Meiko, an indie singer/songwriter out of Roberta, Ga., by way of Los Angeles, released her first album last fall and has since been steadily drawing heaps of praise while scoring legions of fans. You should be listening to her -- and here is why.
Like any new artist working the road and building a following, Meiko, 26, is a busy young woman. She recently played two dates in Austin during South By Southwest; a day later she was in Dallas at Bend Studio and then she headed south to Houston to play her fourth show in only three days.
Due to her hectic schedule criss-crossing Texas, we weren't able to talk in person during her recent visit -- but we were able to catch up via e-mail and discuss her background, music and her latest tour.
Meiko, whose moniker is a childhood nickname handed down to her by her sister, said she started playing music at a young age and had her first performance at a church at the tender age of 8. When she was 13, Meiko's father, tired of her plucking his Gibson, purchased her a guitar of her own -- a gift that ultimately changed the course of her life and set her on a path that will likely lead to musical stardom.
From her own admission, not having much to do while growing up in rural Georgia was possibly as much of a catalyst in fueling her creative endeavors as the gift given to her by her father.
"Boredom! Boredom made me practice and focus. Seriously, there's not much to do in Roberta," said Meiko.
After several years of writing songs, Meiko finally took to the stage at Los Angeles' Hotel Cafe, a venue quickly becoming known for producing talented singer/songwriters, the same place where she worked as a waitress.
"I got in good with the Hotel Cafe booker. After a few months of early shows playing in front of three or four people, I slowly started building a crowd," said Meiko. "Pretty soon after that they started letting me open for bigger acts."
As she slowly gained more and more notoriety, she also got closer and closer to releasing her first album, "Meiko," a project that took years to complete.
"From start to finish it took about two years -- mainly due to lack of funding," said Meiko. "I had to ask lots of favors."
The wait was well worth it.
Meiko's debut album is incredibly solid and boasts several tracks that have garnered the attention of radio stations, TV producers and even several hard-to-please critics in the blogosphere. That is quite an accomplishment for an independent artist who doesn't have the support of a major label.
Meiko, who lists some of her influences as Patty Griffin, Sade and Portishead, as well as a few other girls with guitars, skillfully carries a live show with only her guitar and sense of humor as her accompaniment. Not to downplay her musical ability, but the main appeal to Meiko's music is the combination of her lyrics and voice, which at times can be cute and sexy or equally empathetic and full of emotion. In between songs she deftly engages the crowd with adroit cleverness and flirty banter. She is playful and charming and it translates seamlessly into her music.
Meiko kicks off her album, which was recorded with a complete band, with the delicate love song, "Reasons To Love You." To me, the opening track sounds like an ode to someone that either doesn't exist yet or is very new to her as evidenced by her pining for love and being ready to "want to feel how I want to feel forever."
After the opening track, Meiko jumps forward into appreciating the 'here and now' of a relationship with the song, "How Lucky We Are," and then explores the pain and loss of relationships that have ended with lyrics such as "I try so hard not to notice. I try so hard not to care. I try so hard to know that you're not here," in "Piano Song."
From there the album has a very natural ebb and flow between love song, breakup song, culminating with the final two tracks "Under My Bed" and "Hawaii," the latter of which was featured on an episode of "Grey's Anatomy."
Meiko said she believes that her appeal is due in large part because her audience can relate to her songs, and I couldn't agree more. While simple, Meiko's music is honest, catchy and utterly unpretentious while her voice is soft, breathy and irresistible.
So where can you hear Meiko's music?
Like many independent artists today, Meiko forsakes a large-scale, traditional Web site in favor of using MySpace as a means of marketing and connecting with her fans -- what that also means is you can hear a few of her songs on her MySpace page, MySpace.com/Meiko. Not hindered by a big-name label, Meiko has graciously placed her entire debut album on her Web site, MeikoMusic.com, where visitors can listen for free as much as they like. This is highly recommended.
As unpretentious as her music is, Meiko is even more so. The singer regularly blogs and interacts with fans, which as of this writing number more than 21,000 on her MySpace page. She candidly writes about anything and everything that may cross her mind -- and gauging the response from fans, they are eager for more.
"I love interacting with my fans. That's the beauty of having an outlet like MySpace; It's so important to have an open dialog with the people that are listening to your music," said Meiko.
In March, Meiko joined other talented and up-and-coming singer/songwriters on the national Hotel Cafe Tour -- an honor she marks as one of many highlights in her burgeoning career.
"Hearing myself on KCRW, the Los Angeles NPR radio station -- getting to play at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles and generally just being given the opportunity to tour. Oh! Another highlight was definitely performing in my home town of Roberta," Meiko said.
In October, her debut release will already be one year old and many, myself included, are already wondering when her sophomore release will be ready. While she said she has plenty of material for her second album she has revealed no timeframe for its release.
"I've started to demo a few, but it's way early in the process," said Meiko. "I am always writing, so I've got plenty of songs in the back of my mind."
Hopefully her second release will not take as long to surface as her first.
Meiko said she wasn't sure when her tour bus would swing back through North Texas, but did say that due to her love of Texas barbeque she hoped it would be sooner rather than later.
Go now. Give her a listen.
On The Web:
Web Site: Meiko On MySpace
Web Site: MeikoMusic.com