Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Exclusive: Interview with Megan McCauley

(Myself, Megan McCauley)

With yellow, purple, and red highlighting her nearly waist length brown hair, it is hard to believe that at 19, Megan McCauley has not been a rock star her entire life. She wears big fake lashes, and flashes a smile that shows off her lip and chin piercings, as well as her custom chiseled vampire fang teeth. Doused from head to toe in leather and metal studs, as well as a self promoting tour T-Shirt, she takes a break from hanging out with her band before her final stint at New York City’s Arlene’s Grocery to talk with me for a little bit about herself, her music, and her plans to overrule Madonna.

AN: You started out a very early age performing country music, and even self – released two country albums before Wind-Up records signed you in 2005. What made you make the switch from country to rock?
MM: I got sick and tired of slide guitars and not being able to say “fuck.”

AN: You received your first national exposure as a featured artist on the soundtracks to comic book movies “Elektra” and “Fantastic Four,” both in the same year. What was it like for you, an unknown artist at the time, to be making your debut and be part of such huge compilations alongside bands such as Taking Back Sunday, Velvet Revolver, and Hawthorne Heights?
MM: Well “Fantastic 4” kind of sucked because they didn’t actually use my song in the movie, just on the soundtrack. “Elektra” was cool, especially because I always liked Elektra because I do martial arts myself, and I use the same weapons she does. It was awesome because she’s always been my favorite comic book hero and then when I heard the song play at the end, I yelled at people when they got up to leave, I was just like “Sit down!” And they were like “who’s this crazy bitch yelling at us? We’ll do what she says.” I got a tattoo in commemoration of that (turns around and lifts up shirt to reveal lower back tattoo of “Elektra” logo). It says “assassin” which is what her arm band says in the movie. I have a lot of tattoos (laughs).

AN: How many do you have?
MM: Ten, one of which I did myself. I’m telling you I do the strangest things when I’m bored.

AN: Which one’s your favorite?
MM: I don’t know. I really like my panther, and I have one of Jessica Rabbit on my hip. My favorite one is probably this one on my arm though. It says “Forever 27” because all the great rock starts died at 27 – Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrisson. I figured by getting it tattooed to my arm, I probably won’t fall subject to it because how much of a fucked up coincidence would that be? (laughs)

AN: You released your debut album, “Better Than Blood,” last September. Can you tell me the inspiration for the album title and the meaning behind it?
MM: If I told you I’d have to kill you. Everybody asks that - it’s just such a common thing, you can take it however you want. Blood is a term for whatever you want it to be. It can mean family, it can mean the essence of life, it can mean a lot of things. So really, “better than blood” can be read how you want to read it. For example, it can be “better than what people think of me because of who I’ve been brought up as”. I believe it was Type O Negative that once said “blood is so sexy because it is the essence of life. Without it, there’d be nothing, without it we’d be dead.” In that case, it would mean “better than an anything in the whole world”. No matter how you look at it, everybody draws their own meaning from it. Neither one of those are the story behind how the title was born, but that’s how it was the selling point of the title when we came up with it. That was a very good question, but like I said, if I told you I’d have to kill you. My own mother doesn’t know the story behind it - just know it’s very comical, it’s not as serious as it sounds.

AN: One thing your fans really admire about you is the fact that you’re not afraid to be yourself at all – meaning you don’t censor yourself, in your look or through your music. You’re not afraid of exposing yourself or your emotions too much, and your lyrics can really take people places and when they do, they take them there hard. What do you think the benefit of putting yourself out there the way you do is, and why do you think that so many of today’s artists are afraid to do so?
MM: You know, I’ve always said a good musician will flirt with the line between genius and insanity, a great musician will walk it, and only the best will cross it. That’s what I try and do. I try and be as open and rash as possible, say things that people might not necessarily want to hear but it’s the truth, it’s honesty, why lie? Really, why lie? What’s the point? If you’re in any career where you can say anything in the world, rock star is the way to go. That’s how I know I’m doing the right damn thing, because I sure as hell can’t do anything else with my mouth (laughs).

