Music: Issue 9
PHOTO BY MARCOS MANRIQUE
Interview conducted by Leilani Jimenez
Soloist Megan Thompson on her first E.P. now on Spotify and Apple Music.
When did you first discover your medium?
I first discovered my medium when I was a senior in high school, so I started writing lyrics over instrumentals, but there were none that I had of my own. Friends had given me [instrumentals], but I began to start writing lyrics and realized that I’m pretty good at it, senior year of high school. I continued on with that.
Ok, cool. Was there any song or album that changed the way you appreciated music?
Yes, there’s a lot. Kendrick Lamar. good kid, m.A.A.d. city was really good. But also on the flip side, Tame Impala in Currents. And there’s also Frank Ocean, Channel Orange. There’s a lot. Those are some that I listen to avidly.
When do you feel most connected or tuned in with your music?
I feel most connected in an atmosphere kind of by myself being able to write down my lyrics and just listen so I can cultivate what I want my flow to sound like. I can put lyrics over it and think through it. But also, I really love singing for music ministry at church and worshipping. I think that’s also when I feel really connected to music and God. I don’t know if that’s what you’re kind of asking.
Uh, yeah. Moments that are really transcendent and place you in a different emotional, or like, mental sphere.
Oh, yeah. It’s feel really transcendent when I complete something and it sounds good. It becomes difficult at times but the end result is always worth it. Hearing what I’ve accomplished really makes me more encouraged to continue on.
Well, you sample Washed Out’s Feel It All Around -um, thank you- and other recordings on the EP. Are you considering introducing new technology or instruments in future recordings?
Yeah. I actually think I’m going to start working on a new EP and I really want to get more instruments, like guitar and real instrumental type things. I’ve talked to a few people that have really enjoyed my EP and they want to work with me and collab with me. I want to get guitar more involved and more live drums. It would also be cool to have more jazz-type sounds like trumpet and stuff such as that.
Yeah, that’d be so neat. I can’t wait to hear something like that. What non-music related events or art influenced the EP?
I’ve always been involved with art in general. I’ve always been an artistic person -- drawing, photography, and dance. I think every aspect encouraged me to move forward with my EP because I felt at some point I could use all of those things to help me with an EP. I set [my EP cover] up and had someone take a picture of me right where I wanted to be and it came out really cool.
Yeah, totally. I love the colors on it.
Yeah -- and I have editing photography skills. I really enjoy to edit photos. I don’t like it to be too abstract but sometimes I enjoy to do some crazy enhancing with the colors. I feel like at some point if I ever perform my EP I probably would incorporate dancing and I really like fashion and clothing and I think it’s fun to choose an outfit and everything such as that, you know?
Yeah. So it’s really, like, cohesive across mediums.
Yeah--sorry, I’m not good at explaining very well.
No, it’s good! It’s good. As you were working on the EP, was there ever a moment when your process allowed you to excavate, a revelation or discover something new?
Oh--yes. There were times when lyrics would come to mind that had to do with, God in a way, and I kind of was nervous about that because you know, you don’t know what to expect when it comes to people interpreting God, but I really just pushed through and stuck with it and trusted God and He really helped me work through my lyrics and--I don't know. I found out a lot of stuff about myself, I didn’t really know I could write or express myself so well through music and I continued to get better and better and each song was different but good in different ways. It was just really cool trusting God and He had given me the resources and experiences to write and just be open about my past. I can hopefully be able to influence people in a positive way.
Yeah--on that note, is there a specific memory that incited Never Let a Day Go By?
Oh, yeah. Well, I’m sure you listened to the first verse that talks about me driving on the freeway. That is a true story. This was a little bit ago around last summer after I got back from Europe. I was driving in my sister’s car--she needed a ride to work--so I was driving on the freeway and basically it says--in the
song, you know--I had to get over to the right lane so I turned my blindspot and looked back and in front of me the cars were just completely backed up. Four PM traffic was just about to start and it was just so crazy--it was just so shock-factor and I had to press onto the breaks and the wheel and the brakes locked up. In that moment, I really did not know what was happening. I later realized what was happening--the breaks and the wheel locked up. I was thinking of any possible thing that could’ve happened afterwards. I thought a car could have hit me from the back or maybe one of the wheels popped but as I spun out, I saw the cars swerve around me and it was just so crazy and at that point I just let go of the wheel. I honestly didn’t know what I was feeling in that moment. Thinking about it is so crazy because it was truly a miracle. I ended up in the right side of the road in the dirt facing the other way that the cars were going but just perfectly placed so that I wasn’t in the way of the cars. As I go to the right side of the road I just put the car in park and was just stunned for a little bit and it doesn’t say in the song, but there was this man that pulled over and I was not talking or anything for a little bit until he came to my window. So I got out of the car and he asked, “Are you ok? I saw that from the road--did you fall asleep?” He was asking me a bunch of questions. He then said, “Are you intoxicated?”, blah blah blah -- no, I wasn’t. And it was just so crazy because at that point he was like, Let me turn your car around for you. So he turned my car around and he said, your car seems to be working normally right now. I said I don’t feel comfortable driving. I’m honestly terrified. I was still in shock. Then he explained to me, If you were comfortable enough to leave here, you could leave without any police reports and be a very lucky girl. Because you know, I didn’t want to have the police involved--but that’s just how I felt it should be. But I said, I wanna get out of here, because I’m okay, there’s not a scratch on the car, [laughs] and I need to go pick up my sister. But I said, "I’m just really scared right now". Then he said, Here, I’ll pull your car forward and then I’ll pull off to the left. So he got back in his car and he pulled off to the left and made sure that I could get into the left lane safely and then he said, I’ll follow you to your exit but from there I can’t do anything -- he was in scrubs, so he was a doctor or a nurse. He mentioned he had to go to work. I was just in shock. So I just did that, and I kept looking in my rear view mirror to see if he was there because he was the only person I experienced that with and the only thing that was comforting me in that moment and as I got to University--that’s where I had to get off--I took the exit and I looked back in the rearview mirror and he was gone. And that’s when I kind of freaked out. Or not freaked out, but everything kind of hit me. That’s when all of the emotions came. I got really emotional and started to cry and I was just realizing that I could’ve died and I just thought, He’s gone forever and I didn’t get to say thank you. It was just crazy. It didn’t feel right that I was still just driving like a normal person. No one else around me knew what happened. And I was actually convinced that the guy was an angel, in my eyes; he saved me. Because I don’t know what would’ve happened if he hadn’t stopped for me. It was really crazy. You know?
