You might know pop singer/songwriter Meredith O’Connor from her viral smash “Celebrity,” her 2013 single that first put her star on the rise. Now, after that initial surprise success, Meredith is back on our playlists with a brand new full length album out Friday, October 23rd entitled I Am Meredith O’Connor. While music is her career, it’s not the only thing Meredith is passionate about. Tack on dabbling in musical theater and acting to her resume, but also Meredith is extremely passionate about one issue that’s very close to her heart–bullying. In addition to her musical performances, Meredith tours the country as an anti-bullying activist giving talks at schools across America about her own experiences being bullied. YE was lucky enough to catch some time with the busy and passionate singer to chat about her debut album, her anti-bullying activism, and her burgeoning career set to take off at any moment!
Meredith’s music is intimate and confessional, and her sound is kind of a bit of folk pop. It wouldn’t be far off to liken her sound to what would happen if The Lumineers ran into early T. Swift busking off the Bedford stop on the L train in Brooklyn. As a lifelong Long Islander, this particular sonic sheen is a bit odd for Meredith, but despite her geography, Miss O’Connor says she’s always been a fan of the folksier side of pop. “Yes, I am from Long Island, but I grew up loving country!!!” So she admits to some country influences in her earlier stuff, but I Am Meredith O’Connor is whole different ball game. The new album features a sound that encompasses more genres, a melting pot of sounds which Meredith describes as “big and more mature than ‘Celebrity,'” a move more towards a pop sensibility that she and producer Kenny Ortiz made deliberately.
On finally getting all her material out there after such a gap between 2013’s “Celebrity” and her new stuff, Meredith says of I Am Meredith O’Connor, “I’m sooooooo excited to get everything out there and have people finally listen to the new stuff!” And here it is, a whole full length album of new material, well, mostly new. I Am features Meredith’s post “Celebrity” single “The Game,” the song that’s kind of the bridge between her beginnings and her new sound. And on her beginnings as a musician, Meredith said she started in music precisely because of her experiences being bullied, and “The Game” is a reflection of that. “I didn’t have any role models as a little kid. There weren’t a lot of people to look up to. So the message behind my music is that I wanted to change that. I kind of wanted to be the role model I never had when it came to being bullied or not being like everyone else at school. I didn’t have anyone around me telling me ‘it will get better.’ So I wanted to be the first person to do that, which is where the song ‘The Game’ came from.”
To create that BIG exciting pop sound for I Am, Meredith worked with the infamous R&B Kenny Ortiz, who has also worked with Pharrell, Quincy Jones, and LA Reid. And adding to that jivey pop sound, there’s another big name associated with Meredith’s debut! On I Am Meredith O’Connor, she duets with Garrett Clayton on “Stronger.” You might know the dreamy Clayton from his role in Teen Beach Movie or as Chase from the ABC Family hit The Fosters.
Throughout our chat with Meredith, the subject of bullying comes up time and time again. She admits it’s something she’s dealt with from an early age, as early as 6, but she gives no details except to say she’s constantly struggled with teasing and abusive treatments for being “weird,” for being different, for not fitting into cookie cutter expectations. She reports that in high school she always drifted toward the drama and performing arts extracurriculars, never sports, one of the things that has set her apart from her peers. And she has said of her uniqueness, “I wish I could tell kids that if you wait 2, maybe 3 more years, none of this will matter, and it will be the things that make you different that end up making you cool.” And she couldn’t be more correct: youthful years are spent trying to blend in with the crowd and do what everyone else is doing, but in adulthood, you find that you can only ever be precisely who you are, and it’s your quirks that make you an interesting friend and person, instead of being just another Basic B. So if Meredith succeeds in imparting this fact on even one kid who is struggling with bullying or low self-esteem or just plain feelings of not fitting in, then she’s changed at least one life for the better. And that was the original intent behind her music, the single “The Game,” and her new album I Am. We hope she gives more than one struggling young person hope, the consolation that there are other people also struggling, and hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Up next for this young diva in the making is more touring the nation’s schools as a part of her anti-bullying activism, as well as more videos and singles from I Am! Check out her personal website for tour dates and single info!!! Be on the lookout for new stuff from Meredith, and make sure to check out I Am Meredith O’Connor available for download now!!