pop music


Making Peace (and Finding My Own) with the De-Intensification of Britney Spears

Throughout the years generally agreed upon as her “prime,” one way in which Britney Spears remained such a thrilling performer was dancing ahead of the beat. This accomplished two things, really. It presented Britney as prepared and unstoppable, the choreography engrained in her body and spirit to the point that performing it was effortless. She was insatiable, relentlessly seeking the thrill of the next move. But the more you watch Britney perform at this speed, the more you realize there’s something deeper being going on here. Take the dance break in “Me Against The Music” as performed on Saturday Night Live. The effect makes Britney look like she is flying through space and time, while her dancers remain firmly grounded in Studio 8H, Eastern Standard. They are joining her on that stage because the public has years of visual training instructing them that a couple layers of humans do, in fact, belong behind our star.

But they also, purposefully or not, act to highlight just how capable Britney is of doing the whole thing on her own. Being in front of her dancers, too, means Britney’s satisfied facial expressions can only be linked to her knowing she’s killing it; she cannot see the full picture they’ve created as a team. It’s striking she never once makes eye contact with any of them – even when she turns around, so do they. This lack of human connection with those mere inches from her is a theme in Britney’s work as a performer. Perhaps its for the best; when she does attempt to engage with her dancers directly, she ends their lives with the movement of her hips, finds herself more interested in her cameras than her grinding partner, or, is blindfolded. The most intimately engaged I’ve seen Britney with a dance partner was when she dance-battled herself.

As a queer person whose formative years took place squarely within the Bible Belt, I too know a little bit about dance-battling myself in the mirror. I have a feeling most queer people do, actually; evidence suggests I am far from the first or last gay kid to privately turn themselves into a star, and exist within that fantasy world throughout each lackluster day, the fantasy becoming its clearest and most vivid whilst completely alone. That’s what I find most miraculous about those videos of young queer kids slaying their favorite pop routines; they accidentally reveal the grueling rehearsal schedules within the secret, private lives of the child performers. How much time do you think Robert E. Jeffrey spent in front of his mirror to get Madonna’s “Vogue” down pat? And as a fellow student of the material, I can personally vouch for Brendan Jordan that Gaga’s “A-R-T-P-O-P” hand choreo is no small feat to master.

The tour in which Britney dance-battled herself was the Dream Within a Dream Tour, and it is over the course of this two-year outing she and Justin Timberlake famously uncoupled. This is to say the tour started off dark and just got darker. By the second leg, she had replaced a cute, expository introduction to the battle song (“Who is this chick? I think she wants to battle me. Huh? Whew!”) for something pointedly anti-male (“This is a song for ALL my girls”), indicating a harsh shift in perspective: no matter the girl, and no matter the boy, the girl’s gonna get screwed. While on the surface, this seems to be Britney dealing with young straight love gone awry, I always took it to mean much more. This proclamation felt more anti-humankind than just merely boys. One thing that astounded me about the Dream Within a Dream Tour was its through line of superhero independence. On top of dance-battling her evil twin, Britney is kidnapped (honestly, an exhausting amount of times), endures a thunderstorm, and plays a girl trapped in a music box, never to find her true love (during her three most overtly romantic songs). In fact, Britney never once achieves romantic satisfaction – even when the mood shifts in favor of passion, it’s her dancers getting it on, Britney watching longingly. By the time Britney finishes the show, one can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief – not just because it’s an exhausting technical feat, but because it’s a miracle whatever character Britney is playing survived this whole plight on her own (her dancers certainly never helped; they were too busy kidnapping her). Whether she had to break through a large net, bungee off the edge of a flying cliff, or endure a loneliness her narrator – Jon Voight, by the way – makes a point to describe as both insufferable and eternal – Britney always escaped to safety, and she did it, each time, without any help. It was a 90-minute concept performance about the ineptitude of anyone else to make you happy – or, really do anything but annoy or traumatize you. The New York Times review of the show was titled “Exchanging Her Halo for a Cloak of Darkness.” So, listen, I swear – I wasn’t alone on this one, you guys.