I can’t imagine. That’s just a major surge of emotions and then all of a sudden you’re back to whatever you were doing before everything happened and it feels really anticlimactic and kind of disorienting.
Yeah. It really was. I was so confused. It didn’t feel it was real because it all happened so quickly. And it was even crazier because I made it in time to go pick up my sister and that’s how fast that went by. And then my sister got in the car and I was just bawling and she’s asked, What happened? So
even then I had to continue driving until I dropped my sister off work and then I had to go back home. But she lives in the same general area I do. It was just an intense thing. That just really changed my perspective because I felt like I could’ve almost died. If I didn’t slam on the breaks a half a second later than I had, then I would’ve totalled the car. It was all proof to me that God wanted to save my life. But then I knew I had to make a change in my life. That really talks about I was really involved with smoking marijuana. It was just something that was a part of my life. But then I began to pray to God and I had never really prayed on my own before and I have always struggled with communication. It’s always just been something I was a little bit insecure about, not being able to articulate my thoughts the way I want to speak them. So when I started to pray, I was talking to God and I had never been able to talk to anyone the way I was talking to God. Just continuing on with conversation for about 30 to 45 minutes, just talking to God. It was really life-changing. From there, God was just doing work in my life. He actually placed Hope Church in my life--which is where I met you--so I continued, I started going to Hope and my life just drastically changed from there on and God gave me the strength to quit smoking and that was a big part of my life for a long time, but in “My Truth”--the one that has Washed Out sampled--I talk about that a lot, how I prayed for his Spirit to strengthen me and I couldn’t change on my own and I was deep in my sin and it was just a crazy life but it was so crazy how God turned it around. I always had God in the back of my mind because my grandma was always sowing the seeds of the gospel into my life so it was always there throughout my life and that was finally when, after I graduated high school and everything I was ready to accept Jesus and it was just cool.
That sounds so great. And then, this isn’t something I prepared for the questions or anything - but, it gets me thinking about the generational indifference and more secular conversations that happen where connecting on a spiritual level with God is taken not so sincerely and that kind of appreciation is maybe really undermined or discredited, but it’s really crazy how this experience serviced a perfect metaphor. That moment before complete loss and then triumph over it.
Yeah. I literally even was feeling like I was at a dead-end in my life. I didn’t know where I was going. All of my friends were heading off to college out-of-state or NAU or U of A. I was just going to community college--and there’s nothing wrong with that, you know, I love community college -- but, smoking was giving me more anxiety. It led me to trying other things, like other psychedelics, other things that I don’t agree with anymore. It was just so crazy and I want people to realize we don’t need those things to make us happy. God, Jesus Christ isn’t a religion, it’s basically just freedom. Freedom from sin. And I know the word “sin” can be -- in this generation -- it’s undermined. People don’t see it the way it should be seen. I know that you go to church, but I don’t know what your beliefs are. It’s just crazy. In my music, I try to talk about what the bible says. In one of my lyrics in the song “Notice” I say, “Just be honest. Don’t keep it locked up inside your mind.” That kind of came from, the enemy only has power in darkness--so keeping your thoughts trapped in your mind. The things that you’ve been through. It can only hurt you when you keep that to yourself and your not honest about what you’ve done. But Jesus already died for our sins and he just wants us to trust what he did for us on the cross. Mainly at this point, I just wanna help people find freedom in Christ and God has given me the ability with music to say things that I can’t really say to people right upfront, you know?
Yeah. And I think at the moment there’s very little art that directly confronts those things in that kind of conversation but all of those conversations are valid and important even in just a dialogue and it’s hard to make any “mainstream” popular art--music, films and stuff--it’s supposed to be so immediately accessible and often that means cutting off so many themes and ideas that relate on a very deep level so it’s just extremely digestible. And the way that you start the conversation, it’s very candid, but it’s not confrontational.
Rylee's first EP "The Color After Rain"
PRODUCED BY SMOKEY soundcloud.com/smokeylicious