Meaghan Blanchard grew up in a family that made music. Her grandparents were ‘home town’ country singers on P.E.I. and Meaghan grew up listening to them playing. It wasn’t long before she started to write her own songs; she recorded her first album when she was 18. Since then she's been traveling the world and making music.
Strong Roots (Profiles in Canadian Roots Music): Meaghan Blanchard
I talk to Meaghan Blanchard about telling stories through song, being struck by inspiration and the importance of self-care to artists.
The country music that she heard as a child had a strong influence on her. Meaghan says, "Friends, fans and people in the industry say I have a real 'country' voice but I pair it with songs that are more towards the roots/ Americana side of things. In high school, I went through a folky phase, so I listened to people like Patty Griffin and Tom Petty. I like to listen to female songwriters from the east coast like Catherine MacLellan, Amelia Curran and Rose Cousins. Those gals really paved the way for female musicians and songwriters out here."
Telling the stories of hometown heroes is something that Meaghan enjoys. She explains, "I do feel that I have a gift for writing songs that tell other people's stories. We just recorded a song called Angelina Bridgette, a song that is about my great-grandmother, who worked on P.E.I. She started a strawberry farm so she could make enough money to go to Boston where she studied nursing and had a heartbreak while down there too. I love writing songs about people whose stories are resonant. It can really make an audience feel their pain or their happiness. It’s a beautiful thing."
Meaghan admits that she isn't a songwriter who puts pen to paper every day. Instead she says, "I'll pick up a guitar and sit on the deck at the back of my house. It's super inspiring there, but sometimes I just don't feel that energy. I used to get really worked up when it wouldn't come to me, but I've learned to relax with it. Creativity comes in waves for me, so as long as I take care of myself, it seems to always come back."
As Meaghan's songwriting has evolved, she's developed a unique way of working. She says, "There are two people in my brain. There's the creative and there's the critic. To write the songs, I let the creative take over. When I'm done, I let the critic in to take a look at how my audience is receiving this or if I'm using the best words in the right places. It's really hard to be creative when you're critiquing your work as you're doing it. I edit after the inspiration has waned."
Finding a good balance in life can be a challenge for musicians. Meaghan points out, "I spent my teens and early twenties like somewhat of a vagrant. I had an apartment, but I traveled everywhere. In the last year there's been quite a shift in my life. I've had some amazing experiences including having a few friends pass away. It changes you. I've realized that for me to take care of myself I need to have a home and something to keep my feet on the ground. I’m also getting married this year."
One issue that Meaghan sees for musicians is artist burn out: "You see these artists who want to be busy but it gets excessive.Their faces are all over the place but they don't have an income. You meet them at conferences and festivals and they just seem so burned out. I always think of my old manager who used to say that this generation of musicians needs to work smarter and not harder."
Making art that can both fulfill and generate a meaningful income is something about which Meaghan has done a lot of thinking. As she says, "Now you can develop a phenomenal group of true fans who will stick with you no matter what. There are so many little markets right now that you don't need to be the next huge star to make it. I believe that you can have a beautiful life and a fan base that supports you."
Generally Meaghan has positive things to say about the folk/roots music scene on the East Coast. She says, "On the east coast, we have some incredible writers coming up. I run a song camp for young female songwriters and these girls are so amazing! They grew up in a scene where there weren't all of these live shows, they were all online. Their Instagram accounts have more followers than I'll ever have and they're just starting out. It’s such a different generation. They're just so plugged into that and they know how to generate income from it."
In the immediate future, she's going to continue to work on her new record. She says, “Right now my goal is just to make my songs the priority. The songs I've written now are some of the strongest that I've ever written. I want to put this record in the hands of people who are also authenticity seekers. I want to find fans, a booking agent and a label that have the same kind of values that I do. I'm just going to see where it takes me."
Taking care of herself is the biggest factor that Meaghan cites in keeping herself motivated. She elaborates, "I'm also trying to be a friend to my creativity because the lifestyle that musicians can lead can be so detrimental to creativity. I've really been delving into really good books on vulnerability, mindfulness and meditation. I've been taking walks on the beach when I can, just to help take care of myself. All of that really motivates me to keep on making music."
For more information on Meaghan Blanchard, please visit her here.
This profile is based on a telephone interview conducted and recorded on May 6, 2017.