Interview: Meghan Patrick Breaks Free With New Album, ‘Heart on My Glass’
Meghan Patrick has been here before: Five years ago, in April of 2016, the Bowmanville, Ontario, native was releasing her major-label debut album in her home country of Canada.
On Friday (June 25), she'll do it again — only with several Juno and Canadian CMA Awards nominations and trophies, two Canadian country Top 40 albums and a handful of Top 20 singles (including the No. 1 "Walls Come Down") to her name. Heart on My Glass, Patrick's new album, is the third with Warner Music Canada, but her first with the U.S. label Riser House Records.
"I figured out pretty quickly, moving down to Nashville and all that, nobody really cared about what I'd already done in Canada. It was kind of just irrelevant to them — and, honestly, almost a bit of a stigma," Patrick shares via Zoom, coincidentally during a brief trip back to her home country, "... and so I accepted pretty quickly that if I was going to really pursue a career in the U.S. that I was starting basically from square one."
Don't get her wrong, though: Patrick isn't bitter. Her voice is matter-of-fact as she shares that living in Nashville and having a career in the States has always been her goal. If she has to start back over — if she has to do a radio tour to get her name and music out there, and if the paychecks are a little smaller and the travel isn't as comfortable as she's used to in Canada — she's ready to do it.
She's got the grit for it. The former competitive snowboarder and lover of most things outdoors has known she can sing well since she was a pre-teen, but music took a backseat to snowboarding until an accident on the slopes during her senior year of high school left her with a broken back and collar bone, and a severe concussion, ending her plans for a professional career in the sport.
"What I learned as an athlete in training — resilience and commitment and dedication and mental toughness — all of those things I feel like really, really have benefited me as an artist," Patrick reflects. "There's a lot of similarities there, too: Things can change so quickly in sports or in music, for better or for worse ... and there's not a lot of money in it ... [so you're] staying and doing it for the passion and the love of it ...
"I mean, I've had some tough coaches in my life, whether it was snowboarding or gymnastics, and they had no mercy," she adds, "and neither does the music industry."
After that fall, Patrick dove more deeply into her love of music, writing songs as she recovered and choosing to study music in university. "The thing about Canada, though is ... their programs are still very traditional compared to some of the music programs in the U.S.," Patrick explains — which is how she wound up studying opera.
"I did my first year, and, honestly, I hated it," she continues. A switch to her school's jazz program was ... well, fine, but still not quite right; it did, however, afford her opportunities to play live until she moved back to the Toronto area for a different music-focused course of study (she eventually dropped out of college in favor of actually pursuing her career). There, she started a bluegrass band, the Stone Sparrows, who played Ontario's first two Boots and Hearts Music Festivals before breaking up.
"Bluegrass was my gateway drug into country," says Patrick, who grew up around plenty of country music fans but didn't listen to it much herself until her early 20s. She grew up on southern and classic rock, blues, Motown and soul, and "will probably always been in a [Led] Zeppelin phase," she jokes.
"A big part of [getting into country music] for me was the exposure to the fans, and just the whole atmosphere around country music," Patrick explains, recalling her first experiences at Boots and Hearts. "I was like, 'I love these people. These people are awesome. This is a great vibe. These are my kind of fans and my kind of people' ... So I kind of, like, tried everything on first and landed in country music, and it just fit like a glove."
Despite her varied influences and training, Patrick says she found herself feeling like the "poster child" for traditional- and rock-influenced women in the Canadian country music, "but there were so many other parts of me musically and sonically that I was pushing aside because I got to a place where I was worried, like, 'Well, that's not my sound,' or, 'People aren't going to like that because they expect this of me.'" Heart on My Glass branches out, for example with the soul-inspired, piano-driven ballad "Better Story" and the funky "Belong in Boots."
The COVID-19 pandemic helped Patrick tap into those new-to-her sounds, even as she was dealing with difficult emotions regarding the related shutdowns. She spent the time in Nashville with her boyfriend, fellow artist Mitchell Tenpenny, the couple supporting each other as they both watched 2020's big plans and special moments — Patrick's chance to perform at the Junos and play a number of major U.S. festivals, for example — be canceled, postponed and altered, and worried about when they'd get to do their jobs again.
"We woke up every day, and we chose each other [and] didn't give up on each other even when things got really, really hard," Patrick says. But, unencumbered by deadlines, she "had a lot of days where I'd be like, 'Let's just try something kind of weird today' ... because the pressure was off.
"And those ended up being some of the best songs," she adds. "... I feel like I kind of shook loose some shackles over this past year, in terms of my creativity and my musicality."
As she prepares to release new music, Patrick says she usually feels "equal parts crippling anxiety and self-doubt and, like, excitement." Not this time, though.
"I don't have any anxiety or doubt or anything. I feel very appeased and very proud of what we made, and it feels like, truly, a really authentic, all-encompassing representation of me as an artist," she reflects. "It feels like a very clean-slate kind of next chapter evolution of my music, so I'm really proud of it."
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