But so what if I was? That’s kind of the idea Britney was throwing into the ether in 2002 – being alone was not the end of the world; in fact, it was noble. It made you invincible – faster than those behind you, hyper-alert, firing off on all cylinders, blasting toward the ultimate destination of career dominance. This was a conclusion I had been forced to come up with on my own, as someone who did not see himself in any romantic relationships I’d been exposed to, both in my personal life and through pop culture. But now, I had a mascot for it – and she was the most famous human in the world. If our country’s most beloved icon didn’t need anyone, neither did I. This is convenient for a queer kid who certainly wouldn’t have anyone for a while – and at the time, thought maybe ever. “One day I will be as powerful as the most insane images the outer limits of my imagination can conjure. If anyone has a problem with me, it simply won’t matter in a few years, because I will be universally adored – a type of adoration more important than any type of personal or, ew, …intimate one.” Sixteen years later, I find myself wondering if those feelings have served their purpose, and are supposed to go away.

When Britney danced ahead of the song’s beat for a small measurement of time akin to that of her ex-boyfriend’s wardrobe malfunction, the results were thrilling. When she let herself get even faster, though, it could deliver the opposite effect: our Queen was ready to wrap this sucker up, and get backstage to a warm bowl of cheese grits. She didn’t care that no matter how fast she rushed through her marks, there’s only so much wiggle room with which a show largely set to a track can bend. It was as if, for ninety minutes, she was trapped in structure she was faster than, better than, and, ultimately, over.

Regardless of her motivations for dancing at warp-speed, Britney spent years setting a precedent. Which is one of the many reasons why her 2007 VMA performance was so confounding; lagging just wasn’t Britney’s thing and here she was. This performance acted as a catalyst to a near-decade-long process of a fan re-standardization of our expectations for Britney’s live shows. While her music remained truly exciting, tours supporting the new goods were met with confusion online. YouTube clips from the Circus and Femme Fatale tours became message board deliberations between two groups. In one corner, you had the upset fans wishing Britney would come out and slay one more time for old time’s sake. In the other, understanding fans citing a variety of reasons she couldn’t – or didn’t have to, given what she’d already given us.

I was always a member of the former camp. Even as things started looking positive for Britney, with a stable Vegas residency that allowed her more time with her children and created a structure within which she could seemingly retrieve a good chunk of the pep in her step, I wasn’t seeing it. When the opposing camp would bring up that perhaps – just perhaps – Britney was happier now – with a stable home life, less grueling schedule, and easier performance style leaning harder on “fun” than “culture-shifting,” my brain could not compute an equation that rendered a lack of gravitas and a disinterest in striving toward mass public adoration – with happiness. Britney is a god and she should be performing like her god counterparts, not becoming a niche act for the nostalgic. For many years, I allowed myself no joy in the de-intensification of Britney Spears. It was my pop cultural torture chamber, watching someone I loved so much trade in owning the cultural zeitgeist with every shake of her pelvis or soda endorsement - for something nearing closer, day by day, to personal fulfillment. Even as her other fans celebrated her new personal successes – and tried as they may to invite me on board their ship – I saw no benefits in the trade-off and pouted at the dock.

As recently as August of 2016, Britney seemed to be sticking to a life of independence akin to the dystopian single-girl vision from Dream Within a Dream. Appearing on Carpool Karaoke with James Cordon, Britney was asked “What are you looking for in a guy?” She responds curtly, “I think I might not ever go to men again. I may never do the men thing anymore, or get married, I’m just done with men.” A shocked Cordon gets her to backtrack a bit – but not by much. “I might French kiss someone,” she admits, but then, as if catching herself straying from a hard-fought resolution, doubles back down, “But I’m not going to marry anyone, no. I don’t believe in marriage anymore.” Britney’s romantic receptors were still firmly in the OFF position, but something new was beginning: she was developing an interest in connecting with others – any interested parties, really - more intimately. Britney’s world had been shrouded in secrecy for years; then, all of the sudden, her Instagram became an intense – yet playful and funny – vision board of her psyche. The idea that personal fulfillment could be valuable - not in spite of its seeming lack of relevance to a consumer, but because of it – became an idea her Instagram account presented with gusto. It has inspired a weekly podcast, Britney’s Gram, where comedians Barbara and Tess analyze Brit’s posts with the scrutiny of Justin Timberlake watching his ex kiss Madonna. Showing off personal growth for Britney as a person first and foremost – any gains in her career falling to the wayside – became an interesting development when I could see it first-hand. I was here for it. Furthermore, the idea that an interest in self-care – as opposed to an obsession with career-excellence – could lead to new creative discoveries and possibilities is not something I’d even considered until seeing Britney take up painting. Or watched her pull out two non-singles from five albums ago during her big career retrospective at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, simply because she wanted to. Or seen her – live vocals and all – cover a 1991 Bonnie Rait song on her Vegas stage, because she’d just learned – in 2017 – that people thought she lip-synced. These decisions are simply too random not to be her own, and in the same way that they lost all their sense(s), they also became as thrilling to watch as dancing ahead of the beat. And at the end of the day, perhaps the most intriguing new idea I’m processing from 2018ney is that all this self-care and opening oneself up to new possibilities – could, whether you like it or not, bring someone special into your life. It might even do so quickly – for instance, less than two years after you told James Cordon on national TV you were done with special someones. (To be fair, I guess it is possible Britney and her boyfriend are only French kissing…)

