“Deep, Raw, & Rural”: Inside Rona Mac’s Intimately Enchanting ‘Shades of Ham’ EP

Rona Mac © 2022
Rona Mac © 2022
Refreshingly intimate and impassioned, Rona Mac’s new EP ‘Shades of Ham’ is an unapologetically vulnerable, hauntingly beautiful snapshot of life in the throes.
Stream: “Paper” – Rona Mac




If I can talk about things we’ve been told we shouldn’t, and help people connect to feelings they tucked away in their teens, then I’ll be happy when I’m old.

Rona Mac’s music is achingly honest and unflinchingly raw.

Whether she’s singing about making new connections during the pandemic, the emotional and physical tolls of political turmoil and social upheaval, getting through a breakup, or the sheer weight of the world baring down, the Welsh singer/songwriter approaches her art with unmatched authenticity and undeterred drive. Refreshingly intimate and impassioned, Mac’s new EP Shades of Ham is an unapologetically vulnerable, hauntingly beautiful snapshot of life in the throes: The highs, the lows, the good and the bad all spill out together, messy and wondrous and breathtakingly immediate.

Shades of Ham - Rona Mac
Shades of Ham – Rona Mac

Released March 4, 2022, Shades of Ham finds Rona Mac baring her soul to the world in five candid, sonically rich and emotionally potent folk songs. Making music out of her caravan, the 27-year-old musician and producer from West Wales leaves no stone unturned, whisking listeners into a kind of visceral daydream that is equal parts lilting, stinging, and stirring.

“As a DIY artist, it all began in a cold winter in the caravan when I was skint and unemployed, which lit a fire underneath me to DO something,” Mac tells Atwood Magazine. “My debut album Sheelah was the product of this. Since then, I’ve been developing my sound and production skills a little, mostly by playing around. I’d never made an EP before, so I’ve been discovering the power and beauty of a 5 or 6 track record. It feels like a nugget of time and space in my life that I’ve been lucky enough to document into a collected piece of work. The songs that make up the EP have been written over the last two years, with various layers of my life weaving in and out of its duration.”

“After having the privilege to work with Owain Fleetwood Jenkins in Studiowz for a single released last year called ‘Weapon’, I was inspired to take my home-production to a new level. I wanted to keep the rough edges that have accidentally become a part of my ‘sound’ and which I have grown to love, but bring more clarity and complexity. I was inspired by some of Ben Howards’ newer stuff and Phoebe Bridgers, where there are so many layers of texture, created by a mixture of natural and synth sounds, sitting beneath it all which add so much atmosphere to the song. I think ‘Paper’ is a good example of my attempt in achieving this. Essentially, I wanted to keep growing and learning, and I did!”

Rona Mac © 2022
Rona Mac © 2022



Shades of Ham is Mac’s labor of love: A bold, full-bodied representation of her artistry.

“For me, the songwriting is just a small part of the process – I love to record and produce and master the music, tweaking and experimenting as I go along,” she explains. “It’s always going to sound kinda lo-fi and a bit rough around the edges, because for me the production is a deeply personal and creative process, rather than a trade or something I’ve trained at. Also, because I am doing it all in a caravan with a small amount of second-hand equipment and no idea! Limitations are frustrating, but also can sometimes be fun because I’ve had to work out some weird method to try create the sounds or textures I imagine. I think that this E.P really shows that – from a track as stripped bare as ‘ask me another day’ which was recorded on a dictaphone shortly after it was written, to ‘Polidics’ which took me about a year of messing around to make it sound close to how I envisaged.”

The EP’s title is meant to intrigue, while giving Mac’s audience a light tickle.

“The whole EP came together when I saw a simple pink painting with the word ‘ham’ on it (the E.P artwork painted by Saffron Ewart, @by.saffron). It made me laugh and the fleshy, gross, tender, pink nature of ham really struck me. I’m so intrigued and driven by vulnerability – how it connects, triggers and emotes people – and whats more visibly, painfully vulnerable than a slice of ham? Haha. Pink exists in a dichotomy of being fierce, bold, and strong as well as a delicate, floral, and soft. It’s political, sexual, and visceral. ‘Shades of Ham’ means more to me the more I think about it.. Simple answer? Pink is my favorite colour.”



