it all started when I was 40 years old and having what I think could have been some sort of a crisis *laughs*.
Joanne [00:03:21] Yeah. Good. Yeah.
Annie [00:03:24] It all got too much. I basically, as an act of quiet rebellion against all the things I should have been doing and all of the people around me telling me what I should do and how I have to progress and what we have to do to get this amount of tickets sold and this *blahbsybswd* multiplied by a million. I was like, I'm just going to do something for me and I want to go on a writing course, because I remember vaguely in the recesses of my mind that I used to love writing and I just want to see if that's still the case. So I went on a writing course when I was 40.
Joanne [00:03:53] Wow, was it like a full time thing? Was it kind of a Monday to Friday thing? How did it work?
Annie [00:03:58] It was six months long and you had to check in with a teacher every three weeks. It was one on one. I wasn't doing any of that sitting in a group, ---, I wasn't ready for that. So I checked in with the teacher once every three weeks, I met her. And I was like the mature student in a university. Like, I was so eager to learn and so excited about learning something new and so vulnerable but challenged. And the teacher was amazing! She was so sound and really straight talking and really clever and smart and I just thought she was the best thing in the world. It felt really illicit because it was just me. No one knew what I was doing. It was just me and my time. I was squirrelling away, minutes here and there in the back of taxis and getting up in the morning to write. And then it was just like, oh my God, there's another world starting, which is Mother Mother and I just want to be in it all the time. And I don't know, it just felt so exciting and so different and also weirdly familiar. Like coming home. Like, weirdly like, oh my God, this is-
Joanne [00:04:55] What an amazing feeling.
Annie [00:04:56] This feels so good. And I knew upon finishing the writing course that I wanted to try and make a book out of what I'd done there. And then, yeah, that led to me realising that I wanted to give more time in my life to writing.
Joanne [00:05:08] So that was the first book.
Annie [00:05:10] That was the first book, that was Mother Mother. Which came out in 2021.
Joanne [00:05:15] And you say that that wasn't the memoir. That this is the memoir?
Annie [00:05:18] Yeah. I mean, I can't call it a memoir because there's so many sex and drugs in the book.
Joanne [00:05:24] *Bursts out laughing* because most of it's illegal.
Annie [00:05:25] It's definitely not a memoir. Like it genuinely isn't. But it is based on, like, themes and things that I've been through. So, it's not my story by any chance, but it's things that I recognise. And themes that I'm very familiar with. And the fun of writing fiction is that you, you know, you can embellish everything that you've ever had or gone through or- so everything's exaggerated and way more crazy than anything I did in my life. And Orla is really not me. Like she's-
Joanne [00:05:52] *High pitched voice* Is she not you?!
Annie [00:05:52] No, I'm more sensible than her Joanne, I'm so much more sensible than her. I'm not, I don't think I was-
Joanne [00:05:59] Because I really related to- I really related to Orla! *both laugh*.
Annie [00:05:59] Good! She's amazing.
Joanne [00:05:59] When I was at her stage where it was just party, party. Very low sense of- very little self care, absolute mess. Even like no one wants to share a bedroom, that kind of stuff I was like, I feel that.
Annie [00:06:18] You feel her. Well, yeah, so look, the story is Orla coming to London from doing a postgraduate course in Cheltenham which she hates because she kind of had all these big designs over what England was supposed to be and then she went to Cheltenham and she was like, well bored. And then she arrives in London and she's living with her best friend and her best friend's band, and it's like a year in the life of her in this house and working in an Irish bar. So what was cool was like, I knew I wanted to try and fictionalise these couple of years in my life that were really formative and really mad, which is when I moved to London and moved in with my brother's band. But also on top of that, I had 20 years in London and 20 years of feelings about being in London that I wanted to kind of put into it. So there's a lot more, a lot more came upon writing This Mess We're In that I wasn't expecting. Which is the best thing about writing fiction, it's like you have to like be open and you have to allow things to come in and out, it has to be kind of- an amorphous form. I've never really known what I'm going to write, bar like some very loose ideas, and you just kind of open yourself up to it. And it's the madest feeling because you write like madly for 2 or 3 hours when you have the luxury of time to do that. And then you come away and you come back the next day and you're like, whoa, whoa. I didn't know that I felt like that but fuck, I did feel like that wow. So there's loads in this book about being Irish in England and a sense of identity and not really knowing about how Irish I am and how Irish I should be, and feeling like a foreigner in London, but also feeling like a foreigner when you go home, which is a very common thing, I think, with people who are part of the diaspora, any diaspora.
Joanne [00:07:47] I liked the dedication at the start of the book to your two-
Annie [00:07:49] Did ya?
Joanne [00:07:50] I presume that's your two boys?
Annie [00:07:51] Yeah. Yeah.
Joanne [00:07:54] You're like, just remember you're half Irish. I was like, it almost sounds threatening *both laugh*.
Annie [00:07:57] But that is how it's told at home, it's like remember! Getting dragged down to the Irish bar.
Joanne [00:08:03] It's kind of hard to believe this is your second book. Like, it's so well-written.
Annie [00:08:07] Oh, thanks, babe. That means the world.
Joanne [00:08:09] I swear to God, I just- I just thought it was so beautifully written. I thought I could read a whole book or watch a whole show about the Irish bar.
Annie [00:08:20] I know, everyone says that. Everyone's like, I love the Irish bar. I should have written my book about the Irish bar!
Joanne [00:08:25] It was almost like, not a separate story, but it was a separate story. It lived- it was on its own little entity. It was just gorgeous to read about. It was like these characters would go on and on and on.
Annie [00:08:35] Yeah, yeah. So the Irish bar is what happened during the writing of the book. I had no intention of writing beyond Orla's experiences in the house, with the band, trying to make it in music- she wants to be a music producer. But she needs to make money so she gets this job in an Irish bar in Kilburn High Road, and that was- they were weirdly- those and the chapters where she goes home to Dublin to see her family, were the bits that came the easiest. And my experience of writing is that the easier things arrive, the more naturally and the more they will flow, you know, to read. And it really felt like that. It was just so fun to write those.
Joanne [00:09:09] Do you mind me asking, did your parents separate?
Annie [00:09:14] No.
Joanne [00:09:14] Oh!
Annie [00:09:16] None of my family- this is not a- like my family are nothing, nothing.
Joanne [00:09:17] Because those scenes with your dad in the book felt so- like you lived that.
Annie [00:09:21] Yeah, no.
Joanne [00:09:22] They were very emotional.
Annie [00:09:24] No, I hadn't. I hadn't at all. And I really wanted to make a point of making the family so different from my family set up so that no one could read it and be like, 'ohh! she's-' you know. Just wanted for everyone's sake to be like, no, this is definitely not autobiographical. But it was really interesting to try and write that, a kind of family split in half, and also Orla being the oldest and being not emotionally really able to deal. Like, I think Orla has ADHD. She wouldn't have known that in 2001! But now she would definitely be diagnosed with that and I guess there's regulatory issues with her in terms of being able to hold down her emotions. She feels things, sooo deeply!
Joanne [00:09:58] Yeah.
Annie [00:09:58] She's overwhelmed by her emotions. And I think the combination of that, living away from home, being so herculean about her hedonism, like she's just mad for it, she just doesn't know when to stop, means that she just hasn't allowed herself to accept that her mum and dad are not together. And obviously she goes home and it all- well she has to confront it.
Joanne [00:10:21] That's hard for anyone at any age, though. But also, I think the hedonism comes from- I remember when I was in my early twenties and the reality of- even when I went to Australia for the year, like I didn't move to London till I was 35 I think, but when there's a bottle of wine in the fridge you're like, hold on I can drink all of that, there's no one here to tell- like, there's no rules. But you're still kind of immat- especially you would have been more mature because you went, you moved out of home quite early?... Let's ask you the questions! *Annie laughs loudly* Lets get some structure to this!
Annie [00:10:58] *Makes rewind noise with tongue* rewind!
Joanne [00:10:59] So, Annie Mac... Annie Macmanus is your name, no?
Annie [00:10:59] Yeah, yeah.
Joanne [00:11:00] What was the biggest change of your childhood?