Growing up queer and closeted, you spent a lot of time alone – but you also spend a lot of time testing the boundaries of opening up to others, and being subsequently disappointed by your decision to do so. Sometimes, loved ones abandon you at an age so young you don’t realize what even happened until much later. You get used to this and you take care of yourself. Until it becomes exhausting, and you join a large club of young souls who’ve given up. Intimate human relationships based on truth and openness seem so impossible that the hope of them happening one day cannot build up the muscle to take on the facts of their impossibility. Your relationship with your family and friends is actually not your own, but that of them and your invented self – someone shy on personal details, obsessed with personal accomplishments, and uninterested in romantic possibilities. And they like this person, and this person is a performance you’ve perfected to the point you’re flying through space and time effortlessly when you embody them, so it feels fine to let it go on as long as need be. But what does it look like when you realize you have been trapped in structure you are faster than, better than, and, ultimately, over? And then: how do you break out of it, and let someone – a special someone – in?

Recently I found myself asking my friends what the point of a romantic relationship was. This type of provocation is not new between me and my straight buddies – I spent many a closeted teenage year insisting they were lesser than I for craving companionship, proving they were but half a human whereas I was (obviously) whole. But this recent conversation felt different; I was genuinely curious as to their answer. I had lost track of what the allure was in the first place, and was confounded anyone even tried when they could have those hours shared with another – nervous first dates, attending partners’ shows, “enjoying” lazy Sunday mornings watching Netflix in bed – back to themselves. When my friends helped me understand that relationships were more about self-nourishment in-the-now than any grand scheme for the world or one’s success in it – their answer felt useless. What’s the point of nourishing the self, if the self is but a temporary endurance test spiraling toward a future dream? A dream that might take everything in you to get even a tenth of? A dream that can’t afford distractions; one that can’t afford being thrown off by anybody? Besides, past attempts at intimacy have only left you knocked down.

But what I think I can gather from watching Britney living right now in 2018 is that sometimes it may be worth trying again. To connect with others; to reckon with how that is bettering yourself. And perhaps that “distraction” – that relationship with someone special – is not a distraction at all. But rather, a little dream within your dream. Especially if your head is on a little straighter than the first time you gave it a go. 

Besides, maybe this instinct to break free from loneliness is always there. There’s a reason both little Robert and Brendan gave the world a glimpse of their private mirror routines when cameras were rolling, and they finally had a chance to shine. There’s a reason I performed my routines in front of my bedroom window for my bully who lived a couple houses down. Would he be so moved by my performance he’d stop making fun of me? Probably not. Would he be so allured by sick (Darrin’s) dance grooves that he might fall in love with me, securing my first boyfriend/bully hybrid?… I knew I wouldn’t know if I didn’t try! You see, there’s a lot of greatness to be shared in these elaborate worlds a queer brain weaves since childhood. And in the words of the Queen – on her most recent album, in fact – “Nobody should be alone if they don’t have to be.”

Michael Doshier is a New York based writer, musician, and performer. As a writer, he's contributed to The Talkhouse, Things Created By People, and Viacom's Logo Movie House. As a musician, he's traveled internationally as Johnny Darlin, performing multimedia cabarets with his keytar, most recently at the 2018 Prague Fringe Festival. He co-hosts the weekly podcast Queers on Queens, and his next EP "Way With Words" is due out Summer 2018. Catch his performance of "Songs About Boys" at the Queerly Festival in New York City this June 23rd and 26th

interview, audio

Vardaan Arora: How OCD and India made a popstar

I have a playlist on Spotify. It’s called “Nat’s Perfect Playlist,” and it is perfect. I don’t know where on Spotify I discovered “Feel Good Song,” but I know it was immediately added to my pristine playlist. I couldn’t help jamming out to the sultry pop song while at work; I kept it on repeat. To my surprise, the artist behind the song was my age – and an NYU alum, too. He’d done covers before this, but nothing that circulated nearly as wide. My association of today’s top pop music with reality TV singing competitions, breakout social media stars, and the status quo musicians was expunged. You didn’t need a fanbase to sing a song and get people to listen to it. Just ask Vardaan Arora.

