When we last saw Meiko (mee-ko), the singer-songwriter was touring in support of her self-titled debut and hit single “Boys With Girlfriends,” which hit No. 1 on the iTunes Singer-Songwriter Album and Singles charts, respectively. Among the many highlights: coverage in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today, TV appearances on “Conan” and “Last Call with Carson Daly,” and multiple television song placements, including prime spots on “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Not bad…especially when you consider it wasn’t all that long ago that she was waiting tables in Hollywood.
A Georgia native, Meiko got her start at the famed Hotel Café in Hollywood, where she was a waitress and performer before local and national buzz allowed her to put aside her drink tray for good. “I am now officially retired from the waitressing field,” she muses. “Getting up in the morning and writing songs is my new profession.”
Listen to her songs in a single setting and it’s clear that she’s very good at her job. A songwriter with a keen eye and vivid narrative gift, Meiko collects jagged moments and devastating conversational flashes and turns them into deceptively simple tunes with hushed, gentle tones and stunning detailed imagery.
Heartbreak has never sounded as lush or felt as wrenchingly familiar as it does on her breathtakingly beautiful debut. The album finds the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter simultaneously tough, tender and funny on songs that explore loss and loneliness but remain hopeful. “I don’t write love songs,” she says. “I write frustrated love songs.”
Many of the songs on her Lucky Ear/MySpace Records/DGC debut were sharpened on the Hotel Café stage, and then recorded over the course of two years, often in wine-fueled late night sessions. “I had no money to record, so I wound up calling in lots of favors, usually recording at 3AM when the studio wasn’t being used by other bands.”
Self-released by Meiko in ‘07, the disc was the No. 1 Folk Album on iTunes with more than 200,000 downloads. She also earned regular play from LA tastemaker KCRW and key placements on prime-time television, including a prominent spot on the season premiere of Emmy-winning TV show “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Intense label interest followed and Meiko eventually signed with MySpace Records and DGC (Lucky Ear is her own indie label), sensing their commitment to nourishing her as an artist. “I feel like I’ll be given the creative freedom I need to flourish”, she says, “rather than be pressured to put out music I’m not comfortable with.”
Months after its initial release, the album was remixed, remastered and includes re-recorded versions of fan favorites along with a brand-new track/lead single: “Boys with Girlfriends,” a jaunty send-up of the dangers of befriending gents with jealous girlfriends. Among the album’s many highlights is “How Lucky We Are,” a sumptuous folk-pop confection; “Under My Bed,” which showcases the versatility and strength of Meiko’s stunning voice as she considers the souvenirs left behind by a former flame; and the spare and compelling “Reasons To Love You.”
And though her music is inspired as much by Sade and Cocteau Twins as by Patty Griffin and Nina Simone, Meiko credits her father as being the most important influence in her life. She grew up in Roberta, GA (population 808) in a log cabin (really) built by her dad. Her folk-pop sensibility is a mix of his favorites, which included classic rock staples from the likes of The Eagles and The Allman Brothers. “He had this beautiful old Gibson guitar,” she recalls, “and he played and sang for me ever since I was a baby. Of course, back then I didn’t realize that he was playing covers, so I was pretty surprised years later when I heard some band named Led Zeppelin playing my father’s song—‘Stairway To Heaven’—on the radio.”
After high school, Meiko moved to Los Angeles, started attending open mic nights and cut her teeth on the Hotel Café stage. She got the chance to open for Patty Griffin, whose album Living With Ghosts changed her life. “When my boss at the Hotel Café asked me to play that gig, I swear I almost lost it. I mean, sharing the bill with Patty Griffin was a huge deal to me.”
“I wanna get my music to as many people that will listen,” she says. “Most important of all, I wanna reach the headphones of that girl in that tiny town, like me way back when, and let her know that there’s a whole other world out there.”