Annie [00:11:04] Okay, so I wouldn't call this trick- this is the very tail end of my childhood okay, so I was 17. So we're really pushing it here but it's the- it genuinely was the biggest change because I had just kind of gone through school. I was pretty alright in school. I got involved in everything. I was in the choir, I was on the hockey team. I loved all that. I got really involved in school but never really had like a- I never was like, 'I know what I'm going to do'.
Joanne [00:11:28] Yeah.
Annie [00:11:29] And I got to the last year and I got picked to play Peggy Mike in The Playboy of The Western World in the play, and I've never done acting before, but I thought I really wanted to act. Got to play the lead part and loved it. My boyfriends dad at the time told me that he reminded me, I reminded him of Doris Day and I was like *gasps*.
Joanne [00:11:46] Oh wow.
Annie [00:11:46] Okay. Yeah, well maybe this is something I can do. Got really excited, started practising my speeches in the mirror when I win the Oscar, all of that. And then I applied for drama in Trinity, which is, you know, if you're from Dublin, you know, that's the kind of holy grail of universities. If you're not from Dublin, it's the university in Normal People.
Joanne [00:12:04] *Surprised* oh yeah.
Annie [00:12:04] And it's like, yeah, it's like the big prestigious place that you would go. So I didn't get in, right, and it just ruined me. I was really like set on doing that. And when I didn't get in, I was really stuck. And I came home to my mum and I borrowed 20 quid off her and I went down to the hairdressers in Dundrum, Peter Marks, and said cut my entire ponytail off. My hair was down to my arse, cut it all off. It was like the self-flagellation situation of like, I hate myself, I, you know, such a drama queen in retrospect, but not dramatic enough to get into the course *Joanne laughs*. So I cut it off and then gave it to my mum who cried, genuinely cried real tears. She did not want to receive a ponytail in a plastic bag. And then after I kind of calmed down a bit, I felt, you know, there was there was a scene when I walked up the classroom block steps in the school that I went to, and I'll never forget it because it was like, have you ever seen Game of Thrones when the Queen has to shave her head and walk through the town naked?
Joanne [00:13:00] Yeah.
Annie [00:13:01] It was a bit like like a teenage overdramatised version of that. So I was in my uniform, but I'd shaved my head. And I'd only ever had really long curly hair down to my bum. It was a big deal when you're 17 and I walked up the steps and I remember everybody like, nudging and pointing and staring and I remember being like *under her breathe* 'fuck yous all!'. You know, just so like, angry at the world and kind of- I don't know. I don't know what it was. I was so stuck. I was so stuck. And my mum actually, who in retrospect, the more I think about my mum like she's very calm. Like she's unassuming in the room in terms of her energy. She just kind of- she never takes up space in a room, but she's very smart and she's quite wise and quite calm. And she came to me and was like, why don't you try and go to Queen's University in Belfast, which is where she went, and you could do English literature there. So the two of us went up on The Enterprise. Remember that?
Joanne [00:13:54] I do indeed.
Annie [00:13:54] That was a train, went to Belfast. And I got into clearing in Queen's University and like started two weeks later and found myself like in halls, sharing a room with some random girl who ended up being my best friend.
Joanne [00:14:05] At 17?
Annie [00:14:06] At seven- well, just turned 18. Yeah.
Joanne [00:14:08] So young! .
Annie [00:14:10] So it was like, it was really interesting because the entire course of my life that I had fully planned out had kind of it- was a huge pivot. It was a big screeching left hand turn. It's like, oh, suddenly I'm not in Dublin where I thought I was going to be. Suddenly I'm in a different Ireland, I'm in the island of Ireland, but it's no Ireland that I know. I feel very I say being a Southerner, there's no southerners there. And I didn't know anyone. But after a few months I realised it was actually kind of cool because I had to- well, I just could be whoever I wanted to be.
Joanne [00:14:42] Mmmm. I think as well, when you're that age and you don't really know what you want to do, and then you get a sniff that you might be good at something, and you kind of put all your-
Annie [00:14:53] You latch onto it don't you!
Joanne [00:14:56] Yeah you do. You're like, this is me! This is what I'm going to do!
Annie [00:14:57] Yeah. Because I think in school you're really given this idea that you have to have it all planned out. Like, I don't remember anyone saying to me, you'll probably change your mind a lot and just do what you feel and you know what- you know, it's very much like, what are you going to study in university? And like, it's so defined, and so you're desperate to have something that defines you. And so acting was that and then suddenly it was like it wasn't. But what it meant was that suddenly there was no pressure on me and I could just- I knew I liked English, I knew I'd always liked writing. I'd never considered it for a career and still didn't in university. It was just something fun to do. But I just, you know, discovered clubbing and raving and that kind of *laughs* consumed everything.
Joanne [00:15:35] But you obviously always had a talent for writing?
Annie [00:15:38] Yeah, I mean, maybe.
Joanne [00:15:39] You obviously have!
Annie [00:15:41] Yeah. Yeah. I don't know. I just for some reason, it had never occurred to me that that could have been a career choice, you know? Yeah. I don't know why.
Joanne [00:15:50] It's like a little baby Annie up in Belfast at 18.
Annie [00:15:52] Oh god, you'll see the pictures.
Joanne [00:15:54] But I think, because I do feel like you've lived a million lives in a short space of time.
Annie [00:16:00] Yeah.
Joanne [00:16:01] But I think when you start young, like at 18, like because a lot of people in Dublin, because I went to college in Dublin, because you could go to university in Dublin, you stayed at home.
Annie [00:16:10] Yes.
Joanne [00:16:10] You didn't move out of home. So when you're 18 in halls, suddenly you're meeting new people, you're getting kind of influenced by all these new different people, different cultures, all that stuff. Like it's- and then it obviously led you here.
Annie [00:16:21] Yes, it led me here. Yeah, it did.
Joanne [00:16:23] So what happened then when you got to London? How did you go from reading English to being a DJ?
Annie [00:16:29] So, that's a pretty long story *both laugh*. So in the final year of Queen's, I was literally still trying to do what I was doing in school, which is find something to latch on to like a career. And it was just a really basic thing of like, okay, I know I love socialising, I love going out, I love music, put those together what d'you get? You get music radio. I'd become obsessed with listening to Radio One, which I hadn't heard in Dublin. Obsessed with Mary Ann Hobbs, John Peel. So I had a thing, I was like, okay, I know what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna try and get into radio. I'm going to move to England, I'm going to seek my fortune and I'm going to do that. So I wasn't able to be brave enough just to land in London without doing something else. And I didn't really want to get a job yet. So I went to England, to this place called Farnborough as a stepping stone to get to London. And that was my little year of learning about radio. And then I did that course and then I moved to London and I moved in with my brother's band. So my brother was in a band and this is where all the band stuff in The Mess We're In is kind of inspired by, it's not the same band. I worked really hard to make sure that it's very different than the real band *Joanne laughs*. But it was me, not with my best friend, me alone in a house of four guys who were a rock band, signed rock band, touring rock band. Big shabby house in Forestgate, mice ridden house, of which I spent a lot of time in on my own because they would go off and tour for 4 to 6 weeks and I'd be there on my own. And they'd come back and the whole hall and landing would be painted lilac because I would have been that bored.
Joanne [00:17:52] You were bored.
Annie [00:17:53] I would just be like, ahh I'm just gonna paint. I'm just gonna paint the halls.
Joanne [00:17:55] London, it's a hard one to get your teeth into when you first come over. Is it London you were in the house of the lads? Yeah, it's tough. You're like, oh my God. Like if you don't have a system set up for yourself. You're quite at sea.
Annie [00:18:08] Yeah, I really felt that. Like, luckily with my brother's band, like, I felt like I could just kind of fit into the slipstream of them. So I just went out where they went out. I went to their gigs. I got to know all the people in their little world, their circle, and I was really lucky. But when I moved out from them, I moved in with my friend, and that was when it all got crazy because you'd be living somewhere for eight months and then somewhere else and then somewhere else, and you'd be moving in with different people and doing three jobs at once at some points and SO skint. So skint, no money and spending all your money on fags and booze and soooo unhealthy. *Laughs* I like look back at it and I'm just like- I see pictures of myself, I don't recognise me. I'm just like, look at you. You're so, so deeply erm *Joanne laughing* unhealthy. Physically, mentally, all of it. Just like, oh my God. But there was a point where I did, you know they say you like to reach the end of your tether. Like, I got to that point where I was doing three jobs, trying to bust my ass in any radio job I could and skint and just pudgy and sad. And it was at that point that I literally said to myself, I think I'm going to have to like just go home or just get a proper job or something. I can't keep trying to do this.