AN: I find it really interesting that a musician such as yourself, who has such strong vocals and can play numerous instruments like the piano, guitar, cello, bass, harmonica, and flute, is in fact not able to read music and instead composes and plays all of her songs by ear. What is the biggest challenge you face when doing so, and now that you are a successful artist, are you planning on taking any type of lessons to learn how to read music?
MM: I cannot read music to save my damn life. It just looks like dots on a bunch of lines to me. I’m not playing anything on stage this go around but who knows, maybe in the future I might, so right now my band is taking over the music side. I’ve got so much else to worry about, so I tell my drummer Mark to handle that stuff. I’ll come in with my creative two cents but that’s about it.

AN: Your music incorporates a large number of very clear influences, ranging from Janis Joplin to Rasputina. Who would you say was your biggest influence was in the writing and recording of your album?
MM: Brian Neno. I think the work that he did on the “Velvet Goldmine” soundtrack was really good. That soundtrack got it for me, turned me onto his music. Bowie is another one, who’s another very big, huge influence. Of course Janis, and then I listen to a lot of old blues. But really, if it’s in the Rock Hall of Fame, it’s been an influence. I grew up going there a lot so every single artist in there has something in there I like to incorporate.

AN: Your entire album has a flow to it, but there’s one song that doesn’t seem to fit the mold of the rest of the CD. While most of the album is either angry or sad, “Tap That” stands out as a fun, party song to dance to. What made you decide to break away from the themes of the rest of the record to include this song?
MM: I want to kill that song. I had too much to drink one night and decided to do something crazy. I sent the song in to Wind-Up as a joke, and I thought they were going to send it back being like “what kind of crack have you been smoking?” I did it with the same producer who wrote “U + Ur Hand” by Pink, and I didn’t realize how similar they were because they both got written and released at the same time. It’s not like me and Pink know each other and could be like “Oh, no you take the song, I’ll do another one.” Now I get all excited when I hear Pink on the radio because I think it’s “Tap That.” Then The Veronicas come on and again I think it’s “Tap That” and then it’s not. Just that similarity drives me insane. The whole song is, I don’t know, fun. It’s definitely one side of me, however, not exactly the side I am most of the time. That’s the side I am when I’ve had too much to drink (laughs).

AN: Now that you are out on tour and your music is beginning to receive heavier rotation, where do you see yourself a year from now?
MM: I hope to see myself on top of the world duct taping Madonna to a chair and saying “Say my name bitch!” I mean that. If this album doesn’t do it, then hopefully the second one can.

AN: Are you working on a follow-up record yet?
MM: I already am. I actually just got done writing a song for it this morning that I have to record. One of my issues with this album was that so many tracks that had already been released that by the time we released the album, half the people who were fans from the beginning were already sick of it. I already started working on that second album a very long time ago.

AN: Are you planning on releasing it this year?
MM: I don’t know, it’s up to Wind-Up. What they say goes.

AN: In a world where female pop rock is more common than it used to be, with artists such as Paramore, Evanescence, and Flyleaf dominating the radio, how do you separate your sound from what’s on the TRL countdown right now?
MM: First off, I can actually sing. Second off, my music just sounds a little grungier and rawer to me. I think a lot of the newer pop rock bands that are female are just so overly processed. I did like Avril Lavigne when she first came out, then she went all crazy on me with the blonde hair and dance routines. I was just like “No, what happened to you, you poor child? I want to hug you, calm you down, and give you a bottle of Jack and tell you to get back into the rock.” I don’t know much about Paramore or Flyleaf, but as far as I know with Avril Lavigne and Evanescence, my music is more raw and less opera choir backgrounds and corsets - but not a real one, one from Hot Topic (laughs).

AN: Alright, well thanks so much and good luck!
MM: Thank you! See you at the show!

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