Interview: Meghan Patrick
“I’m a real spitfire who can raise some hell, but I can be sweeter than a Southern Belle,” Meghan Patrick sings on the title track of her debut album, Grace & Grit.
This hellraising sweetheart is from Bowmanville, Ontario, but often makes her way to Nashville. On Grace & Grit, she wrote songs with fellow Canadians Chantal Kreviazuk (“Who Knew”) and Chad Kroeger (“Bow Chicka Wow Wow”), and also with Music City mainstay Rodney Clawson (“I Believe in Beer”), and a “crazy Aussie guy who’s just full of energy” (Phil Barton, “Kiss Me Already”).
Patrick sat down with Songfacts to chat about crazy ex-boyfriends, her Nashville encounters, and how she never backs down from a challenge.
Laura Antonelli (Songfacts): What method works best for you when writing a song?
Meghan Patrick: I don’t think there’s any particular thing that I do. I come up with song ideas at different and random times. I think of ideas a lot when I’m in the shower. So it’s like, Oh, I have to jump out of the shower and write this down before I forget it. Or when I’m running sometimes and I’m just thinking.
I don’t really have any particular process – ideas pop into my head and I write them down. If I’m near a guitar, then I pick it up and do a little recording because I always forget ideas. I’m the worst. I think I’ll remember them and I don’t. So just whatever inspiration strikes, I write it down.
Songfacts: Let’s talk about your debut album, Grace & Grit. You worked with some accomplished songwriters such as Chad Kroeger, Gord Bamford and Chantal Kreviazuk. Vince Gill even produced some tracks. How did working with other writers influence and change your own songwriting?
Meghan: What’s great about working with other writers, especially some of the writers I worked with, they are experienced. They’ve been writing a long time. Sometimes it helps you get outside of your head a little bit.
All the songs I write are personal to me – they’re about real experiences. So sometimes when you’re writing about something that’s real to you and that you feel strongly about, it’s easy to get stuck inside your head and not realize that the way you’re writing might not come across to people the way you want. It might be a little too… I don’t know if personal is the word, but a little bit too inside your head. I don’t know how else to explain it.
But working with other writers, they sometimes have a way of wording or phrasing it better. It pushes you outside of your comfort zone because sometimes you get stuck in patterns of writing and singing in the same way, so I always like getting an outside perspective.
Songfacts: The record is named after the first song, “Grace & Grit.” How did you come up with the idea to juxtapose those two words and why did you name the album after it?
Meghan: It was something my mom said to me. I was raised to be independent, strong, tough, and not take any shit [laughs], but also to be kind and gracious. My mom actually ended up finding this necklace for me that said “grace and grit” on it, and she gave it to me when I was leaving to go down to Nashville. I was having a bit of a rough time personally and she just said, “I know things are rough for you right now, but I just want you to know I’m really proud of you. The way you’ve handled yourself throughout all of this has been with grace and grit. You haven’t been a pushover, but you haven’t been cruel. You’ve held your head high and have been gracious.” It stuck with me as something I strive for and something I think a lot of women like me can relate to.
This being my first album, it just seemed appropriate to name it that because I felt like it encompassed who I am as a person and as an artist. On the musical side of things, I love traditional country and the beautiful harmonies you find in bluegrass and country music, but I also love to rock out. I love southern rock and stuff like it, so I love the heavier side of things. So I think it was a good explanation of what you could expect from the album musically and also about me personally.
Songfacts: You co-wrote your first single “Bow Chicka Wow Wow” with Chad Kroeger from Nickelback. The idea for the song actually started out as a joke. Can you just explain how it was created and the story happening in it?
Meghan: You get into a session and generally say, “Okay. Who has an idea?” You might rattle off a couple of title ideas or themes. Chad was naming off a couple of ideas and he said that one. I laughed about it and he looked at me and was like, “Hey! It could be kind of cool.”
I had said I wanted to write something upbeat and fun, so I said, “Alright. Well, let’s write it then.” He said, “Okay. Well, what makes you say bow chicka wow wow? What’s your kind of guy?” So I just started describing this perfect guy: a working guy, a blue collar guy. Because those are the kind of guys I grew up with whether it’s in my family or my friends or my boyfriend. I think a lot of people underestimate how hard those guys work and what they do, so I just felt like they needed a song. There are a lot of other women out there like me who appreciate a guy like that too, so it would appeal to both those types of people.
And then just the music of it, it was great to do that with Chad because he does have that rock background. So he gave it a little bit of that flavor too, which was awesome. So I think it was a good mix of that country-rock thing.
Songfacts: How did the duet with Joe Nichols on “Still Loving You” come to be?
