By Roman Mitz for Open Spaces
Meghan Patrick is a good ‘ol girl. Want proof? She co-wrote a song that references Waylon Jennings. She co-wrote another song called ‘I Believe In Beer’. She’s also a Buffalo Bills fan and she loves to go to tailgates at “the Ralph”. That would be Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, for the uninitiated. That’s not to say that Meghan’s terrific debut album ‘Grace & Grit’ is for rednecks as it fits in very well with the new country vibe. What separates this album from the rest of the pack, however, is the fact that’s it’s built upon very traditional roots and Meghan’s vocals can only be described as classic country. If you think early Trisha Yearwood and her song ‘Wrong Side Of Memphis’ you’d be on the right track.
“That comparison is a huge compliment for me,” she says, calling in from her hometown of Bowmanville. “I just saw Trisha perform with Garth Brooks. I love old traditional country and I think there’s a place for it on radio and in this industry. There’s nothing wrong with pop country or bro-country because there’s clearly an audience for it, but I think some of the older fans are missing that traditional country sound and that’s kind of where I’m trying to be heard.”
Prior to her solo career, Meghan fronted a band called the Stone Sparrows that released an EP and a full-length album before the members parted ways amicably in 2013. Meghan admits that going solo is a “little more scary” because it’s her name that’s on the project and it’s her story (she co-wrote all but one track), and she finds that can be intimidating. As the title track of the album and new single suggest, she’s had to use an equal balance of Grit & Grace to take her to this point in her career.
“I’d say I it was actually a little more grit for me because you have to have a tough skin. You’re going to have people tell you that you’re not good enough and that you’re not going to make it. You’re also going to come across people that you think you can trust and have your best interest in mind, but they don’t. For me the hardest part is the industry and you have to kind of persevere, but in comparison to some of the other genres I think there are a lot of genuine, kind people in country. So yeah, you need grit but as they say, you catch more flies with honey so grace is important as well.”
Meghan made her first big splash on country radio with the irresistibly hooky ‘Bow Chicka Wow Wow’, a song which is basically a tribute to men that she finds hunky. The song started out as a bit of a lark as Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, who served as co-producer on the track, simply threw the phrase out there and they both had a good laugh. But then Kroeger asked the singer when she would use a line like that and things took off from there.
“I had never written with Chad before and we were kind of tossing out ideas and talking about my influences and the sound I was going for. He came up with that title as a joke, but then we looked at each other and thought we might have something here. Sometimes the greatest songs come from out-of-the-box ideas so we said let’s just write it and see how it goes. He asked me what would make me say Bow Chicka Wow Wow and I said that’s easy, it’s the guy with the steel toes and hard hat out there working construction. I like a handy kind of guy. All these male model types and Wall Street guys get all the glory. I felt that the construction guys needed a song and the girls that like those kind of guys needed a song. It’s really taken off. We’ve got t-shirts and I’ve had people tag me that they’re using the song in workout classes and dance classes. One of the greatest compliments I’ve received is from people who don’t like country, but they really like this song. That’s great for me”.
Sonically, Bow Chicka Wow Wow is a nice combination of Kroeger’s harder edged work with Nickelback, and Meghan’s honky tonk and southern rock influences. Other songs that pack a wallop include ‘Breaking Records’ in which the singer literally smashes her vinyl collection to erase memories of a relationship (the song also includes a coincidental but timely reference to Prince’s ‘Little Red Corvette’), and the aforementioned ‘Long Way From Waylon’. One of the lines that Megan delivers to the song’s outlaw wannabe is ‘Your country’s watered down’, and one wonders if this might in fact be her commentary on the current state of country music.
“Whew, what a loaded question,” she laughs. “Honestly, I’m about good vibes and I never want to hurt anyone. Do I think real country is lacking on radio? I think I do in a lot of ways. That’s not to say what’s out there isn’t good because a lot of the country pop bands have drawn in this younger audience for country. I think there’s a place for traditional and pop country but right now it’s a little lopsided in favour of pop country because that’s what’s really selling right now. I think a lot of people are wanting more of the old school stuff, and I think a lot of artists coming up now, Chris Stapleton for example, are starting to fill that void.”
Meghan is a proficient guitarist and banjo player, but for this record she left matters to session players and sang live off the floor with the band, focusing on her vocals. The results certainly paid dividends as she proves to be one of the most natural and original country voices in recent memory. Since some of the album was recorded in Nashville, Meghan was also able to land a couple of pretty big fish in terms of vocal assistance in the form of Vince Gill and Joe Nichols.
“The song ‘Be Country With Me’ is my favourite song on the record,” Meghan begins. “The story behind it is very autobiographical and true to life. I’m a big fan of Dolly Parton and Bonnie Raitt, the more traditional singers where the vocals are really raw and there’s a big focus on them. On this song there was something beautiful about taking all of the production bells and whistles out and just letting it breathe and having the vocals come through. To have Vince Gill sing, play on it and co-produce, took it to another level. It turned out so beautifully.
“Another favourite of mine is ‘Still Loving You’ which is a duet with Joe Nichols that we recorded in Nashville. I wrote that song with Patricia Conroy who I think is a great Canadian country artist. It’s about cutting ties and walking away from a relationship that’s going south. Patricia came up with the idea for a duet, having a girl and guy who are on the same page singing this to each other. I thought Joe would be perfect because he has that old country feel in the way he sings, and he’s young, good looking and current. Chad knows Joe and he played him the song, and he loved it and was into doing it.”
Meghan says that ‘Who Knows’ was inspired by her current boyfriend who was also the inspiration for the other “happy songs” on the album. But then there are the not-so-happy songs like ‘Nothin’ But A Song’, in which she takes aim at guys who don’t hold up their end of a relationship. She hopes that this song will not only be embraced by females, but will also serve as a signal that women are ready to reclaim their rightful place on country radio.
“I know women are going to love that song,” she says. “It’s a women empowering kind of thing. It’ll be interesting to see how guys react. I’m not hating on all guys, just the crazy, bad-ass ex-boyfriends. As far as radio goes, women have been missed a lot and it’s been a very male dominated industry. I think we’re making a comeback. There are a lot of great female artists out there and radio’s starting to get on board. We’re kicking ass and taking names.”