Interview: Meghann Wright on Making It as a Musician, Warped Tour & her New Album 'Nothing Left to Lose'
It's hard out there for career musicians, and that's something that singer-songwriter Meghann Wright knows all to well. A bluesy rocker from New York by way of every other genre on the planet and Hawaii, Wright knows the struggle is real. From the pain and passion in her lyricism to her musician community The City and The Heart, Wright is looking to alleviate the hardships of the world for those around her.
Born to two music loving parents, a classical musician mother and a rocker father, Wright was always surrounded by notes as a child. "For me, growing up music was my whole life. I did other stuff obviously, but it was a constant. I never wasn't listening to music unless I was in like class or at a job where I couldn't listen to music," she said.
Thought her parents never imagined her as a musician, after graduating college Wright moved to New York City to pursue that dream in the December of 2008 and hasn't looked back since, weaving a community and sound for herself as a solo artist after years of being a "gun for hire" guitarist and bassist.
Fresh off a North American tour, now Wright is prepping the release of her new album Nothing Left to Lose filled with biting music, honest lyricism and catchy blues music that recalls the best of the Lillith Fair artists of the '90s.
MT: Was it a hard transition going from a hired guitarist and bassist, to being a singer?
MW: Yeah. I was in a bunch of different bands; I either played bass or guitar usually. I guess the hardest part was learning to sing and play at the same time because I hadn't really done that so much. It's weird because it's so effortless now, but at the time when I was still learning, it felt almost impossible. I didn't understand how people did it.
MT: I imagine it would be like rubbing your belly and patting your head type of thing.
MW: Yeah exactly.
MT: Since you moved to New York, you seem to be really inspired by the city. What is it so much about Brooklyn and New York that resonates with you?
MW: I don't know. I love New York because it's just full of so many people. You're constantly surrounded by millions of people, but at the same time you feel isolated and lonely. I think one of the ways that people cope with being around each other all the time is by kind of ignoring them. If you get on the subway, everyone's got headphones on or they're trying to avoid eye contact and stuff. It's weird.
If you really take the time to think about these people, everybody's living their own life. Everyone's got their own challenges and own dreams and aspirations and their own suffering and all this stuff. So many of them came here because they had a dream. They were motivated to become something or do something or anything and when you really look at them and think of them it's like you're watching a million little movies all playing out at the same time. One within the other within the other within the other. Everyone's so different; they come from everywhere. They might not speak the same language as you, they might have different values than you -- that's just really incredible.
MT: When you moved to NYC you started your community The City and The Heart. Can you tell me more about that?
MW: When I first came here and I was trying out all the singer-songwriter things, I was doing open mic nights and different little jam nights in the city, and I kept meeting more and more women who had a similar story to me. They came from somewhere else and they wanted to do music, but they didn't really know how. They didn't know how to get booked for shows, they didn't know how to find other bandmates, they didn't know how to get themselves recorded affordably or for free, stuff like that. So I just kind of ended up trying to help with whatever I could. Then people started sending people my way like, "Hey, I heard from my friend that you help out doing stuff and maybe you could help me with this?" So it just kind of became a community on its own.
Then, I got it in my head that I wanted to make a record featuring all these women that I was meeting. So a friend of mine, Tatiana Moroz, got us some time at Premiere Studios and we recorded some songs there. And some of the women actually submitted songs that they had already had recorded and we put out the compilation record last year. There's like 19 artists on it. You can actually go get it for free if you want. It's a bandcamp, it's thecityandtheheart.bandcamp.com.
MT: Very cool.
MW: We had a bunch of showcases. We did one last year that was a fundraiser for Safe Horizon and actually this year on Warped Tour I'm going to be traveling with a compilation of new ones. So it will be Volume 2 and donations that I receive from that will also be going to Safe Horizon as well.
MT: Can you tell me more about the new compilation?
MW: Yes, it's going to be featuring some of the same artists and some new artists and again, it will be for free, but if people want to donate money to the record itself, any of the donations are going to be going to Safe Horizon. Basically, they're assistance and shelter and a lot of other services for victims of domestic violence.
MT: When you were on your last tour, you did your series of Cover America. Are you done with that tour now? Did you have a favorite song that you discovered when you were on tour?
MW: Yeah, it was actually cool. With my band and every city we were in, I was like, "I wonder what I should do today?" I'll just look up bands, but some I wouldn't know and somebody else would be like you should do this one, it's so great. So yeah, I can't even remember the name of the band, its like Margot & the Nuclear So and So's or something like that. I think so. But we did a song of theirs called "Broadripple Is Burning." We were in Indiana and Sean Donnelly from The Green Gallows is from Indiana, so we knew him and we sang that and that was really fun. I think my favorite one we did was a Kings of Leon song, or wait no that wasn't Akron. I think it was Tulsa.
MT: Yeah, they're from Oklahoma.
MW: I'm pretty sure it was Tulsa, but we ended up putting the phone to videotape up on top of the van and I sang and Sean played guitar and then the drummer actually played drums like on the van door.
MT: You're about to head out on Warped Tour next month. Can you tell me more about your plans for that?
MW: I'm definitely going to be continuing the Cover America Series and I believe it's going to be exclusively premiered everyday when I send a new cover in at Elmore Magazine online. That's where they've been posting the premieres for that for this last tour. So we'll be doing the Cover America Series. It's just a cool way to pay homage to bands that came before.
I'm going to do my best to try to play covers of bands from that town, but also on Warped Tour at some point. And I'm also going to have The City and The Heart compilation and a new record out as well called Nothing Else Left to Lose, which comes out in June right before Warped Tour.
MT: Can you tell me a little more about your album?
MW: It's kind of like a lot of different things. At first I wasn't super stoked about the title, I wanted it to be something else, but me and my management were going back and forth talking about what should this be called. Then I came up with Nothing Left to Lose because it's a lyric from one of my more recent songs I've written called "Leaving Cleveland," which will be on that record. And it was kind of funny, but it was kind of sad, which is how life is.
Not on this last tour, but on the tour before I went through a break-up and I was very sad about it and I partied really hard and ended up, over the course of the tour, losing my wallet, losing my phone and losing my boyfriend and it was just like I lost it all and then I came home and I had to reevaluate my life and figure out who I was and what I was doing and even just my music career, it's hard. You don't make money, unless you're at the top. It's difficult to be a working musician and make a living and adjust to that. I ended up pawning my saxophone; I don't have many belongings left anymore. It's just me, and life goes on. That's literally all I have in life right now, at this point in time. So that's kind of where the title of the album came from.
MT: You'll get there one day.
MW: What do they say? It's about the journey, not the end, not the destination.
Meghann will be playing Saturday May 16 at The Grand Victory in Williamsburg and on Friday, May 29 at Maxwell's in Hoboken.