I just had to ask Megan a few things about this new release:
1. Your music has an honesty to it - a reflection on the world around you. Is there a story or a purpose behind this record?
This record is all the songs I've written in the past two years, and a lot has happened in that time.
The summary is that over the past two years I have done A LOT of internal work. Deep work, with the help of a therapist. Addressing my deepest fears of being unloveable, of abandonment - both of being abandoned and of abandoning my own artistry - of questioning everything. It was very very difficult work. Lots of grief, lots of turmoil, lots of great talks over bottles of wine with lots of close friends and even new friends who are all going through the same thing. It's a very natural phase, but it's not easy.
I strengthened my relationship with my mother, which I am so fully grateful for. My mom died at the beginning of August. That is a major shift for me - my dad had already died, and so this is in a way a new life for me, a new section of my life that might be organized in a different way. I loved being close to my parents, and I also love to travel, to experiment.
I recorded the record at the end of August.
While my mom was dying I did a lot of thinking about what this will mean for me, what are ways to focus my energy now. I knew that nothing I wrote after this major event would be like what I wrote before, at least not to me, and so it was a way to heal by really playing and getting at my music, and it was a way to tidy up loose ends, to celebrate the end of one phase and the beginning of the next. The trip to New Orleans was totally meant to signal that too.
2. Your music also always has an element of beauty to it and I know it comes from all kinds of sources. What musical or non-musical sources have inspired the music on this album?
Pilates!!! I've lost 30 pounds in the last two years. I've gotten in shape! I feel strong, and healthy and beautiful! I have a whole new awareness of my body that I had really hidden since I was about 16.
I go out dancing now! I LOVE to dance, I always have, and I stopped in my early 20s, I think after I left engineering school. The girls I lived with in engineering loved to dance - so did the guys, actually - and I haven't found a group of friends to do that with until the last two years.
Marc Chagall paintings - The Equestrienne is inspired by and named after his painting.
My piano students - they are so endlessly creative - the list of horse breeds at the end of Equestrienne is totally inspired by a student, who also suggested I stick a golden fork in my hair to pull out at the end of the performance as a surprise!!!!!
Again those deep questions - I came to a point where all I believed in was music, and the creative energy of the universe. It's just me and this spirit, wandering around Ottawa finding inspiring places, under the moon, by the water, quiet, alone, asking the simplest questions, trying to really feel my feelings.
3. I know you recently returned from a month long residency in New Orleans, do you have any highlights?
I WENT OUT DANCING 30 NIGHTS IN A ROW TO THE BEST LIVE MUSIC I HAVE EVER HEARD!
I ATE THE BEST FOOD I HAVE EVER TASTED, FOR SUCH AFFORDABLE PRICES - CREATIVE, YOUNG, FUN, PLAYFUL, FRIENDLY PLACES AND PEOPLE!
I DANCED AND PARTIED IN THE STREETS OF NEW ORLEANS WITH THOUSANDS OF OTHER PEOPLE IN SECOND LINES FOR HOURS EACH SUNDAY AFTERNOON!
I UNDERSTOOD THAT THIS WAS EXACTLY WHERE I NEEDED TO BE TO GRIEVE FOR MY MOTHER, MY FATHER, ALL THE SADNESS I HAVE REALLY REALLY FACED IN THE LAST TWO YEARS BECAUSE PEOPLE IN NEW ORLEANS KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO SUFFER, THEY HAVE LOST, AND THEY PLAY MUSIC FOR THEIR LIVES. THEY ARE PLAYING TO STAY ALIVE AND THEY GROOVE AND DANCE AND LAUGH AND EAT AND THEY REALLY ENJOY.
4. Do you have any thoughts on the music scene in Ottawa, after having returned from New Orleans?
Of course I miss the excellence, the energy, the culture of live music and dance in New Orleans.
But what I do is simply think about what is heavenly here.
Mike is heavenly!
Our home is heavenly!
My friends are here - all those friends I was talking about earlier - and so are new friends and opportunities. I came back and had a gig every Tuesday night in October with the Lake Effect (you know Dave Bignell). That was great! Those guys are so much fun. They are so cool to play with, so warm, so welcoming. I had a great time playing with them. That's something I've never done before, so that's terrific.
I started thinking about it being like a cabin in the woods here. It's time to practice, to get my work done, to be quiet, to write, to listen, to reflect.
This is my home, this is where I teach and earn a living and I LOVE to teach. I am constantly enchanted and inspired by my students. I am extremely grateful to earn a living here teaching piano lessons in my own home, in my own way to families who truly believe in what I do.
I find that I have total creative freedom here. I can just do my own thing. That is very important to me.
It's safe here, I can be alone anywhere or nearly, at nearly anytime of night. That is good for creativity.
We have unlimited access to unlimited wild nature here. That feeds my creativity.
There are musicians here - Jeff Rogers, Don Cummings - who really make me want to move. There is still lots I haven't even really checked out - there are tons of people dancing to really creative djs and I haven't fully explored that at all...sounds like a fun winter project, eh?
Ottawa's great - I love the easy vibe about people doing their own thing, at a pace that suits them. Lots of people who stay, stay because of family, or lifestyle and that's really what Mike and I have done too, so it's a home in that sense as well.
5. What's next in your music?
Well, I've stayed in touch with a pianist in New Orleans. I might try and go back, and absorb some more of that juicy stuff!
I might write for wurlitzer specifically.
I might further explore basslines, simple grooves.
I would love to complete what I think is a missing link in my musical self - there are a ton of songs I grew up learning, and they were played a lot in New Orleans - and I'd really love to have a night of music like that that is not my own, but that I've worked out in a way that suits me, and yet suits the vibe of a party.
I've already started - I've been watching a lot of Nina Simone concert footage - a groovy bass line with Lil Liza Jane!
6. (this might be kind of the same question...) Any advice for life and music?
Well, yes - check out Tom Arthurs!! I got in touch with him again and he's now doing super well musically and considering a PhD in sociology to explore the questions of music and life!
Megan Jerome performs tonight, Nov 30th at National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage, at 7:30pm. Tickets are available at the NAC Box Office or online at www.ticketmaster.ca ($20).