Rona Mac © 2022
Rona Mac © 2022



Dive into Shades of Ham, and you’re sure to find reasons to smile; to cry; to laugh; and to shout. From the tender opener “Something Good” to the cinematic seven-minute epic “Paper,” Mac spellbinds not through force, but through grace. Her vivid language, atmospheric instrumental work, and intimate vocal performances invite us back for multiple listens as we continue to ingest both her words at the surface, as well as the compelling emotions underneath.

Whereas it’s hard to choose favorites in a five-song set, there is something to be said of the EP’s charming showstopper of a finale. “During recording the end repeated phrase ‘where’s my sister, I miss her‘ in ‘Paper,’ I was choking up,” Mac recalls. “I’m the youngest of three, and my sisters have been my guides and protectors throughout my life. They’ve both lived away a lot in the USA and Costa Rica in recent years, as well as my middle sister being really unwell with depression and anxiety for a couple of years. She was gone from us, and I couldn’t fully acknowledge how much I struggled not having her there during that time, or how much I needed her. She’s back now, full force of mighty sisterly belonging. But those words rip something out of me every time I sing them. It might not be anyone else’s favorite bit, but it makes me feel something. I don’t even care that the last note is mega sharp; it was a one-off recording take.”

Mac goes on to share two of her favorite lyrics from the record, off her songs “Polidics” and “The Road to Your House”:

“And men in jackets sit importantly
Talking pouring port in front of me
Clink your glass and drink that chaser
Well done, doubt you’ve ever thought of me”
– “Polidics
“Forgot you were human
A silicone glitch
Turns out you had furred cheeks
and hollows in your wrists
The space is elastic
Distance fecund, endless
The road to your house has
Always been like this”
– “The Road to Your House




Rona Mac © 2022
Rona Mac © 2022

Shades of Ham is rough, yet polished, vulnerable and confident, immediate, yet gentle. It’s a waterfall of raw emotions rushing up to envelop our ears and drench our souls.

“I hope [listeners] feel something, and take that feeling with them on a walk. It’s hard to find the time to walk and feel these days,” Mac shares. “I’ve learnt that the music industry is impossibly complicated and if you don’t have money, you’re starting off 1000 miles behind people who do. Hence, I’ve learnt that people who share or pass on your music are amazing. People who will give you a shot even though you haven’t got 150k Instagram followers, and £150k, are amazing. And it IS possible to do it all yourself without money, as I continue to do so, but it takes every ounce of spare time and I NEED TO REMEMBER TO HAVE MORE BREAKS. Also, that collaborations are lush, as with artwork by Saffron @by.saffron and designs by Ellie Ewart (my partner, conventiently), and photography by Hope. Big thanks for the feature, and big love to anyone who has listened, felt, and walked.”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Rona Mac’s Shades of Ham EP with Atwood Magazine as the singer/songwriter goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her latest release!

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:: stream/purchase Rona Mac here ::
Stream: ‘Shades of Ham’ – Rona Mac



:: Inside Shades of Ham ::

Shades of Ham - Rona Mac

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SOMETHING GOOD

During Lockdown, I adopted an allotment over the road to my caravan and met a girl there. We were sifting through soil on the most still, sun-kissed and surreal days of spring, and I’ve never gotten to know someone so slowly. Covid meant that we couldn’t touch, so it was this long, gentle, drawn out courtship process. The experience of lockdown in the middle of nowhere was super strange, being so far removed from the disease which made it hard to gauge how people are really behaving or what was real, off screen. I live in a place usually teeming with tourists in the summer months, and it’s the first time I’ve been able to enjoy our home in bloom without being sandwiched in city-like traffic and spattered with ice-cream drips from screaming kids dragging bodyboards through the town centre. I could be quiet and creative and slow, protected from all the mayhem by the rose-tinted goggles of new romance. If it weren’t for the death, trauma, grief, and fear (biggies!), I’d say lockdown was heaven.

