The last time Meg Myers lived in Los Angeles, she was relentlessly touring in support of her first full-length record, an artist on a major label.
After a decade spent in LA, Myers left the city for Nashville in 2016 in search of some peace and quiet, spending two years mostly in isolation.
How has LA changed in that time? In 2012, her song “Tennessee” (hilarious video) was part homage to her upbringing but mostly diss of LA hipster culture, referencing mustache finger tattoos (those were the worst) and riding Vespas to Little Joy. In 2018, it would be Instagram filters and riding Birds to the Arts District.
Though she didn’t know what direction she was going in, she began to write. Sessions in LA brought a total of 40 songs together, as well as an urge to find new collaborators. After speaking to numerous producers, Myers ultimately settled on Christian “Leggy” Langdon (younger brother of ’90s alt-rock favorite Spacehog’s Royston Langdon), who also co-wrote some of the songs on Take Me To The Disco — out July 20 on indie label 300 Entertainment.
Myers recorded the album with Langdon while still at Atlantic Records. But when Myers and her label ultimately couldn’t agree on which direction to go, they parted ways amicably. Atlantic allowed Myers to leave with the album she wanted to create.
“I think the entire time I was on Atlantic, I wasn’t sure they really got me,” Myers said. “But nobody gets you right off the bat so you give it time and work with them and try to get them to understand you as an artist.”
“But I think they were always a little bit ‘what is this?’ and ‘this isn’t like anything else but can it be big?'” Myers said of her former label’s thinking. “They were always kind of looking for radio singles and were more radio-single driven than other labels.”
As someone who has followed Myers’ career since first hearing her play in 2014, it never felt like a good fit between her raw and unique songwriting and the tiny box major labels try to cram today’s alt-rock acts into.
I remember seeing Myers play a set that was a promotional partnership between the local alt-radio station and fast food chain Carl’s Jr. Though I certainly personally enjoyed getting a free burger and seeing a rising talent play an intimate acoustic set, the pairing seemed off. “Boy, I wanna taste you, I wanna skin you with my tongue” (from breakout song “Desire”) seemed a little aggressive in the context of cheeseburgers. But who can blame a young artist for saying yes when your label asks you to do these things?
“I was on the road and pretty miserable for those two years,” Myers said. “But I also don’t want to blame anyone because I needed to experience that in order to grow and learn to say no and learn a lot of things about myself. … Then it just hit me at a certain point where I was like I don’t care about what other people’s ideas of success are. Success to me is growing and evolving and creating and having a good fucking life. You have to come to that realization at some point.”
Born out of this frustration with her label was the song “Numb”, which ironically turned out to be the first single. It was also the first newly released song from Myers in almost three years.
“It was a lot of pressure in the ways of ‘we need a single, we need a single, we need a single’ and we kept writing more and more and more,” Myers said. “We ended up writing ‘Numb’ because I was so frustrated and that was what ended up coming out. So we wrote a song about them and it ended up being the single, but they still were not sure sonically.”
“Numb” is Myers at her best, expressing frustrations in a multitude of ways, even sarcastically. “I don’t wanna grow up, la la la la la la la,” Myers sings — almost childishly — before launching into the high-powered chorus.
Now free from the same label that signed the “cash me outside Dr. Phil girl” to a reportedly multi-million dollar deal, Myers is able to share the outside-the-box ideas she created with Langdon, mostly at his studio in Topanga.
One such outside-the-box idea is the tearjerker of a track from the new album, “Some People”. Casual listeners of Myers might be surprised by the Enya-tinged production, though those more familiar with Myers might be aware of her love of the new age musician.
“There’s the Enya synths I forget what it’s called but Leggy got that specifically because of how much we love Enya,” Myers laughingly confirmed.
Myers performed a short run of shows behind the new material in July, and called “Some People” one of the hardest songs to perform live. A video above from the NYC tour stop illustrates that, as Myers covers her mouth before sinking her face out of view during the song’s instrumental breakdown. Her voice cracks during the final lyric of the song, giving the song even more humanity.
