By Andrew Parker
Teaming with other artists and moving to Nashville has taught Virginia native Mike Meadows a lot about music and the songwriting process. The multi-instrument singer-songwriter performs Saturday, March 9 during the Songs, Stories & Gas Money series at the Barnes at Hamilton Station Vineyards.
“Loudoun County has done such a great job curating a community of songwriters, musicians and music lovers,” Meadows told Get Out Loudoun. “I’m grateful to be a small part of such a great annual concert series.” He described those in attendance at his previous SS&GM performance as being “one of the most attentive, kind audiences ever.”
Meadows has been playing guitar since age 8, and singing nearly as long. He received a bachelor’s degree in cello from James Madison University. His accomplishments as a musician include playing guitar, bass guitar, cello, mandolin, and harmonica, while serving as a songwriter, producer and performer. He doesn’t attribute his musical influences to one path, instead noting that he’s still held onto an appreciation for his parents’ music, which includes James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, and folk music from the 1960s and 1970s.
“I remember buying the first Pearl Jam album on cassette and listening to pretty much nothing but that for a year straight,” he said.
Meadows attributes much of his success in the music industry to being fortunate to “connect certain dots” and continue getting chances to collaborate with great artists. He was in the “right place, right time” when he met the band leader for Taylor Swift during a 2007 tour with George Straight. They kept in touch and in 2009, when one of Swift’s players decided to stop touring, Meadows was asked to take his place.
Swift’s passion for music and work ethic can only be described as positive for Meadows’ growth as a composer and performer. “As a songwriter, getting to work for someone who takes that craft so seriously makes the job that much more interesting,” he said of Swift. Another thing he’s learned from her—and anybody who’s enjoyed that level of success—is the amount of hard work they put in every day. You can’t fake that. If you do, people know it.”
Meadows has played with a handful of different artists in rock, pop and country over the years. Since the last time he played SS&GM in 2017, Meadows has been working on a new album and spending time with his wife and two children. In addition to Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour during 2018, he’s also worked with Leesburg’s Todd Wright and Taylor Carson, and a few other local artists. “Being a native Virginian,” he said, “this place makes me feel very much at home.”
Another collaboration occurred when Meadows and Wright teamed with Ryan Newell from Sister Hazel to write a song called “On and On” about four years ago. “I hadn’t thought about it in years and I was really excited to hear that they wanted to use it for their new EP,” Meadows said. It’s on the EP “Fire” that was released in February.How does Meadows navigate the ever-changing music industry in 2019? With common-sense positivity.
“When people ask me if I have any advice about getting a gig and what I’ve learned from Nashville,” he said, “my usual response is: ‘Don’t be a jerk.’ There’s so many great players out there that get into music their own way simply by treating people with less respect than they deserve.” Meadows added that “nobody wants to hang out with a person like that.”
“[Moving to Nashville] expanded my horizons in the realm of the singer-songwriter scene,” Meadows said. “The Nashville songwriting scene is very much a collaborative community.”
And it’s there that he’s partnered with many artists and kept himself humble by looking around at all the talent. “You can go out and see music seven nights a week and get your mind blown by some aspect of what’s happening on stage, every time.”
The Nashville atmosphere even has benefits on the days where an artist isn’t feeling overly creative, is generally lacking inspiration, or dealing with a full-blown case of writer’s block.
“This is one of the things that makes writing songs with other people such a luxury,” Meadows said. “Some days if you’re not firing on all cylinders, someone else in the room can be having a great day, and it almost helps you rebound.” Writing songs by yourself is a completely different muscle, he added. “Either the inspiration is there for a song or it isn’t.”
Songs, Stories, & Gas Money is presented by Don Chapman and Stilson Greene. Doors at the historic Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards open at 7:00 p.m. – advance tickets are $15 or $20 upon arrival. For more details, go to thebarnsathamiltonstation.com or call 540-338-5309.
Songs, Stories & Gas Money
Featuring Mike Meadows
Saturday, March 9 at the Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards
$15 per person in advance; $20 per person at the door