Megan Nicole picks up the phone and promptly asks me, in earnest, how my day is going. I reply with niceties and return the question: “I’m shooting a lyric video today and I’m hot gluing a bunch of flowers to a board,” she responds. “I went to Michael’s yesterday and bought so many flowers, I probably looked crazy. But they were all half off – I thought, wonderful!”
When I spoke to Megan on the phone from her home in Los Angeles (she’s originally from Katy, Texas), she mentioned that she always been drawn to the west coast, though I sense an affinity for her eastern Texas upbringing. “I grew up listening to artists like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind and Fire with my dad, a lot of that seventies funk… When I was in the car with my dad, he was controlling the radio,” she says with a laugh, “but I was not complaining.”
Megan Nicole’s singing career began when her family bought a karaoke machine. Then came open mic nights, talent shows and gigs in local Mexican restaurants until her dad encouraged her to post a video to YouTube. She developed a loyal following as she began releasing covers, adding her honeyed melodies to songs by artists ranging from Taylor Swift to Lil Wayne. Now, with over 4 million subscribers, Megan Nicole has a YouTube following that out-rivals those of Lorde, Zayn, and Demi Lovato. “It happened slowly, and then all at once,” Megan laughs, somewhat incredulously. Going “viral,” I would imagine, might be something that one never fully becomes accustomed to. Now with her newly-released EP My Kind of Party, Megan Nicole is proving that she’s evolving beyond an Internet sensation.
Speaking with Megan felt like an exercise in sweet-naturedness. She speaks slowly and sincerely, choosing her words thoughtfully. Her contemplations are sprinkled in with moments of self-deprecating humour, grateful for where she is, yet unafraid to laugh at the uniqueness of her position, too. Her self-produced EP My Kind of Party is not unlike Megan herself. It’s upbeat and cerebral, filled with buoyant pop anthems that are rooted in self-efficacy.
Consisting of six original songs, tracks like “Take Me Back” and title song “My Kind of Party” could fittingly soundtrack a house party montage scene, drenched in neon hues and sugar-coated beats. Similarly to pop darling Carly Rae Jepsen, Megan’s lyrics transform experiences with heartache, longing and the tribulations of love into a celebration of emotions, relishing in having felt them at all. At every opportunity, Megan refuses to back down from professing what she wants.
If I could look back and be proud at my 18-year-old self, it was that I could hold my own and carry myself in a room full of male producers, writers, executives.
It’s stark departure from one of her early experiences working on original music. In 2013, when Megan as 18, she was signed to P. Diddy’s label Bad Boy/Interscope Records, where she met the producers and songwriters who assisted on the track “My Kind of Party.” Megan admits to quickly becoming acquainted with the typical scenario of questioning her agency as a rising female artist in a studio dominated by men: the songwriting process often excluded her, leaving her to record pre-selected songs. “I was being told that I needed to learn how to dance for my music videos… I was enjoying it. I thought I hadn’t ever done pop in this way before, and that I’ll be open and try something new,” she elaborates.
Soon after, Megan was confronted with navigating the line between embracing the desire to make pop music while resisting reductive archetypes of what a female teen pop star should look and sound like. She recalls feeling subjected to a narrative that insisted, “you’re a pop singer and this is what a pop singer does,” yet knew that the possibilities of self-expression extended beyond that. “They were trying to send me in a direction that just didn’t feel authentic to me. The whole experience of being a part of Bad Boy Interscope, I took a lot away from it. I never look at it as a negative thing… They’re great songs, but they’re just not great songs for me. I wanted to discover what my own version of that would be.”
Megan remembers her time on a major label as a crash course in the realities of the music industry, one that left her wiser and more confident than ever in her own skin. “If I could look back and be proud at my 18-year-old self, it was that I could hold my own and carry myself in a room full of male producers, writers, executives.” Now Megan is carrying out her own vision through self-producing her music: “I have the opportunity to 100% be in charge of what I release and when I release it, which is an incredible feeling. On this last album I got to work with a few more female writers, so that was really cool.
Her dedication to uplifting young female voices led her to interview the then-First Lady Michelle Obama for Michelle’s initiative, Let Girls Learn which is U.S. a multi-governmental organization that encourages improving the value ascribed to girls around the world at the “individual, community and institutional level.” “That was a surreal experience,” she gushes. “I got an email asking if I wanted to [interview the First Lady], and I was like, ‘Yes’! It’s all about girl power and I get to go to Argentina and I get to meet the First Lady!?” “She was just so warm and so welcoming. It made me feel so comfortable to sit down and have a conversation with her, and after we finished the interview, she said, ‘feel free to come visit me in Washington some time!’” – an opportunity that Megan embraced, later visiting the White House with her sister.
Bringing up her family several times throughout our conversation, it is clear that the relationships and traditions she grew up with inform her sense of self. When I ask her about her background, she politely laughs and responds, “a mix of things.” In fact, her father is Mexican, and her mother is German and Cherokee. She feels close to her Latinx heritage, and for some time was a correspondent for the Spanish-language singing competition show La Banda, created by Ricky Martin and Simon Cowell. “I’m always challenging myself to continue to learn Spanish — that’s an interesting thing I run into. I sometimes run into [people saying], ‘you’re not Hispanic enough because you don’t speak Spanish,” and it’s a funny thing to hear, because it is a part of who I am and I don’t feel any differently because I’m not fluent.”
Perhaps it’s these experiences of being told that she’s “not enough” that have compelled her sense of authenticity. She has synthesized the cultures, traditions, and attitudes that she has lived through to create music that unabashedly belongs to her while ultimately, coming out on top. With millions of fans that have resonated with the honesty of Megan’s lyrics, for her, everything has come full circle. “Something I love about music, and the artists I look up to, is when I’m able to listen to song and be like, oh my gosh, how did you know? I want to do the same thing, to say things in a creative yet simple way that I’m able to connect to. That’s my hope with the music that I make.”