Shawn Meehan doesn’t do well with domesticity.
Admittedly, after spending much of his life as a musician travelling the country, he tends to treats his house more like a hotel room than a home – much to the chagrin of his wife, Michelle, and their two young children.
“It’s any wonder she still puts up with me…” Meehan said. “Fortunately, my family knows I function much better when there’s guitar playing in my life.”
At 47, the long-time guitarist and singer is still pursuing the dream of making it big in the music industry, and for the Walnut Grove resident – and the rest of his Me and Mae band – it could be on the verge of being realized.
So, Meehan and his team, are trading in their domestic lives in the Lower Mainland for some time in the hotel rooms of California next week.
First, they’re attending and performing at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) – the world’s largest trade-only music showcase being held in Anaheim.
And while nothing has been signed yet, Meehan said the group is garnering some label interest and radio play from south of the border, and hopes this chance to smooze will further them in their quest.
In the meantime, the former rocker turned country rock musician, and his posse, are also going to be guests on a new TV show called Real Music Live, which has apparently hosted guests such as Sting and Stevie Wonder.
It could be the pivotal moment for what Meehan calls his “baby band.”
To raise money for the excursion, Me And Mae is performing at Gabby’s Country Cabaret on Sunday, Jan. 15, show starting at 8 p.m., with tickets $15 at the door.
The guitarist’s inspirations
Meehan might have come by his musical talents honestly, but to prove it is hereditary, one would have to look not at his parents – but his grandparents and parents’ siblings.
He explained that his uncles on both sides were the ones who were musically inclined (one a drummer and one a guitarist) – as was his grandmother, who had 18 years of piano training, and his grandfather who first introduced him to a guitar.
“I couldn’t help but be influenced by them,” he explained.
All that said, Meehan’s parents might not be musical, but he boasts that music actually brought his parents together – so maybe his musical leanings are an issue of osmosis.
In what he called an ironic turn of events, his folks met at one of their brothers’ gigs, which they had both reluctantly agreed to attend.
Addiction took hold
While Meehan dabbled just a little bit with music during his formative childhood years, it didn’t become an all-out addiction, as he labels it, until – at age 11 – he met his step-father and step-brother.
Everyone in the house would be sleeping at night when his step-dad, Neil Hood, would pick up his 12-string and start strumming, Meehan recalled.
He’d sneak out of bed, and initially watch – undetected – from a distance, totally mesmerized. Once his cover was blown by a squeaky floor board, the pair shared the late-night jams, and almost nightly Meehan would sit and watch in admiration and amazement as Hood played. He’d ask question after questions, and eventually be given chances to play.
Hood’s son Gordon was also musically inclined, able to play the blues on the guitar like no one Meehan has yet to meet to this day.
“I picked their brains on how to play… I never really wanted to sing… I just loved playing guitar,” Meehan recounted.
At 13, he started his first band, Bratz, and has been part of dozens of different bands since those humble beginnings.
Despite a somewhat consuming love for music, Meehan grew up believing there was no way to make a living with his music.
He was in his late teens, and couldn’t “technically” get into the bars in Quebec. Even though he was under age, he would again sneak in and watch all the different hard rock bands perform – his attention glued to the guitar players.
During the breaks, he would talk to the guitarists, and it was one of those musicians who told Meehan he could earn a few hundred bucks a week playing cover tunes. He’d never have to “get a real job” and give up music, if he didn’t want to.
That was another pivotal moment in Meehan’s life. It was enough to solidify his career as a musician. He learned a series of cover tunes from groups like the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, hit the clubs, and went for a ride – never letting go.
“There was no delusions of grandeur,” he said.
He just wanted to play. To refine his talents, he took a music program at Humber College in Toronto, all the time still performing evenings and weekends in any clubs and gigs he could get.
“I’m not one to quit,” he interjected.
Over the course of the next 18 plus years, Meehan cycled through a number of original bands. He dabbled on the piano and bass, trying his hand at songwriting, and continued growing as a singer – although to this day he’s critical of his own vocals. But the foundation of all his music revolved around his guitar.
“Honestly, I just want to play guitar… It’s all just been a vehicle for me to play guitar,” he said. “I have to play guitar. I think if I couldn’t play guitar, I’d go insane. Just ask my family.”
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
CAPTION: Langley’s Shawn Meehan
Me and Mae emerges
While Meehan insists that he detests being out in front, hates being a lead singer, and just wants to play guitar – and occasionally sing some backup – he has constantly found himself the front guy in band after band, including with Me And Mae.
In fact with Me and Mae, he’s performing about half the vocals – many of the song written with him singing, alternating verses with front woman Caitlin Canning of Abbotsford.
