By Jay Scott Kanes
Meaghan’s strategy sounds simple: “I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, and people can follow along.” She’s working on a second CD, a full-length one with all her own songs, to appear this year.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, Canada – After playing the role of a famous red-headed Canadian, singer-songwriter Meaghan Blanchard has taken giant strides to become one herself.
“Things have been going well,” she said. “Most of all, I’m glad that people are listening, taking an interest and hearing what I’m doing.”
The 20-year-old auburn-haired university student relies on a delicate, pure voice, thoughtful songs and gentle guitar-playing in her deeply appealing music that blends elements of folk, easy-listening and country. She hails from Hunter River, a small community on Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province.
Four times, Meaghan held summer jobs playing the role of Anne Shirley, the famous red-headed heroine in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, at a popular theme village based on Montgomery’s work.
Meaghan’s first recording project, Changing Things, a collection of six songs she wrote, appeared in 2008. “The results completely exceeded my expectations,” she said.
“Young women react to my tunes about heartaches and painful relationships. Often they go through those problems too. But I’ve written really different songs, and people also like those. Usually I write about my observations of people and life. They’re not all slow and sad. I’ve been coming out of my shell, writing more fiery songs.”
Within a few months after Changing Things reached CD players, Meaghan won her first P.E.I. Music Awards. She garnered four prizes – for female vocalist, songwriter, new artist and folk album of the year.
There’s a picture in my room.
It’s torn to pieces. It’s of me and you.
I’ve found a new way of breaking your heart.
I’ve found a better way of falling apart.
It’ll be alright if you go….
I will be alright, you know.
You know, you know, you know, you know, you know….
From “You Know”, Meaghan Blanchard, Changing Things, 2008
Last year, Meaghan played at the Festival of Lights, Indian River Music Festival, Canada Games Concert Series, Halifax Film Festival, and Contact East. She earned nominations for two East Coast Music Association Awards and sang a special song, “Mazie”, on the nationally televised awards show.
“That song’s about Alzheimer’s disease,” she said. “A lot of older-generation people come up to me and say, ‘Listen, my wife’s going through that, and your song really helps us.’
“I have a great-aunt who suffers from Alzheimer’s. When visiting her with my mother, I saw Alzheimer’s for what it is. As my Mom said, ‘She was always such fun, but with her Alzheimer’s, it’s so different.’ She didn’t recognize us. After seeing what my mother felt, I went home and wrote the song.”
You won’t remember me.
I hid the hurt again, Mazie.
It’s been a long day, auntie.
Won’t you go and get your sleep?...
And you don’t remember me,
But you smile like you do.
You’re such a kind heart, Mazie.
You know that’s just why we love you.
But you left the stove on again,
Lost your shoe and lost all your friends,
When you’re waiting
For the children to get on home.
I know I should understand.
But maybe, Mazie, I miss you.
I think that I do….
From “Mazie”, Meaghan Blanchard, Changing Things, 2008
No matter where music leads, Meaghan reckons to always return to Hunter River: “I plan on Mom giving me some land when I’m older so I can have a house and family there. I can’t wait for that part of my life too.”
Last summer, the Young Company at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown did one of Meaghan’s songs, “Bonnie”, in its daily performances.
I wonder as I wander
Where exactly you are from me.
Across the waters, could you,
Would you, find me
Floating by my lonesome?
I’ll be your Bonnie floating over the ocean.
You be my sailor out upon the sea….
From “Bonnie”, Meaghan Blanchard, Changing Things, 2008
At the University of Prince Edward Island, Meaghan studies English and theatre. She takes an interest in poetry, even from centuries ago. Are songwriters like Meaghan a modern equivalent of ancient poets? “I’d say so,” she said. “Honestly, I study lots of poetry without always liking it. But I recognize the poetry in music. Good songs need flow and usually rhyme.”
Years ago, Meaghan, the second of four siblings (one boy, three girls), sang at school, church and community concerts. “I started to sing in church at age five – sometimes holding a hymn book upside down,” she said.
Some family members foresaw Meaghan’s musical future when she was a toddler singing in her bed every morning at five o’clock, awakening everyone. Soon she realized, “Wow, music makes me happy.” By age 14, she played guitar, wrote songs and sang in restaurants. As a teenager, she joined a few rock bands.
“My family’s musical,” Meaghan said. “Mom showed me the basic chords on guitar. My Dad plays bass. My younger sister Bridgette plays and sings too. My grandmother plays in a country band.”
At times, Meaghan tinkers on piano. “The Confederation Centre people are really good to me,” she said. “They’ve had a baby-grand piano in their art gallery. It’s been up in a corner. Apparently, I’m the only one who uses it.” Another favorite place is a stairwell at home, ideal for practicing and writing new material.
Meaghan aspires to write for other singers too. Her role models include Patty Griffin (another red-head) who writes for the Dixie Chicks and others. In Atlantic Canada, she admires Jill Barber, Smothered in Hugs, Raccoon Bandits, John Connolly and many more. “So much good music comes out of the region.”
Crafting songs can mean delivering important messages. “Not everyone hears the news or even notices all the world’s joys,” Meaghan said. “But people really listen to music and get the messages behind it.”
But can Meaghan overtake the fictional Anne Shirley as P.E.I.’s most famous redhead? Anyone hearing her music knows better than to bet against her.
For more information: www.myspace.com/meaghanelizabethblanchard or www.sandbarmusic.com
Usually, Meaghan sings about
observations of people and life.