Badass genre-bending singer-songwriter Megan Blanchard joins us for some fresh roasted brew at Hollywood, CA’s Tiago Coffee Bar + Kitchen to discuss the importance of authenticity, the societal and beauty pressures placed upon women, and putting in kicking ass to get to where she is musically.
So you released a wonderful, beautiful tribute to your grandmother in the form of “Grandma Sing.” I wanted to ask you how the recording and songwriting process for this song was similar or different than that of your past work?
Megan Blanchard: Yeah, I think because it’s very different sounding, I’ve thought about re-branding myself like a new name. I mean, Stalker Kitty was a good name for my grunge band, but it’s a little harder to market yourself like that when it’s just you, you know? As far as songwriting in general, I used to sing songs out a lot more at length, and now they’re a lot more automatic. I write lyrics more quickly, I try not to process them too much with a brain, almost like an improv style. I think they tend to come out a lot better like that, so just a lot less thought and a lot more subconscious. With that particular song, I had actually written the chorus years and years ago. And then when my grandma was in the hospital, I basically was inspired to do the verses. With recording, back in the day I was literally borrowing time from composers that I worked with. They’d be like, ‘Ok, just come in for, like, two hours,’ and they would press record and I would play the whole song. For this song, I worked with a producer who was actually really into helping me get it right. We recorded every instrument separately, I got the opportunity to agonize over it and record my vocals, like, a million times until I was happy with it.
And it’s such a personal piece that it’s understandable if you didn’t want to rush it.
Megan: Yeah. It was great because I learned a lot in the process, and now I’m working on recording myself. I have a very DIY type of spirit.
I feel like you have to nowadays with the way the music industry is. Music labels are dying.
Megan: They are, they’re going down in flames.
Gotta do what we have to do.
And speaking about the music industry and the state of all its craziness right now, music listening is pretty much streaming based.
But also it’s very focused on shorter style releases like EPs and singles as opposed to a full-length album. Why do you think we are in a state that we are in terms of consuming music?
Megan: Well, you know, everybody’s attention spans are a lot shorter in general to consume any kind of media. Like, when I went to film school, they said, ‘Don’t make a film that’s more than five minutes. No one will watch it.’ Now, I’ll do short-length ones that are two or three minutes. But I think my theory would be that back in the day, people used to release incredible albums. And like, when I think about growing up in the late nineties and stuff, there are some albums that I’ll think about that I thought were good back then, and a lot of it was there would be one or two good songs in the entire album, which is bullshit. It was like these labels were just pushing out these albums that aren’t totally up to quality, and then obviously with Napster, we started downloading the singles that were great. So now because of that, everything has to be great. You know, The Beatles caught on to the short songs first, and with pop songs, I think being straight and to the point is what it’s all about now.
Yeah, I mean, of course we’ve got our silly songs that we put on just to listen to and have fun kind of thing, but sometimes they don’t really have substance to them. And I totally agree with what you said about albums, especially back when we were growing up. I think I would only listen to at most half of the album.
I’ve definitely gone back and listened to some albums that I thought were really good, and I’ll be like, ‘Huh? I feel like I liked this a lot more back then.’
Megan: Same girl! It’s almost like, you start thinking about things that could have been improved on.
Yeah. Or maybe like, ‘This song doesn’t quite fit’ kind of thing. And I mean, I feel like that’s kind of how it still is in a way for the people that are making albums right now.
Megan: Oh yeah, totally! They’re pushing them out so fast!
It’s like, ‘Do you have enough experience to write songs about within the maybe six months time period it would take to make a full thirteen song album.
Megan: Yeah. I mean, if you’re like this total creative genius, which some people are, then you can totally do that. But I’m definitely in the opinion and personality of, ‘I’ve written fifty songs and I’m choosing four of them for my EP’ or something like that.
Yeah. And when you really think about it, sometimes a specific thought can really only last for like four songs or even one song kind of thing.
Megan: Yeah. If you’re looking to be thematic about it, then definitely short-form is the way to go.
For sure. So living in L.A., there’s literally music in every corner.
Megan: I think there should definitely be more. *laughs*
There’s no such thing as too much music! *laughs* Do you feel that there’s almost like this publicized competition within the local music scene?
Megan: I personally don’t. I’ve never felt like that here. I’ve always felt like it was more of a community with the musicians that I’ve met, and a lot of them have inspired me to try different things in my music. I mean, I don’t think my music’s exactly like anybody else’s so I don’t feel like I’m particularly in competition in that aspect. I’ve been a hater, like, if I think some of someone’s music is bullshit, I’ll sit there and hate it. *both laugh* But mostly I feel like it’s a cool community, so I don’t really get that whole rivalry thing.
