Few places are more frantic and anxious than backstage before a show. This afternoon is no different. Less than 30 minutes before making one of her first nationally televised appearances, Meg Myers paces Revolt TV studios in Hollywood, sipping tea, debating whether or not she’ll play bass as part of her performance.
It’s the release week of her major-label debut LP, Sorry — the culmination of a three-year ascent from Echo Park waitress to one of the rawest and darkest pop musicians since Fiona Apple. Any doubts as to whether this is hyperbole evaporate the moment the cameras swivel to the Smoky Mountains–raised singer and her band.
The bass is nearly bigger than her small frame. The nerves have vanished and Myers consumes all the oxygen in the room. She’s a singer whose twisting vocals bubble out of some subterranean pressure chamber — escalating suddenly without warning, rising instantly at absurd incline, swinging back and forth at extreme velocity.
The performance feels like a cross between Daisy Duke and Ghostface Killah in the “I Can’t Go to Sleep” video — the volatile emotional nexus between wanting to cry and wanting to kill. The single being performed, “Lemon Eyes,” covers similar terrain, exploring what happens when jealousy turns a relationship to cinders.
“I make a lot of sad music, but it’s how I cope with my pain and in a strange way try to heal from it,” Myers says later. “Every show we play, there’s usually a couple of people that cry and reach out to say that the music got them through a hard time in their life.”
Even in attenuated form, Myers’ performance is arresting enough to negate the need for her Revolt TV postperformance interview. It’s one of these things where a cigarette and silence will more than suffice. The Q&A goes without a hitch, until at one point Myers breaks protocol and asks the host, “Wait a second ... should I be looking at you?”
It’s not that she doesn’t want to pay attention but rather that she is constitutionally incapable of small talk. After the show’s over, we try our best to have a conversation about her new album, but it quickly veers elsewhere.
We talk about the banality of self-promotion and the need to “play the game,” but mostly it leans toward random life anecdotes: the time she accidentally gave a homeless person her dead grandfather’s umbrella, her desire to live with the gorillas à la Jane Goodall, a period when she was so sick she didn’t see another person for a month, and how she remembers that convalescent solitude as the best time of her life.
“I don’t fit anywhere,” Myers says. “I just want to be writing music at home or performing. Everything else mostly sucks.”
This is partly tongue in cheek but also a recurring theme in her music since 2012’s breakout single, “Tennessee” — a song that lampooned Eastside hipsters and articulated her desire to return to her home state.
After this tour ends, Myers says, that’s exactly what she’ll do. In the meantime, there is Sorry, a stellar tempest produced and co-written with her longtime collaborator, Doctor Rosen Rosen. It bristles with songs about jealousy and weakness, about being dismantled and mired in personal hells, pain and dissipated dreams and the blood of everyday disappointment. The songs are about reconciling those ineradicable flaws that everyone possesses.
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“I can’t wait to leave. I feel insane here. I hate it. I hate buildings,” Myers says. “I love animals and being in nature. I don’t know where I want to end up, but I do know that peace is one of the only things that’s fun for me.”
An L.A. native, Jeff Weiss edits Passion of the Weiss and hosts the Shots Fired podcast. Find him online at passionweiss.com.