Annie Mac on maternity leave: ‘It’s always weird when someone else does your job’

Annie Mac

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Annie Mac started out on student radio, before landing a job at Radio 1 as a broadcast assistant

Monday night sees the return of Radio 1’s tastemaker in chief, Annie Mac, to the airwaves.

The Dublin-born DJ, who had taken six months’ maternity leave, resumes her duties at 19:00 BST with a world premiere of the new Wolf Alice single, Yuk Foo.

Her early evening timeslot marks the point where Radio 1 abandons its daytime playlist and focuses on new music.

Over the years, it hosted early sessions by The Smiths and Oasis’s live debut; while Mac’s predecessor, Zane Lowe, was a cheerleader for acts like Kanye West and Ed Sheeran.

Mac – whose real name is Annie MacManus – took over in 2015, after giving Disclosure, Rudimental and Duke Dumont their first ever radio plays on her Friday night dance anthems show.

Outside of her radio career, she’s also an internationally successful club promoter and DJ, who will headline Glastonbury’s John Peel Stage on Friday, 23 June.

As she prepares for her comeback, the 38-year-old chatted about the songs she missed, her plans for the future and the “weirdness” of other people hosting her shows.

“I just can’t wait to get back,” she enthuses. “I love my job. I feel so privileged.”

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PA

As a music writer, I find it difficult to “turn off” from work when I’m away. Did you find yourself obsessing over music during maternity leave?

Definitely at the start, and then my baby came 12 days early! So after that it was all about nappies and just getting through the day. When you have a new baby everything’s a bit delirious for a while.

Then, after a month or two, I started to get back into listening to music. You have this weird thing where you listen to something and you’re like, “Oh my God, I wish I could play that on the radio!’

Is there one song you regret not being able to play?

Yes. The Goldie single, I Adore You.

Why that one?

Because it’s pure emotion. It’s so evocative and so poignant. You can’t listen to it without feeling something.

To me, that’s what radio is all about: Being able to project this most incredible art to people who are doing the most mundane things – ironing or driving or texting.

Were you able to listen to Mistajam [who deputised for Annie on her weekday shows] without feeling a little jealous?

At the start I didn’t listen. It’s always weird when someone else does your job. It’s a strange situation.

But in the last couple of months, I’ve listened to him loads and I think the show’s in incredible shape. It’s been really nice to have perspective on and think, “Right, what could I do differently when I come back?”.

Did you watch The Replacement? [BBC thriller about a woman on maternity leave who becomes suspicious of the person covering for her]

Yes! I did! And as I was watching it, I was thinking, “I probably shouldn’t be watching this!”

But luckily Mistajam and Danny are not psycho people who are trying to steal my child. So we’re fine.

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Getty Images

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Annie Mac: “You have listeners that you know because you talk to them every week, and they talk to you”

Your partner is Toddla T, who also has a show on Radio 1. Do you try to educate the children about music, or is it wall-to-wall Peppa Pig?

They do get to hear a lot of cool music but also I make playlists for them that I know that they’ll like.

They’re not afraid of music, either. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been going around to record labels and, at one meeting, the baby was just crawling on the ground as we listened to the new Jessie Ware single super-loud.

They were like, “does he mind [the volume]?’ and I was like, “Oh, he’s fine, just let him be!”

What’s on your baby playlist?

Just random stuff we like to jump around to. The Jungle Book songs; a lot of Disney themes; Randy Newman’s You’ve Got A Friend In Me from Toy Story; Tutti Frutti by Little Richard – because my son’s got a toothpaste called Tutti Frutti.

As well as five radio shows a week, you’re about to hit festival season. Is that quite daunting?

To be honest, it’s terrifying, the thought of coming back to work.

When you do a big gig there’s an awful lot of preparation involved. It’s not just picking out a couple of tunes.

I make special edits of songs and I’m working with a gospel choir who’ll come on stage with me this summer. So there’s a lot of creative work behind the scenes.

What keeps me up at night is just not having enough time to do everything. Which I think is what every working woman has.

I find I’m much more single-minded at work, because I have to be out the door for the school run most days.

You have to be focused. You get better at streamlining and making sure you maximise every second of the time you’ve got.

You’re coming back with a big Wolf Alice exclusive – what else are you looking forward to?

For me the most important thing, as well as having those big names – which we will have – is being a really fun, inclusive, exciting listen. Putting the music together in such a way that people just cannot turn off the radio.

Did you miss the fans, then?

I really missed them. You get used to having this constant dialogue with all these people who are your friends – or they are in my head, anyway.

I got a lot of texts and tweets while I was away saying, “We miss you so much” and you realise you’re part of their weekly routine. Your voice is part of what they do every day, and that’s a lovely thing.

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