And speaking of music community, we met while working events with Planet LA Music!
Megan: I love you Mark [Nguyen]! We’d be lost without you!
Yes! Go Mark! How important do you think supporting local events and local venues are for independent artists trying to do music stuff on their own?
Megan: It’s super important because it’s like, you support them, but really they support you. They’re giving you a place to play, get new fans, and share your music. That’s what it’s all about. The only bigger thing I played was South by Southwest, but besides that, it’s all about local venues, like, Viper Room, Sunset Strip place. I tried tapping into that area, and there’s a lot of cool stuff going on there, like, jams and stuff for people who aren’t establishing in their own work. They really do their best to support musicians. Doing the Angel City Games the past few years, that’s been one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. I mean, who wouldn’t want to use the thing that’s fulfilling their soul to help people and do something good for the community?
A fun little question for you, if you could choose three artists to go on the world tour with, who would you choose and what would you name your tour?
Megan: For sure I’d have to bring The Brian Jonestown Massacre, like, it’s a no brainer. And then also Bob Dylan, because of why not. Actually, is this a dead or alive thing?
I mean, we have holograms now. *both laugh*
Megan: Oh, man. If I did, like, Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, Brian Jonestown Massacre and then me, that’d be, like, the craziest tour ever! That would be, like, the old-school Stalker Kitty days. *laughs* Ok, so for reals would be The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Bob Dylan, and Chris Cornell, and it would be the ‘Thank God For Mental Illness’ Tour.
And then in partnership with To Write Love On Her Arms and a bunch of other mental health awareness foundations.
Megan: Yeah! Absolutely!
That would be such a cool tour, because you are seeing that a lot more with festivals where they have tents set up for people to talk. The more you talk about it, the more people will accept that life is not all sunshine and rainbows.
Megan: Yeah. It’s so important to make people aware of mental health, and hopefully we can have some kind of progress in it.
I hope so too!
So going into social media, it’s pretty much the prominent form of marketing right now. Do you think that it makes it easier or harder for independent artists to make a name for themselves?
Megan: For sure, easier. It’s definitely a good tool to have. I mean, there’s a lot more noise to cut through, but it’s like, we’re cutting out the labels to the point where we’re not going to need them in a few years. Maybe more like ten years. *laughs*
That’s still a few years. ‘A few’ is a very broad definition. *laughs*
Megan: *laughs* That’s true. But overall, I think it’s great. There’s obviously a lot of social media that just makes me sick, but you know, I think that if you use the stream of consciousness in an authentic way and really make, like, a slice into your life while showing the good and the bad, then you’re doing something worthwhile. I hate people who try to just portray an image of themselves that they want everybody else to see, and I think when you show the inside and the struggles too, that’s really fucking cool. I feel like that’s part of why people like Cardi B have gone, like, supernova because she’s someone who doesn’t really care too much about putting whatever she wants out there, you know?
Yeah. And do you feel that it also kind of adds on a pressure for artists to constantly have stuff going on, or like what you were saying, to portray themselves in certain ways to their audience?
Megan: Yeah. I need to step up my social media game for sure. *laughs* I’ll have fits of it, you know, where I get more constant. There’s like, a pressure to sell out, and to post things that get you likes, which is ridiculous. You’ve got to find your own people and a way to express yourself. But yeah, there’s definitely a huge pressure for that, and you almost have to make it like another full-time job.
As a female singer-songwriter, do you feel that women in the music industry need to portray themselves in certain ways in order to be successful?
Megan: The short answer is ultimately ‘no,’ because I don’t believe that I have to do that, especially for what I want to do. But like, in different genres like rap and pop and stuff, like, fuck yeah you’ve gotta be a certain way, you know. There are so many talented rappers who rap about important things and no one gives a shit, they want you to hear someone rap about getting pussy. Not that I don’t have respect for some of the big rappers out there, because I do, it’s just like a Kardashian nation right now.
Megan: Right!?! Ugh, I hate it! I was watching this video of somebody who did this funny little rant about how girls used to buy makeup and get their hair highlighted, and now they get lace front wigs and injections. You spend thousands of dollars trying to look like someone else.
It’s so true though. I was just talking to another girl about this, and she was like, ‘These middle school girls do make it better than I do. There’s not even the awkward phase anymore.’ Like, I looked fucking ugly when I was twelve, thirteen years old! Now these girls look like they’re twenty and they’re like thirteen.