Joanne [00:19:21] How long were you- when you say you were try- how many years were you trying?
Annie [00:19:26] Two.
Joanne [00:19:26] Two, but that's nothing!
Annie [00:19:26] I know. I was so lucky. Yeah, it was only two years.
Joanne [00:19:29] Yeah. There's people hammering away at stuff for 20 years trying to break into things.
Annie [00:19:33] Yeah, I know. You're right. I was so, so lucky. And it was luck, like so much of it was luck and timing. Like it was luck, timing and kind of working for people who then rooted for me and helped me.
Joanne [00:19:43] Yeah. You also had done your training and you- like you didn't just go in assuming you'd get a job in right. Like you had done your training and you had done your course.
Annie [00:19:50] I'd done a course. *In unisen* Yeah exactly. Yeah. So that really helped actually. And then Radio 1 allowed me to come in and do some work experience when someone wasn't there and then that turned into two weeks actual work, which turned into a full time contract, which turned to two years of working behind the scenes and then I got the job doing my own show as a DJ. So I was 26 when I got my show.
Joanne [00:20:10] So when you were working behind the scenes, did you feel you were being groomed for a show? Or did you think you were just going to stay behind the scenes? Or what did you think was the plan?
Annie [00:20:18] I thought I definitely wasn't being groomed. It wasn't a done thing to go from being an assistant producer to being a DJ. It wasn't a done path, but again, I was really lucky and they gave me a chance.
Joanne [00:20:31] I do believe in luck as well, but I think you have to have the ability. It's both.
Annie [00:20:36] It's both, exactly.
Joanne [00:20:36] A bit of luck, bit of timing... ability. All 3.
Annie [00:20:38] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah.
Joanne [00:20:40] So, you have your own show then.
Annie [00:20:44] Hmm. Things got mad then. I remember going to my first photo shoot, and I was so innocent, I didn't know what I was doing. I remember going to my first photoshoot, and, you know, when you go to a photoshoot and there's always loads of people there and they always have a lot of opinions and they're all like- they look at the camera after the shots are taken and I remember someone being like, 'maybe we could just like whiten out the freckles a bit'.
Joanne [00:21:07] *Gasps loudly*.
Annie [00:21:07] I remember being like, oh God, they don't like the freckles. Maybe the freckles are weird.
Joanne [00:21:10] They wouldn't get away with that now I can tell ya.
Annie [00:21:11] Oh my God, they really wouldn't
Joanne [00:21:15] *Laughs* you'd have them up in court.
Annie [00:21:16] Yeah, you would, wouldn't you?
Joanne [00:21:17] But it's funny because I think obviously, your intent was to be a DJ and to kind of interview and chat to people. But what you also became was like a celebrity. Which probably happened quite quickly?
Annie [00:21:29] Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it's interesting because radio is really mad because being a radio celebrity is different than a TV celebrity because people know your voice. And they're really familiar with you because you're in their kitchens everyday.
Joanne [00:21:41] It's so intimate!
Annie [00:21:42] Yeah. So intimate. So they come up and they're like, they hug you and it's like, 'oh my God, it's you', you know, 'I know you so well'. So that's mad. But also it's not as intense. Like I've always been able to live really happily in London and do my thing, get the tube. I've never had to compromise how I live whatsoever because of my job or my profile if you call it that. But also I haven't courted it that much.
Joanne [00:22:02] Well, and also when you were coming up, there wasn't the same- like now, you know yourself, any radio show you do, any podcast you do, we film everything now. Whereas you probably had a level of facial anonymity.
Annie [00:22:16] Yeah. I mean, the joke was when I started Radio One, one of my really good friends Rachel Barton, who worked on the show, she used to come with me. She's a DJ too, so we'd DJ together. She'd warm up for me. And the joke was, you know, you'd go to Liverpool and people would be like *Scouse accent* 'Are you Annie Mac?', to her, because they didn't know what I looked like, because they only knew what I sounded like.
Joanne [00:22:33] Yeah.
Annie [00:22:34] So it was- that kind of shows the times.
Joanne [00:22:37] Yeah. Yeah.
Annie [00:22:37] They just knew your voice. So, I was lucky. And I was also lucky Joanne, to be one of the last generation people to grow up without a bloody mobile phone. I got my mobile when I was 19 and then I didn't get a smartphone until probably well into my twenties.
Joanne [00:22:51] Which means there's probably not a lot of scaldy photos of you out there.
Annie [00:22:54] *Whispers* thank God.
Joanne [00:22:54] As in d'you know when you're out clubbing and you're sweating and you look like shit.
Annie [00:22:58] Dread to think.
Joanne [00:22:59] Yeah. It was weird when that whole thing started because clubs would just have photographers come in and take all these photos and put them up online, no one needed your consent. And you'd just be clicking through these photos, you'd be like 'oh my God!!!' *Annie laughing loudly*, 'I don't even remember being in that club, like what?!!!'. Again, they couldn't get away with it now.
Annie [00:23:19] No, they couldn't.
Joanne [00:23:20] At the time when you didn't get your acting course and you're like, 'my life is over, I'm cutting off my ponytail', it's a real Sinead O'Connor, cutting up the pope moment and you're like, I'm making a protest. It all just worked out so beautifully.
Annie [00:23:35] It was a really weird left turn, but then it did kind of work out. And I always wonder, like, you know, what would have happened if I'd stayed in acting? I know I would have ended up in Dublin for longer. I might not have left home if I'd got that course, but I probably would have because everyone did.
[00:23:52] *Short musical interlude*
Joanne [00:24:02] You're suddenly Annie Mac. Yeah.
Annie [00:24:05] Yeah. That was weird.
Joanne [00:24:07] That was weird. So huge big change in your life. You're working all the time.
Annie [00:24:11] All the time.
Joanne [00:24:12] You're out in Ibiza, you're now a celebrity DJ? Am I allowed to call you a celebrity DJ?
Annie [00:24:16] Yes, I suppose yeah. I suppose yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Joanne [00:24:19] Are you enjoying it?
Annie [00:24:20] Especially because woman, and not very many of them. So there's definitely a sense of interest and curiosity about me because of that. Am I enjoying it? Yes.
Joanne [00:24:29] Yeah. You're having a ball.
Annie [00:24:31] I am loving my life. I'm loving the travel, I'm loving the adventure. I'm touring America on my own, landing and just hoping the promoter is going to show up, going to ten date tours on my own.
Joanne [00:24:43] So what was the shift then? What was the biggest change in your adulthood?
Annie [00:24:47] So then I had kids, which is mad because I had never known anyone to be a DJ and a mum. I still don't know that many people who are touring DJs who are also parents. Actually, that's a lie. All the men are, but the women, I don't know. And that's a sad truth. So I was just kind of like trying it out. And I was really determined to not let my kid stop me from doing my job. I loved my job. I was ambitious. I wanted to keep growing what I was doing, blah, blah, blah, blah. I'd just launched a festival in Malta. Everything was going really well and my kid came along and erm *takes breath*
Joanne [00:25:31] *Laughing* he came along, like he just arrived.
Annie [00:25:33] So inconsiderate of him. He arrived... No, it was grand. Like, I think the first time I had my first kid, I did carry on.
Joanne [00:25:42] What age were you when you had your first kid?
Annie [00:25:43] 34. My husband was 28.
Joanne [00:25:46] Okay.
