Getting up on stage solo, with nothing more than an electric guitar and a microphone between yourself and an audience, is not a situation many of us would want to find ourselves in, but it’s where Meredith Sheldon finds joy and a sense of honest communication with her audience.
The Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter, formerly of Family of the Year, has been creating music under her own name for about two years now, sharing the stage with the Lemonheads and Marina and the Diamonds in the process. Sheldon has managed to maintain the lost sense of mystery surrounding modern musicians, as you’ll find very little about her online and only a handful of interviews, something she wasn’t always comfortable doing. Thouh you’ll find Sheldon accompanied by a band at some gigs, she’s on the road solo for her North American run opening for Johnny Marr.
“When you play with other people there is a harmonization of all the players’ energy on stage, which is a very cool thing. But it’s also very interesting and liberating to experience just my own energy up there,” Sheldon explains via email. “I used to be afraid of that because I had specific ideas of what I thought people liked and I want to give only that version of myself. My intention for this tour instead was to be as much my whole self as I can be without censoring or protecting myself, and practise being with the audience from a place of greater honesty.”
Achieving that sense of greater honesty has not been as scary as Sheldon expected it to be, and she admits she’s kicking herself a little for spending as much time in fear as she did. But hindsight is just that, and Sheldon continues to find her way in an often complicated industry where the old rules and paths to success are not the only option.
“For a long time people said major labels had it sorted, then the indie labels were on their game, and now it’s sort of who knows,” says Sheldon, who began singing and playing guitar from a young age but was more involved in classical ballet until after high school. “I think it’s a challenging turf to navigate for everyone, but once we really let go of our ideas of how things should work, we can be open to ways that even our smartest calculating selves couldn’t have conjured.”
Sheldon, who is currently unsigned, is finishing up her first full-length record A La Mar and hopes to have it released within the next year. In the meantime, she’s released a series of EPs—A La Mar (Sketches), A La Mar (Sketches) 2 and A La Mar (Sketches) 3—comprised of tracks that did not end up being selected for the album. There’s only a track or two on each, but they certainly pack a punch with Sheldon’s strong alto that’s a throw-back to ’90s alt-rock and slightly bluesy melodies that can’t be neatly confined to one genre.
“I think my writing has always been very introspective, but as my self-awareness has deepened over the years, I think this is reflected in my writing,” Sheldon says of the series. “Recently, it has become a focus of mine to delve into the dark and light aspects of myself, the confusion and clarity, the unflattering bits and the nice bits, and to hold those two seemingly opposite experiences in one unified piece of music. This is what I’m trying to do in my whole life, anyway.”
Wed, Dec 3 (8 pm)
With Johnny Marr
Starlite Room, $31