Meghan Patrick has lived multiple musical lives. The Canadian began her journey as a competitive snowboarder-turned artist who formed her first band before she had a drivers’ license, later becoming part of a jazz band and bluegrass band while in college. But all roads led to Nashville where Patrick currently resides and released her U.S. debut album, Heart on My Glass in 2021, an engaging collection of songs that find the strong vocalist sharing elements of herself that listeners haven’t seen before.
In this edition of Female Friday, Patrick discusses her long and winding musical path, the song that marked her breakthrough moment and the meaning behind Heart on My Glass.
What was it like growing up in Canada and how did it impact you musically?
I grew up in Bowmanville, Ontario. It’s a small town. I was an athlete for a long time through high school and when I was young. Music was always there in the background. My dad plays guitar and my mom was a DJ in college, so she has a pretty epic record collection. We didn’t watch a lot of TV growing up, it was more having records on in the house, so I was inspired by a lot of pretty great music from a young age. I had my first band when I was 13 and we were called The Sirens. I think that was the first taste of being on stage and performing and having a band. At the time, I was a competitive snowboarder and was pretty serious into that. Originally, my big dream was to go to the Olympics. Then when I was in my senior year of high school, I had a really bad fall and broke my back and had some pretty severe injuries, so that put an end to my season and also made me rethink. It scared me a little bit because I was lucky to be walking after that injury. The recovery was pretty rough and long, and I really turned to music a lot while I was recovering and started writing a lot of lyrics and was listening to a lot of music, and that was what helped me with my recovery. Then I decided instead of going back to snowboarding, I went to McGill University to study music. I actually started in the opera program because I had been taking singing lessons all through high school and my teacher sang opera. I had a big, powerful voice and a lot of range and she was like, ‘you’re going to sing opera.’ I enjoyed singing, I enjoyed the challenge, but when I got to university, I quickly realized that I was not very passionate about opera, but more the singing, and so I switched into the jazz program, which was closer to something that I was passionate about in terms of genre, but still not really it.
While I was in the jazz program, I started another band with a bunch of the guys at school and we had a 10-piece funk, soul power band. That was really fun. We got to tour a little bit, we played some really cool shows. I got to open for Aretha Franklin at Montreal Jazz Fest, she’s my idol, so that was pretty cool. It was fun for awhile, but some of the guys were getting more serious with school or graduating, and it’s financially tough to tour with 10 people not making a lot of money, so we dissipated. I ended up going back home that summer to Bowmanville and I met this guy, Sam, at an open mic. Our parents had known each other for a long time. He was a guitar player, songwriter and we were both playing at the open mic and we became friends and started getting together to play and write and jam. We ended up starting a duo and then we had a band called the Stone Sparrows, which was my bluegrass band. We were pretty serious with that band for about four years. We toured, we made a couple records, and that was what solidified for me that was what I wanted to do.
It got to a point where we were playing a lot and I was also trying to work a part-time job and go to school, and I got to a point where I was like ‘I can’t do all of these things at the same time, it’s not working,’ so I dropped out. I got to that point where I was like ‘I don’t need a degree to do what I want to do. I want to get a record deal, I want a publishing deal and I want to tour and be an artist.’ The couple of years between me getting my record deal and dropping out of school were definitely a test, they were tough for sure. I was really broke and the bluegrass band had broken up, so I was back at square one, and that was the first time I ever really tried to figure out who I was as a solo artist, because I’d always been a part of bands. It was tough. I was really broke and frustrated a lot, but eventually I got my record deal with Warner Music [Canada] and got my publishing deal over at Anthem, and now I’m here.
As you were writing songs, especially in your early days trying to figure out your identity as a solo artist, was there ever a breakthrough moment?
I had started coming down to Nashville at this point to write and I had a co-write with Bruce Wallace and Marty Dodson. I was going through a really terrible breakup at the time, this really abusive relationship. I remember that when I came down to Nashville, it was the first time I’d gotten out of town since everything had happened. I’m from a really small town; unfortunately this relationship involved police and restraining orders, so everybody in town was talking about it and I was feeling so suffocated by this situation because I felt like I couldn’t escape it. When I got to Nashville, I went out with some friends one night and got drunk and I came home and went on my social media and a picture of him popped up and it just messed me up and made me really upset. I remember sitting there being like, ‘I’m not going to drink anymore because if this is what it’s like for me every time I get drunk, I’m going to take two steps back and get all emotional and I don’t need to do that to myself.’ I started talking to Bruce and Marty about it the next day when we were writing and we wrote a song called “I Won’t Drink,” and that was the song I played for Warner Music the first time I went into their office.
In a lot of ways, it was the song that got me my record deal. It was the first song that I think made people pay attention to me, and it was so authentic to me at the time. When I went back home from Nashville, I was sober for awhile. I was like ‘you’re going to stay sober until you’ve got this figured out’ because my emotions were hanging on by a thread that drinking was just going to open the flood gates and I was like ‘I got to keep my sh** together’ [laughs]. I think that was the lesson for me was to write about what you know and write about the stuff that’s not so pretty, the stuff that’s vulnerable and emotional, and nine times out of 10, you’ll find that a lot of people will relate to it and they’ll be happy. That’s that’s all anybody wants. My song is to feel understood and to feel heard and to feel like they’re not alone and to feel like you’re relating to them. It definitely felt like a breakthrough for me. It really inspired me to write more and keep trying to find songs that would impact in the same way. I think something really clicked after that day and it gave me a little bit of confidence, a little more identity and some inspiration, and it made me really fall in love with writing songs.
Tell me about the inspiration behind your album, Heart on My Glass? I know this is your U.S. debut album, so talk about the significance of that and what it was like to create this?
