Every so often I have an incredibly touching and meaningful interview and it isn’t because it’s with someone who was necessarily a personal idol of my adolescence, but because I get to chat with an undeniably admirable musician, who actually really seems to open up to me about their craft and what they’re all about in a way that they seem to rarely do. Such was the case when I recently got a chance to chat with Meredith Sheldon for the first time. Meredith has been making music for a few years now, although her debut LP is yet to be released. Her sound is highly introspective, equally inspired by rock and the classical. She’s a singer/songwriter, but one that would seem to be more inspired by the most poignantly alternative pop icons of the ‘80s and ‘90s than the kind of music that would find its way into a coffee house or a dinner theatre setting. She’s certainly a bit fuzzy, a bit twee, and a bit classically “alternative.” She spent much of last year on the road supporting Johnny Marr, after previously supporting the Lemonheads. Meredith Sheldon’s about to kick off another extensive string of dates doing opening duties for The Smiths’ guitarist, which will have her at Union Transfer on Monday, November 10th. In our recent chat she told me all about her time traveling with Mr. Marr, her approach to being a public figure, and what it’s like to be an artist responsible for every aspect of her career all on her lonesome.
Izzy Cihak: I must admit, there’s very little information available about you, so I’m curious: Is there anything you think is particularly significant for fans and potential fans to know about you as an artist?
Meredith Sheldon: I have not been very “out there” about myself, this is true. To be honest, I have always been deeply uncomfortable with the interview process or anything that made me seem like I was trying too hard or being egocentric. Then I realized that withholding information was just another way of being egocentric… there, now I’ve said it! I’m trying to be more open and balanced about it now. So, given that… I don’t really know what to say… music for me is a fertile, tumultuous ground. I became obsessed with Hendrix at 9 and took up electric guitar, I did kung-fu, I was a classical ballerina for a while, I studied classical singing. I care a lot about people and my relationships and healing, becoming a more honest and aware person, and I am mostly trying to integrate all of this into my music in a genuine way. I think I’m getting closer. I hope that it resonates with people wherever they are at in their own lives and brings some inspiration, at the very least, some joy.
Izzy: What have been the highlights of your solo career, so far?
Meredith: The friends you make when you travel with people for such a long time, and the silliness that ensues… and seeing little kids at concerts with earmuffs. And the people who love music so much that they are childlike in their joy. And the experience of standing alone in front of thousands of people — that is such a surreal, weird thing, it is definitely a highlight for some part of me, even if another part thinks it’s terrifying.
Izzy: I understand your debut album is coming soon. What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences, both musical and otherwise?
Meredith: Some of the material on this album has been in the works for years. It will surely have elements of all of the talented people I have toured with over time, as I have been a fan of all of them and I probably naturally absorbed some of their aesthetic. I have found musical inspiration in so many places along the way… grunge, Puccini, Billie Holiday, on and on. But above all, I could say transition: physical transition, emotional transition, the general unsteadiness and ungrounded-ness of my recent adult life, moving all of the time… seeking grounding and at the same time running from it. That’s the most significant influence.
Izzy: You’ve spent a fairly substantial amount of time on the road with Johnny Marr over the past two years, which just seems like it would be an amazing experience. How is it being on the road with Johnny? How would you characterize your relationship?
Meredith: It has certainly been a wonderful experience to get to spend this time with Johnny and his band, his crew, his family, who are all such amazing people. It has changed my view of what touring could be like to see the way they carry such a great show whilst staying healthy and in harmony with one another. I have learned a lot from them on many levels. And boy, do they make me laugh… I really can’t speak highly enough of that bunch.
Izzy: And what can be expected of the live experience this time around, as you’re about to kick off yet another lengthy run of dates with him?
Meredith: I am looking forward to this run — it will be the first time I have played by myself in years, which is a bit scary, but also exciting. I am thinking a lot about what it means to show up as my whole self, what I have been holding back in the past, what I have been hiding behind bandmates or this rocknroll attitude (which is great, but only when it’s honest). In reality, I’m a lot of things… rocknroll sometimes, but also soft, introspective, and whether that’s cool or not, it’s true. So, I’m intending to just be all of those things without apology or censoring and see what happens. I think it will certainly be more dynamic than my past performances. I hope so, anyway.
Izzy: Since 2014 is coming to an end, I’ve been asking artists if they’ve had any favorite releases of the year or favorite performances they’ve experienced. Have there been any records or live shows that have really stood out to you?
Meredith: Well, of course there’s Playland, Johnny Marr’s stunning new record. And, in all honesty, he puts on one of the best live shows I have ever seen. I have also really enjoyed Robert Plant’s new record, Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar. He just continues to amaze me… that man sings like a newborn screams, totally connected, masterful in everything from growl to whisper.
Izzy: What do you have planned for 2015, in addition to your debut LP? I’d love a chance to get to see you headlining in a more intimate room.
Meredith: I have no musical plans beyond this tour and finishing my record (at long last), but that is not unusual for me. Things tend to piece together as I go along. It would be nice to do some headlining shows sometime, I will have to talk to my manager (me) and agent (me) about organizing that. Maybe it will be at your house…