Annie [00:25:46] He's six years younger than me, sometimes seven. I prefer when he's six *Joanne laughs*. He was also a DJ, and was a music producer. Still is both of those things. More music producing now, but so he and I lived chaotic lives, like mad. We had a mad time and it was amazing. But both of us were so all over the gaff and the idea of us having to, like, even just being pregnant was pretty crazy. And it's the first time in my whole life I'd ever not drank. And it was really good for me in retrospect, I was really glad. I loved it. I loved being pregnant for that. But yeah, I think, you know, just touring and everything, it was hard. And I'm not trying to, like, do a sob story here because fucking people have hard lives. This is nowhere near what other people go through. But I guess you're just tired all the time and you're working really hard and you feel scared to say no to work.
Joanne [00:26:34] That's it yeah.
Annie [00:26:35] The nature of DJing as well is you have to say yes to a show six or eight months upfront. So you're saying yes to these shows and you don't know what you're going to be like after the baby's born *Joanne gasps*. Don't know if you're going to fucking- you just don't know anything. And I like control. I'm not comfortable not knowing things and kind of taking risks like that. So, yeah, it was just a few chaotic years, but it was fine and we got on with it and we took turns and we got a nanny and it was all grand. But then when the second one came around when I was 38, I realised after the first kind of year or two of him being around, that I just didn't want to do it in the same way that I did my eldest one. Like, I wasn't around for a loads my oldest one because I had this show on Radio One, which was weekly every night. And once he started school when he was four, I just wasn't there for dinner or bedtime every night in the week.
Joanne [00:27:24] You were working nights aswell.
Annie [00:27:24] Yeah, and I'm DJing at the weekends, so it's just like I'm missing this kids early life and I don't want to do that anymore. Plus, I have another one now. When I announced that I was leaving Radio One, I kind of really deliberated over whether to say about the kids being part of that reason, that reason to leave, because I didn't want people to think that I was just like coping out of my career because of motherhood, which is really annoying. Like I should be allowed to do that. It's a choice. Feminism is- that's what it's about, it's about having a choice. But something in me was like, ahh, I don't want to make it about the kids. And I think I've fought so hard all my life to not make it about the kids. And in a way, it was very liberating to go, actually I have kids and I care about them and I want to be there for them.
Joanne [00:28:06] Yeah, this is where I am now.
Annie [00:28:06] This is where I am!
Joanne [00:28:07] This is what I want to do, yeah.
Annie [00:28:08] Yeah, right. But also it wasn't not working. It was just working in a different way. And that's what's been, I suppose, the biggest change of my adult life is the kids and, and the writing course together, those two things helping me realise that there's other things I want to do. And all my life I've had these blinkers on of like, 'grow, grow, more tickets, more sales, bigger gains, conferences, festivals, everything, radio shows, rajar figures, all of that!'. And then it was like, actually, none of that really matters to what I need in my heart, now.
Joanne [00:28:41] And you've done it. You can tick it, you're like I've done that and now I want something different.
Annie [00:28:49] Exactly.
Joanne [00:28:49] And also, like, it takes it out of you. Like it does. Like touring and travelling. I'm only doing it- I'm in my second year of doing it now.
Annie [00:28:57] Yeah but babe, you do it so much more than I ever did.
Joanne [00:28:59] Really?!
Annie [00:28:59] Because I always had to be back for radio.
Joanne [00:29:01] Oh yeah, yeah.
Annie [00:29:02] So radio meant that I always had to be back in London. And when I had kids, I just couldn't, I just couldn't tour like I did. So like, my international DJ career stopped when I had kids, basically.
Joanne [00:29:11] D'you know what's so interesting, because I heard you speak about that before... I have a fear- because I'm kind of getting into the industry late, like I'm 40 next week, I'm worried. Half me wants to have a child and the other half is worried that if I have a child, I will lose out on opportunities, I will lose the kind of ambition that I have now because I can just be completely selfish now, and I'm like the child will hold me back and I won't be able to achieve what I want to achieve. And I'm like, but what am I looking to achieve? Like, there's only so many shows you can do, you know, ultimately you get to a stage where you're like, I kind of want something else in my life now.
Annie [00:29:47] Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I get it. But you're like- the thing is you're only 40 next week. Like, you still got a few years before you can have a kid, like.
Joanne [00:29:59] --- gonna have to fucking, gonna need a lot of men. Line them up. One after the other.
Annie [00:29:59] *Laughs* I know, I get it. Like I get why you'd be thinking about that now, and I also get that you've just started, like it's just! The wave is crest. Like you're not even at the crest.
Joanne [00:30:08] I'm still on the climb.
Annie [00:30:10] Still on the climb and you're climbing so quickly.
Joanne [00:30:12] And it's that thing of your like- but also, I know, I feel very strongly down the line, like I like what you're saying that there will come a time where you're like, this isn't enough for me anymore. I'm not fulfilled by this anymore.
Annie [00:30:25] I want more. Yeah, yeah. But I think the DJing is obviously still going and I just never thought I would- like I always said, by 40, I'll have stopped. And now I'm 45 in July and I'm still going and it's just- but I guess that's change, in the same way that everything else has changed, I've changed that to work for me.
Joanne [00:30:40] But also when you're younger, you kind of think 40 is an age that now it's just- like there is no mid life. There's no middle age now, that bracket no longer exists. It just doesn't.
Annie [00:30:52] I feel so excited to be in my forties. I loooove being in my forties. It's so empowering. I thought that by my thirties, is even better in your forties, like you're so empowered. You know exactly what you want. You know how to get it. You're in a position of more comfortable than you were in your twenties when you're all over the place, you're maybe a little bit more kind of secure. I don't know, you got more perspective on life and you stop giving a shit about the things you should do, I suppose.
Joanne [00:31:21] You really do. How long between, 'oh, maybe I don't wanna work in radio anymore', and you saying 'I'm no longer working radio'? How long did that take?
Annie [00:31:31] I'd say all in, it would probably be about a couple of years? Yeah.
Joanne [00:31:36] So you were just putting your little other structures in place so that you'd have something interesting and exciting to move on to?
Annie [00:31:42] Yeah, it was by no means reckless. Put it that way. I was like, I'm going to see if I enjoy writing. I'm going to write a bit. I'm going to see if a book could be viable to be published. Then. After the book was out, then I left.
Joanne [00:31:51] Yeah, because then you're like, 'oh,hold on, no, this is actually going to be great!' *laughs.
Annie [00:31:55] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I want to do it. Like, I've spent enough hours doing it to know that I want to do more, you know.
Joanne [00:32:00] You're very smart, you see. You plan ahead.
Annie [00:32:03] Well, it was kind of practical, I suppose.
Joanne [00:32:04] Yes, it is.
Annie [00:32:06] But it's also like, I've got a mortgage to pay and family to keep. It's like, I can't just walk out because fiction, you know, it's mad how little money fiction makes.
Joanne [00:32:14] Yeah, but you know what though? The Mess We're In would be a great film.
Annie [00:32:18] Yes, or a series or something. I would love that. That's a dream.
Joanne [00:32:21] Yeah, that's how it read to me for sure.
Annie [00:32:23] Yeah, I'd love that.
Joanne [00:32:24] You could just feel, you'd be like this could look great on screen.
Annie [00:32:27] And that's something I really want to do. And I'm trying at the moment to claw out more space for it *laughs*, is do another course. A screenwriting course. I'd love to do that.
Joanne [00:32:36] Yeah. I love the idea of, and I know you're big into this as well, just kind of learning all the time and making sure that you're- if you've the time! I know not everyone has the time, to change your skillset, upskill, learn something new.
Annie [00:32:47] I'm obsessed with it. And I think in a way, when I started that writing course at 40, I had such a big reaction to that because I realised I hadn't learned anything new in years. I'd been doing the same thing, which is great and fulfilling a brilliant but that part of my brain, the learning part, had been dormant and it was so- it felt so good! And then after that I was just like, 'I just want to change... everything!'. And I went a bit mad and changed a lot of how I work and structures and everything. But even now I'm still like craving it and I'm learning Irish again, Joanne.
Joanne [00:33:19] Are you?!
Annie [00:33:20] Yeah, I know. I'm obsessed with Ireland at the moment. I'm learning Irish on Duolingo. This is not an ad for Duolingo *Joanne laughs*, but it is amazing. It's a free app to learn languages. It's AMAZING, you should do it on the road.
Joanne [00:33:31] I just remember Rosetta Stone. Remember Rosetta Stone?