Natalia Lehaf: I heard your song on Spotify.

Vardaan Arora: Yeah, it was on a bunch of playlists on Spotify. It was on the “Mood Booster” playlist where it is gaining the most traction.

NL: That’s really cool. Did you upload it to Spotify and Spotify picked it up?

VA: I recorded the song in June in Nashville. I wrote it myself. I had worked with a producer named Kevin Leach I met in L.A. It all happened in a day. I had lyric and melody ideas with me, but it came to me in the studio. We released it the month after, because post-production took a few weeks. I had a release party in New York, with supportive friends and family who decided to buy the song – even though people don’t really buy music these days. I think Spotify picked up on people listening to it and has an algorithm that picks up on early adapter songs, and it ended up on viral charts. It’s crazy how Spotify helped put it out there; I use Spotify to find new music all the time. In terms of gaining exposure and traction, Spotify has been the most helpful. It’s also a testament to artists in 2016 – we can release something without a label and with the help of streaming services, like Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube. So many people have been reaching out telling me that my song is playing at the bar they’re at or the store – and it’s really cool.

NL: What were you doing there in L.A.?

VA: I lived in L.A. for six months after graduating. I went to NYU for acting and the “New York vs. L.A.” decision is huge for actors. I wanted to see what it was like to live there. I didn’t really like it – I don’t love L.A. After living in New York, I can’t live anywhere else. I’m a very social person and it’s a lot easier to meet up with friends in New York than L.A. Who wants to drive for 45 minutes just to see a movie with a friend? Also, everyone there is in the entertainment industry. I like meeting people from all different walks of life, and L.A. was a little monotonous for me. Even the food. L.A. has great produce and Mexican food, but when I want different cuisines like Indian or Thai, New York is much better.

NL: But, one of the downsides to the city is the limited space. Where was your release party in the city?

VA: I got a suite at a hotel in the Lower East Side. I played the song a few times – not back to back, throughout the night – and gave a little speech about the song.

NL: What did you say in your speech?

VA: I gave them insight into the meaning behind the song. It’s an upbeat, dance-y, fun song that’s supposed to make you feel good, right? But the message behind the song is to bring attention to what it means to feel good on your own terms. Not: everyday is going to be a good day, and when you’re having a bad day, you shouldn’t be expected to feel good because other people are telling you to. A lot of pop songs tell you to put your hands up in the air, and this song is like, “No, I won’t do that because I don’t want to do that right now.” It brings awareness to mental health issues, like when you’re feeling down and depressed and people are telling you to cheer up, but it’s not possible for you to cheer up in the moment. So it’s like, “I’ll close my eyes and sing my feel good song” – so whatever that means to you, whatever you need to do to bring yourself up, you should do without trying to meet other people’s expectations about what feeling good means.

NL: Did anything in your life inspire the song, particularly its touch on mental health?

VA: Yeah, in 2013 I was diagnosed with OCD. I drew from different experiences as a result of that to write this song. It’s about taking it day by day, and knowing that the thing that's bothering you right now might not even bother you tomorrow at the same time. It’s through the institutional paths mentality of “just breathe and revel in it and acknowledge you're feeling this way but do not get sucked into it.”

NL: How has having OCD affected your life?

VA: It’s one of the most debilitating illnesses. It got to the point where it was really bad and I couldn’t do everyday normal tasks because I had to repeat certain activities and had to do compulsions, so I would never really be present in the moment. Obviously, being treated for it was super helpful and becoming more aware of how your brain works was super helpful. It’s chronic and it’s easy to relapse and fall into bad habits and do compulsions all the time, but it’s like a battle and you have to keep going.

NL: What are everyday tasks that you’d have to repeat?

VA: For example, if I had a negative or intrusive thought while I was entering a room, I’d have to walk out of the room and un-do the thought and walk into the room again. The same with sending texts or plugging in your phone. I just did a video with Project UROK talking about my OCD and reaching out to others who have it. A lot of times you feel like you’re alone, when you’re not, which is why I reach out to people on Twitter and join support groups for it. It’s nice to talk to other people who have OCD. And OCD is an illness that’s been murdered by the media because people say things like, “Oh I am so organized, I have OCD,” and it’s a completely different beast.

