Ireland

Annie Mac on growing up in a musical household: ‘We were like The Corrs but ugly’

Annie Mac is co-hosting a new podcast with friend Nick Grimshaw (Ian West/PA)
Annie Mac is co-hosting a new podcast with friend Nick Grimshaw (Ian West/PA) Annie Mac is co-hosting a new podcast with friend Nick Grimshaw (Ian West/PA)

One of Annie Macmanus’ earliest musical memories is driving with her father.

The Dublin-born DJ and broadcaster – known by her stage name Annie Mac – remembers “being squished in the back of my dad’s Volkswagen Passat, four kids squished and listening to CDs”, she told the PA news agency.

“Those memories, I feel [are] so vivid, musically.”

Macmanus, 45, grew up as the youngest of four children in an extremely musical household.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Annie Mac (@anniemacmanus)

“We always played instruments in our house – I always describe it as we were like The Corrs, but ugly,” Macmanus said, with a laugh.

“We played so many instruments – my brother played the banjo, the guitar, this instrument called a bouzouki [a Greek stringed instrument].  My other brother played the accordion, the piano; I played the piano, guitar.

“My sister was like Lisa Simpson and just stayed in her room playing the saxophone. Our house was always f****** noise.”

Macmanus, who hosted the Radio One’s Dance Party for the BBC until 2021 and currently hosts the podcast Changes With Annie Macmanus, said that having older siblings was “hugely influential” in terms of shaping her musical tastes.

She inherited “traditional Irish music crossed with punk and rock” from her brothers and sister.

“The Pogues was the biggest thing – I have every Pogues album etched into my memory forever. Thin Lizzy, Christy Moore, a lot of traditional Irish music. My sister was the raver, she used to listen to pirate radio and she introduced me to electronic beats.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Annie Mac (@anniemacmanus)

One early live show was particularly formative for Macmanus.

“I was 15, I remember getting permission from my parents to go into town and see Moloko. Roisin Murphy – [Moloko] was her original band – played in Whelan’s in Dublin,” Macmanus said.

“She was so bonkers onstage – she had a little loudspeaker and she had a dog basket which she curled up in halfway through the show. And afterwards, we had a lock-in with all of her family.”

She said this was “quite a big moment” for her, and added: “As a young Irish girl, seeing someone like Roisin Murphy be so bonkers and brilliant and 100% herself was incredibly inspirational. And she moved to England, so it was like, ‘Ooh – that’s what happens if you move to England’.”

Moloko performing in 2003
Moloko performing in 2003 Moloko performing in 2003 (Yui Mok/PA) (Yui Mok/PA)

Now based in London with DJ husband Thomas Mackenzie Bell, whose stage name is Toddla T, and their two children, their household is still filled with music.

“There’s always radio wars in our house,” she said, particularly when deciding what channel to play over breakfast. But she appreciates living with someone else who’s equally into music: “I like listening to different songs, I like hearing what he’s going to put on – and I think vice versa.”

Now, Macmanus is putting her love of music into a new channel – a podcast with fellow DJ Nick Grimshaw, called Sidetracked with Annie and Nick.

The weekly podcast by the BBC will cover up-to-date music news, and the duo will be joined by artists, friends, industry experts and listeners.

It will be “the week in music through our eyes”, Macmanus, who has been friends with Grimshaw since 2006, explained.

“The foundation of the podcast is our friendship. We’re going to come from the perspective of fans and friends, then we will bring in experts if we need to really dissect something or interrogate something, we can learn more about it with the listener.”

Annie Macmanus (L) and Nick Grimshaw
Annie Macmanus (L) and Nick Grimshaw Macmanus has been friends with Nick Grimshaw since 2006 (BBC/Stephanie Sian Smith/PA)

Grimshaw, 39, added: “Annie and I have a WhatsApp group where we just gossip, cleverly called Into The Goss [a reference to beauty blog Into The Gloss]. And we talk about things we’ve seen at award shows or something we’ve seen a pop star post on Instagram… Obviously we’re music fans, but we’re also fans of the culture around music and pop culture.

“So we were like, let’s do a podcast, let’s let everyone into the WhatsApp group.”

Macmanus said she’s particularly excited about the podcast because “there’s no boundaries”, and she and Grimshaw are “not completely aligned” in their tastes.

She said: “So if one of us vehemently thinks a song is terrible, then the other person can come in and be a bit of a counter to that.”

Plus, the duo have wide-ranging tastes.

“We are fans of pop stars or jazz, we can appreciate going to the Proms for a night,” Grimshaw said.

“I think we should [be able to] bring all of that together and not be genre-specific. One thing we never got to do at Radio One was speak to older artists or heritage artists, or artists that didn’t align with Radio One – so it’s quite exciting that it’s not aligned to a network, and we can cover everyone from Ice Spice to Keith Richards.”

Sidetracked with Annie and Nick is available weekly on BBC Sounds from September 28.