The sound is strong, he said, noting that most of the songs being considered for their new EP are just such duets.
And the band’s sound, he’s confident, will showcase well during their visit next week to California, first at NAMM – a “sweet spot – always packed – where they’ll be performing at the Hilton hotel on Friday night – and then on the new television series a few days later.
“Me and Mae is poised to win over legions of new fans,” he said. “It’s homegrown country music with a rock and roll sensibility.”
Me and Mae emerged in 2012, released its debut album, Off the Rails, in 2013, and has enjoyed some “serious” industry accolades and requests to play festivals and gigs across the country.
“I think we’re a baby band… until you have a solid following and a hit song on radio,” and that could be on the verge of happening, he said, all his fingers and toes crossed while packing for the trip.
Band manager Clyde Hill doesn’t think it’s much of a stretch. With some connections in the music industry, Hill has “hooked them up” and told Meehan this trip could change their lives.
“He told me ‘Shawn, I know you’ve been playing for a lot of years. But this will be the biggest gig of your life’,” he recalled.
Admittedly, Meehan has been a little nervous ever since Hill spoke those words.
“Now that’s no pressure…,” he said, taking a deep breath and also admitting to a high degree of excitement – not just for himself, but the entire band.
In addition to Meehan and Canning, the band is made up of bass and backup singer Adam Reid, banjo, guitarist, and backup vocalist Ben Parker, and drummer Dylan Weightman.
“Needless to say, I’ve been pushing all of them pretty hard,” he said, noting three-hour rehearsal sessions four days a week leading up to their departure.
“Let’s make this count.”
New musical direction
Me and Mae is a definite change of musical direction for Meehan, who the rest of his life has been a “rocker.”
“If you don’t get signed in the first three to four years, you have to re-invent yourselves,” Meehan said.
He was at that point in life, most recently being the frontman for a rock band called Krome – from 2005 to 2011 – that he needed and wanted a change.
The “rock thing,” as he called it, “was coming to an end” for him, and Meehan was gravitating more and more to the new country sounds he was hearing at events and on airwaves.
“It’s rock with a banjo,” Meehan chuckled.
The new sound was much more his style, and the “cross over” to a new genre went relatively seamless. He has been particularly touch by the fact that fans and fellow musicians alike have welcomed him.
While he’s on pins and needles about what might come from their U.S. visit, the more practical side of Meehan is also looking past next week.
He said the next few months will be spent recording. He’s hoping to have five or six new singles ready to release by late spring. Then, they’re on the road much of the summer performing at festivals and events throughout Western Canada.
Side gigs pay the bills
All musicians, if they hope to survive in the current music world, must have a bit of an entrepreneurial streak, Meehan insists.
He delivered pizzas and taught guitar lessons to earn extra cash through the early years – but that wasn’t enough to cut it as his young family grew and expanded.
So now, when Meehan doesn’t have a guitar in his hands, he spends much of his time focused on another, completely different kind of business.
Six years back, he and a friend put in $50 each, printed up some business cards, visited every liquor establishment in the region regularly, and kicked off a designated driver business.
“I was just hoping to pay the rent with this thing,” Meehan said, noting that he’s enjoying some unexpected success with that “entrepreneurial” venture to the point where he is now the sole proprietor of the business and he has 15 to 20 cars going in the busy season.
He’s discovered what he calls a niche market, that again is allowing him to also work on his music.
“I’m not working in the business anymore, I’m working on it,” he explained. “That’s kind of exciting.”
Living life in Langley
Meehan and his family settled in Walnut Grove five years ago, when they learned their second child was on the way.
He joked that he never had a chance to get in the bathroom in their small Burnaby apartment, and with the impending addition of another family member, he feared that would never happen again.
Searching around for a larger home, he had a family member raving about life in Langley. With the promise of a home featuring two bathrooms, they crossed the bridge – and now unless it’s for work – he hardly goes back towards Vancouver.
So, when fellow country artist Karen Lee Batten was casting around to find musicians to help raise money for the Langley City residents who lost their home in the Paddington Station condo fire in December, Meehan was one of the first to put up his hand and volunteer.
He said his hometown Langley fans have proven very loyal, and he’s grateful for that.
Likewise, he said, hundreds are expected to turn out Sunday for another hometown show – this one at the Langley City country nightclub – Gabby’s.
“We’re hoping to pack the place,” he said a few days out from the show.
The hope is, in partnering with West of Memphis and Grant Rowe, is to offer a fundraising show that will raise upwards of $5,000 to help cover the many costs of next week’s trip to California.