Annie [00:33:36] No.
Joanne [00:33:37] Oh God, I remember my mum trying to learn Spanish in the eighties on Rosetta Stone and they'd just be passing tapes all day. But I think it's when you're in a nice position that you do have a lot of free time. So because there's travel involved in my job as there is travel involved in your job, so you do get the heads- plus I don't have kids, so I do have a lot more headspace to be like, 'well what else would I like to do?'.
Annie [00:34:00] Yeah.
Joanne [00:34:00] But I just love the idea that you can have a renaissance... A couple of them in your life.
Annie [00:34:07] Listen.
Joanne [00:34:07] And just change and be like, maybe-
Annie [00:34:09] I'm mad for it. So Prue Leith came on this podcast, Changes.
Joanne [00:34:12] Yeah.
Annie [00:34:12] And her motto in life is that every 20 years in your life you should have a revolution... obsessed.
Joanne [00:34:17] I think I find you can get kind of stuck in a bit of a rut and you're like, this is what I do now. I am a DJ. I am a comedian, I am a teacher, I am a nurse. That's what I am. Like, well, hold on, there's more to me. I could probably try something else at some stage.
Annie [00:34:32] Exactly. I think that's really important and really good for your wellbeing and also for growing older, because as you grow older you want to keep your brain ticking and learning. You want to feel energised, it keeps you feeling young, all of those things, it's really healthy.
Joanne [00:34:45] So, oh hold on. No what was your biggest change in adulthood? We didn't- Did you answer that?
Annie [00:34:50] Yeah, I'd say the biggest change in adulthood was leaving Radio One and stepping off the edge of the really safe, secure BBC job. The profile. I suppose there was an element of power within the music industry, the status, all of that, and just being like no, I'm just going to go and work on my podcast and try and write books. And it was so liberating. There was many things about it that I hadn't thought: one was that I'd never not had a boss before. In my whole life I've always had a boss from when I was 17 and working in whatever - pubs and sandwich shops and whatever. And for the first time in my life I was just working for myself. And what else it afforded me was this idea of not having to be in London. Like for the first time, I wasn't tied to London. I could work- obviously I had my gigs, but apart from that I could write remotely, I could podcast remotely. So I got all giddy and was like, 'God, I'm going to move to Ireland. We're going to, I don't know, go to Costa Rica for a year!' *Joanne laughs*. All this stuff which I haven't done any of it.
Joanne [00:35:45] Yeah, I've all the same fantasies, yeah.
Annie [00:35:47] The giddiness of that was quite- that was quite liberating. And then I suppose just yeah, just being able to set my own agenda and, you know, at radio, you know, everyone's very well-meaning, but the BBC has a high turnover of bosses and everyone comes in and they have their own agendas. Just to be free of that was really nice.
Joanne [00:36:05] This is kind of a technical question, and I know *sighs*, I'm just kind of fascinated because I usually will try and work with the director or someone who will be like, Joanne, where's the new show? Or where is that joke that you said you were going to write this week. And so how did you find your discipline then to get into this- the kind of the process of writing two books?
Annie [00:36:26] Yeah. Yeah, I hear you. Well, the first one was written while I was trying to do everything, which is why I had a breakdown and had to leave Radio One, pretty much *Joanne laughs*. The second one was written post Radio One, so that was really interesting.
Joanne [00:36:36] That gave you all the time.
Annie [00:36:38] I had time, I had space and it did take a bit of getting used to it. Like I realised that I am an extrovert and I think a lot of writers are introverts and they're happy on the edges of things and they're happy observing as opposed to actually being in the middle of things. And I'm so used to being in the middle of things, like in radio you're literally in the middle of a conversation. You are a conduit for so many people. You are- it is like the essence of connection being a radio DJ, you're connecting people. So to go from that to literally rattling around the house on my own all day was a BIG change. And it wasn't necessarily something that came easy and still isn't easy. So what I've had to learn is that when I'm not writing, when I'm not in the flow state of like being in a story and just loving writing, there's lots of periods in between that where you're just editing or doing really boring fact checking and research and all of that. That involves discipline. And I find that in my days I need to put stuff in, I need to put people in, I need to put- or else I'll go mad basically. I need to see people. So I have to put lunches in or walks in or coffees in, because if I don't, I go mental.
Joanne [00:37:45] I do find personally, and I think you're probably the same by the sound of it, it's very hard to create in a vacuum. So if you just get up in the morning and- I find if you get up in the morning and you go out and you meet someone for coffee, it starts the cogs turning and then you can go back and have a crack at trying to have a somewhat humorous thought, but it's very hard to get up in the morning, with your pen and just start writing.
Annie [00:38:10] Yeah, unless you're in a story and you kind of know what you need to write about. But in terms of ideas, yeah, totally agree. Like I would find I'd sit there for 2 hours and nothing would come. But you go for a run and come back and suddenly your mind's awake and you've got loads of things to write down.
Joanne [00:38:24] It's wild what momentum will do for your thoughts. I get a lot of writing done on trains.
Annie [00:38:30] Ahh, trains! And planes are the best places to write. I love writing on trains.
Joanne [00:38:34] It's like the momentum of it. It kind of pushes your thoughts forward or something.
Annie [00:38:38] Yeah, totally. I love that. I need to get an office, a mobile office on a train and just go around the outside of London all day and then come back into Euston station and go and pick up the kids from school! *Both laugh*.
Joanne [00:38:48] I was only saying today because I just got back from Australia, so I'm a bit jetlagged, so I've been up at 3 a.m. every morning and I've never felt so productive. I'm like, I just need to go-.
Annie [00:38:59] So are you working at 3 a.m.?
Joanne [00:38:59] I need to fly long haul every Sunday so I'm up 3 a.m. every week- Well I mean working, I mean, yeah, kind of...
Annie [00:39:07] You're thinking.
Joanne [00:39:07] Yeah, you're getting stuff going. You're sending emails and all that jazz.
[00:39:10] *Short musical interlude*
Joanne [00:39:10] What is your favourite thing about your new career? Would you call it a new career? We would?
Annie [00:39:22] Yeah, definitely, yeah. Um, I would say *sighs* just writing, I suppose.
Joanne [00:39:29] Really?!
Annie [00:39:29] I just can't get enough of it. When you're in the zone with writing, right, it is the best- I lose myself. I don't know where I am. Like you, literally, you go somewhere else. It's the flow state. It's probably what you get when you're in mid-gig and it's going well. You're just in this flow state and you come back to earth and you're like- that is a feeling that I haven't ever really experienced. Sometimes you get it DJ'ing but erm, yeah with writing, that's the bit that I'm always looking for. And I would say 20% of it is that and then 80% of it is the rest. The editing, the fixing, the tweaking. But that is like *blows lips*.
Joanne [00:40:06] What does it feel like to hand over the book and be like, It's finished, that's it now. No more edits, that's it, that's the book.
Annie [00:40:14] Terrifying. Because I will always find- like the level of mistakes in a book. Like you got the proof to read, the level of mistakes in that, I nearly had to stay in my bad for a week after it.
Joanne [00:40:25] It didn't have a single mistake in that book.
Annie [00:40:27] There were sooo many mistakes. But there you go. So I noticed them, you don't. Thank God. If you think about what you got, there was probably five different versions after that before the book then got made into a hardback.
Joanne [00:40:37] Really?!
Annie [00:40:38] Yes. The answer is you don't ever feel like it's ready. You don't ever feel like it's finished. You don't ever feel like it's perfect. What I like to do now is I have it round and I would just pick it up and randomly open a page and just be like, what does that read like? And then you find a sentence you're like, 'oh God, I can't believe that is in there'.
Joanne [00:40:55] It's like an out of body experience. It's, you know, it's like, listening to your own voice notes or something like *wretches*.
Annie [00:41:01] Yeah, it's horrific. But you know the other thing about writing books and I thought it would be different the second time, I thought that the second time I would actually have a hold of what the book is like to read. Like I would know what it's like for you to read the book. But I don't. I still don't know whether- I still don't. I'm too close to it. Like I can't see the wood for the trees. I don't know what it's like from a removed place and I hope that one day I will be able to pick it up, like not read it for years and then come back and read it and be like, oh yeah, okay.
