Holler Country Music

New Artist of the Week: Meg McRee

March 7, 2023 12:00 pm GMT
Last Edited May 2, 2023 2:24 pm GMT

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We fell head over heels in love with Meg McRee a while back now, but we wanted to wait until the time was right to tell you about it.

It was always bound to happen. We have so much in common, it was just meant to be: she’s had her songs cut by Holler favourites like Grace Potter, Elle King, Caylee Hammack, Paul Cauthen, Carter Faith and Ben Chapman; her latest single ‘Tried and True’ was written with Lainey Wilson; Aaron Ratierre co-wrote the wonderfully titled ‘Mary Jane & Chardonnay’ with her and she’s even off on tour with Morgan Wade next month.

We were always destined to get along, and with her debut album, Is It Just Me? out in the world it feels like it’s finally time to tell you all about us and Meg McRee. It’s official… Holler loves Meg McRee.

Meg McRee writes the kind of country songs that make our hearts feel a whole lot lighter and the world feel a little bit brighter. There’s a big dollop of Kacey’s creamy soft country sound, a healthy splash of Lainey’s warm-hearted twang and a dash of the dreaminess of Ashley Monroe.

‘A Lot to Say’ captures those awkward tentative first steps in the beginning of a relationship when you haven’t worked out how to actually be together yet, and all you know is that you really really want to be. ‘Tried and True’ is a soulful blast of sassy country funk that finds comfort in a relationship that’s managed to get through all that and stand the test of time.

Elsewhere on the album she embraces a kind of spacey 70s country sound on ‘Stardust’ and ‘Girl of Your Dreams’ and gifts us an essential addition to our Best Country Songs About Wine playlist in ‘Mary Jane & Chardonnay.’

Originally from Sugar Hill, GA, Meg McRee’s journey into country music began at the age of five, when she started violin lessons after hearing a fiddle on the radio. In addition to playing classical violin in symphony orchestras growing up, she taught herself guitar and sang in church regularly.

While attending Vanderbilt University on an academic scholarship, she realized the pull to pursue music further was too strong to ignore and traded her newly earned degree in for an unpredictable dream as a songwriter in Nashville.

Without a car, she took multiple internships on Music Row, walking back and forth to 16th Avenue between classes. Upon graduation she got a job waiting tables, nannied and began co-writing and playing writer’s rounds around town on her nights off. She was vindicated when she signed her first publishing deal at Hang Your Hat, a creative joint venture with Concord Music Publishing and hit-songwriter Hillary Lindsey.

Meg McRee finished her stint on Lainey Wilson’s Country With A Flare Tour at the end of last month but she’s back out on the road again on select dates of Morgan Wade’s No Signs of Slowing Down tour starting in mid-March.

We sat down with Meg McRee to find out what song it was that inspired her to pick up a fiddle all those years ago and how she ended up playing at a goat sale in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Where are you from and how did that influence you?

I'm originally from a town between Athens and Atlanta called Sugar Hill, Georgia. Growing up in the south, country music was always everywhere and my dad is a huge country music fan so I was exposed to it at an early age.

Georgia specifically also has a rich history of R&B, rock & roll and gospel music, so I was constantly surrounded by great music without even having to try. The first place I sang publicly was in church.

What did you grow up listening to?

I grew up listening to anything my parents listened to, from the Chicks to Willie Nelson to Norah Jones to Earth, Wind and Fire. I started playing violin at a young age because I heard Martie Maguire playing the opening lick in ‘There's Your Trouble’ in my mom's minivan and had to know what it was. I was also really into Alison Krauss once I started playing the violin and admired anybody who was an instrumentalist as well as a singer and songwriter.

How would you describe your sound?

I'm still trying to figure out how to put this into words - but lately I've been using the term "back porch psychedelic." I love bands like the Grateful Dead and the Beatles that push the boundaries sonically, but a great storytelling lyric (like Emmylou Harris) is also incredibly compelling to me and I try to make the kind of music I would want to listen to. It sounds simple but it's so important to me that I would want to listen to my own music if I wasn't me.

Tell us a little bit about making Is It Just Me?

Making Is It Just Me? was by far the most formative musical experience I've had yet. I went into it having no idea what I wanted to do, and got to explore in the studio with my producer Andrew Petroff for almost a year. I came in with a batch of songs and my manager was like, "I think you should take just one more week to write, because it feels like you're onto something."

I ended up writing four of the tracks in that one week. They were really true to where I was in that exact moment, and I'm really proud of the whole project. I got to play a lot of instruments on the recordings, including acoustic guitar on most tracks, bass on ‘Stardust’ and ‘Saying Goodbye,’ and a 12 part string section on ‘’Saying Goodbye.’ I could go on and on about this question! I love making records so much.

Where’s the most unexpected place music has taken you?

Well, one time, I played at a goat sale in Murfreesboro, TN with my boyfriend Ben and our friend Zack Logan. I am not kidding, there were goats going for like $12,000 at this thing. It was a pretty serious operation and the goats came out to walk out songs and had smoke machines and stuff. Pretty insane place to play a gig. Came with a steak dinner and everything!

What inspires you?

I'm inspired by my own life, and as a songwriter it's really important to be in tune with myself and how I make sense of my experiences. It can involve a lot of digging up old junk from different times in my life, but I think it's cool how music can make those times redemptive. I also love reading fiction and poetry for fun and I get a lot of inspiration from that too. It can be anywhere if you just look for it.

What comes first when you’re writing a song?

It depends, I kinda go through phases. Right now I'm in a phase of starting with a melody or a chord progression. But most of the time I'm writing based on a lyric idea or a title.

You wrote ‘Tried and True’ with Lainey Wilson, Andrew Petroff and Harper O’Neill – how did that come about and what it was like working with them?

I had the title in my phone and I was thinking about my own relationship with Ben and I brought it to the three of them because they're three of my favourite songwriters in the world. When you're comfortable with people it's so much easier to write something great and write freely. We kinda got on the idea for the chorus with the run and just ran away with it (no pun intended). We knew by the end we had written something special.

You’ve had so many songs recorded by other artists, if you could have any singer – alive or dead – sing one of your songs, who would it be and which song?

Ah good question. I think I would love to hear one of my songs sung by Merle Haggard. He can sing literally anything and make it sound true.

Do you always have a singer in mind when you’re writing a song for someone else?

Unless I'm writing in the room with the artist, I usually just write the best song I can write that day. Sometimes it's fun to daydream about who could sing it once you get going but it's kind of bad luck in my book to say it out loud.

Is there something special about the songs you choose to sing yourself?

The songs I choose to sing myself are my own stories and I usually have ideas that I save for my own projects as soon as I think of them. It's usually something personal or specific to me, or something I just like to sing.

If you could time travel back to any time when would you travel back to?

The 70s probably. Or ancient Egypt could be cool.

Which person from history would you most like to meet?

Janis Joplin

What would be your Spice Girls style nickname?

Sassy Spice

What advice would you give to the younger you?

Listen to your gut.

What’s next for you?

Hitting the road with Morgan Wade this month and getting to play some pretty iconic venues for the first time. The Troubadour in LA and the Ryman are two I'm really looking forward to. I can't wait to keep sharing this record out on the road.

Meg McRee’s Is It Just Me? is out now on Secret Place Records. She embarks on select dates with Morgan Wade on her No Signs of Slowing Down tour throughout March

Written by Jof Owen
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