Meghan: Well, I wrote that song with Patricia Conroy and Zach Abend – two great writers. Patricia is actually Canadian, but has lived in Nashville for quite a while. I got into a session with them, and we were throwing around ideas. We were just talking about relationships and how sometimes not every relationship ends on a horrible note.
People sometimes just grow apart or something changes and you just fall out of love. You still care deeply for each other and you think they’re a wonderful person, but you’re just not in love anymore. You know that things are falling apart so let’s just call it quits before we hate each other. Let me leave still loving you, still caring about you, and still having good feelings about you. I don’t know that everyone has ever had that experience, but I’ve had that experience and the other people in the room had that experience. I felt like it was just a different twist on a breakup song that wasn’t really out there.
And then Joe doing it, Chad [Kroeger] set that up. I sent him the song and he went crazy over it. He loved it. He said to me, “Well, who would you want?” I said, “Well, realistically or who do I want?” [Laughs] He goes, “Who do you want?” and I said, “Blake Shelton or Joe.”
Joe’s got that more traditional country voice that’s deep. I just thought he would be perfect for the song because I wanted it to have a bit more of a traditional sound. It just so happened that Chad was friends with Joe and showed him the song and he said, “Yeah, I’d love to do it.” So that was really crazy.
Songfacts: Your voices complement each other well.
Meghan: Yeah, I think it turned out really well. It was a different experience because he was touring when we were recording so we didn’t record it together. I recorded my part and then Chad went on the road and met up with him. Joe did it while he was on tour. So, unfortunately, we didn’t get to have the experience of recording it together, but when I got the mix back, I was like, “This is amazing,” so it was great.
Songfacts: You co-wrote “Long Way from Waylon” with Gord Bamford. Can you talk about that experience and how you came up with the concept for that one?
Meghan: I’ve had the pleasure of writing with Gord and Buddy Owens and Phil O’Donnell a couple of times in Nashville. They’re great people to write with.
I was talking about certain people – some guys that I know who go on and on about how they’re so badass and, “I’m an outlaw.” It’s like, man, you’re not a pimple in the ass of Waylon Jennings.
We were talking about it and Buddy said, “I’ve had this title kicking around, ‘Long Way from Waylon,’ for a long time.” I was like, “That’s perfect.” So we just started writing it and it turned out that everyone in the room had come across someone like that at some point or another.
I wasn’t trying to hate too much in the song, but it’s not bad to be a little sassy every once in a while [laughs]. That was more the grit side coming out.
Songfacts: Your manager challenged you to write a love song, which resulted in “Thanks to You.” It’s a different approach for a love song similar to what you were saying about “Still Loving You” because it’s appreciating a relationship that actually didn’t work out. Can you explain your intention for that tune?
Meghan: I was down in Nashville writing and my manager said, “Okay. Today I want you to write a love song.” I was just going through a rough breakup and I was in no way, shape, or form wanting to write a love song. I didn’t have anything good to say about guys. She was like, “I know it’s a challenge but…”
I will always accept a challenge. She knew if she worded it that way, “I’m challenging you,” I would do it. So I went into the room with Bruce [Wallace] and Marty [Dodson] who are two of my favorite people to write with and they’ve become great friends to me, too. I’ve written some really personal songs with them – some of my most personal songs, actually. I told them what Tracey [Meghan’s manager] had asked me to do. I said, “I don’t have anything good to say. I don’t have any love songs to write.”
Marty, he’s so sweet, he goes, “Well, maybe we could dig a little further in the past and find something.” I think Bruce said something about the “lightning striking twice” line, which is a great line. He said something about, “maybe we can talk about when it doesn’t quite work out, but at least it’s out there kind of thing. It makes you believe. Like, I had love once, I can have it again.” I said, “Okay. I can do that. I can write that.”
I’m always looking for a different twist on something. I always want to write songs that are different and that come from a different perspective. I think a lot of people appreciate that. They have someone in their life that they can say, “It didn’t work out but thanks for the good memories.” You can move on feeling okay about it.
Songfacts: “Breaking Records” is the only song on the album you didn’t co-write. Why did you connect with it so much and decide to record it?
Meghan: Well, I just thought it was a really cool concept. I love vinyl. I’m a record collector myself, so that definitely fit with me.
It was also a breakup song [laughs]. So at the time when I recorded it, I was like, “Yup!”
I just felt like it had a cool vibe to it, but when I really fell in love with it was when I got into the studio with Carly McKillip who produced it. She just brought the song to life. She just made it so cool. The demo was a little more pop-y sounding and I said, “What can we do to make this a little more organic? I want almost a bit more of a grungier, Tom Petty kind of feel to it.”
Carly just nailed it. She’s so great with that. I can give her the most ridiculous explanation of how I want something to sound and she just nails it, so I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I think it’s powerful. It’s got a great vibe to it.