Joanne [00:41:31] I wonder will you ever be able to though without judging yourself or like thinking, oh I should have done this, I should have done that because it's-
Annie [00:41:37] I know. I think you just have to let it go.
Joanne [00:41:40] Let it go, yeah.
Annie [00:41:41] Which is hard in books because you then talk about them for a year and a half after they come out because you have the paperback and there's a lot of talks.
Joanne [00:41:47] Yeah, you just have to kind of offer it up and be like, 'this is what it is!'.
Annie [00:41:50] Yeah.
Joanne [00:41:51] Well you should be so proud because it's absolutely brilliant.
Annie [00:41:53] Thanks, Joanne. Thank you. I was so chuffed when you liked it.
Joanne [00:41:55] I loved it!
Annie [00:41:56] Also, you needed to love it because you were someone from Dublin who moved- like, if you didn't get it and love it, then I would have been in trouble you know.
Joanne [00:42:02] I think there was something really nice- It did feel familiar to me. Now we had very different experiences. You had a way more London experience to me. I would have loved to have done what you did. I would have loved to have moved out of home early, come over to the UK early. I have UCAS forms in my house from when I was determined I wanted to do communications and I had kind of ideas about writing and radio and all that jazz. And you did it. I think it just shows how you're a very rounded, successful person and now you've managed to have a second, second career? In your forties.
Annie [00:42:36] Second career.
Joanne [00:42:37] What's next? What's your third carer gonna be?
Annie [00:42:39] Okay, God, I don't know. I don't know. But I love the idea that there could be one. Like, that's so exciting to me.
Joanne [00:42:44] Pottery?
Annie [00:42:44] Yeah, who knows? Pottery, skydiving *Joanne laughing*. Maybe I'll move to a farm and start breeding pigs. I don't know.
Joanne [00:42:52] Gymnastics.
Annie [00:42:52] But definitely not that *Joanne laughs*. But I just love the idea that anything is possible, you know, within reason and within circumstance. But I do love the idea that, you know, you don't have to stay the same.
Joanne [00:43:04] Did you write much as a child?
Annie [00:43:06] So I, I wrote- I have journals from when I was ten. It's mental, I have a diary from when I was ten years old. It's so dull. It's all about my pet rabbit and piano practice. It's really dull, but I'm so grateful for them because my memory is effed. Like, my memory is gone.
Joanne [00:43:25] Yeah, same.
Annie [00:43:25] It's decimated from years and years- is it?
Joanne [00:43:27] Oh, I'm brutal.
Annie [00:43:28] Years of no sleep. And I find it quite distressing now because I've reached this point in my life where I'm really trying to look back, like I think that happens to everyone. You reach kind of 40 odd and you're like, okay, what just happened, where am I, what kind of a person am I? And you kind of want to be reassured and kind of bolstered by your memories of who you were and let them help you kind of figure out who you are now. And a lot of them are just gone. So I'm really dependent on my family for a lot of what I was like as a kid. But the journals are amazing because they give me insight into what I was thinking-
Joanne [00:43:59] Do tell me.
Annie [00:43:59] The boys I was snogging and periods and all of that stuff and the very bad doodles, there's a lot of them. But basically I have one from when I was 14 and I went through a bit of a born again Christian stage when I was 14. I was really into God.
Joanne [00:44:13] Did you?
Annie [00:44:13] Yeah, and talking to God. Read the Bible from cover to cover. All of that. It was more like 13, 14, and then I kind of came out of it.
Joanne [00:44:20] Are your family religious?
Annie [00:44:22] Not really, no. Not at all.
Joanne [00:44:23] Okay, just a phase.
Annie [00:44:24] Yeah. Like my brothers and sister were just kind of like humouring *Joanne laughs*. They were just like, what is she on? And I'd be sitting at the table being like, 'God forgive them for they have sinned-' *Joanne laughs*. And they'd be like, oh she's at it again.
Joanne [00:44:34] That's really funny.
Annie [00:44:35] It's actually hilarious isn't it, looking back. So it was around then and the diary was a lot of that, going to Christian camps and stuff and friends and fallouts, but I found this page about being a writer and like me saying, like, 'all I want to do is write books' and then you see this kind of synopsis of a novel. I mean, it looks awful, but it's me like writing what the novel will be-
Joanne [00:44:57] What was it?!
Annie [00:44:57] It was about a girl living with her dad in the country and her mum had died and she lived with her dad in a pub and that's as far as it got *laughs*.
Joanne [00:45:07] Still pretty worked out for a 10 year old!
Annie [00:45:09] Some characters, some character descriptions. But it was just like, oh my God! I always wanted to write. Like I'd forgotten that that was something I'd wanted to do. And then later in the diary it comes up again and again, 'I just want to write books, I wanna write books'. And it was like, just it was such a relief. Like, I just saw it the other day and it was like, thank God! Like, I'm doing what I've always wanted to do, but I just forgot, but I just took a massive detour to get there *laughs*.
Joanne [00:45:34] What an amazing thing to be able to say, because I think so many kids are creative and so many kids they want to act or they want to write and they just don't get the opportunity to do it because we get stuck!
Annie [00:45:46] You get stuck.
Joanne [00:45:47] Weighed down by life.
Annie [00:45:49] Or you don't have the means! I'm so lucky. When I went to England, right, first of all, my mam took me to Queens and like I worked through there and bloody everywhere, sandwich shops everywhere. But she helped pay for my digs. And then when I went to England, my dad lent me the money to do that course. I had to pay him back, but he did lend me the money. And things like that. That's the difference between me being able to go to England and not. I owe them so much. And also, I'm thinking now more than ever about- like I was their youngest kid. They had four kids and everyone left. What must it have been like for them to kind of bring- like my mum brought me up to Queens, my dad brought me to England, with like, it must have been- I mean, maybe they were delighted *both laugh*.
Joanne [00:46:28] I was going to say!
Annie [00:46:29] *Laughing* thank God, I'm going to Queens!
Joanne [00:46:29] Off to the pub! *both laughing loudly*.
Annie [00:46:29] Rosie, we're leaving for a pint!
Joanne [00:46:32] You're like, 'I'm 11 years of age'... 'you're off to university hunny, good luck' *both laughing*.
Annie [00:46:42] Yeah look, I'm like naturally sentimental so- must have been mad for them anyway.
Joanne [00:46:47] If you have supportive parents, there's like, you know, it does give you a lot of freedom if they believe in you.
Annie [00:46:53] Yeah. Like, you can't just sit here and say- like, so much of it is that, you know? So I owe them a lot.
Joanne [00:46:58] I wonder what your kids are going to be... What age are they now?
Annie [00:47:00] Oh, God, they're nine and six and they're completely different. And I just don't know. I just don't know what they're going to be. But the nice thing is knowing that they they can be, you know, whatever they want. You know, obviously we'll probably want them to like, get a job in the arts and they'll probably be accountants.
Joanne [00:47:18] They'll rebel.
Annie [00:47:19] That'll be grand.
Joanne [00:47:19] Go into marketing.
Annie [00:47:19] Yeah, they'll probably do that!
Joanne [00:47:25] I was listening to you say somewhere that you felt like you were doing so much, you felt you weren't doing anything, *with emphasis* well.
Annie [00:47:34] That was a huge, huge part of learning how to do less. A huge part of it. I mean, the idea of success and what success is like- I suppose the thing that changed the most in terms of in my head was this idea of me thinking success was numbers and figures and ticket sales and blah blah, blah blah, when actually success is fulfilment and a sense of peace and a sense of feeling fulfilled, but like also having enough in your life to feel like really stimulated and interested and alive but not be overloaded. Like to me, being successful is balance and doing things well. And I didn't have that. I took on too much because I was afraid to say no. And even though you can get lots of people around you to help, I had a big team, a big kind of ecosystem of people around me, agents, producers and assistants, but it's still on you at the end of the day when you do that kind of a career. The festivals in your name, the radio shows in your name, it's all you. So you feel the pressure of doing stuff to the ability that you are being paid to and expected to do. And I suppose, I just felt like at the points when I was busiest, that I wasn't doing things well enough. I was just going in and I was getting stuff done but not excelling and not, not doing things in the best way. Like with radio, you could dedicate your entire life to going to gigs and trawling the music blogs. I didn't have time for that. I just didn't have time. So I felt like I wasn't doing that bit properly.
