Meiko is an artist who cannot be categorized. Singer-songwriter. Pop songstress. Indie artist. She gained popularity at the famed Los Angeles night stop for the singer-songwriter set, Hotel Cafe. From there, she bounced from city to country to city, embracing her new surroundings and finding inspiration therein. With a voice like an apparition, Meiko’s melding of interesting sounds furthers her ethereal vibe. She seems to constantly reinvent herself, either that or that constant reinvention is her sound. Either way, her latest release, In Your Dreams, sounds lived in, at once full of promise and melancholy. The album is something to find solace in, and at the same time, to find hope in.
Guitar Girl Magazine communicated with Meiko via email as she’s currently living in Germany to catch up with her about what inspires her, her creative process, and In Your Dreams.
You’ve lived in Georgia, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Germany. Can you talk a little about your physical journey and how that’s influenced you musically?
I’m most inspired while in unfamiliar territories. Once I figure out a place and get stuck in a routine, I barely write. In Germany, even though the language barrier is tough, I find myself writing way more.
I like to get on the train without a particular destination and write in my notebook until the end of the line. It’s so cathartic.
In the early to mid-2000s, especially, Hotel Café was a rich breeding ground for artists, namely singer-songwriters. What was your experience playing there—did you find a group of artists to collaborate and commiserate with, in addition to finding a core fanbase?
Yes. The “regular” artists who played there at that time were very supportive of one another. I remember late nights staying after the bartender had locked the doors, sitting on the floor and passing the guitar around. Cary Brothers, Joshua Radin, Knifey Head … it was a magical time to be a musician.
Was it hard to find a music scene to ingratiate yourself in, in Los Angeles? Did you have an easier or harder time in other cities in which you lived, or was that not even a particular goal of yours at that time?
It wasn’t really a goal when I was in LA—I feel like that scene found me. My goal was just to play open mic nights and get comfortable playing in front of people. The more I played around, the more friends I met, and luckily, the Hotel Café welcomed me with open arms.
Currently living in Hamburg, Germany, I saw on your Instagram feed you played on a German radio station and that you’re finally finding your footing in the city. Share with us your experience so far in getting settled in Hamburg.
Hamburg is amazing. Everyone always talks about other cities in Germany—Hamburg rarely gets mentioned. I feel like it’s on purpose because people don’t want to let the secret out. It’s a city that’s not too small and not too big. It’s the perfect size for me to wrap my head around, be inspired by, and not feel too lost or claustrophobic. I’m absolutely in love with the city.
Your new album In Your Dreams has an underlying current of hope amid this vibe of melancholy. Would you say that’s accurate? And, if so, was that a conscious choice?
Yes, that’s accurate, but I’m not sure it was a conscious choice. It’s just who I am. What I was conscious of, though, was to be as real as possible on this album and not hide behind anything that didn’t feel 100% “me.”
Do you have a clear intention when you begin creating an album, or do you just go with the flow and see where the music takes you?
I like to have a few songs to start with. I record two at a time, usually with lots of space in between. This gives me room to really think about the next batch of songs. I hate being rushed when I’m making an album. My dad always says, “haste makes waste.” SO true!
Your sound changes from album to album. Additionally, you blend a lot of different sounds and even genres; I’d say, quite cohesively on In Your Dreams. Would you prefer to fit into one particular genre, or are you happier creating your own music and your own sound? Do you think clear-cut genres still exist in today’s musical landscape?
I think genres still exist, but the lines are super fuzzy, which is my favorite part. I love being in the fuzz. Sometimes, it confuses people, but that’s what art should do, in my opinion.
What is your creative process? From where do you draw your inspiration?
I’m really loving IKEA lately. I take the train there in the morning and sit in their cafe. In Hamburg, they have a croissant and coffee special for 1.50 euros. I love people watching. There is a group of old men that get together and hang out. Lots of laughing and smiling faces. Damn. I just love IKEA.
Where did you record In Your Dreams, and what was the recording process for the album?
I recorded the album in Nashville with my friend and super-talented musician, Justin Glasco. My son was about 6 months old, and I was itching to get out of the house and make some music. My husband would step in during nap time on some days, and I’d sneak off down the street to record. It was glorious.
Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
I like to record a live version of me playing and singing so I get a natural tempo going. Then I re-record guitars and vocals. I also used a Pearlman microphone this time around that I absolutely loved.
Is there a particular type of guitar you’re drawn to – either in the general sense or at the moment?
I’ve really been loving my Yamaha FS-TA lately! It has a little built-in amp inside, and you can adjust your volume but also add echo and reverb. It sounds so cool and makes me feel like I’m playing in a stadium when I turn it all the way up!
What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
If you’re talking about my vocal tone, it’s definitely changed over the years. I can tell with each record I’ve made how much I’ve matured as a woman (with my writing) and my tone. I love where I’m at right now, all around. Feels good.
Who are your musical influences?
Sade, The Cranberries, Edie Brickell, and Billie Holliday are a few.
What are you listening to right now?
I love this girl named Brika. I also love Garrison Starr and Jadea Kelly. Great songwriting—powerful women. That’s always been my jam.
What would you tell your younger self who is just starting out as a musician?
Don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you how to write a song. You know how. You just have to write more, but don’t change the way you write. That’s unique, and people can’t take that from you.
Alive or dead, who is your dream collaboration—who would you love to play with, have a conversation with, musical or otherwise?
I’d love to have a nice stiff drink with Nina Simone in a smoky bar and talk about songwriting and living abroad.