NL: How do you feel about people who trivialize OCD?

VA: I hate it so much. I know people who do it all the time, and I don’t say anything because I don’t want to be that guy who is, like, politically correct about a mental disorder. Because people say things like that all the time, like, “Oh, I am so schizophrenic” and “oh, he’s so bipolar.” And it’s like: Are you really? Is he really?

NL: Knowing that makes me think about the song differently.

VA: Oh, yeah, if you go back to the song and listen to the lyrics again, it makes a lot more sense probably. Because people think of it as, you go dancing to it – which is good, too, because I want people to think that. I don’t exactly want people to be going through the exact same journey when listening to it, but for me, personally, it means something different.

NL: So, you went to Nashville to meet this producer from L.A. and you knew the words and melody, but it all came to place in the studio, right?

VA: Yeah, so I’d get lyric ideas in the middle of the night, or on the flight over there, but it all came together then. He laid down a beat and I sang over it.

NL: How long were you in the studio for?

VA: I think four or five hours. We recorded the entire song in a few hours and then the next day I went into a different studio and tracked all the vocals there, so I redid the vocals. So it took one day to write the song and have a version for it, and another day to re-do the vocals. I was only there one weekend.

NL: Was that a lot of pressure?

VA: I would say yes if I thought about it, but I was so overwhelmed and excited that I didn’t see it as being a lot of pressure. That’s when I knew that I love songwriting, because it came so easily. It was interesting to see that my own song was stuck in my head a day after recording.

NL: It’s even more interesting because you have OCD and are still going through treatment for it, but you were able to create a three minute song in two days.

VA: So, OCD – what it does is try to give you intrusive images and thoughts that aren’t true but feel true when they’re in your head. If I get a thought, like, “everybody hates your song,” I would have to do a compulsion and make a list of all the people who like it in my head until I feel better. And that would make me feel good for about ten minutes until the thought popped back into my head again. The more compulsions you do, the more it reinforces the obsession. So while I was there, I needed to be on the phone with my therapist, but because I was so excited and passionate about writing this song, it helped me overcome the OCD. When something exciting and big happens, the OCD takes a backseat – because it plays with you when your mind is a little empty, too. People like to think about OCD as a monster that’s always yelling things at you, and if you entertain what they are yelling, they get bigger and bigger.

NL: So you recorded one song; are you working on more music now?

VA: I was in Nashville again last month. I recorded another song. It’s a little slower – still pop, still catchy – but I am using more of my lower register. It’s cool. I’m also working on a music video for “Feel Good Song.” That’s what’s next before the next song comes out.

NL: Where are you shooting the music video?

VA: In New York. I don’t want to give too much away, but I think it’s in a parking lot in Queens. The director is finalizing dates and locations now. There’s going to be a dance in it, which is cool.

NL: You’re from NYU acting, I am sure you have a lot of friends trying to break into this industry as well. How did they receive the song, and are you working with any of them on anything?

VA: I’m not working with anyone at the moment, but I am seeing a lot of people make their own stuff, which is awesome. I think that’s what people need to start doing – especially in the acting industry – you can’t just wait around for the phone to ring. It’s easy to forget why you chose to do this thing anyway, especially when you start to look at it as a business than an art form.

NL: I feel like so many people are waiting for their big break, but here you are putting your song out there on your own – no label, nothing.

VA: Yeah, you can get attention for your work. Obviously, you need to have the finances for it, which is the hardest part, but it’s possible.

NL: How much does it cost to record in the studio?

VA: It depends on the studio, but I know the studios in Nashville are a little cheaper because they are so many of them. It’s usually an hourly rate, like $70 or $80 an hour.

NL: I love the idea that in 2016 you can put your music out there, and I know there is some controversy with Spotify because they pay their artists very minimally.

VA: Yeah, I can’t say anything bad about Spotify because if you are up-and-coming you can’t afford to not be on a certain platform because they don’t pay you enough. You know? Because you don’t have the influence, you’re not Taylor Swift – Taylor Swift doesn’t have her music on Spotify and she says she is doing it for up-and-coming artists, but I don’t believe that. I almost owe my entire career to Spotify. Yes, they don’t pay enough – but think about all of the other great things they do for you, not just as an artist, but as a user. People would be listening to music illegally a lot more often without Spotify; people are listening to music legally in 2016 because of Spotify.