Songfacts: What motivated you to write “Nothin’ but a Song”?
Meghan: Oh, man, that’s a whole other interview. We’ve all had a crazy ex-boyfriend. He said to me one time, “One of these days you’re going to break up with me and I guess I’ll just be a song.” I said, “Yup! You will! Don’t mess with me! I’ll T. Swift the shit out of you.” [Laughs]
But it’s not just a song for women. I think a lot of men and women have been there where things just get out of hand and you have to write a song about it. It was just an outlet for me for a lot of the frustration and anger I was holding in about the whole situation. Now it’s a fun, empowering song to play on stage.
Songfacts: What was your experience like co-writing “Who Knew” with Chantal Kreviazuk and what inspired that tune?
Meghan: Wow, well, it was a little intimidating. I mean, she’s an incredible musician and songwriter. It was just the two of us, and it’s a little nerve-wracking sometimes to be in a two-way co-write with someone you’ve never written with before. It’s like, what if we clash? There’s no buffer.
But she was awesome. I really enjoyed working with her. She’s got a different style and way of writing than I do, which is great. It pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I never would have written a song like that on my own. She brought out a great quality in my voice and range.
When we originally wrote it, we recorded just a piano and vocals demo, which was beautiful, too. When I sent it to my manager, she was just crying. She was like, “Oh my gosh! I’ve never heard your voice like this before.”
The idea of it came from when you get in a room with someone to write a song that you’ve never met, it’s this awkward, Okay. So tell me about your whole life in about five minutes and then let’s write a song. She was asking me about myself. She said, “Are you married? Are you in a relationship?” I said, “Yeah, I have a boyfriend.” She said, “Well, how’s that going?” I just said, “It’s great! It’s so easy. I never thought that something could be this good. Who knew it could be so easy?” I said that just in passing and she goes [snaps fingers], “There it is! That’s the title! We’re going to write that song.” So that’s just where it came from.
Songfacts: What moved you to write the last song on the record, “Kiss Me Already”?
Meghan: It was another Tracey [Meghan’s manager] challenge to write a happy, upbeat song. It’s definitely the pop-iest song on the album. I was on the fence about putting it on there because it is a far departure from my sound, but it was catchy and fun. I thought it would bring a nice and different flavor to the rest of the songs on the record.
It’s just about the moment when you’ve been hanging out with someone and you’re really connecting. It finally gets to a point where it’s like, “Okay. Are you going to make a move or am I?” [Laughs] My boyfriend always blushes when we talk about that song because he’s shy and traditional. I kind of pushed him to make a move with me. He’s like, “Is that song about me?” So it’s just what that’s about.
Songfacts: And what was the process of actually writing it?
Meghan: Well, it was just Phil Barton and me. Phil is awesome. He’s this crazy Aussie guy who’s just full of energy and so positive. I’ve never written a sad song with Phil. We always have a lot of fun.
I said something talking about that moment. Like, “Oh, man, would you just kiss me already?” He just started playing guitar and singing. That’s how he is. He just comes up with stuff [snaps fingers] like that. I was like, “Oh, that’s kind of cool,” and then it just started flowing. You just start throwing out ideas. Like, Okay. What’s the scenario? Where are we? What kind of picture do we want to paint? And then it just goes from there.
Songfacts: What was the most challenging song to write on Grace & Grit?
Meghan: [Long pause] It’s funny. Some songs happen really fast and it’s super organic. It’s just boom, boom, boom. “I Won’t Drink” was that way. I wrote “I Won’t Drink” in an hour and a half and that was it. We loved it.
“Long Way from Waylon,” we went through a couple of different versions. Gord [Bamford], Buddy [Owens], and I were writing and the way we had written it originally had a much more traditional feel. We were supposed to be writing with Phil [O’Donnell] that afternoon. He came into the room and we were like, “What do you think about this?” We showed it to him. Phil is amazing with progressions and the musical side of things. He goes, “Well, what if we did it like this?” and just brought a whole different twist to it. We changed around some of the lyrics. So that one was a bit of a process for sure, but I’m glad that Phil came in and did what he did with the song. He really brought in a cool flavor to it.
“Grace & Grit” a little bit too because it was so autobiographical. I wanted it to be just right. We actually changed some of the lyrics last minute going into the studio. It was something that was cool about working with Chad: He is so meticulous about everything. Before I went into the booth for any of the recordings, he said, “Okay. Let’s go through this song line for line. Do you love every part of it? Are you sold on this?” We ended up making a few little changes. The smallest change can sometimes make a huge difference. A lot of the songs we did that with. A few of them happened really quickly. It just depends.
