She’s a radio personality, a former reality TV show contestant, an entrepreneur, a model with the Ben Barry Agency—Meredith Shaw seems to have done it all, and she’s nowhere near stopping.
The singer-songwriter—and former Canadian Idol finalist—has a day job as host of Boom 97.3 FM’s Weekend Morning Show, where she talks about music. She also runs her own company, Muffymade, where she uses whimsical illustrations to design items like greeting cards, lip glosses, gift items, and chocolates.
With the success of her single Girls Who Believe off the debut album (the track was featured on Degrassi: The Next Generation), Shaw has created a travelling showcase where she meets with female high school students to talk creativity, music, and self-esteem.
Last August, and this past April, she had a weekly residency at C’est What called Tra La La Tuesdays, where she took to the stage with a different musical collaborator each week. The idea was such a hit that it’s being repeated this September.
“It was awesome. . . . I’m so excited for September, because they [Tra La La Tuesdays] just seem to be getting better,” Shaw says. “People kind of know about them more, and I’m able to attract more and more artists to come out and play. And really, that’s what it’s all about—collecting them together, throwing them in a room, and seeing what they come up with on stage. It’s been really, really fun. I have a Durham photographer come out and shoot it, and we make a little video of it. And I work with a videographer to do stuff. I think that’s when the most fun and the best stuff happens, when you get a whole bunch of creative minds together. I certainly learned that from my producer, Gordie Johnson; and I’m trying to do that in my own music and life.”
Through this experience, Shaw has also learned the benefit of having collaborations across a wide variety of creative spheres.
“It’s not just your discipline. It’s not just getting music people together. It’s getting writers, and a photographer, and a band; and that’s when we can all come up with something that means something to everyone. And that’s how a lot of people know about it,” she says. “I’m figuring that out too—the more people are involved, the more people know about it because it means something to everyone that’s involved. And so all of their people, therefore, get introduced to what’s up. And it works both ways because now, [through] all of my music, people know some really awesome photographers. And all of those photographer friends’ people know my music. So it just seems like it all works really nicely together.”
If you’re a fan of Big Sugar, then you may have come across Shaw’s music already (a blend of country-infused pop), since Shaw had the opportunity to tour with the renowned blues-rock band last fall. Shaw definitely has a fan in Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson, who also helped produce her new album. And the exposure she got from touring with such an established band helped lay the groundwork for her own album release on May 10.
But Shaw admits that for a new artist, her first tour was anything but the norm.
“I certainly was spoiled during my first big touring experience. It was a nice fancy bus and hotel rooms and all sorts of lovely things, which I know is not the way most people go out, but I benefited from Big Sugar’s success there, that’s for sure!” she says with a laugh.
This spring she embarked on her own mini tour promoting Place Called Happy, but she is quick to acknowledge that her expectations of what being on the road is like have dropped dramatically.
“This tour is not like that. We’re going in my Jeep.”
She says for the mini tour, the size of the band was also scaled down.
“At Tra La La I play with my full band. Then my other setup is usually just myself and an acoustic. But this time around we’re doing me, an acoustic player, and an upright bass player. So we’re doing a really fun, scaled back—but still really full-sounding—acoustic trio setup. So that’s what we’re doing for all the spring mini-tour dates.”
Although Place Called Happy is her first album, Shaw has been involved in music in some form or the other for a long time. As a teen, Shaw was involved in several school productions and in musical theatre at the arts-inclined Branksome Hall.
“I felt very lucky to go to a school that really gave me a great education and introduced me to my best friends, which I still have,” she says, recalling the experience. “Branksome is one of the schools that really celebrates the arts, and so I was able to do a ton of plays, and be in five choirs. And you know, I really was able to get the base for what it is I’m doing now. So I loved Branksome. I have a track called “Girls Who Believe” on the record, and it’s all about my girlfriends—a lot of them I met there. A lot of them I’m still friends with. Some of them I’ve known since I was two and we’re still all best friends. And that song’s about that. “
A graduate of Queen’s University in Kingston, Shaw studied opera and theatre arts, continuing from the foundation laid at Branksome. But her university experience also included a soon-to-be-familiar name in music.
“I did a bunch of plays and wrote a bunch of songs and got drunk with Bedouin Soundclash, you know,” she reveals casually with a laugh. “I met Jay from Bedouin—well, now Bedouin; he wasn’t [in Bedouin] back then—the first night that I was at Queens. He lived across the hall from one of my best friends. Kind of funny. Then we really played a lot together at Queens, and it was really an inspiring time for me, being there.”