Megan: It’s so crazy! It’s like, do what makes you happy and what makes you feel good. I’m never going to hate on somebody for doing that, but like, I just think it just shows how fucked up our society right now that there’s such a huge amount of pressure to look a certain way.
Yeah. It’s awful how young girls are growing up so fast. I feel like there’s even more of a pressure to be a ‘grown up,’ and I don’t even remember feeling that amount of pressure when I was younger.
Megan: And it’s not like it’s only fake hair and makeup, like, people are getting surgery and injected with needles and stuff like that.
And that actually could kind of be detrimental to your health.
Megan: Oh yeah, totally! It actually kind of sucks. And it’s like, deep down I feel like that’s not really what makes a person attractive, you know? Like, natural beauty is great too, but sometimes that’s not even enough to make a person attractive. I feel like I’ve always been the most attracted to someone when they’re at their happiest and doing all the things they want, I think that really shines through.
We’re more attracted to people’s energy.
Megan: Totally. But yeah, I feel like I’m inundated with pictures of asses on Instagram. It’s crazy! *both laugh*
So apart from your solo work, you’ve also been a part of musical groups as well. You have Stalker Kitty as your grunge band, and you’ve worked with a few other artists and bands as well. But I mean, it’s pretty rare even nowadays to see not only women fronting bands, but also women just playing an instrument and even having all-female bands that’s not like a girl pop group. Did you think there’s a reason why women seem to be more comfortable in a solo setting as opposed to a group setting for doing music?
Megan: Well, having a band, especially in L.A., for anyone whether they’re a woman or a man, is just unbelievably hard to keep together in the first place. But as women, it’s just harder to do the band thing in general. My particular experience is that every single time I’ve tried to put together a band, most of the musicians are guys, and they want to date you. And then if it doesn’t work out or you don’t want to do that all all, they start giving you shit, or start giving you attitude, or they want to take over the band completely even though I’m the one doing all the writing and I’m the one booking all the shows. I’ve had trouble with people accepting my leadership kind of, I don’t know if that’s because I’m a woman or just because it’s who I am and my personality, but like, it’s just been rough. I’ve tried it many times, and I think a lot of with L.A has to deal with everybody being so overloaded, everybody’s just trying to get by, everybody’s focused on their own thing, the city is so spread out, there’s so much traffic, whatever. There’s a lot of things that play into it, but pretty much every band never tried to put together it’s been because a guy wanted to date me, and you know, that’s just not a good basis for a band.
Nope. I mean, unless you’re already involved and you wanted to do something together, but that would be a mutual decision for both parties.
Megan: Yeah, exactly.
That really does suck, and I hate hearing that kind of thing from female musicians.
Megan: It’s so shitty.
Like, there’s a reason why I wear a fake engagement ring when I go out to try to network or go to a show. It’s like, ‘I want you to fucking take me seriously. I know my shit. Stop trying to flirt with me. I’m actually trying to do something of importance here.’
Megan: It’s almost like guys just don’t even think about that kind of thing.
I don’t know if it’s like a passed down mentality, which sometimes I feel like it kind of is, but there are still old dudes out there, even in our industry, that are like, ‘Women can’t do shit. Women have to be secretaries, or taking care of the kids,’ or something stupid like that.
Megan: Yeah. And it’s like, music is such a sexy industry too, and honestly, it wasn’t too long ago that men were the ones who went to work and men would wear a uniform so everybody would be the same. I mean, now you’ve got these badass women working with men in a sexy industry like music, but there is still this idea that women need to look and act a certain to be taken seriously. And especially if you’re a front-woman or something like that, you’ve got to have this image and this look, you know? I don’t necessarily think it’s a disadvantage or something that’s wrong with men or anything, but it’s a challenge for sure.
Be better music industry! I’m putting that on the record!
Megan: Seriously though! I’ve had people, like, literally tell me that I’m not ready to record. Or if I’m recording solo stuff, like, they’ll ask why I’m not recording stuff with them. Just all kinds of ridiculous shit.
One day the music industry will be a better environment for women.
Megan: I fucking hope so!
So how do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
Megan: Well, I try to balance my day job with my nighttime music career, so I really don’t really know how to. *laughs*
Can we just hire someone to give us a personal life?
Megan: Oh my God, right?!?
