When I first came across Meiko, it was as part of the Hotel Café showcase at SXSW in 2008. On a smallish stage upstairs at The Parish, she shared the stage with other emerging artists like Sara Bareilles, Jessie Baylin and Cary Brothers, but ended up the surprise of the evening. While all of the other featured artists were quite impressive, there was something about Meiko's unassuming presence and nonchalance which, when paired with her equally relaxed songs, made an indelible impression.
On the night of that showcase, she was simply a girl with a guitar, a fistful of great songs and an oddly engaging stage presence. Once I got her debut CD home, however, the songs unfolded and revealed and already maturing songwriter with something more simmering under the surface. Even amidst the songs of breakups and broken hearts, there was an air of hope that lifted the songs above the fray.
When she finally appeared in Tulsa, opening for Eric Hutchinson the following summer, my initial impression didn't fail me. Although she was now touring with a full band, which gave her songs a more realized treatment, her quaint and unassuming stage presence was still intact, drawing the audience to her with an understated, yet magnetic personality. That night, however, the audience got to see just a little more of her personality as she let her sense of humor shine through and reveal another layer behind the songs.
That new CD, A Different Light, finally saw its release in May. It revealed a different side of the songwriter. Instead of melancholy songs of heartbreak wrapped in a slightly sweet wrapper, Meiko delivered a series of genuinely upbeat songs that celebrate love and infatuation. In keeping with that shift, the production grew as well, incorporating more electronic elements underneath a series of songs that are still grounded in her vocal delivery and acoustic guitar base.
Even so, there's an almost seismic shift in delivery that hints also hints at a growing confidence in the young songwriter. The addition of a Beatlesque horn arrangement sees Meiko's songwriting open up like flower in the sun on "I'm In Love" while the electronic back beat of "When the Doors Close" allow her to take the song in a subtle dance and R&B direction.
I was recently able to catch up with Meiko by phone as she prepared to depart on her current tour to discuss the album and her development as a songwriter. When asked about the shift in her songwriting, she stated simply "It's been four years between records and in that time, I've been in a relationship, fell in love and wrote a bunch of happy love songs."
When addressing the shift in production, however, she said that "I had an idea going in that I wanted to work with multiple beats and a lot of electronic elements. I had a long time to put these songs together. I had a few demos and a few songs 4/5 recorded, but I wanted to do something different and when done, I knew that the common ground was still my guitar and my voice."
As Meiko arrives in Tulsa this weekend to kick off her US headlining tour, I had to ask about the tour with Hanson, which brought her to Cain's Ballroom last September.
"It was really cool touring with the Hanson guys last year, but going into the tour I didn't know them very well or know what to expect. They were all so nice, all family guys and so down to earth, and they were quick to include me in their family. After we got along so well, they asked me to do the European leg of their tour and that was the best time ever."
As busy as last year was for Meiko, the calendar is even busier this year as she has already appeared on the Tonight Show to promote the new record and recently made her first trip to Japan for a short, 10 day tour, arriving back state side with only two days to rest before turning around and meeting up with her band to kick off her headlining tour this Friday night, July 28, at The Vanguard.
When asked about her television appearances and how they come together, she shared that "Of course, the label has 99 percent to do with it, but I was on the short list of guests for Jay Leno and apparently one of the people who books the show is a fan and I got added."
When discussing the show and its impact, Meiko admitted that she doesn't really know how much the appearance helped CD sales, but "I do know that I got a lot more Facebook like and Twitter adds, stuff like that, right after the show aired.
I just had to remind myself NOT to think about how many people would be watching, because when I did, I started to freak out a little."
When discussing how the music business and industry have shifted, even since she started playing, Meiko shared that "Music has changed, but it has changed in a cool way in that people are exposed to all different kinds of music in all different ways. It's not just radio. Now there's Pandora and Spotify and all these other ways to find and hear new artists and so many more people can hear your music. If I happen to get huge like the Foo Fighters, that's great, but I'm just really happy being able to play."
Meiko kicks off her North American headlining tour and debuts her new album to a Tulsa audience this Friday night, July 28, with a show at the recently opened Vanguard (222 N. Main St). Tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance or at the door with the show starting at 8pm with local opener Van Risseghem and special guest Buddy. Although the show is competing with the crowds at Free Tulsa, this is a great opportunity to catch one of the best rising female songwriters for a special evening before her popularity inevitably explodes and launched her into larger venues. Prior experience tells me that she's always delivered a memorable show and this evening won't deliver any less, especially as she heads out to present a whole new batch of songs and an expanded sound with her full band. This one is well worth your time and attention.
Send all comments and feedback regarding Music to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share this article: