It’s always exciting to learn about who’s attended your school/alma mater because it helps you feel even better about yourself and who you get to say you’re (barely) associated to. Local dream-pop artist Lemolo is made up of Meagan Grandall, who is a Seattle University graduate.
She has gone from being an incredibly academically-focused student to launching an incredibly successful music career in the Seattle area, and she’s teetering on the edge of the release of her next studio album, Red Right Return. I got the chance the chat with her as she gears up for her big Bumbershoot set this weekend.
CJ: Thanks so much for chatting, Meagan! A quick question that I like to ask people: What would readers be surprised to find out is a frequently-played song on your iTunes/Spotify/Apple Music/whatever of the fifty million streaming services out there that you use?
MG: People might be surprised that I have spent a lot of time in my life listening to Yanni and playing his sheet music. Not so much lately, but I was obsessed with his music when I was younger and he was even my first concert. I saw him at The Paramount in first grade!
CJ: Love it. So your most recent album, Red Right Return, was led off with the lead single “Hold Light,” which might be my favorite song of yours. There are so many parts to it that I find so addicting, including the occasional quick drum-claps. How was it recording this song? How’d you know it was the right song to make your first single for the album?
MG: Choosing a single is really tricky for me. It can be hard to gauge which songs other people will gravitate towards, especially when I am so close to them personally. So I asked a lot of people who I know and trust for their opinions, and it was ultimately narrowed down to “Hold Light” and “Low Halo” as the two singles. I like “Hold Light” because it feels upbeat and a little more driving.
CJ: Speaking of “Low Halo,” I’ve noticed that in some of your songs (most notably in that one), the production value is a bit grander than the vocals on the record, which helps bring a really ethereal feeling to each of them. What’s your creative process like when matching your vocal performance to the sound?
MG: I always have so much fun adding texture and layers to my songs when I’m in the studio. On this latest record, I went farther with layering than I did on my first record, The Kaleidoscope. I mainly used synths and a really cool reverb pedal that my engineer and co-producer, Shawn Simmons, had called “BigSky.” And in terms of vocals, I like to have reverb on my vocals, but just enough where you can still hear the lyrics. So it’s always a balancing act.
CJ: So, often, I hear of artists kind of brainstorming exactly what they want a song to sound like from top to bottom, so they jump in and cut it all and make it as perfect as they’ve imagined. Do you ever improvise with creating your music, or are you more of a planner?
MG: I’m definitely more of a planner, and like to have the main skeleton of the songs completely finished and mapped out before heading into the studio. Not only for my own peace of mind, but for financial reasons, too, since every minute in the studio is expensive! But when I’m in the studio, I really enjoy being creative on the fly with the background layers, like vocal harmonies and extra synth layers. That’s like the icing on the cake for me.
CJ: What kinds of things do you draw inspiration from when writing new music?
MG: My songs are basically my musical diary. I write about my personal life and experiences, and use songwriting as an emotional outlet for myself. It’s something that I’ve always relied on, even before I started performing my songs. So I feel really grateful that I have been able to turn this into a career, because ultimately it’s such a fundamental part of who I am and how I process life.
CJ: Even though this is your career, and despite being an established Seattle artist, do you still ever get the pre-show jitters? Do you have any performing rituals that help calm you down?
MG: I’m always nervous before my shows. Literally, always! I’ve learned that having alone time right before going on stage helps me, and also making sure to warm up my voice and drink lots of water. Lately I’ve been really enjoying singing aloud to Sharon Van Etten, because it calms me down and warms up my voice at the same time.
CJ: Tell us about your time at Seattle University. Any favorite memories?
MG: I had a blast at Seattle University! I also was really invested in academics, and ended up graduating at the top of my class with a 4.0! So as you can imagine, I spent tons and tons of time studying. But I always knew that once I graduated I was going to form my band and pursue music, so it was a nice change of pace when that happened. I made the best friends at SU and we still spend a lot of time together. I’m not sure how it started, but we called ourselves “The Whale Pod” and I think we will be friends for life! We all lived in a big house together senior year and threw some pretty epic dance parties.
CJ: Whew, top of your class! That’s awesome. So what was the music scene in Seattle like when you were a student at Seattle University? Any different than it is now?
MG: I went to a ton of shows when I was going to SU, and the Seattle music scene seems to be just as vibrant now as it was then. One of the major reasons I chose to go the SU is because it was right in the heart of such a wonderful artistic scene, and I really wanted to experience that. And I’m so glad that I did because it was really formative for me as a musician.
CJ: What advice would you give to aspiring student musicians who aren’t really sure about how to get their foot in the door, or aren’t really sure about where to start with creating music?
MG: My main piece of advice is to set goals, and then work really hard to achieve them. It takes a lot of hard work to make anything grow, and as long as you keep at it you will eventually start to recognize your progress. Play as many shows as you can, wherever you can at first. And you eventually start to meet like-minded people and things will happen from there. It’s a wonderful journey, and if it’s something you want to do, definitely go for it!
CJ: Being a Seattle local, it must be so exciting to be playing Bumbershoot Festival! What can we expect from your set?
MG: I’m so excited to be playing at Bumbershoot for a second time! Lemolo will be playing on the brand new KEXP stage, which is at the heart of their new gorgeous home in the Seattle Center. And we will be playing lots of new songs from Red Right Return, and a couple of old ones, as well. We’re planning on rocking out!
Be sure to check out Lemolo on Saturday, September 3rd at 5:30 p.m. at the KEXP Stage!
CRAIG JAFFE | King of Longwinded Questions™ | Editor