I need a personal life intern! Send me your applications! *both laugh*
Megan: Yeah. Music turns into my personal life, you know? I mean, this is pretty much a second job. Like, you have to have an actual career to fund your career that you want to have, and that’s another thing, you can’t really do that either. I mean, I can have a job at Starbucks and another place and then also do my music stuff, but you still have to spend money to make money, you know? You have to spend money to make your music, and voice lessons, and travel to shows, and get a bunch of gear, just to try to make yourself better prepared for that career, only to be making a little bit of money in the process. It really feels like sometimes you invest more into your music than what you receive back.
Yeah. And it’s frustrating because you love it so much and you just want to be properly compensated for it.
If you could give your younger self some advice in regards to what you’ve experienced so far in the music industry or in life in general, what advice would you give her?
Megan: I don’t think I really regret anything. I look at my journey, and I understand how I fell, but I think I still did pretty well. But one thing I would for sure tell myself is to be more disciplined, or maybe even just taught myself like better discipline at a younger age. It’s taken me years to be focused and self disciplined, and it’s still a huge challenge.
That’s why people say it’s so much easier to learn languages when we’re young, because we learn a lot of specific traits and behaviors when you’re young.
Megan: Yes! You can obviously learn good mannerisms, but you can also learn bad ones too, which sometimes makes it hard when growing up.
Yeah. Some people just end up being an asshole when they grow up because they’ve latched on to bad habits they learned when they were younger. *laughs*
Megan: Oh totally. *laughs* There is nothing wrong with being a well-rounded person, but it’s funny that you said that. For me with music, I actually started really late in life, so I sort of believed that you really can’t learn a lot at any age. I started about ten years ago, like, really learning music, and I was kind of tone deaf when I started. *laughs* I was so crazy how much I was after I started taking singing lessons. I’ve just been busting my ass because I have this weird dream in my heart that I needed to do this.
And here you are!
Megan: Here I am! *laughs* Yeah, I think it’s about hard work, and even though I know there are so many more talented people out there, I still really believe in my songwriting and my music. People are like, ‘You’re so talented,’ and I’m like, ‘It’s not a natural talent. I’ve worked extremely hard to get to where I am.’ I really believe that if you work hard on something that you love, then you can do it and pretty much anyone can too.
What do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Megan: I just want to be able to connect with them. I don’t know if I’m trying to get across any specific point, but more than anything, I just want to be authentic and connect with other people who felt the same things as me. Music is a common thread that goes through people’s hearts and helps them through their lives, so I just hope that my music can do that for other people as well.
Yeah. We hear so many stories about people that had a special connection with a certain artist’s story or a certain song that made them change their ways, or made them take back a decision that they thought was rock solid, and it’s just so crazy how strong the power of music is.
Megan: It’s so profound, and I truly believe it’s the greatest art. I’ve literally looked through this journal that I’ve had from when I was like eight years old, and it’s actually really sad looking back on it because it was clear that I was really depressed at such a young age. There were points where I was like, ‘Sometimes I don’t even know how to get through the day except by listening to music.’ Music has always been there for me as long as I can remember.
And that was at a time when mental health wasn’t really something that people wanted to voice. I don’t even remember how many times I’ve been embarrassed to admit that I felt really fucking sad.
Megan: Yeah, it’s almost like we were just afraid of speaking up about it.
Yeah. Luckily, thank God, we’re starting to have artists going out there and being open about their mental health issues.
Megan: It’s so awesome. It’s definitely been one the biggest challenges of my life, and it’s so great to see that now with music and even other kinds of entertainment are showing that a lot more people go through issues than we can see on the surface.
Absolutely. And to end us off, what other big, exciting things should we be expecting from you in the near future?
Megan: I’ve been working on recording an EP, so I’m just trying to focus on that right now. I don’t know if I’m gonna release it all at once yet. I’m thinking about dropping a song and then a music video all in succession, and then putting them together as a full collection for people to listen to. I’ll probably have some aspects of it for sale at my shows, but not officially release the collection until I’m completely done. EP will be Escape From Postmodern Nihilism, so watch out for that!
About Tiago Coffee Bar + Kitchen:
Classic favorites and Angelino culture collide in the form of Tiago Coffee Bar + Kitchen’s food and drink offerings. Local and organic ingredients are the focus of a plethora of soups, salads, sandwiches and (mostly) all day breakfast recipes. While you’re drooling over their menu to see what you want to order, help yourself to one of their many freshly made, perfect temperature caffeinated beverages. I’m always a fan of their Ganache Mocha, because life is too short not to have a cup full of liquid chocolate!