Songfacts: Can you talk about the story in “I Won’t Drink”?
Meghan: I think it’s a position most people have been in. I was down in Nashville. I had been going through a rough breakup with a pretty bad person. You get home and maybe had a few drinks. You start looking on Instagram or Facebook and you see a picture of them. Your heart just drops. You start getting all emotional and you think, Maybe they weren’t really that bad?
It just messes with your head. I think a lot of people have been in that position where you keep going back to someone who’s just toxic for you either because they’re manipulating you or sometimes the alcohol is manipulating you. You just keep going back and every time you go back, the next day, it’s like nothing has changed. They’re still the same person and now I just feel 10 times worse. You get to a point where it’s like, I would do anything to not feel like this anymore. So for me, it was like, I’m just not going to drink. I’m just not going to put myself in a position where I’m more emotional or vulnerable to this person’s manipulation, and then hopefully I can make better decisions and walk away from it.
Songfacts: And then there’s the contrasting “I Believe in Beer” on the album as well.
Meghan: Well, I love beer. I love to have a few drinks. The good news is that I’m not heartbroken anymore so I’m back to believing in beer I guess you could say [laughs].
But when Rodney [Clawson] and I sat down to write that, he said, “What do you need for your record?” It was the day before I was going in to record. I was like, “I need a beer drinking song.” Every country record needs a good beer drinking song. We were just looking for that twist and hook. I said, “Well, everyone’s got to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another beer.” And that was where it came from.
You go into the bar and sometimes you get caught up with that person or you get on a date and you’re there to have a good time, but they want to get into this heavy conversation and you’re like, “Man, I came here to drink and have fun! Not to do this!” So that’s where it came from.
Songfacts: You’ve already mentioned how you can only write about personal experiences. Have you ever kept a song to yourself because it hurt too much to sing or you were scared of how certain people might react to it?
Meghan: Yeah, I’ve probably got 200 of them in a book that may never see the light of day. It is hard to be vulnerable in a song that way because you’re opening yourself up emotionally. You’re being vulnerable emotionally, but you’re also being vulnerable as an artist where you worry people may judge the way you feel in the song and they may judge the song itself. There are a lot of aspects of it that can be intimidating about sharing a song, but I’ve learned over the years that it is often those vulnerable songs that people relate to and that people love because they also feel that way, but don’t want to tell anyone that they feel that way, and then when someone writes a song about it, they’re like [sighs], “Oh, thank god I’m not alone.”
I may dig up some of those songs one of these days, but some of them are just way too sad or angry, so I’ll just leave those for myself.
Songfacts: Do you approach co-writes differently than you approach writing on your own and do you prefer one over the other?
Meghan: Lately I’ve done a lot more co-writing, but it goes both ways. It’s great because you’re getting an outside voice and an outside opinion. I’ve had the opportunity to work with talented writers where they come up with stuff I never would have come up with by myself, so it’s awesome in that way. But sometimes it’s also intimidating to say what you really want to say. You worry: Are they going to think that’s stupid? Or they’re not going to get it. Sometimes you get into a room with someone who is an incredible writer, but you just don’t have chemistry with them. It’s just not connecting and it’s not working.
When you’re writing by yourself, you’re doing whatever you want. You’re really being open, which can be a great thing. But, you can get stuck into old habits of doing things that maybe you wouldn’t do in a co-write session.
I think it’s important to do both. I should force myself to write by myself more often because you get co-writing and then all of a sudden you get this idea in your head that you can’t write by yourself anymore, which isn’t true. I should push myself to do both. The thing about writing is, the more you write, the better you get. It’s just a trial and error thing. There are benefits to both.
Songfacts: Who are some songwriters that you admire and respect?
Meghan: Well, Chris Stapleton is a big one for me. It’s really cool that he’s come into the limelight in the last little while because I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. He used to sing in a bluegrass band called The SteelDrivers that I was obsessed with for the longest time. I think he’s got a great voice. He’s a great writer.
I love Kacey Musgraves. She’s a great writer as well as a lot of the people that she writes with, like Shane McAnally.
Eric Church – a lot of the people that he writes with. I think Casey Beathard is one of them. Eric Church’s records are incredible and you can see he writes with a lot of the same people.
I’ve been lucky to already have the opportunity to write with some of the people that I’ve always wanted – Buddy Owens is one of them. I absolutely love writing with him. Marty Dodson, Bruce Wallace, Patricia Conroy, Phil Barton. I’ve found solid connections with those people. So every time I go down to write, I always write with them because something great always comes out of it. That’s the biggest thing. It’s not always about finding the big-name writer. You could get in a room with someone who’s written a million #1 hits and it just might not be the right fit for you. So I found that connection with those people and it’s something I really hold onto.