Around the same time, Shaw began to take her musical talent in new directions when she got involved with the world of reality TV music shows.
“I had the opinion that I think a lot of people do with those shows, that they’re kind of like, ‘Really? This is a bit of a joke, these people aren’t real.’ That whole thought process,” she confesses. “But I also just had the other thought that look, this is a huge opportunity, a national stage, why not try this and see what comes of it? And certainly since then I have that attitude and I share that attitude with younger singers coming up that kind of ask me questions about stuff. I’m like, anything you can do that you think is going to give you an experience, teach you something about yourself, let you meet someone, do it no matter what it is.”
Shaw competed as a finalist on both Canadian Idol Season 2 and Pop Stars: The One but says the best part of it all was the people she met and the opportunities for networking that both experiences offered.
“From Pop Stars I met an amazing woman named Elaine Overholt, who is a phenomenal vocal coach,” she says. “[She’s] worked with Richard Gere and Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ellen Degeneres and all sorts of fun, celebby people, but also is just an amazing woman. And she is my coach and my friend and mentor. I worked with her a little while running her studio when I graduated from Queens and had a theatre degree and nothing to do! You know, wondering ‘how am I gonna make this work?’ She was really a key person in making it work, and I would not have met her had I not gone on Pop Stars.”
On Canadian Idol Season 2, Shaw says that having gone through it once before gave her a good idea of what to expect, and similarly, the experience put her in touch with people and landed her in situations that took her career forward one step at a time.
“I was on with [Hedley frontman] Jacob Hoggard and people who have gone on to do some pretty cool things. So I still know those guys that were on the show and got to meet some really great writers out of that. And I was hired the next year to work to demo-sing all of Eva Avila’s stuff. So you just never know where those kinds of experiences are going to lead you. I’m certainly glad that I did them.”
These kinds of connections have proven invaluable for Shaw in making her presence felt in the music industry long before her official debut, giving the sense that she just might be the most experienced artist to debut this year so far.
Her album, produced by Gordie Johnson, was recorded in Austin, Texas, where Johnson lives.
“He works out of Willie Nelson’s studio,” reveals Shaw. “And so when he said come make a record in Willie Nelson’s studio in the sunshine, I was like, ‘Okay, no problem!’ So that’s what we did. [Austin] is just the coolest town; I just love it. You know, it’s so much talent and so little ego, which is a rare combo in a town that is getting known for music. The food is amazing, weather is great, people are happy. It’s an easy place to be creative and make music, that’s for sure.”
With everything going on right now—her album launch, her spring tour, and ongoing Muffymade custom orders, to name a few—it seems like it would be an enormous amount of tasks to juggle. But for Shaw, each aspect of her life feeds into the next, allowing for a kind of synergy between it all to keep everything balanced.
“I think when you love all the things you’re doing, you find a way to make it work,” she says. “I mean, I don’t always get to everything like I should, but I’m finding that all the things that I’m doing—though sometimes people may look it and think, Whoa, so you have your own music, you’re touring with Big Sugar, you’re on the radio, and then you do Muffymade?” She laughs as she says this.
“To me they all very much relate to each other. I do [merchandise] through Muffymade, like for my own stuff. So I have Muffymade chocolates that I do, lip glosses I have for merch for my music. So Muffymade kind of relates to music that way, and chocolates for the MMVAs, where I did all the bands on these cute little chocolate guys, people loved them! So I find that Muffymade helps my music, and music helps my Muffymade.”
She willingly admits that she is in a good place right now, referencing one of her own songs, “Happy,” to explain the feeling.
“That song just talks about happiness in a really unhappy way, and I thought that was really interesting. Being someone that’s like all of my friends—we’re all doing our twenty-something thing, and that’s full of ups and downs, and I think being able to be kind of happy throughout it is a pretty strong goal that I was seeing from all of my peers,” she says.
“So I just sort of liked that idea, exploring what that meant, and that happy wasn’t like, la-la-la-la!—like, crazy-woman happy. It was kind of like peaceful with what’s up and being able to ride the waves of life that are going to come at you. So that’s sort of seemingly what that whole record is about.”
So what does the future hold for the multi-talented Ms. Shaw?
“If I can just keep talking on the radio and drawing funny stick people and making CDs, I’ll be a happy girl!”