AE: So, it’s interesting because for as small of a town as it is, it sounds like a really progressive and open artistic community.
ME: It even has a little community playhouse and I used to be an extra in the plays. My mom would write some songs and we had this friend who was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, who would perform them. He actually just passed away a few years ago – I dedicated my album Sea-worthy to him. Jarrett Washington, he was an amazing pianist. But yeah, getting back to the town, it was a very artistic community. Progressive and unusual for East Tennessee.
AE: So I guess this works well with my next question – at what point did you come out as a lesbian?
ME: I came out in San Francisco. I moved out here with a boyfriend and I was very very very bi-curious. I was in a long relationship with a guy and when I told people from Tennessee that I was moving out to San Francisco they were like, “You’re gonna start eating sushi and become a queer,” and damn if that didn’t happen! [Laughs]
AE: Well once you sit down and order a spicy tuna roll, there’s no going back. Spicy tuna made me gay. Do you write your songs based mostly on your own life experiences?
ME: I think the core of what any writer writes is – there’s always some emotional truth that is personal. With that said, I like to write about my weird obsessions. Like, when I wrote Sea-worthy I was really obsessed with reading Mutiny on the Bounty so there’s a bunch of nautical references and references to the actual story, but I’m using them more as metaphors. Then with Juggler’s Progress I had gotten really obsessed with thinking about how Shakespeare and literature are so persistent and how it can affect people. But again, I can think about it and use it as metaphors but music is all about emotion. Like poetry is all about trying to capture a moment and say some kind of emotional truth, like, “I feel s—-y” or, “I’m in love with this girl but I don’t know how to say it.”
AE: Well, I’ve always been one to trash my own poetry because it always seemed so cheesy to me in the end. But I find that there’s a thin line between cheesy and authentically deep lyricism. How do you walk the line with that? Are you ever like, “Oh God that was so cheesy.”
ME: Oh I totally throw so much stuff out. Not to brag but I’m known as a prolific writer around my scene in San Fran, but there are hundreds of songs where I’m just like, “Blaaaaah.” For example the song, “Syllable,” had so many verses and I was just like “Yuck!” I think you have to wield that carefully, that critical faculty, because just like you can cross the line of being cheesy, there’s also a line where if you’re too critical, you don’t complete your work. So it’s important to have that. I’ve become very self-critical and re-writey. But yeah you don’t want to be cornball. We’re True Margrit, we want to tell the truth. I just totally ran off a cliff but — have you seen Black Swan?
AE: Not yet, I’m a bad lesbian.
ME: The reason I ask is because – I don’t want to give away spoilers – the lesbian scenes were disappointingly short. That one scene scene, it gets kind of hot and they start kissing and then they start doing this thing that instead of getting hot it turns into kind of a lonesome scene and I was like “S–t.” The reason I bring it up is because all of those things you were saying about cheesiness, I kind of thought Black Swan was cheesy. I know, everyone thinks it was great and I must be perverse.
AE: Well not everyone loved it. I saw some people on my Facebook feed saying they wished they could have unseen it. But I won’t judge until I see it for myself.
ME: It’s pretty unrelentingly sad and totally worthy of seeing. Darren Aronofsky is incredibly talented but sometimes he’s like, (screams) “I am using a metphor now!” [Laughs]
AE: Well I can’t wait to see it now! So, when I listen to your music, I hear definite comparisons to Ben Folds – definitely in your piano and sometimes even in your vocals. Have you been watching his a capella reality show?
ME: I haven’t! Wait, what!? Ben Folds has a reality show?
AE: Yeah, it’s him, one of the guys from Boyz II Men and that chick from the Pussycat Dolls and they judge this a capella competition — kind of like Glee.
ME: No, I’ll have to check it out. I love musicals and Glee is fun.
AE: It’s fun but it makes me uncomfortable when the characters sing to each other. The faces they make – make me really uncomfortable.
ME: [Laughs] That’s hilarious, it’s totally true.
AE: OK, so I’m not the only one who feels that way?
ME: No, but acting and singing at the same time isn’t really easy.