Joanne [00:49:08] You felt overstretched.
Annie [00:49:10] DJing, same thing. Just overstretched, yeah. And there's always other people who are doing that who make you feel like you're unworthy, you know, because you're not. And it's just, ahhhh, I don't know.
Joanne [00:49:19] I know. It's a horrible feeling.
Annie [00:49:21] It is a horrible feeling.
Joanne [00:49:22] Yeah, and you're like, oh, I've kind of overpromised here *laughs*.
Annie [00:49:25] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Joanne [00:49:26] But now I have to do it all to a certain standard anyway.
Annie [00:49:31] You will be capable. And no one else will suffer but you will suffer, because you will have that stress and that burden of getting it right and the pressure of it. And I suppose when that's continuous, it's not sustainable. Like for me it just wasn't sustainable because it felt like it was like that all the time.
Joanne [00:49:46] Yeah. And you weren't enjoying it anymore?
Annie [00:49:47] No.
Joanne [00:49:48] I think as well there's like this fetishisation of working all the time, loads.
Annie [00:49:54] Yeah.
Joanne [00:49:55] It's like this badge of honour that you're like working 24/7, seven days a week. And I'm like, well where's your headspace to be bored and let your mind wander and then create something good, which is obviously what has to happen for you to write.
Annie [00:50:09] Listen, listen, it's the most powerful thing you can do, also the most productive thing you can do for yourself is to buy yourself time and space. Resting is productive, that is constructive and productive. What isn't is taking everything on and never switching off. And now, with WhatsApp, we're fucked!
Joanne [00:50:28] I know.
Annie [00:50:30] All work is done on WhatsApp. It is constant. You can never escape work. Social media, you can't escape work. There's always other people like, you're always associated with work, especially when you work in the arts or the media. It's just, it's impossible to switch off. You have to really work at that, to switch off and give yourself time and space and it will be sooo useful I think. It was for me anyway.
Joanne [00:50:52] They're saying now that it's people- that like even all the Netflix and all that stuff, they steal your attention. So you're never- I find it myself it's like, when was the last time I was sat in my own head for 2 hours? I'm always listening to something or scrolling and you need to be in your own thoughts to be bored.
Annie [00:51:08] You really do.
Joanne [00:51:09] To have an idea for something or be able to jot something down or-
Annie [00:51:12] I have this thing that I do, it's one of my favourite things to do in London and I do it for me, I get on my bike and I cycle to Hampstead Heath, which is a really rough cycle because it's really hilly. And then I go and jump in the ponds there in the lakes, right. There's public swimming lakes and then I cycle home. And I try not to listen to anything and I just do it. And it's just, it's like medicine. It's insane because you're just in your head and you're in nature. I mean, it's such a cliche, but like making myself do stuff like that- and I do have to make myself- is definitely something I've learnt is the best thing I can do for me.
Joanne [00:51:49] That's actually why I was asking about your process of writing, because I feel because I am a product of my generation, as are you, that my attention span is just so short now that I, I don't know if I could write a book for a fish *Annie laughs*. That's why I'm so intrigued and impressed that people can just sit down and just write.
Annie [00:52:10] Yeah but the way you have to look at it, it's like Emma Gannon in this book, The Success Myth.
Joanne [00:52:17] I really like her.
Annie [00:52:18] Obsessed! You need to read this book. She's on the podcast. She talks about something- milestone goals, and something else goals. But it's basically like, let's say you wanted to write a book or you wanted to run a marathon. You don't sit and go, 'I'm going to write a book!'' and start. You literally go, 'every morning I'm going to wake up and I'm going to have my coffee and after my coffee I'm going to write a page, and then I'll do whatever'. So it's like you set yourself realistic, daily goals that are achievable. Every time I'm on a flight, I'm going to not watch a movie and instead I'm going to just write for half an hour.
Joanne [00:52:45] And do you at the start- this is just the stuff that I'm really interested in.
Annie [00:52:49] Yes, yes, yes, of course.
Joanne [00:52:50] Did you know how the story was going to end? Did you have all your characters before you started?
Annie [00:52:56] No! I did it all the way wrong round. Or I don't know, maybe it's the right way round. I did it all the wrong way round. With Mother Mother, I was desperate. I'd started this writing course. I had no plan for what I wanted to write or why I just started writing a book. I literally was like a scene. Here's a scene, here's a girl, a little boy off his head in the --- of Queen's University, the police come. That was the scene. And then from there, the book, like a Spiderweb, came out and out and out and out and out and out. Some characters became more prominent, some died away. And that was the book. So at the end of it, you have this big kind of lump of words, right? And it doesn't really make much sense in terms of structure. So it was kind of all over the gaff. Then I had to spend an entire year with a chisel, chipping away, trying to get some shape out of these words, taking stuff in, building stuff up, adding bits in. And that was the book. So it was two processes, it was kind of like blind writing the flow state. Write, write, write, whatever comes into your head. And then a very painful year of tweaking. And for this new book, because I did that twice, with The Mess We're In I did a little bit more organising in that I knew what themes I wanted to write about. Everyone, when they ask you about book writing is like, 'why did you want to write this book?', and with Mother Mother, I genuinely was like, 'I don't know, I just started writing'. So with The Mess We're In I was like, I'm going to think of themes that matter to me. What matters to me? Being Irish in England, being a young girl starting out in the music industry, misogyny, living in a big city, being part of the diaspora, all of that. I'm going to write about that somehow. I don't know how, but I'm just going to write.
Joanne [00:54:31] Sorry to interrupt yoiu now, what's the diaspora, you've brought it up twice?
Annie [00:54:35] So the diaspora, like if you are part of a diaspora, it's a group of people who have left the country and live elsewhere. So the Irish diaspora is huge, sprawling! Millions, upon millions, upon millions of people, because obviously Ireland took over the world.
Joanne [00:54:49] Yeah course.
Annie [00:54:49] But yeah, that's the diaspora. We are the diaspora.
Joanne [00:54:53] *Whispering* Oh my God, thank you so much!
Annie [00:54:57] Yes we are. And Vogue is, and all yout Irish friends abroad are.
Joanne [00:54:58] My first diaspora!
[00:54:58] *Short musical interlude*
Joanne [00:55:08] The final question. What's the change you'd still like to make?
Annie [00:55:12] You're doing great, by the way.
Joanne [00:55:16] Thank you! *both laugh*. This will be edited down, it'll just be Annie speaking to herself *Annie laughs loudly*. And I'll be completely cut out. And I'll be like thank God they cut me out. I completely fucked that. It's actually really diff- because you make it look so easy. You're really good at interviewing people *Annie laughs*.
Annie [00:55:32] If you do anything for long enough, you become okay at it.
Joanne [00:55:35] My only thing was like, Joanne don't say 'that's exactly like me!' *Annie laughing* to everything she says because there's actually nothing worse than someone making every single thing the other person says about themselves. So I think I've only done that 50% of the time.
Annie [00:55:49] Okay, I just- since writing this book, right, what I've realised with The Mess We're In, so it started with trying to like, write the formative years of living with my brother's band and trying to fictionalise that into something really exciting. And then through the course of the writing, I started writing about her job in this Irish pub, and it became more and more about these different generations of Irish people who were living in London, and I realised I was trying to explore my own kind of sense of identity, I suppose, of being here for so long. I've crossed the threshold of living in London much longer than I've lived in Ireland. And I go back all the time. I drag my kids back every summer on the ferry.
Joanne [00:56:29] Really! Where are you from?
Annie [00:56:30] Dundrum, South Dublin.
Joanne [00:56:31] Are you!
Annie [00:56:32] Near the Dundrum shopping centre, yeah.
Joanne [00:56:34] Oh no way!
Annie [00:56:34] Still in the same house.
Joanne [00:56:35] We're not far away. So I was, well, Killiney, Glengarry kind of thing.
