by Ian Thomas
Paying dues as an opening act is par for course for most up-and-comers out to build a buzz. But singer-songwriter Meredith Sheldon, formerly of the Ben Taylor Band and Family of the Year, is paying her dues in style. She may be unsigned, but, as tour support for Johnny Marr (of Smiths fame), Meredith finds herself sharing an audience with a rock legend. (The tour comes to Mr. Small's Theatre tonight.) And it isn’t the first time. A few years back she was in the same position when Evan Dando brought her on tour with The Lemonheads. Sheldon is lucky by her own account, but the songwriting acumen she displays on her new self-released EP, A La Mar, makes plain that it wasn’t just luck that brought her to the precipice of opportunity. Brash and bright, A La Mar espouses a fake-it-till-you-make-it ethos that pays little heed to risk and much to reward. In this interview, she talks about catching breaks and capitalizing on the opportunities she was given.
As an unsigned artist how did you end up on tour supporting Johnny Marr and, before that, the Lemonheads?
I’ve been really fortunate in the people that have heard my music and supported me, taking me on tour and becoming great friends, as well. Evan Dando was a big supporter of my demos and got me to start playing live by taking me over to England, even though I had never played any of my solo material before. I met the Marrs’ on that tour as well, and they became amazing friends and supporters. Marina (of Marina and the Diamonds) had some of my demos from when I was 18 and had been offering to take me on tour for ages, so when that finally materialized it was really fun.
You're in the process of releasing series of self-recorded EPs. Do these span your entire career, do they represent your output since you embarked on the solo project, or are you still in the process of recording them?
The EPs are comprised of material I've been working on over the past couple of years. They are what I've made on my own, with some help from someone on drums occasionally and my wonderful friend Matthew Cullen, who mixes them. I am beginning a full length album as well, which will include many of these tracks. In the meantime, [I] just wanted to get out the songs I've made to make room for new ones.
Am I right in hearing "A La Mar" as Spanish for "To the Sea?" Does the ocean hold a particular significance to you? Where does it fit into your music?
I have always been at home by the sea, have always lived nearby and spent a lot of time next to it on the island of Martha's Vineyard where I now live in Massachusetts. Its very cleansing for me. It reminds me that energy is constantly moving and changing, and I always want to have that flow in my music (and in my life for that matter). Its easy to get hooked on things and want to keep doing them, but ultimately the greatest joy comes to me when I try things out of my comfort zone and find myself surprised by what comes out.