NL: Before this all erupted and you got this big break, what were you doing? Are you still pursuing acting?

VA: My student visa expired shortly after I moved to LA, because I am originally from New Delhi. So I moved back to India and I lived there for 6 months and then I got a green card and was settling back into New York City. While I was settling, I decided I really wanted to write a song and thought that if I didn’t do it now, when would I ever do it?

NL: You grew up in India and then came to New York for acting school?

VA: Correct. And through acting school, I’ve been able to get rid of my accent. I switch back whenever I am talking to my mom, though. America has always been one of my favorite countries to visit. I always felt like I fit in better here – with my sense of humor and taste in music, although now with this election I am not so sure.

NL: How did you decide on acting?

VA: I was always creative and always loved singing and acting from a young age. It’s something that’s always been a passion for me.

NL: I am first-generation and growing up with parents as immigrants allowed me a cool perspective of watching people acclimate to the American culture. What was that like for you?

VA: It wasn’t as hard as you might think. I found more like-minded people here, especially at NYU. I connect much better with people here than India. I also grew up watching a lot of American TV shows. What I am doing is not the norm in India. This industry is different from Bollywood – it’s more about the work than the glamour.

NL: How did you feel when you moved back to India? Were you depressed, after coming all this way only to have to go back?

VA: Yes – exactly. I was in limbo. I was just waiting for my green card to go through, and I hate waiting for things to happen. I applied for a green card when I turned 21 and got it when I was 23, so about two and a half years. I got lucky with that, some people have to wait a lot longer.

NL: Wow, and then you came here and got right to it.

VA: Exactly.

For more of Vardaan's music, check out his website.

audio, interview

Under her influences: Meghan Irving talks about her inspiration

After years of honing her voice in talent shows and in cover songs uploaded to YouTube, Meghan Irving is ready to make music her life. On her recently released EP Under The Influence, Irving sings "I don't want to wait no more." While it's addressed to a lover, one can easily imagine her singing to the Gods of music, telling them that she is here and she is ready to sing.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

What artists or albums influenced your sound and songwriting?

I have so many different artists and styles of music that I love, but some of my biggest influences would have to be Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, and Sia. Sia in particular is a big inspiration when it comes to songwriting. She writes catchy songs but they still have meaning and are relatable, which is something that I try to do. My writing is very personal, but I also love clever writing, and lines that make you go "Ooh that's good" or "that's a clever line.” The type of lyrics people get tattooed or put on a poster, or the type that just make you go “Yes! I've been through that, I know what she's talking about." I put a lot of thought into what I want to say in each song.

Vocally, Whitney and Christina are just incomparable and are two singers I've always been inspired by. Both of them are versatile and have very diverse audiences and their songs can be heard through various musical outlets. I never want to be pigeonholed into a particular genre, and that idea has definitely influenced my sound. I like all types of music so I try to create music for all types of people that can be played in various places.

Overall, the ability to convey emotion through my writing and my voice and make people feel and relate to something, and at the same time have songs that are memorable is the ultimate goal.


You wrote your first song at age 11. Who and what inspired your early songwriting?

I remember the first song I ever wrote was called "Fly.” It was quite a while ago but I vaguely remember it being about following your dreams and trying your hardest. It wasn't really that good, but it's the thought that counts, right?!

In the beginning I was mostly inspired by movies. I would watch different films and write songs to go along with what happened in the movie. My friends and everything that was happening in our lives at the time also inspired me. I would also just make things up sometimes and create stories about things that I found interesting.

The lyrics came pretty naturally for me. Creating melodies was the hard part. When I was younger and just started to write songs I would use other songs I knew as a template and write my own lyrics. I knew that in reality it didn't work that way, so fast-forward to my teenage years, when I finally began developing my own melodies.

From your first song up until now, can you pinpoint a moment that changed the way you write songs?

When I went away to college, my songs really changed. That's when I was truly out on my own and just gained a lot of life experience and went through some crap. You know how they say pain usually inspires the best art? It's weird how true that is! I also met a lot of new people during that time who introduced me to new artists and new songs. Listening to new music is always good influence. I'm not sure if that necessarily changed how I write songs; I'm still inspired by my life and what's going on around me. But it definitely changed the quality of my songs. They're much more raw, more relatable. I think I kept it a bit more surface-level before and wrote about how I thought I'd feel in certain situations. Now that I've experienced more, I can write from the heart.

You can read more about Meghan on her website and you can follow her on Twitter.