Gifted, award-winning, chart-topping… cool. There are plenty of apt adjectives that apply to Meghan Patrick. But perhaps the most meaningful descriptor for the acclaimed country singer/songwriter is authentic.
Patrick is a musician who always tells it like it is in a voice as gorgeously persuasive as they come. So, when she describes her electrifying third full-length studio album Heart on My Glass as “the most ‘me’ record I’ve ever made,” it’s a profound statement given the sincerity that has come before.
It’s also a handy metaphor for summing up the new album’s many sonic textures and flavours, some familiar to long-time listeners and others new — blues and gospel anyone? — but all yanked straight from Patrick’s rich reservoir of influences.
Funny what a pandemic year spent hunkering down in a town like Nashville will do for your music.
“This is a special record for me for a lot of reasons,” Patrick confirms. “I had so much more time over the past year to focus on writing and really being able to dig into what my sound and message should be. This feels like the most all-encompassing representation of me as a writer, an artist, and a human. All the pieces fell into place.”
For someone who “typically gets song ideas from being out and around people, hearing conversations and watching what’s going on,” the pandemic forced Patrick to pivot, finding inspiration during unscheduled afternoons spent home alone with her guitar on her screened porch amid a chorus of birdsong. Yet the songs on Heart on My Glass are nevertheless spilling over with relatable moments.
Take the honky-tonk barnburner “My First Car,” the album’s flagship and the U.S.’ first proper introduction to Patrick via a recent deal with Nashville-based Riser House Records. With its hip-shaking chorus and saucy lyrics (“My first car was a pickup truck,” which happens to be true, by the way), “My First Car” locates Patrick at the exact moment when an early taste of freedom foretells of adventures to come. Anyone over age 16 will nod in agreement.
At the other end of the emotional spectrum but equally accessible is the gleaming, guitar-goosed ballad “Never Giving Up on You.” Already a hit in Patrick’s native Canada, the song is as clear a picture of knock-kneed love as any and which, like all the songs on Heart on My Glass, was buoyed in studio by an ace team of collaborators.
Similarly, the plaintive “Mama Prayed For”—chronicling a tattooed, cussing, whisky-loving lady’s tentative introduction to her boyfriend’s straightlaced mom, inspired in part by Patrick’s own experience with beau, country star Mitchell Tenpenny’s mother — conjures a familiar reality with an almost itchy precision.
“One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was from Chad Kroeger,” Patrick explains. The Nickelback frontman co-wrote Patrick’s single, “Bow Chicka Wow Wow” from her dazzling 2016 debut, Grace & Grit, which earned the first round of prestigious awards and nominations that would earmark each of Patrick’s recordings. She has also amassed multiple charting singles including the #1 “Walls Come Down” from her excellent second album, Country Music Made Me Do It.
Patrick continues of Kroeger: “As we were going through songs, Chad stopped me to ask what something meant. I explained it and then he said, ‘When someone turns on the radio and hears a song, you can’t be there to explain what you mean.’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah, got it. Be clear.’
“With Heart on My Glass, I spent a lot of time going over the songs. Any lyrics I didn’t absolutely love or that could be stronger? Any clunky melodies? I was determined to make the songs bulletproof and as great as I believed they could be. And I was much more hands-on with the production.”
Indeed, no messaging ambiguities or unwieldy melodies beset Heart on My Glass. Really, not one. Three songs in particular emerge as sterling examples.
There’s the amusingly mournful “Where You Drink” (as in, “don’t fall in love where you drink, thereby cutting yourself off from both a lover and — crucially — your favourite watering hole in the event of a breakup”); the torchy, super-catchy, and heart-melting “Cool About It” (“pretending to be over someone for the sake of optics despite being shattered”); and the gospel-washed “Better Story” which glides out on the testimonial hum of strings and Patrick’s soaring voice. It comes with a good story all its own.
“That’s one of my favourites and a bit of a stylistic leap for me,” Patrick says. “My producer Joey Hyde knew I grew up with blues and soul. Aretha Franklin is one of my favourite singers. So, we wanted to go for that. Joey asked if he could go ahead and try something without me around as I can be, uh, somewhat controlling,” she laughs.
“Joey went ahead and brought in Kristen Rogers for backing vocals, and she was perfect. She elevated the song in a way I couldn’t imagine. Plus, the acapella outro was different for me. The last song on the record” — the propulsive, sorta-rock, and wearily knowing “Liar Too” — “is also something unique for me. Those songs show my musical layers within songs that tell a story.
“To be honest, during the pandemic, I had a lot of anxiety and was depressed. I had the whole year planned out and everything was torn away,” Patrick says. “There were so many unknowns. Finally, I realized that if I was not going to be able to perform, I needed to use time wisely and creatively.
“I committed myself to writing every day, to sitting down with my guitar and coming up with ideas, hooks, progressions… whatever. Now I look back and see that all the uncertainty created this strong album that I am so proud of.
“Success for me will always be based on the fans,” Patrick says. “Awards are amazing, and they give you pause to reflect on hard work and how far you have come. But there’s politics. I can say that because I’ve won awards,” she howls, humbly acknowledging a 2020 Canadian Country Album of the Year JUNO Award for the Wild as Me EP as well as multiple CCMA and CMAO nominations and wins.
“But if I can maintain the same fans through different records and different evolutions of my creativity, that feels like a real win.”
Spoken like an artist who prizes authenticity above all else.