The past two years have been a whirlwind for the dynamically delightful Toronto-based singer/songwriter Meredith Shaw.
After releasing her critically-acclaimed, effervescent and delightfully refreshing debut album, Place Called Happy, she embarked on an extensive tour with Big Sugar, criss-crossing the continent, assembling experiences and stories that were irresistible fodder for Shaw’s clever and creative imagination.
She will be releasing a series of three-song EPs affectionately coined ‘Tringles’ with special guest artists and producers that capture the essence of her talent, charm, personality, playfulness and also boldly proclaims a confident maturity as a songwriter.
“They all speak to pretty significant parts of who I am,” she said of the tunes. “I don’t mind writing by myself, and I do write a lot by myself, but I also like the collaborative nature of co-writing with other talented songwriters. Sometimes you just need that other set of ears or ideas to really come up with something special.”
As part of her journey for this project, she decided to reach out to one of Canada’s most accomplished, authentic and well-respected craftspeople – Joel Plaskett. And the meeting of the musical minds was sheer magic, as Plaskett ended up producing the material for the first phase of this ongoing project, and contributed some of his unique lyrical and musical imprints to the tunes.
“I have been a fan of his since forever, since I saw him at the Grad Club in Kingston when I was studying at Queen’s. He blew my songwriting mind and still does. He showed me that you could be funny in songs, that you can be in the moment, and I loved it,” Shaw said, admiringly.
“I feel that these songs are a really cool next step for me. And I am working with one of my musical heroes. I got to both write with him and work with him as a producer. I’m a lucky chick”
Place Called Happy was produced by another of Shaw’s musical heroes and mentors, Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, Grady and Wide Mouth Mason fame. Working in tandem with Plaskett, he mixed the first three tracks and will be mixing all the 3 song EPs this year giving them his signature Gordie touch. Shaw said she is continually grateful to be understood and appreciated by the likes of Johnson and now Plaskett for her own talents as a songwriter and performer.
“It means so much. In this industry, you hope the people you respect will give you a thumbs-up to show you that you’re on the right track. I am following my own creative heart, but I couldn’t have more admiration for these two guys, and their opinion and approval is amazing.”
Plaskett helped Shaw finish the song that will be the first single. ‘Trouble’ started off during a songwriting session in Nashville, a place where Shaw spent some time last year, and plans on returning to regularly to partake in the rich songwriting opportunities it affords. The song aptly demonstrates that, while Shaw has grown and matured as an artist, the girl who coquettishly sang ‘Acted Badly’ is still very much exploring her inner vixen.
“When I finally solidified where I was going with the song, I thought, ‘you know, Joel Plaskett would really get this.’ And when I reached out to him, sure enough he did. And he brought a lot of humour to the verses and made sense out of some of my nonsensical ideas, without really changing the vibe.”
The song also shows how Shaw the vocalist has progressed. Her phrasing, diction, and delivery is crafty, clever but oh so Meredith, and leaves no doubt that she is a Grade A charmer.
‘Have You Met My Heart’ reveals another soul-baring facet of Shaw’s personality, as she worked with noted songwriter Simon Wilcox during a session in Los Angeles to pen a tune that retains an element of playfulness, within the confines of sadness, loneliness and regret.
“I had already written the chorus and melody and then had this idea of blaming your heart for all your problems. ‘It’s all her fault. It has nothing to do with you. You’re a wonderful human being, but this heart is making you do all sorts of horrible things.’ I saw someone’s Facebook cover photo and it said, ‘my heart is an idiot.’ And thought it was funny – the notion of separating yourself from your heart. I thought it was an interesting way to start a love song. And I brought it to Simon because I knew she was so poetic and I was confident we would be an interesting match in terms of co-writing.”
‘Call It a Night’ was penned with Shaw’s primary songwriting co-conspirator, Patrick Ballantyne, and is also a straightforward, fantastical ‘pick-up’ song, and shows off Shaw’s breathtakingly soulful vocal power.
“It was actually a song that Patrick and I were writing for Gordie, but very quickly into it I said, ‘I think this is my song.’ I was feeling good about it, It spoke to me, and plus I was kind of able to holler a little bit. I like doing that – just belting it out. I did it with ‘There’s No Telling,’ from Place Called Happy, and it’s fun to do that once in a while. We changed the narrative, but obviously it’s a pure and simple pick-up song. We’ve all had those moments, although I get a little blushy about that sort of thing,” Shaw said with a chuckle and mischievous grin.
“We were coming up with the words and I just put the image of Ryan Gosling in front of me and wrote whatever I would say to him if he was in a bar. Yes, I have a thing for Gosling”
She beams with justifiable pride and excitement when thinking about the upcoming release, Trouble, as it represents a significant step in her artistic journey and also effectively captures the different sides to her delightfully complex personality.
And her many fans are also excited to hear the new music coming from their favourite, fabulous singer/songwriter. For more information, visit www.meredithshaw.com.
Meredith Shaw’s tracks