Should I even attempt to define Meiko’s sound? That’s who this feature is about by the way. I considered for a time how I was going to describe her music. Came up empty though. Previous artists were more easily defined; you know, power pop, Americana chased with rock…
So all I can tell you is what emanates from her tracks sounds very familiar. Yet it has an organic quirkiness and electro-melodic kick fused with an elusive folksy vibe that separates it from other singer-songwriters. That’s the best I can do. I try to explain it to myself and the words slide off my tongue and evaporate into the warm air of my office. I suppose her music is ineffable.
I could throw around Edie Brickell, Jewell, Plumb, Cardigans, Cranberries, etc, etc, and so forth but…who can pull off an 808 Roland and folk guitar in the same soup? Don’t say Beck. Is he even recording still? lol. (That probably wasn’t funny to some. Maybe even most…)
“When somebody asks what kind of music I play- I just say ‘Indie Folk Rock’… It’s kind of vague, but that usually does the trick,” was Meiko’s answer to the tired and obligatory question. “I’ve been a fan of all types of music ranging from Aphex Twin to Maná to the Allman Brothers, so I think those years and years of listening to way different artists has done something to my own style, even if it’s little nuances, I know they’re there and hopefully that sets me apart…”
Meiko’s ( (pronounced MEE•ko) music is interesting, to say the least. And “interesting” isn’t a euphemistic host here full of negative connotations. Quite the opposite. Her compositions flow, sync and thrive packing hooks, disparate arrangements and lyrics that petition your attention. Can I get a true that?
She’s six deep in albums already with several EP’s to boot, her first dropping in 2007 and the rerecorded version in 2008. Her latest offering, “In Your Dreams,” was produced independently. It has been a journey of transcendence for her.
“The first record was in 2007 and the last one was 2019, so… I guess you can say a whole hell of a lot has changed,” she wrote via email. “I went from a single waitress, playing open mic nights to a more confident woman, wife and mom who’s managed to make a little career of what I did in the middle. I’d have to say the confidence part is the most apparent to me. I’m able to say what I want and not waste time with wishy-washiness in the studio. I have dinner to cook so I’ve also learned to manage my time a little better 🙂 Simple is always best. I had to go through many records to end up kind of where I started stylistically.”
The rural Georgia-raised Meiko, who has Japanese blood coursing through her veins as well as the standard Irish-Scottish blood so prevalent in the southeast, possesses fans on both sides of the gender aisle. Sal Cinquemani at Slant wrote, “…she is the kind of artist that appeals to both introspective girls and hormonal boys.” That works for me. My car playlists tend to lean toward British punk, Social Distortion, Billy Joe Shaver and Jurassic 5 but I feel just as at home with a battery of Meiko compositions streaming through the sound system.
Like any honest and artistic conveyor of potency and resonance, her life has been informed by the tribulations, joys and dynamism of relationships.
When Meiko was seven years old her mother joined a cult and then vanished. She was the subject of “Name That Tune,” a track on “In Your Dreams.”
“This song is about mental illness and loving someone who’ll never get better or be there like you want them to be… I couldn’t talk to her without her telling me that I was bad for not searching out ‘the truth’ and how sad she was that I was going to hell,” she wrote. “It was quite the mind fuck as a preteen. Eventually, she disappeared into the night.”
Mother and child reconnected when Meiko was 24. She’s been the inspiration for numerous songs.
“This is just one of many. I call her my first heart break and I’m grateful for her in many ways…Having the balls to leave when she was not stable,” she added.
“Under My Bed” underscores a relationship theme that many of us can relate to whether we want to or not. Her distillation of relational actions we employ to process and cope is perspicacious.
“I wrote this one about having baggage…I used to keep boxes under my bed filled with memorabilia of different relationships I was in… Also, it’s a little bit of a metaphor because when I would date someone new and they did something annoying or rude, I wouldn’t make to much of it and just store it in a box in my head.,” Meiko wrote. “When it came time to break up, I would open the box in my mind and remind myself of all the things about him that I didn’t like. Worked pretty well.”
Now my eyes are wide open
Now that everything’s been
And I’m here to get it back from you
See I ain’t wasting no more time
I gotta take back what’s mine
And what else am I supposed to do
Before her recording career, Meiko landed a steady professional gig playing Hollywood’s Hotel Cafe between clocking cocktail-waitressing shifts at the famed singer-songwriter venue. She was in good company. John Mayer, Anna Nalick, Adele and Sara Bareilles, among many others, have taken the stage there.
Her song “Reasons to Love You” was used in the television show “Grey’s Anatomy” and national tour dates ensued. Other shows also picked up on her engaging sound and subsequently featured her songs.
After a stint on a label and time in Nashville, she released 2019’s “In Your Dreams” independently. She isn’t sure if independence is a blessing or a curse. One might think today’s digital world and social media pervasiveness is the perfect platform for garnering success utilizing a DIY methodology. But perhaps not.
“I used to think independent artists had an easier ride… More freedom.. Less stress… But nowadays, I’m starting to reconsider that notion,” she wrote. “Sure the freedom is still there, but algorithms are destroying it for everyone except the people who can pay for ads e.g. big record labels or the silver spooners. I guess I’m still happy being indie- it’s just more difficult to get the music heard.”
And then there are the exposure aspects to consider. The challenges of facilitating tours daunting.
“Yes-Many people don’t know that opening up for bigger artists to get in front of a big crowd that doesn’t know who you are, usually requires sharing that artist’s record label or ‘buying on’ to the tour. Yes- buying on is still a thing, sadly,” Meiko revealed.
And circling back to that sound…“Yes- I listen to a wide range of music.. I guess my top go-tos when I’m at home are: The Meters, Edie Brickell, Sade, Billie Holiday and all of the artists that I covered on this record (her covers’ album ‘Playing Favorites’).
Her diversity bleeds through the speakers. A few Meiko songs that come to mind are “I Can’t Tell,” “Piano Song,” “No Ordinary Love,“ “Thinking Too Much” and “I’m Ok.” All worth checking out in your choice of headphones. Just make sure they’re a quality set…
Below, is some commentary on these tunes.
An iTunes review assigned a Stereolab “feel” to “I Can’t Tell.” That’s a fairly good description.
“Piano Song” is indie-pop with a thumping Roland 808 keeping time. “I wrote this in the middle of the night when I was house sitting for a friend. I couldn’t sleep and they didn’t have a guitar… So I took the bedsheets with me to the piano and wrote this one in about 20 minutes.”
The Sade cover, “No Ordinary Love” is more atmospheric and haunting than the original and lends it a bit more poignancy.
“Thinking Too Much” nearly evokes a Wall of Sound vibe and evolves into a head-nodding three-minute experience.
And lastly, “I’m Ok” fits nicely into Meiko’s self-defined indie folk-rock genre. Might be my favorite tune in her catalog.