Interview: Megan McKenna talks country music, songwriting and her debut singles

Megan McKenna may not be new to the celebrity world in the UK but she is new to the music scene as a Country music singer/songwriter. Megan introduced her music career to us through her recent television series There’s Something About Megan which was aired on ITVbe as part of a three part series last week.

Coming from reality shows such as Ex On The Beach, Celebrity Big Brother and TOWIE, Megan finally got to show people the real her during this mini documentary series. On the show, we follow Megan as she arrives in Nashville – Music City, to pursue a Country music career and to gain approval to release a single in the UK.

Megan gets mentored by Allen McKendree Palmer, who runs Palmer Global Ink and she spends a month in Nashville writing music, playing shows and getting to know the Nashville scene.

Coming from a reality TV show, people often have their doubts about whether an individual such as Megan can make a success of a music career. Questions such as ’Can she sing?’ ’Does she know anything about Country music?’ are often asked. If you hear Megan sing, all those doubts should be cast aside; her voice has such a natural way about it with a stunning vibrato and Country tone.

I caught up with Megan after her show aired, and after her two singles were released, to discuss her time in Nashville, her love for Country music and of course her singles. What I learned from Megan was that she was incredibly down to earth and really easy to talk to. She proved herself to me in many ways such as her focus, drive, knowledge and her passion for the Country world. I was pleasantly surprised by Megan and really enjoyed chatting to her. I wish her every success in this field and hope she gains the support and respect she deserves, and that people go in with an open mind and see her now as a singer/songwriter rather than just a reality TV star. I myself have never seen the shows she was on, apart from the odd CBB episode, so have nothing to go on, other than her music. I have liked what I have heard so far and am looking forward to hearing more from her.


Hi, Megan how are you?

I am good, thank you.

How are you feeling after There’s Something About Megan aired?

Honestly? I couldn’t be happier. I am so glad that people have actually got to see what I love to do and not just the whole drama side of things on reality TV – they got to see me for me. My whole life I have trained for this; I went to theatre school but I have had so many knock backs with my music over the years, so for it all to be starting now is just my dream.

That is really nice to hear – I watched the entire series and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Did you? Aww thank you!

How has the response been so far?

Oh, the response from fans has been absolutely amazing. I am not even joking – my twitter has been constantly full of positive stuff. Normally, if I am on a show there will be some negativity, people not liking it and then people liking it – it is usually very 50/50 – but I haven’t even seen any bad comments; it has been amazing.

Good!

Tell us about your time in Nashville – what didn’t we see? How did it make you feel, as it is truly a magical place.

Yeah, it is, but it is not what I expected it to be. I thought it would be more rural – in the middle of nowhere – but when I turned up, it was so busy and everyone is singing, everyone is playing music and everyone is there for the same reason – and that’s what I love about it. I loved being surrounded by people who love to do what I love to do. You don’t get that in Essex; everyone in Essex is wrapped up in their relationship, nights out and stuff like that. I would say it is more business minded, but in Nashville it is so much more creative. I loved it and I am going to go back, because it is just amazing. I met some amazing songwriters there, which has the given me the opportunity to go back and write with them.

That is great news – can we get any names of who you could be writing with?

When I was in Nashville you may see in the background in some scenes from the show that there was a guy called James Slater.

Yes, I did see him featured quite a bit.

He has written with and for some of Country music’s biggest names such as Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts, Reba – the list goes on. I actually got to have a meeting with him during my songwriting schedules and we agreed that when I go back to Nashville, we will write some songs together. This is absolutely amazing because his songs are and have been really successful and have been in the charts. It’s crazy; he is such a lovely guy, too. There will be more songs coming and I can’t wait!

I look forward to them. It’s great that you are getting to go back and write with some amazing writers.

What other places did you get to see out there? Did you visit The Ryman, Opry?

We did see them yes – we did get to go in and look around. The Opry is on my list of things to do; I ticked off so many things already, but I do hope to go there again one day.