It’s my first official U.S. record since signing my record deal at [Riser House Records]. This past year and a half, it’s been tough for everybody. When the pandemic hit, it was so rough. The first few months of the pandemic, I was severely depressed and it was really tough. I couldn’t get myself out of it. I was angry, I was bitter, I was frustrated. It felt like I had been working so hard and so long and I was on the cusp of this big break, and then it got taken away. I felt sorry for myself for awhile and then I was like, ‘we’re not going to do this anymore. You’ve had your moment, now we’re going to figure out how to make the best of this,’ and so I was like, ‘I need to be writing. I need to take this time to write the best songs I’ve ever written and make a record, and when things do open back up, you can come out of the gate guns blazing with the best music you’ve ever made.’ So that was the goal that I set for myself and when I first started trying to write, I was so blocked, I felt like I had no ideas. I was not inspired or wasn’t feeling creative, and it was really frustrating. I made a deal with myself and said, ‘every single day, you’re going to sit down with your guitar and you’re going to dedicate at least an hour to being creative. You don’t have to write a song. Even if you work on some ideas, play your guitar, come up with some cool progressions, do something that is conducive to writing songs every day.’
I had a write coming up with some really great writers. I was nervous because I was like, ‘I need to get my sh** together and write something cool.’ I remember what triggered it was that I came up with the idea for “Cool About It.” I remember coming home and I stopped at a gas station to grab something and I saw this kid, and they were smoking a cigarette, and something about it looked unnatural. Maybe they just started smoking and they’re trying to look cool. The wheels started turning and I started thinking about Sandy in Grease at the end when she comes out in the black outfit with the cigarette and Danny is losing his mind over her. I was thinking about when you go through a breakup or someone rejects you, a lot of people will try and morph themselves into something that they think is more desirable or cooler, or even put on this front that they’re not hurt, but they really are, so that was where the idea for “Cool About It” came from. We wrote that over Zoom and Corey Crowder ended up doing a track for it and I did the vocals at home. When I got that song back, it was the first glimmer of hope for me during that pandemic because we all were like, ‘this feels like a hit, we love this song.’ I needed that bit of confidence or something to trigger the creativity, and then I was really on a roll with writing and feeling super creative.
There are some songs on the record that were written pre- pandemic, for example, “Goes Good With Beer,” “Where You Drink” and “Never Giving Up [On You].” A lot of those songs were created during the pandemic. I felt like I was evolving creatively and musically and I was in a different direction. I’m always going to have songs that are going to be more traditional country or country-rock, but I was bringing in other sounds and genres into my sound. I had all this time to think during this pandemic. I thought a lot about who I was as a person, as an artist, what I wanted this record to sound like and how I could dig even deeper and be more honest and reveal more parts of myself, because I started to realize when I would be writing, I didn’t feel as boxed in or like I was on a deadline to get songs done for a record. I had a lot of days where I would go in and [say] ‘let’s try something weird or different today,’ and those songs ended up being some of the songs on the record and some of my favorite songs that I’ve written. What it made me realize sitting down and listening to songs with [boyfriend Mitchell Tenpenny] or Jennifer [Johnson], our president at Riser, I would say, ‘I don’t know if this is me, I don’t know if this sounds like me,’ and she said, ‘your voice is very specific and very unique. Everything you sing sounds like you.’ Especially talking to [producer Joey Hyde], he’s like, ‘when it comes to the production, I can make anything be cohesive with your sound. We can make it all fit together.’ I needed something a little bit different. I was evolving and I wanted different ears and a different approach for these new songs. I think it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my career was to work with Joey. The result I think this is the most ‘me’ sounding record. Not that my other records were not authentic, they were authentic to who I was at the time, but they also were showing one part of who I was. Now I feel like I’ve brought out a lot more layers of myself in this record.
What are some of those sides of you that we see in this album that we didn’t see before?
I think a lot of it is musically, the influences brought in. Songs like “Better Story,” there’s a more blues, almost gospel feel to that I’ve never put anything out like that before. Even “Cool About It” is a different vibe for me as well. “Liar Too” almost skews over to the pop, punk, rock world Paramore thing, which is exactly what my reference was for that song before we went in the studio. We’ve got this big epic outro guitar, which is awesome. Even the moment at the end of “Better Story,” having that a capella moment with the choir. Not making three minute songs and putting them together in a record, but having moments and bringing more of my flavor and not being so worried about ‘it’s going to be three minutes for radio.’ “Belong in Boots,” for example, I used to have that funk band, and I felt like we brought in a little bit of that funk flavor. I feel like this record is a little bit of a shout out to my past as well and my previous inspirations. I wouldn’t say I was worried, but I was a little nervous about this record, because this is different than anything I’ve put out. I hope people are going to like it. It’s been interesting to see that listeners are not finding it to be that much of a jump as I thought they would. I think that means we did a great job. People are hearing it and it sounds authentic and sounds like me, then that’s great. That’s what I’m aiming for.
What impact do you hope to have on country music?
I think the thing that I strive for, and also the thing that can make this one of the most frustrating industries to be in, I’m really striving for authenticity and to be unique. I want to make music and create a brand and a style of music that is so unique to me and that is going to have longevity. I want to make music and put out songs that matter beyond a one-year life at radio. I want to be one of the names that people bring up when people talk about women in the nineties in country, Trisha [Yearwood] and Reba [McEntire] and Shania [Twain]. I want to be in those names when people talk 20 years from now about who the trailblazers were, who the women that made an impact were. I don’t want to chase trends or what’s working for other people at radio, I want to create my own thing and make it work. I want to sell out arenas and stadiums, because in the end, awards and radio and all that stuff is awesome, but there’s no politics or faking fans. You can’t really buy yourself fans, you can’t make people show up to your shows and buy your records and wear your merch and sing every word in the front row. That’s the kind of stuff that is the most valuable to me.