Annie [00:56:39] Yeah, yeah. My brother lives in Glengarry. We go there all the time when we're home. There you go, I call it home, I think it'll always be home. And it's lucky for me to be able to say that because my parents still live in the house I was born in. Like we're still in the same state. It's still exactly the same. So I've never had anything to make it seem otherwise. But when you have kids and they grow up, then they have a new sense of home, which is the home that you live in. So at the moment I'm kind of grappling with the fact that my kids are English. They have English accents Joanne, and they support English football teams, and they very much know that I'm Irish because they're told all the time and they're dragged home on the holidays. But I suppose I've reached a point in my life where with all this new space, I feel like I'm kind of, I want to nest more like I want to click into my community. I've always been too busy to do shit locally. I've been too busy to really get with the school mum's. All of that stuff, I've just been working, working. So I want to like commit to somewhere where I live and really get stuck in. And I'm just like thinking, do I move back to Ireland? Do I stay in London? So at the moment I feel a bit like in flux, like in my head of where I should be. And I really want to just make my peace with one or the other and just settle in, you know, and become really comfortable in London and know that- and my kids will go to secondary school here and find a way to keep going back to Ireland all the time, OR, to go back to Ireland and try it even for a year. I'm scared to say it out loud because it feels like such a thing to say that out loud.
Joanne [00:58:10] I think that when you- when you move away- and I feel this and I'm not here a fraction of the length of time that you are, but I feel you kind of become a bit of a cultural nomad almost. You're in you're in limbo really.
Annie [00:58:28] That's it.
Joanne [00:58:28] Home does feel like home, but then it doesn't feel like home.
Annie [00:58:31] And like sometimes I don't feel Irish enough to be at home. You know, I feel like I've lost it. It's dissolved in me.
Joanne [00:58:37] And the friendship groups aren't what they were, and people have kind of moved away. And it's yeah, it's a funny one. I just think that's the reality of it.
Annie [00:58:45] So you're a foreigner in Ireland, weirdly, but you're also a foreigner in London. But it's kind of which place are you more comfortable being a foreigner in? And London is so full of foreigners. Like it's kind of- obviously you're not really a foreigner in Ireland because you're Irish, but you feel like one because you've not lived there in so long.
Joanne [00:58:58] That's it. And then the change of lifestyle from going from London back to Dublin, like that's a big shift in lifestyle.
Annie [00:59:05] Huge.
Joanne [00:59:06] Yeah, it is.
Annie [00:59:07] Huge shift and you take a lot for granted in London.
Joanne [00:59:09] You do.
Annie [00:59:09] So yeah. So I think I would just like some sort of sense of peace of where I'm going to be, just to feel a bit more kind of enmeshed in my community, which is a bit abstract and weird, but I would like that in terms of my life. And I can't even start on changes of the world.
Joanne [00:59:26] I was going to say, it's interesting that you are obviously such a huge fan of change, but what you want in your future is consistency.
Annie [00:59:33] I want consistency in terms of where I'm at at home, I think yeah.
Joanne [00:59:38] Yeah, like so physically where you're living.
Annie [00:59:41] Yeah, but I still want to travel. I love travelling. But I think I just need to make up my mind in my head. I think when you're an Irish person in London, for me anyway, I've always had this caveat that I can just go home. So I've never felt the need to really fully assimilate into the culture here in terms of my home life and my local- the local community. And I don't know what's happened to me. I'm kind of in my forties now and I'm really into the idea of community. I want to join a local choir. I want to start doing like charity work locally. I haven't got as far as the PTA yet, that's a whole other world but *Joanne laughs*, but like, you know, I just want to get involved more. And it's like, I just want to know that where we are, were there for a while, you know, for the next ten years, for when my kids are going to secondary school and stuff.
Joanne [01:00:22] It feels to me like we turn 40, I mean, roughly in and around that, and we just turn into homing pigeons.
Annie [01:00:28] Yeah.
Joanne [01:00:29] Something just happens.
Annie [01:00:30] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Joanne [01:00:31] Where you're just like- there is a nesting. I feel it as well.
Annie [01:00:34] But I think, I think you and maybe me are exceptional in that way, in that we've done a lot of travelling in our life.
Joanne [01:00:41] I have done a lot in a very short space of time, so I feel like I'm living- the last two years have been like dog years.
Annie [01:00:50] Yeah, yeah, yeah *laughs*.
Joanne [01:00:51] You know what I mean? Like it's hard to believe that I started doing this like eight-
Annie [01:00:58] Because you've been through so much in such a short space of time.
Joanne [01:01:01] Only since lockdown lifted, really, to be honest. So, yeah, I probably sound more jaded than I should *laughs*. Because I am- it is all very exciting, and it is great to be doing a job that you love but I'm already thinking, exactly like you, 'where am I going to settle?'.
Annie [01:01:17] Where am I going to be?
Joanne [01:01:18] Where am I going to be?
Annie [01:01:19] Yeah, yeah. I think you could have a revolution and move somewhere else. But for the next, I dunno, for me, for the next ten years, I would like to be somewhere and really get stuck into that place.
Joanne [01:01:27] I have a fantasy of like, making my own jams in a farm somewhere.
Annie [01:01:32] That's what Kate Moss does now. She makes her own jam in the Cotswolds.
Joanne [01:01:34] And she can afford to with the fucking Cosmo Skincare line *Annie laughs*. Fucking candle's six grand. Is she a friend of yours? *laughs*.
Annie [01:01:41] *Laughing* no.
Joanne [01:01:45] *Laughing* Kate's made some good decisions! She's made some very good decisions.
Annie [01:01:47] We should get her on the podcast.
Joanne [01:01:49] You should get her. She'd do a better job of interviewing you *Annie laughs*.
Annie [01:01:53] You've done great. Listen, thank you so much, you've done amazing.
Joanne [01:01:57] *Flicks page* I've finished my notes!
Annie [01:01:59] Joanne, thank you SO much *clapping* you are a star. I really appreciate you. Because it's so much work and pressure to have to do that. And you did an amazing job.
Joanne [01:02:06] I hope. I hope I did an okay job. If this gets me trolled... *Laughs*.
Annie [01:02:12] So listen, it won't. You did brilliant. I also have to say that Joanne has been on Changes where I have interviewed her. So if you want to listen to that, please go and do that. We'll put a link to it in the show notes.
Joanne [01:02:21] Oh, one last question!
Annie [01:02:22] Yeah.
Joanne [01:02:23] Why 'Annie Macmanus'? You've gone full title.
Annie [01:02:26] Because Annie Mac was a name given to me by my old radio boss because it was snappy on the tongue *Joanne laughs*. And I was just like-
Joanne [01:02:34] It is snappy on the tongue.
Annie [01:02:35] The person writing Mother Mother did not feel like- that was truly me. There was no kind of performative aspect or, you know, it just felt disingenuous to not do my real name. It just didn't feel right and it felt like a nice point of difference. It was like me reclaiming the 14 year old me writing in my journal.
Joanne [01:02:55] Yeah. No, you're like, this is my authentic self now.
Annie [01:02:57] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So there you go. Okay, now the book is The Mess We're In. It's out now if you want to read it *Joanne laughs*. I can't believe I'm plugging my own book Louise.
Joanne [01:03:08] I think it's also worth adding.
Annie [01:03:10] Yeah.
Joanne [01:03:11] Just because I know you're not going to plug your book as well because you're Irish and it fills you with shame. I can see you trying to swallow down your own vomit. But I think it's important to note that Graham Norton absolutely loved it *Annie laughs*. Oh my God, what, you should be on his chat show! *Annie laughs*. Has he asked you?
Annie [01:03:28] *Laughing* no.
Joanne [01:03:31] Fucking get into his DM's. "I so so enjoyed it" he says, "a heady mix of thrills and heartbreak". I'm excited for you.
Annie [01:03:35] Thanks Joanne, thanks so much for everything. Thank you... Thank you so much for listening. Please rate, please review. Subscribe to Changes as well and share the podcast with everyone you know if you fancy it. We're releasing episodes every Monday. Changes is produced by Louise Mason through DIN Productions. See you next week!
Joanne [01:03:56] Don't worry, I won't be back *both burst out laughing*. Incase anyone's worried that I'll be here next week, I won't, you're grand, chill.