So, if you go back, I assume farming will not be on the agenda?

No farming, haha! No way – it’s not for me, no! It was a good experience, though.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone, not sure I would cope with some parts of it.

Did you meet any performers?

I didn’t, but I got to meet and work with songwriters out there, which was the main focus. I did try to see if anyone had any shows in town but most were touring elsewhere or doing their own thing.

Apart from Carrie Underwood – what other artists in Country music do you like?

I love Dolly, obviously but I really love Rascal Flatts – I would say that they are one of my favourite bands – I love them! I know that Miley isn’t really very Country but some of her music is a bit cross over – especially now with her new music. I absolutely love Miley and her dad too – I love Billy Ray Cyrus.

Hey – I am in my thirties and love Hannah Montana, The Movie ha! It is a guilty pleasure of mine.

Hannah Montana, ha! I was obsessed with it, and the movie. The sound guy for There’s Something About Megan was actually the sound guy for the Hannah Montana movie.

Now that’s pretty cool!

I had so many questions for him.

It’s so much better than people would think – it is a very Country music and Country life-style focused movie, which a lot of people won’t expect.

The soundtrack alone is very Country, from the songs Miley sings – with Billy Ray, Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts all making an appearance.

That’s what I mean, she has Country roots and people don’t realise that. 

Yes, Her dad is Billy Ray Cyrus and her godmother is Dolly Parton – strong roots there.

Exactly!

What was it like to perform at The Bluebird? It’s tiny isn’t it?

Oh, my goodness, it is so small – I was so shocked! When walking in there though, you feel the energy and atmosphere and you know right away that it is somewhere special. It was an amazing experience and very nerve wracking. The silence policy made me nervous as you can hear people breathing. I am so grateful to have got to perform there.

Yes, you are very lucky. I have seen songwriters’ showcases there and they are very exciting – and it is always a wonderful experience.

Do you watch the TV show Nashville at all?

No, I haven’t seen it yet. I know that they feature the Bluebird in the show a lot. The actual lady who runs the Bluebird is on the Nashville series.

Yes, they make it look much bigger.

Yeah, they use a set.

I was never 100 per cent sure on that one.

Yeah, it is like an exact replica.


You have just released two songs – Far Cry From Love and High Heeled Shoes.

Yes.

How does it feel to finally have these songs out, as I would imagine the show was filmed a while back now? Also, congratulations on taking the number one and two spots on the iTunes Country chart! Did you ever imagine that would happen – and so quickly?

I can’t believe it! The show was filmed quite recently, about a month and a half ago, so it’s been quite a big turnaround. As soon as I got back I started working on the songs and I am just so happy that people like my music. When it hit number one and two on the iTunes Country charts I said to myself “What the hell is going on? This is crazy!” and then, in the afternoon, they reached number one and two on the All Genre ITunes chart.

Oh, did they? Congratulations!

Thank you – I was so shocked to be higher than so many amazing artists who I really look up to. I can’t believe it, it is mental, I am so happy about it. The tweets that I have been getting have been amazing. People are saying that they can relate to my music, which means a lot, because I wrote the song Far Cry From Love from a personal place. The style of Country music that I love and want to do is that whole ‘strong woman/girl power’ Carrie Underwood style – and I want to sing music about life and break ups. You know the older music of Carrie Underwood? Where she sang about bad relationships (Before He Cheats etc) – I want to mix it in with that kind of vibe.

I love Carrie, she is amazing!

She is my idol.

I wish she would come over here more often. I don’t feel that people give her enough credit outside of the Country fan base in the UK.

I agree, she has the potential to be mainstream.

Exactly, that’s what I mean.

I hope she returns soon so that you can see her – perhaps she will come back to play at C2C Festival – are you familiar with C2C?

Yes, I am. If she comes back, I will definitely go and see her.

