HOMETOWN: Roberta, Ga.
INFLUENCES: Fiona Apple, Patty Griffin, Sade
ALBUM: The Bright Side, out now
Growing up in a small rural hometown with a population of 800, Meiko Sheppard learned to entertain herself. She picked up her father’s guitar and was writing songs by age 5; three years later she made her public debut singing “White Christmas” at church. “Being an awkward, bored middle-schooler was really helpful for my creative skills, because I spent a lot of time alone in my room playing my guitar,” she says. “I could also run around a lot outside, not having any supervision. When you’re raised in the middle of the woods your imagination soars.”
After one semester of college, she headed for L.A. in 2002 to pursue a musical career—although five more years passed before she worked up the nerve to play her first show. “I played for two people,” recalls Meiko, now 27. “The whole time I was up there, I was thinking, ‘This is terrible, there’s only a pair of people in the audience.’ Afterward I went over to thank them for coming, and one of them turned out to be deaf.” She persisted, performing all over town, self-releasing an album and landing her songs on local radio—not to mention on national TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Pretty Little Liars. She caught the attention of MySpace, which reissued her eponymous album through its record-label arm.
Meiko’s just-released sophomore effort, The Bright Side, was produced by Jimmy Messer, Greg Collins and Styrofoam. “I wanted to make this record a little more lively,” she says. “We played around with beats and came up with something that people could move to. There’s more color, layers and texture this time around—acoustic guitars, piano, strings, horns and background harmonies. It’s got the electronic-beat side, the retro side and even an R&B side. I was able to do everything I wanted to do.”