“I’ve spent the last four years reflecting on a lot of changes that have taken place — emotional and physical changes. There were a lot of pivotal moments in my life that took place over that (time) that I’ve now decided to reflect on and leave behind. My grandmother passing away (in 2010) was a huge deal for me. That was the year I had planned to start working on a debut album with a band but I ended up having some troubles and wasn’t feeling up to that amount of organization, so I went ahead and started just doing things for myself, performing on my own. It was easier. I could be my own boss and write my own stuff at my own pace, and practice at my own pace.”
There’s an aura that surrounds Maggie Meyer. The 24-year-old soul singer and folk songwriter is many things at once, but it’s her honesty that emanates most, both from her personality and from her songs. It’s a comforting assurance that, when you hear her sing, you’re listening to something pure.
An album, a family affair
In fact, that’s the substance all soulfully packaged into a sincere debut album called ‘Bound’, which she’s releasing tonight at The Ship in St. John’s.
Produced by Meyer’s father, Dave Panting, mixed by her uncle, Geoff Panting, and with artwork design from her sister Jessie, Bound is something of a “family affair,” Meyer explains, sipping a pint at The Ship on a sunny fall afternoon late last week.
But that’s the only way she would have it, she says. Bound was a long time coming. Five years ago, fresh out of high school and around the time she released her self-titled EP, Meyer opened for Canadian songstress Sarah Slean at Holy Heart Auditorium. It was a big moment for a 19-year-old who barely had her feet wet in the local music scene. And it was in large part due to the influence and support of her parents, she says.
“My father was always encouraging us to be comfortable on stage. Mom and dad put us in all kinds of lessons: vocal lessons, choral training, piano lessons — anything that would help us develop a comfort with (performing). Dad has some recordings of us from when we were six or seven singing Itsy Bitsy Spider,” Meyer laughs.
“With my mom it was everything emotional and spiritual and philosophical. She taught us, in a really humanitarian way, that it was important for us to express ourselves and be honest…” – Maggie Meyer
“As I got older dad … showed up at gigs and would help me with sound, so he was sort of my technical assistant for free, which was awesome. He also helped me buy a really beautiful guitar, so he’s also my sponsor, apparently. Over the years he’s actually lent me three beautiful guitars, so he’s been lending me gear as well. And now, finally, he not only produced this album, let me use all his gear for free, showed up at most of the gigs to see how it was going, helped me with certain arrangements, accompanied me on several tracks on the album, and (he also) roped Geoff in to engineer it,” she laughs.
“With my mom it was everything emotional and spiritual and philosophical. She taught us, in a really humanitarian way, that it was important for us to express ourselves and be honest and, if you want to get up on stage and sing, then you should get up on stage and sing. And if you want to go play in bars then you should go play in bars. And if you want to be honest in your poetry then be honest in your poetry. I mean, when I was 16 she was editing poetry for me.
“So my parents have both, in really different ways, helped me in my evolution. I still have a really, really far way to go in my technical guitar skills and my technical songwriting skills, but that will come. I have a lot to learn.”
Exploring a range of emotions
Meyer’s songs on Bound range from soul-bearing explorations of emotional highs and lows (“Ships”, “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore”), to personal homages to individuals who’ve had “a very positive effect on my life” (“Open Heart”, “Angelina”), to the “saucy” number “I’ll Get Mine”.
Musically, the album features Meyer on acoustic guitar, with support from her father (check out the beautiful mandolin lines on opening track “Open Heart”) on nylon-stringed guitar, mandolin and acoustic bass.
Title track “Bound” holds a lot of meaning for Meyer, who penned the album’s nine tracks between 2008 and 2012, a period of at-times emotional turbulence.
“The word bound has a lot of different connotations,” she explains. “You’re bound for something, you’re bound to something, you’re bound by something — and this is sort of what I wanted to convey. There’s so many different feelings depending on the context, and even the same feeling or emotion can present itself in different situations, so ‘Bound’ is a song that I wrote to express, OK, anything I’m doing I’m doing for me, and I’m being honest with you and saying that I’m done with that stage of my life — I’m over the experiences that I’ve had already and I really want to move on emotionally, so I’m bound for it.
“There’s zero apprehension, so I really gotta go put on the heels and…play the show.” – Maggie Meyer, from the song ‘Bound’
I’m also bound to it in a lot of ways, which is why I’m waxing on it and writing a song about it and putting it on an album,” she laughs. “So I’m giving it measure in my life, but I’m giving it measure. I’m letting it out on an album that I can later listen to or not: ‘Oh yeah, so that was my getaway song.’ I’m bound. I’m bound to do something else. Everybody is. It’s like, what did George Carlin say? ‘Nobody knows what’s next, but everybody’s doing it!’” she says, laughing.
“So that’s kind of where I was with that. And this album’s like, OK, these are the feelings I’ve had over the past four years, this is what happened, these are some people that affected my life in various ways, and this is how I feel. You’re invited to go through this with me if you like.”
Meyer will share her CD release with friend and fellow songwriter Lindsay Ferguson, who is visiting from Wakefield, Que. and celebrating the release of her new album ‘Monkeys Under Stars’. Local singer Allie Duff will open the show, which begins at 9 p.m. at The Ship Pub in St. John’s.