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Backstage with Meiko

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Backstage with Meiko

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From having her self-titled debut album hit number 1 on the iTunes folk chart to being a featured artist on the SXSW homepage, 2009 is definitely Meiko’s year, and she couldn't be more content. "I’m really happy that things are being well received and I’m happy to be here again and I’m happy that I have fans. I’m going to keep on doing what I’m doing and keep on making music and hopefully I’ll have people to listen."

Touring with the likes of Joshua Radin and the Hotel Cafe tour, Meiko appropriately describes her music as indie pop-rock folk. I caught up with the singer-songwriter shortly after her showcase at South By Southwest. She talked about her music and adjusting from living in a small town in Georgia (population 808) to the busy city of Los Angeles:

I read that you used to have stage fright.
When I started singing in public I was about 8 years old and I was very, very, very freaked out. I always thought that people were against me. When I was singing I would think, "These people hate me" and "Why am I doing this to myself?" I hated performing in front of people, but it was something that I would make myself do. It was something I wanted to get over because secretly I enjoyed it, but I got so nervous.

When I moved to L.A. I asked a lot of people’s advice, and they would say play as many shows as you can because that’s how you get over it. So, I took that advice and I played as many shows as possible — playing in somebody’s living room. Eventually things got better and I started really enjoying playing in front of people. I always take advice from my friends and one of them said, "Maybe you should say thank you after a song or try to say something and introduce a song" because I would just play song after song after song. That’s where it started that I was more comfortable and I felt like the crowd was on my side — when you have that open communication. I love talking to the crowd now.

I love your song "Boys with Girlfriends." What’s the story behind it?
I was really good friends with a guy. He was my best friend and he had a girlfriend that really got jealous and thought something was going on between me and him when there wasn’t anything. It was a very innocent and awesome relationship and she got in the way a lot, and eventually she sabotaged my friendship with her boyfriend. I was very, very, very hurt by it. I don’t have my friend anymore, but I have a song. The even trade, I say, which I don’t know if it’s that even.

What’s your advice to people who want to make a career in the music business?
I always tell people to get a job. Get a job anywhere involving music and it’ll inspire you being around all that music and it really connects you with people. Not just networking and giving out your demos, but you actually establish friendships with these people.

One of your songs was featured on Grey's Anatomy. Did you watch the episode?
I did! It was awesome! I’m a big fan of Grey's Anatomy from the beginning, so it was really cool. It is crazy to me how well songs are placed in shows like that. It was amazing at how good they are with what they do. I actually got to meet Katherine Heigl the other day. I didn’t have the guts to say, "My song was in your show."

You’re signed on MySpace Records. Do you feel as an artist you need to be on a label?
No, I don’t think you need to be on a label at all. I think the cool part about these days is nothing is set in stone and there’s no exact formula for doing anything. I considered staying independent and not signing with a label. The reason I did sign with a label was because the whole reason I’m playing music and getting it out there is because I want as many people as possible to hear it. I figured I could only do so much by myself and it made sense to sign with people who are marketing geniuses. MySpace.com has been insane for the music industry, and so I went with them because I knew that that would help the awareness.

Was there a moment when you thought to yourself, "Okay, I’ve made it"?
No, no! People are always like, "What’s it like? You’ve made it!" I don’t know if I really feel like I’ve made it. The moment that I do feel like that is when maybe I can sit in my backyard by the pool or something and, not necessarily moneywise, but just where I can be comfortable and happy and proud of what I’ve done, and I don’t think I’m done yet. I feel like I’m still truckin’ along.

What’s your typical songwriting process like?
I try to carry a notebook, but I rarely write in it. I sit in my house. I have a lot of guitars so I keep a guitar out and about in every room, which doesn’t say much because I live in an apartment. But I keep one in the living room, keep one in the bedroom, and whenever I have an idea or I’m bored I’ll just pluck away at something and then I just come up with something. It’s not like a certain time of the day, so I don’t really have an exact way of doing it.

You’re originally from Roberta, GA, where the population is 808 people. How big of an adjustment was moving to L.A.?
It was really difficult. It was pretty scary to come from a tiny town where everyone knows you and you feel really safe. There’s no crime. And then you move to L.A. It was very overwhelming. I was really scared to leave my house for a little while. In a small town you grow up with all these ideas of how big cities are. I’m thinking, "Oh, I’m going to get mugged." And eventually I got out and I did wake up in the morning and get a cup of coffee by myself and I started meeting people and it got a lot better. It has taught me that these ideas that you grow up with aren’t always right.

Annie Reuter is a freelance writer and music blogger who covers shows in and around the tristate area. In constant pursuit of the next show to attend and band to interview, Annie keeps up her own music blog, You Sing, I Write.
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