"The song is not autobiographical, but fragmented bits of reality always slip in." (An Interview with Meg Olsen)
Half Mystic is perpetually exploring the spaces in-between: the elusive places linking music and writing, creation and destruction, tenderness and strength. Meg Olsen’s work resides precisely here, and we could not be more excited or honored to watch her unravel into song. Today, we bask in the uproarious gentleness of Issue I contributor Meg Olsen, and her latest single “Capture the Moon.”
HM: Your newest single is entitled “Capture the Moon.” What is your personal relationship with the moon? What role does it hold in your life?
MO: The moon holds so much power and mystery for me; it has since I was a kid. I am definitely affected by its phases too—case in point, I had my baby on a full moon! I also love the relationship between the moon and the ocean. The fact that it has a physical, visible effect on the earth and animals is mind-blowing. In the song, the moon really represents the magic and essence of life more than the literal moon. But I love the imagery it conjures.
How have you gone about crafting your songwriting style? How has that style transformed since your song “Scissors + Fire” was featured in Half Mystic Journal’s Issue I: Allegro?
I think I write in very much the same way that I did back then, although perhaps I'm more willing to take risks lyrically? I'm still a fairly solitary creature when it comes to writing the song, but I love bringing in collaborators in the later musical stages. I am always open to trying new sounds and ideas in the studio.
This song has a very vintage feeling, as though it’s created in the style of the past, albeit with some modernized elements. How do you go about creating art that exists out of synchronization with time? What draws you to this aesthetic?
I've always been drawn to music from past eras, but I don't want to copy a sound for the sake of making my work "vintage". Any influences, from the 60’s through to the present, that I draw from production-wise sound like they could have been written outside of their own time as well. I think that timelessness is something that I aim for more than going too far in one direction in terms of modern vs. retro sounds.
What is your personal songwriting process? What fuels your inspiration to create?
Generally, my process involves me alone with a guitar or piano, working on chords and melodies. Sometimes the muses are smiling down, and it all comes together fast—and other times I'll hold onto a crumb of an idea for weeks or longer before I realise how to finish it.
I gather a lot of inspiration from other forms of art: movies, visual art, reading, live shows. Though I'm consuming less art since I had my son, I've had to become better at managing my time so that I can both get inspired and work on new music. It's been a learning process.
How would you describe “Capture the Moon” in five nouns?
Empowerment, ambition, vulnerability, femininity, and strength.
In the song, there are mentions of both poetry and dancing. What role does art in other mediums play in your creation of music? How do you find that other mediums influence your work?
Most creative people that I've met have some appreciation for other art, and take inspiration from various mediums. I'm no different: I love to dance. I go out dancing with friends, or I’ll take a dance class… but truth be told, I'm more of a wannabe than an actual dancer. Still dancing is a theme that pops up in my writing from time to time, and I think that's because it's a form of momentary escapism from reality. There is something so beautiful about that.
Poetry is very similar to lyric writing—in fact, I think lyrics are a type of poetry. I started off just writing the words to my songs when I was a girl, before I could play an instrument. My father is actually a published poet, so it's in my blood somewhere!
I don't personally read a ton of poetry, but I've been into Sam Shepard's work lately, and Sylvia Plath is a perpetual favorite.
How is your personal history with creation reflected in “Capture the Moon?” How has living in two major musical cities, both Las Vegas and Memphis, influenced this song?
The song is about wanting to do more and more, racing against time and life to create art, or “follow your bliss”, as Joseph Campbell would say. I didn't start sharing my music on a large scale until my 20s, and that is reflected this song. It’s not autobiographical, but fragmented bits of reality always slip in.
I honestly don't remember too much about Memphis because I was quite young when we lived there, but Las Vegas brings the entertainment industry aspect of music into focus in your life. I saw a lot of concerts growing up, and that can certainly fuel the desire to create your own music. But everywhere I have lived has had a musical history, including Nashville where I'm currently based—so it's something I probably take a bit for granted.
The song has a very ethereal and earthy mood. Do you find yourself particularly drawn to these themes and tones? Why do you think these aspects are so prevalent in within this song?
This song is all about the internal struggles that the creative female spirit faces, and I wanted that to come across in the music as well as the lyrics. We have the lighter elements, background vocals, keys, and pedal steel; then there is the driving rhythm that keeps it all grounded. Arrangement-wise it's not too far removed from my past work, but the song just lent itself to that balance of air and earth.
In this song, there is a line about burdens. What burdens does art relieve you of? What burdens your music, creative process, and lyricism?
My art plays so many roles in my life, but most importantly it's a way to unpack emotions and experiences that I can't process too well on my own. It can be incredibly therapeutic, though it sometimes takes a long while for me to understand what a song I've written is truly about. I would say that self-critique and overanalyzing of new ideas are the most significant burdens I face in my creative process.
What are you hoping to capture in your next projects? What are you working towards as a human and an artist?
I want to continue to grow as a songwriter, and to put out a body of work that is evolving and resonant. I'm about to go into the studio to start recording my second full-length album, so that is the current goalpost. I am aiming to release it by the end of this year.
Thank you for having me, Half Mystic!
Bio: Meg Olsen was born in Memphis, TN and raised in Las Vegas, NV. In 2010 she casually lent her voice to the duet “Saturday Night” by cult-favorite band, the Idyllists. Her recording debut caught the fans’ attention and quickly parlayed itself into other opportunities including a stint in LA cabaret act, Dime Store Dollies and a spot as back-up singer for Canadian artist, Lucette on tour supporting The Secret Sisters. Meg was then encouraged to take her songs to producer Daniel Dempsey and production company BadTransmission. In late 2012 they began recording her first EP entitled Deal from the Bottom. After the warm reception of the EP, Meg set her sights on a full-length album. Reteaming with Dempsey they began work on her debut, Charade. The album was released in 2014 and received notable online press and accolades. Meg now resides in Nashville, TN. Her sophomore album is expected in late 2019.