Let’s talk about Far Cry From Love, written with the lovely Beth Nielson Chapman who country music loves. It seems you learned a lot from her and that she helped you open up a lot. She clearly succeeded, as this song obviously holds a lot of vulnerability and honesty from your own personal experience. Did you find it hard to write from such a vulnerable place and do you feel that you will write from the heart more now?

I knew when I went to Nashville to write, that was the route that I wanted to go down. I don’t want to hold back in my music – I want to get my stories across to people. I think that I am very misunderstood in the press from the shows I have been on before. I have a lot of stories to tell. My music will be an open book. I can’t wait; my life, the stuff I have been through, is relatable to loads of people. I have been in and out of relationships, I have had ups and downs and loads of things happen to me that I just want to write about, so that song is just one of my stories. There is a lot I am going to be opening up on, so people are going to be hearing and seeing a lot more from me.

Good. Well, when you look at artists such as Taylor Swift, she has based her career around being an open book.

Exactly, and that is the route I want to go down; honesty in music, real life.

Well, this is why us Country fans love Country music; it’s real, honest, relatable.

Yes, it is telling a story and is about people’s lives.

How familiar are you with the Country scene in the UK?

I know that it is growing so much now.

I know, it is all the time now – shows everywhere, it is great. Will you be attending any shows or doing any gigs yourself?

That is the plan. We were waiting to see how the singles went. The fact they have done so well hopefully means we will get some dates down for sure. I am actually shooting my music video today.

Wow, that is exciting!

Yeah, it is so much fun; I can’t wait for it to come out. There will be some pictures out soon too, for a sneak peek – it is so exciting as it is what I always wanted to do. Reality TV wasn’t the route I ever thought I would go down, but it has opened other doors for me and I am grateful for everything I have done.

Well, many artists start off elsewhere, are you familiar with Twinnie Lee Moore?

Yes.

Well, as you know, she started off in Hollyoaks, but has always been a singer/songwriter. She wrote some songs featured on The Shires’ albums and has now started her own music career in Country music – and she is phenomenal. It doesn’t matter where you start.

It happens -and I feel it can happen. It is the same for artists such as Carrie Underwood. She started in American Idol and, at the time, you would never think she could break away from that show to the success that she is now. That’s why I love her so much. I think if people can make their own successful career from that, then why can’t I?

Exactly, why can’t you? Many artists have travelled the same route. Kelly Clarkson, perhaps not Country but borderline, still has a highly successful career off the back of a reality show.

Kelly Clarkson, exactly – and you wouldn’t think that now, would you?

No – and actually, if you think about it, a lot of Country artists came from reality or talent shows. Do you know Miranda Lambert?

Yes, I do.

Well, she came from a talent show, as did Kellie Pickler, Cassadee Pope, Chris Young and Kacey Musgraves.

I love Kacey!

It’s the way of the world these days, and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s what you do to maintain the success and take it further that is the important thing.

Exactly!

So, back to the video – which one are you shooting today?

High Heeled Shoes.

Oh, that will be a fun video – I can’t wait to see the result. I really like that song and it was co-written by our own Catherine McGrath, am I right?

Yeah, and Nick Southwood with Norma Jean Martine.

Well, we love Catherine, so I am delighted you have released something she has penned.

I am very grateful. I am actually meeting her next week, which is cool. I have been working in rehearsal with one of her guitarists; it’s going good.


Well, we hope to see you around the scene, perhaps even at C2C – whether that be as a spectator or performer.

Yes, I hope so!

Well, we have a lot of UK Country playing there. This year we had Una Healy, Twinnie, Catherine McGrath, The Shires, Ward Thomas and many more.

Has Bob Harris been supporting you?

Yes, he has, which is amazing.

Good.

Thank you so much for talking to me today and I wish you all the success with the singles and future music.

Thank you so, so much!

Download Megan’s singles here:

High Heeled Shoes – Single by Megan McKenna
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/high-heeled-shoes-single/id1273362049

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