August 20, 2014

Interview: Meiko Experiments, Gets Personal on New LP, 'Dear You'

The mostly acoustic, folk-pop distinction and anecdotal storytelling of her self-titled 2008 debut LP, particularly illustrated by such songs as “Boys with Girlfriends” and “Under My Bed,” seemed to cast Meiko in the mold of a conventional singer/songwriter. While the candor of her lyrics endured, subsequent efforts including her 2012 LP, The Bright Side, and the 2013 single, “Bad Things,” the latter of which featured in the ABC Family series, Pretty Little Liars, signaled a shift by the artist toward more adventurous musical dimensions. 

Meiko’s experimental tendencies are in full flourish on her third and latest LP, Dear You, a song cycle steeped in minimalist, mood-driven electronica and informed by a crucial lapse in communication.

“A lot of the songs are unsent letters where I was feeling a certain way and I’d write down a letter,” Meiko tells Write on Music, “just to get it out of my system, everything I wanted to say. Then eventually those letters were turned into songs.”  

You’ve come a long way musically, sonically. Is that something you’ve particularly strove to do, or is that just evidence of where your musical curiosity has gone?

I think it is evidence of where my musical curiosity has gone. I listen to a lot of electronic music generally and I have my entire life. I’ve never really been into pop music, but I’ve made these sort-of happy, pop-leaning records. So I just wanted to dig in a little bit deeper. I did want to make a darker record, and it was fun because I love experimenting with sounds and minimal instrumentation. It was like an art project for me.

Do you still write on the guitar or are you using any computer programs now?

I always write on a guitar. I need a guitar to sit down and write with. I just find it hard to do it any other way. Even if the guitar doesn’t end up in the song—most of these songs it did, whether it was electric or acoustic—it always originates on guitar.

Do you write solely about your own experiences or do you also write about things you see around you or people that you know?

I always write about my experiences. Sometimes it’s so personal that if I’m talking about it I’ll say, “I wrote this about my friend,” but it’s always about me. It’s just easier. It’s easier to connect emotionally with what I’m saying, what I’m writing, when it’s coming from personal experiences. 

Some of the songs on the new album date back a little while for you. Was it difficult to revisit them in the sense of approaching them with conviction, having moved on from them in your life?

No, it’s not really that difficult. I mean, I have moved on from most of the shitty experiences that I wrote about, but I never was completely disconnected from it. There’s always that piece of me that will always remember those feelings. So I still feel pretty connected with those emotions but have learned to grow from them. It’s kind of like looking at a picture of yourself ten years ago, or five years ago. 

Looking at a picture of yourself from five, ten years ago can also be kind of jarring, though, if you’ve gone through a lot of changes since then.

Yeah, and maybe it just makes me realize just how much I’ve actually grown from it, but I still appreciate the fact that I needed to go through those encounters with different people. 

When you’re on stage, singing these songs that you’ve written about your life and your emotions and your thoughts, do new song ideas pop into your head? Does that environment encourage creative thought for you?

No, the creative thing for me on stage is just being able to explain where I was coming from when I wrote the songs. I really enjoy the performance part of it. Yeah, I like writing, but my head’s not really into the writing part of it when I’m performing. I really enjoy the connection with the audience and telling the stories and just putting some perspective into it for people so when they do hear a song they can go, “Okay, she meant that.” 

I’ve asked this of a lot of songwriters... Because you write from such a personal place, are you ever concerned or worried about giving too much of yourself away in what you write?

I used to be. I think this record is probably the most confessional record without me putting any barriers on it. The last song especially, “Go to Hell,” it’s definitely the most personal one to me just because I’ve had personal experiences where I was completely judged and cut off out of people’s lives because they thought… They were saying that I wasn’t on the right path and I wasn’t doing the right things for God—a very religious standpoint. That’s a very personal song, and I actually wasn’t sure if I was going to put that one on the record, but I wanted to because I think that a lot of people can relate to that feeling of being judged. 

That’s good that you can confront that. I think when songwriters are able to stand behind what they write when what they write is so personal, it comes across in the music.

Absolutely. And when it’s not personal, I think it’s really evident. Especially for me, it needs to be personal or it’s just not gonna connect.  

Dear You is due October 14 on Fantasy/Concord Records. Please visit Meiko’s official website for more information.