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Interview with Singer and Songwriter Meiko: "They're Not Gonna Lick Themselves"

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Her songs appear fairly regularly on "Grey's Anatomy," but don't hold that against her. Whereas that medical drama is often hard on the eyes -- what with the over-the-top sappy storylines and bottomless bits of melodrama (stay dead Denny), Meiko's tunes are easy on the ears - honest, melodic gems that prove once again that we're living a golden age of guitar-playing female singer/songwriters.

The Los Angeles, CA-based and Roberta, GA-born musician has been gaining buzz and a whole lot of fans (Perez Hilton among them) ever since she broke out of the acclaimed Cali-talent pool AKA Hotel Cafe and released her self-titled album on her own over a year-and-a-half ago. That album was subsequently remixed and rereleased after she signed a deal with MySpace Records - speaking of which, that social network has helped make her a star but we'll get to that later. In the midst of her first headlining tour, I caught up with the budding star, whose "Boys With Girlfriends" continues to be on heavy rotation on the radio, MTV, and a regular download on iTunes.

What's the difference been thus far between headlining a show and warming up for other artists?
I can finally bring my own band with me. Usually, when I'm the opener or support act, I play by myself (or I con the headliner's musicians to play with me). Also, since I'm headlining, I get to go on later, so I'm able to enjoy more of the town that I'm in.

Is there any pressure top billing?
Not really. Of course I want to sell out every venue, but I know that sometimes not everyone in, say, Fairfield, Connecticut wants to come see you play on a Sunday night.

MySpace has been huge for you - as Facebook and Twitter continues to grow, do you think MySpace will ultimately become a strict social network site for music only?
It seems like it, right? I know many music venue bookers who check out artists' MySpace pages to get a quick idea of who they are, what they sound like, and how many fans they have. MySpace is an easy,familiar site to use in that regard. Now ..."poking people" and doing surveys is its own entity.

Do you feel like you're cheating on MySpace by having a Facebook page?
[Laughs] Absolutely not. Tom doesn't mind. I use Facebook for family and staying in touch with old-school friends. I use MySpace strictly for fans - to let people know what's going on in my life (more musically than "super-personal").

It worked for Cher and arguably RuPaul... What made you decide to solely go with your first name as a performer?
It all has to do with my daydreaming as an eight year old. I never thought of it any differently ... Meiko. [It] just made sense to me then, and it still does!

Perez Hilton of all people is a huge fan of yours... describe what it's been like to have the gossip queen on your side....
I attribute a lot of the awesome things that have happened for me and my career to Perez believing in me. He is a good guy with a great heart, and I feel really lucky to have him in my life. It's amazing to see how much of an effect he has on popular culture, and I'm honored that he's a fan and wants to help.

How big has Hotel Cafe been for you? You went from waiting tables there to performing..
The Hotel Cafe is what inspired me from the beginning. From quitting waiting tables (I was a waitress and bartender there) to making a record to touring for a living. The Hotel Cafe owners, Max and Marko, have been there for me from the start. Even when I only brought three people to a show. They still loved me, and helped me build my audience by putting me on bills with great artists like Patty Griffin and Butch Walker.

What's the best advice you ever received?
My grandma always said, "When all you have is a nickel to your name, go get your shoes shined." I get pedicures instead. It's basically the same thing.

Speaking of which, what was your childhood like - were you always musically inclined?
I was a crazy kid - always running around terrorizing the neighborhood. I started getting into music when I was a very awkward middle schooler. I turned very introspective and started writing lots of poetry, and I eventually learned how to play guitar.

As a singer/songwriter, is it difficult to sort of not get lost in the crowd? People always love to toss labels out at people. For example, Meiko is the next Ingrid Michaelson. Ingrid Michaelson is the next Regina Spektor. I could go on.
Not really. There will always be people who say, "Oh my God - you sound just like Jewel", because I'm a girl and I play guitar. That doesn't bother me at all. I know there's a difference, and I know that people who actually 'get it' know it too.

Lastly, if people came with taglines, what would yours be?
"Meiko - They're Not Gonna Lick Themselves!"