POLIDICS 

With all the cluttered opinions and tumbling crises’ that fill our screens and parliaments these days, this song is an ache for change. A new take on a revolution song, if you like. It was triggered by watching the news whilst unemployed, living in a caravan, watching the rich white man make decisions for us all and feeling wildly unrepresented, feeling the rage of being endlessly skint. The second half of the track is a kinda far-out vision I had of everyone floating from earth and kinda drifting into the cosmos, passing through the sun in this intense and harsh joyfulness. It was written around the time Jeremy Corbyn was representing the labour party in the UK, hence the alternative title “all I want for Christmas is the rebirth of our baee J.C”, playing with the image of the coming of J.C (Jesus Christ) at Christmas. As a vicar’s daughter myself, I now sit somewhere between atheism and a trickling belief in magic.

THE ROAD TO YOUR HOUSE

This track is suspended in time, hanging from a motorway bridge in the trickery of dawn-light. The recording is from my dictaphone, singing stood up in my caravan living room, trying to decide if I liked the song or not. It’s a proper time capsule for me of a period of time when I was torn between two lives after a breakup – Brighton where I’d spent the last few years of my life, and moving back to my roots in Wales. I spent a lot of time between the two on the M4 (main road connection), and on this particular day I drive through sunrise, stopped at some services and wrote the song on the back of some receipts. It felt like one that needed to come out. Everything was so suspended – neither here nor there, night nor day, over nor beginning.

SMOKE

A few weeks into the first lockdown I manically cleared out and cleaned my caravan, and then sat down thinking, ‘What the hell do I do now?‘ I wanted to get out, so on my ‘daily walk’ I went to the bell tower of St Davids Cathedral nearby with my dictaphone and recorded vocals in there. It was so echoey and delicious, surrounded by the chatter of crows and tall grey brick. I stayed as long as I felt I could, smoking rollies and howling into the tower. The song ruminates over the many things that make me want to smoke – bad days, wistful moments, nights with my beautiful friends, being destructive. It’s simple and cyclical, circling like thoughts, or crows, or smoke.

PAPER

“Paper” came from a place somewhere between feeling like a furious warrior, and like a lost little sister. After a three-day birthday bender in a barn, and then a week of sleeping on London’s streets joining an XR protest, I was exhausted and angry at all the stupid bits of paper that keep us stuck in the damn mud (legislature, religious texts, laws, money). The contrast between the emotional carnage of the protest, and coming home to my local town with everyone trotting about their usual business was bewildering. All the shelves, all the plastic wrapping, all the consuming, and nobody batting an eyelid. I got stuck with an urge to go into our local shop and smash everything up. It was like feeling sick and needing to spew.
Meanwhile, I’m the youngest of three sisters, and they’ve always guided me through this kinda coming-of-age, complicated-feeling stuff. One sister in particular was very lost in depression and anxiety that year, and I missed the fierce, hilarious leader I’d grown being bossed about by. In admitting that I missed my sisters, I uncovered a deep, aching grief I didn’t know existed. I’m howling to them.
Writing “Paper” was my version of smashing up the shelves and putting them back together again. I perform, record, produce, mix and master all my tracks on my own in my caravan, and that gives me the freedom to take my time and allow it all to unfold. I try not to have pre-conceptions before recording, and this was very much one of those – yet its ended up being my favourite off the E.P. The best bit for me is the little synth melody in the chorus’s – it’s sweet and encapsulates the purity of sisterhood for me. Also the brush and click sounds that come into the first verse – it’s me brushing a telegraph pole with my palm, and flicking a wet ivy leaf. And the rain, hammering down into my caravan studio while I recorded the vocals.

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:: stream/purchase Rona Mac here ::

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Shades of Ham - Rona Mac

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📸 © 2022

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