Though the lyrics “Some people stay, some people break, some people change sometimes” aren’t groundbreaking on their own, the delivery sure is. The emotion of those words hit you like a ton of bricks despite the unusually upbeat tone of the production.
“It was nice to break out of the dark minor chords. It has a hopeful feeling to the production even though it’s really sad. It’s one of those sad songs that also helps people.”
“Tourniquet” is Myers at her grimmest. The fourth single to come from the record, it deals with the difficulties of leaving a troublesome relationship. “Only love hurts like this / So tie a rope around my wrist / I’m losing, I’m losing the feeling / You’re my tourniquet,” she sings in the chorus.
“Tear Me To Pieces” is another of the new album songs Myers performed that hasn’t dropped as a single, and it’s the hardest one on her voice by far. I caught her last tour stop at The Echo in LA. She had struggled with her in-ear monitors throughout the show but didn’t let it discourage her from taking a huge swing on the final chorus.
Her voice cracks during a ferocious scream, but the imperfection for lack of a better word only enhanced the intent behind the words. “It’s in your eyes, you fucking LIAR,” she screams at the top of her lungs. “I know this love will tear me to pieces,” Myers screams a few times before propelling both arms skyward in triumph.
It’s during these performances that Myers gives off an almost Marla Singer in Fight Club kind of vibe. There’s a scary look in her eyes during some of the darker material. At The Echo, she positively channeled the frustration with her monitors into the performance.
“It was really, really fun,” Myers said of playing Take Me To The Disco songs live. “I was really nervous and excited. Luckily I think I’m just way more connected to the songs at this time in my life. I feel more connected to myself and the people in my life and my creativity also. I feel them in a different way than I ever felt the songs in the past.”
Take Me To The Disco is the first time Meg Myers has worked with a producer other than longtime collaborator Dr. Rosen Rosen, who helmed her debut record Sorry and previous EPs. Once Myers landed on Langdon, the two quickly fell into a comfortable rapport.
“I met Andy [Dr. Rosen Rosen] when I was really young and had never worked with anyone one-on-one like that before,” Myers said of her longtime relationship with her former collaborator. “I had never had anyone pull stuff out of me like that so it was a really deep connection musically and as a friendship, like a brother.”
“But change is the only way to grow, really,” Myers said of moving on from Rosen. “It was definitely scary and I didn’t even know exactly what I wanted to do sonically, but I just had faith. I feel like you just end up meeting the right people, and I met Leggy and it was just such a magical connection. I found another person who would help harness my authenticity.”
Take Me To The Disco is Myers getting out of her comfort zone. Half of the songs on the record have a full strings arrangement. Langdon even sings on one song — “The Death Of Me” — which has a similar feel to that Gotye mega hit. It’s a bit more refined than on Sorry or any of her EPs. The darkness is still there — singles “Numb” and “Jealous Sea” have obvious Nine Inch Nails vibes — but she’s certainly expanded beyond that.
The duet with Langdon “The Death of Me” is a left-turn from what we’ve come to expect from Myers. “Tear Me To Pieces”, “Done”, and “I’m Not Sorry” seem most in line with her older material.
Myers will be embarking on a full-scale tour beginning in September that concludes with an October 17 date in LA at the El Rey. Though embarking on a month-long tour may have seemed daunting a year ago, Myers is in a great mindset to tackle it.
“I had a three bedroom house in Nashville and now I have a tiny cottage [in Pasadena],” Myers said of making the move back to southern California. “But Pasadena is so beautiful. There’s so many flowers and gardens and trees and it’s really relaxed. I have a private yard with a garden and it’s really peaceful. I’m loving it.”
It certainly sounds like Meg Myers has found some zen after escaping the pressure and expectations of Atlantic. Usually, zen in southern California comes with access to a pool, which Myers cheerily mentioned she gained upon her return. It bodes well for her continued exploration of herself through her songwriting, and that’s wonderful news for the rest of us.
Pre-order ‘Take Me To The Disco’ now and catch Meg Myers live at the El Rey in October. She also plays Amoeba Music in Hollywood on July 30, buy her record there to get it signed and see her in-store performance.
Words by Mark Ortega
Photos by Justin Higuchi