It’s been almost 10 years since Meiko appeared on the scene, pre-label and waitressing at the Hotel Café, taking performance slots when she could snag them. After four studio albums and two EPs, she’s been through the best and the shadiest of the industry. Under the direction of a label for her past two albums, she decided to go independent again for her fourth release. It was not only an act of label defiance, but also an act of maturity for her. The girl who used to sing about the devastation of being friends with a boy with a girlfriend is married with baby on the way now. She wanted to do something that reflected the last 10 years honestly, so she made Moving Day.
Referencing her relocation from L.A. to Nashville, Meiko’s newest album is an eclectic collection of formerly rejected and unfinished songs held together by a mutual settled-ness. Released on June 24, not-so-coincidentally also her baby’s due date, it’s an album that introduces us to grown-up Meiko while reminding us why we loved that first album so much. She took some time from awaiting her baby’s arrival (late by two weeks at this point) to talk to us about going independent, virtual concerts and “resting bitch face” songs.
: Moving Day is the first album you’ve self-released in almost 10 years, since your first album. What pushed you to the decision to go it alone again?
Meiko: I’ve been with record labels since the second record. I put The Bright Side and Dear You out with a label, and I just felt constrained. I felt like I was a little bit blocked in my creativity. All the decisions had to go through so many different people. Whether it was the songs I was choosing for the record, the artwork, the pictures I would use for press…Although it was kind of cool to have a team behind me, it also made me doubt my decisions that I would have made on my own otherwise. So by the end of the record cycle for Dear You, I really wanted to be independent again. I missed those days of the “wild, wild west” when it was just kind of up to me to make it happen, and I really enjoy being independent.
: What was the process like going through Pledge Music and sharing things about the album as you went? I know you did a lot to keep people interested and you even sold one of your guitars to a fan. Would you do it again?
Meiko: It was cool! I mean it really was the only way that I could think of to be able to fund the record on my own, because it does cost money, and you can’t expect people to just work for free. So having Pledge, the whole premise is to pre-sell your record before it’s even made, and it’s cool to have a little bit of a fan base that believes in the music so much, and the future music and me that they were willing to take a chance on just buying a record before they even heard it…I think of it like a fan club, like you’re getting people to join a fan club, and you update them with crazy stories, studio stories and personal stories and people really feel like they’re part of the process.
: Would you consider yourself to be pretty close with your fans?
Meiko: I think so. I think closer than a lot of other artists are. That’s mainly because I started off using MySpace and I realized you can have that kind of connection with your fans. That’s how I started building up my fan base. I took messages very seriously. I would come home from waitressing and I would look at my MySpace messages and I would write everybody back. I thought that was kind of normal and fun, but I realized a lot of my artist friends would have their managers do it, or they wouldn’t respond at all. The Internet is just such a cool thing to be a part of…as a fan you can have that reach to your favorite artist, and as an artist you can have the reach to your fans. It’s an honor to be able to do that. I really wish that when I was in middle school and high school that I was able to write to people that I loved, like Poe or The Cranberries, and to have gotten a response, that would have been so cool.
: What is different about putting together an album on your own? I know you said earlier that part of it is more creative freedom, and you said you dealt with some doubt about your own decisions when you were with the label. Did you deal with personal doubts about what made it onto Moving Day?
Meiko: No, I didn’t, which was really cool. I had so much frustration with the last record specifically. I had time to really think about what I wanted to record. Some of the songs that I had already I had taken to my label and said, “this song is really personal to me, and I really want to record it.” And the people I was working with there would be like, “Eh, it’s not that good of a song. We’re not really that into it.” And I would think, “ooh, maybe it’s not that good of a song.” But I would put in the corner, and when it was time to start thinking about the new record, I had this group of songs I really believed in that no one else really did.
: When you say you that you have these songs that have been pushed aside from past records, do you mean that they’re here on this record, or did they come out differently?
Meiko: Specifically the last song on this record, “Little Baby,” everyone that I played the song for was like “eh, it’s okay,” but it was such a personal song for me. I loved the song. I wrote it on one of the Hotel Café tours, and it really meant a lot to me. I poured my soul into this song and I would play it for the higher-ups, and I just got a blasé response. When it was time to pick the songs for this record, I thought, “I’m recording this song, dammit!” [The version on the record] is almost exactly like the demo I was showing people. I recorded it live with the piano player and that’s how we put it on the record. That’s exactly how I wanted to do it.
: Obviously, with the birth of your baby coming literally any moment, I imagine you won’t be touring for a while. Are any Stageit shows in the near future?
