Meiko on small-town life and finding positivity

Meiko on small-town life and finding positivity
Leigha Hodnet

Singer Meiko has come a long way from her first public performance at the age of eight. Singing White Christmas for a holiday service at a Southern Baptist church in Georgia, Meiko got her first taste of what it was like to perform in front of an audience. Today, as she travels the country playing shows on her summer tour, Meiko says that her small-town roots helped shape her into the person she is today.

"I grew up in Roberta, a little town of about 800 people where there's a total community vibe. If you're broken down on the highway, someone's going to be there within seconds to help you out," she says. "I was raised with a lot of manners and I feel like that's helped me keep grounded in this crazy music industry."

Ahead of tonight's 7th St. Entry show, Gimme Noise discussed Meiko's roots and where she's headed.

While Roberta may not have been the most exciting place to grow up, it allowed Meiko to focus on her music at a young age.

"It [Roberta] was such a boring, slow-moving town and there wasn't much going on, so that gave me an opportunity to have a giant imagination as a kid," Meiko says. "I was also an awkward middle schooler and there wasn't much to do except practice my guitar every day after school and write a bunch of songs. That's one of the blessings that come from growing up in such a quiet part of the world."

It was Meiko's dad who inspired her to play guitar and she cites him as her biggest music influence.  He introduced her to bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Marshall Tucker and The Almond Brothers.

"My dad he used to play guitar for us all the time when I was little and he used to play Stairway to Heaven," Meiko says. "The first time I heard it, I thought that he had written it. I remember going to school in like second or third grade and someone was talking about that song and I was like, 'Yeah, my dad wrote that.' They're like, 'No, he didn't!' I went home and had a talk with my dad. He thought it was adorable but was like, 'Yeah I didn't write that. I wish I did!'"

At the age of 13, Meiko's dad bought her a guitar and she began writing songs. She dreamed of making it big as a singer someday.

"When I would sign into camp or whatever I'd always sign in as Meiko and I would tell my camp friends that one day I was going to be a singer and they would remember my name," Meiko laughs.  "It was really cheesy and embarrassing."

Her nickname Meiko came from her sister, who went by Keiko, as an ode to the girls' Japanese heritage. 

"We were raised by my dad, who is the white guy. Our mother and grandmother are Japanese, but we didn't really see my mom very much and my grandmother died when we were little, so we always had this disconnect with being Japanese," Meiko says. "We knew it was something that set us apart from everybody else in our small town, but we didn't know much else about it so we had nicknames for each other -- Mieko and Keiko."

Meiko may be well travelled now, but moving to Los Angeles after high school was a big step for her. Because she grew up in a small town, she imagined big cities to be scary, gang-filled places where she would have to worry about getting mugged.

"When I went to L.A., I was really scared to go anywhere by myself," Meiko says. "It took a few years to get comfortable with being independent. I moved there with my older sister and I stayed very close to her for the first couple of years until I grew up. L.A. helped me grow up really fast and helped me with my independence."

Working as a waitress and eventually as a singer at L.A.'s Hotel Cafe proved to be a smart choice for Meiko as the establishment is known for launching the careers of singers like Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. In addition to playing at Hotel Cafe, Meiko played anywhere and everywhere that she could and her hard work paid off. Today, as Meiko celebrates her second record and continues to gain popularity, she says that she likes playing at "both ends of the spectrum."

"I like giant theatres where everyone's sitting and listening to my stories and everything is pin-drop quiet," Meiko says. "I also am a country girl and I like dirty, loud bars. I like drinking beer and yelling at people on stage and playing more upbeat, rowdy songs. I like both sides of it and I guess it just depends if I have a band or not. If I'm by myself I like bigger places where it's nice and quiet but if I'm with my band it's more fun to play rowdy bars."

Meiko's current album, The Bright Side, has a lighter tone than her debut album Meiko and she credits that to her love life.

"I feel a lot more positive about love and about life. When I wrote the first record I was in a shitty relationship and I wrote a bunch of sad songs," Meiko says. "In between then I fell in love and am in a happier place and I've been writing happier songs. That's why I named the record The Bright Side. I am looking a life a little more positively these days."

She met her boyfriend, an ex-journalist, at SXSW and the pair have been going strong for three-and-a-half years.

"We just really get along. It's nice to be with someone who doesn't know much about the life of a musician and I don't know much about the life of a journalist. He's a nerdy programmer techie guy and I'm a flighty musician. We're pretty opposite and it's awesome," Meiko says. "I feel really inspired by the whole thing because it is long distance. He lives in London. It's weird because my free time isn't really lonely anymore. I'm writing songs about happier things instead of writing songs because I'm so alone and sad about being alone. I feel very motivated when I'm alone now because I have that driving force that is the comfort of being in love."

With two albums under her belt, Meiko isn't sure what the feel of her next record will be.

"I want to experiment with all sorts of things and I want to continue to challenge myself, but not change things up too much. It always drove me a little crazy when I would love one record and then the artist would come out with another record and it would just sound completely different," Meiko says. "I always want to keep something similar-a common thread with the records. And I can't say if I'm going to be happy or sad in the future- balance is always good."

Right now, Meiko is living in the moment and is excited to play in Minneapolis. She says she's looking forward to a good meal and a great show.

"When you're on the road, there are a lot of crappy fast food options. I have time for dinner in Minneapolis and you have some of the best restaurants ever," Meiko says. "I'm playing with a full band, so it will be a pretty up-beat performance. It's nice to go there with a full band. Often I've toured there [in Minneapolis] solo, so it will be like a little party having my friends up on stage playing with me."

Meiko plays Friday, August 10 at 8:00 p.m. at

7th Street
Entry. Show is 18+; Tickets are $10.00.

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