Meiko: Definitely. Stageit is the coolest thing because I can be in the comfort of my own home, and flip on my computer and do a show. So I’ll definitely do Stageit stuff. Physical touring, I think I’m going to take a year off. But I really don’t know. The plan was to put this record out on the [baby’s] due date, so the idea was that I would have new music out while I focused on my personal life. So I don’t get stagnant, or lost in the shuffle while people are like, “whatever happened to Meiko?”...It seems like a good idea. I can stay at home and in my quiet time, if that even exists while you have a baby, I can be thinking about the next step I want to take.
: You’ve kind of become a Stageit poster-girl. Do you prefer the virtual shows to live audiences?
Meiko: They’re both cool in their own ways. There’s nothing like a live show and a live interaction with a live audience. I think I prefer that, but there’s something cool about virtual shows I rarely play all ages [live audience] shows. When I play a virtual show, I know from people writing in and sending me pictures that families get together and watch it on their TVs, and there’s little kids, and I can see that it’s like a family night. It’s cool that I’m giving people that virtual experience, and that kids can be a part of it and see an artist perform a real show. They’re both cool, but there’s nothing like performing in front of an audience and getting that instant gratification.
: Let’s talk about the album a little bit more. Listening to it, it is absolutely dreamy. The music is so effortless, and you just sound at peace. Especially on tracks like “I Do” and “I Can’t Tell.” It’s all-around a lot more gentle than the last two records— is this something that you went for with the album?
Meiko: Yeah, I knew that I didn’t want to overthink my vocals, because that’s something that can happen when you’re recording. If you want your vocals to be perfect, you have to do a million takes, and everything just has to be perfect. These songs on Moving Day were recorded live and we just went with one take, and I just wanted it to be as intimate and personal as possible. We didn’t do a lot of giving in and trying to perfect everything. I’m so happy that we made those decisions because I think it’s obvious on the last two records. I think they’re too slick. I knew that [imperfection] on the first record was something that people really liked and that I really liked. That was something that translated so well…it wasn’t a perfect record. I wasn’t put through Auto-Tune a zillion different times.
: In the past, a lot of your songs were inspired by relationships gone awry, but there’s no real sense of bitterness on this album—the song I see it in a little is “Pretty Easy.” Did you reach back to a past relationship for that?
Meiko: [laughs] No, actually I wrote “Pretty Easy” about a producer I was working with. I recorded some songs with him, and he wanted to take part of my publishing for the songs, because he had produced them. And I was really upset about that, because he was trying to take my songwriting credit. [The line] “it’s pretty easy for someone to take your place” was me looking for another producer. I was so hurt by the fact that I had written these really personal songs, and someone was going to try to come along and say, “I want half your songwriting credit because I put the beats behind your recording.” It felt like a gross music industry trick. [laughs] So that’s where that song came from.
: I know you’re newly married, so things are all right in the relationship department. Would you say most of the songs on Moving Day are about that relationship?
Meiko: I wouldn’t say a majority are. A few, like “Perfect Fit” and “I Do.” Most are songs that I never finished or got swept to the side. Like “I Can’t Tell.” That was a song I had mostly written, but I never finished it. I wrote that when I was a hostess at this Indian restaurant, and I was really attracted to my boss. [laughs] I wrote that song while I was working at the hostess stand. He was really hot and I had a super crush on him, but I never finished writing the song until right when we started recording the album. That’s one of my favorite tracks on the record.
: I have to say that my favorites from all three of your past albums are the songs that are kind of aimed at another girl. “Boys with Girlfriends,” “Real Real Sweet” and “Sweeter,” I love those. But there’s no sign of this “other woman” on Moving Day. Do you think you’ve gotten over her?
Meiko: She’ll always come up. [laughs] She’s always going to be a part of some song somewhere. But I wanted this record to have a theme. I didn’t want any bitter songs on it. This was my mature, introspective record that talks about growing up. Trying to get over that whole misery of ex-girlfriends or new girlfriends. I just wanted to make the record focus more on me being a big girl, rather then me being the annoyed girl in the corner.
: It’s fun being the annoyed girl, though.
Meiko: I know. It is fun. It feels like I have two or three alter-egos. I have the “I think I’m so strong and confident,” and then “love! Happy jam!” and then resting bitch face-type cutting songs. And there’s always room for [resting bitch face songs], but I didn’t think it made sense for this record.
: You have a new hubby in your life, and pretty soon you’re going to have a new baby. You have awesome fans, too, that supported the album through Pledge Music. In a specific sense or a more general sense, who is this album for?
Meiko: I would say it’s for myself! [laughs] To eke out all of the experiences that have led me to where I am now. A lot of these are old songs, and I wanted to make sure they were finished in the light of day, and I feel like the theme of this record is just, “evolving,” so, yeah, it’s for me. I just wanted a group of songs that kind of represented the last 10 years of my life.
For more from Meiko, check out this session from 2009 in the player below.