When you see a song title like “He’s Seen Me Naked,” you almost do a double-take. Then, inevitably, you have to hear it.
The emotions and laid back instrumentality that come through the speakers are almost chilling, in an amazing way. But when that second chorus hits, the emotion and power that comes through with each word takes it to a whole new level.
Delivering that kind of emotion has become the calling card for Florida-born and raised artist Megan Katarina. On her newest album, “Being Crazy Ain’t For the Weak,” Katarina takes listeners on a personal journey through love, heartache, and healing that has also related to and healed listeners.
Read below to hear from Katarina that journey, writing the songs on the album, being a woman in today’s country music industry, and more!
Justin Loretangeli Who were some of your biggest musical influences growing up?
Megan Katarina: Avril Lavigne, surprisingly was my very first musical inspiration. But after that, Martina McBride was a huge influence and one of the first artists whose songs I fully learned and performed. After that, it was traditional country like Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, John Prine; and later on big influences were Kacey Musgraves and some pop influences like John Mayer, Sia and Kesha.
JL: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to make music for a living?
MK: Not really, because it was always engrained in me. From the moment I could write on a paper with a pencil, I was writing songs. And as soon as I was able to comprehend music, I was singing it. It’s always been it!
JL: You released your first EP eight years ago. What did you learn from having that experience at such a young age, and where do you think you’ve grown most as an artist/songwriter since then?
MK: Well, when I first released my EP I was literally a child. All of the songs were written solely by me when I was 11-13 years old. I feel like it’s really hard to put amazing content out without the life experiences of intense pain, love, joy, and all those things that come with growth. However, I am proud of that work for a 13-year-old! I think my songwriting has evolved immensely because I’ve really found my groove. I know that I am good at channeling life experience into songs others can relate to. Also, my voice has naturally changed and I’m very happy with the range and tone I’ve developed through practice and experience (and puberty, haha). To sum it up, I’m just a whole lot better at being myself than I was when I was that age, of course.
JL: The “Being Crazy Ain’t for the Weak” album is broken into two segments, “Anchor” and “Wings.” Can you talk about the reasoning behind this and can you speak about the inspiration for both?
MK: A few reasons. I love poetry. I was writing poetry before I was writing music, and I truly feel that most of my songs start out as poetry first. I wanted to showcase my poetry as well as pay homage to the two segments of life we alternate in, in my opinion. Most of the songs on “Anchor” were written in a very dark time in my life, all of them true stories for the most part, “Anchor” especially. And I wrote a lot of the songs on “Wings” as I was learning to grow through that really trying time. I went through a really devastating heartbreak. The reason it was devastating had a lot more to do with me than the ex, but it was still earth shattering to me at the time. I really really wanted to share that journey and tell a story with the two parts and the preludes to let others know they aren’t alone. We all ache, get hurt, feel lost, and we will always rise again, more beautiful and resilient and ever! Yes, I think resilience is the reasoning for the two parts. I wanted to inspire resilience.
JL: You pretty much put all of yourself out there on “He’s Seen Me Naked.” Is it at all a vulnerable/awkward feeling to delve into such deep subject matters?
MK: Not awkward at all. It’s the most natural thing I can do because I’m just writing what I know. If that makes people uncomfortable, I understand. But it’s my truth, and I share it for those who need to hear it as well as for my own expression and healing.
JL: Your delivery on a lot of your songs- especially “He’s Seen Me Naked,” are dripping with emotion. Do you have to put yourself into the mindset you were when you wrote those songs when recording? If so, is that hard for you?
MK: Yes, I do have to, in a way. When recording, there’s a lot of technicalities, so some of it is “acting” for sure. But I do put myself back in the mindset and recall the memories and reasons I wrote it. I can’t explain it, but I think actually channeling it feels natural, even when I’m not going through it anymore because I have such a vivid emotional memory that I can still feel that pain and go there if I wanted to.
JL: You’ve said “Being Crazy Ain’t for the Weak,” was made the title track of the record because of a battle you had with depression and anxiety. Is it almost therapeutic to be so open about those struggles? Did this record/song help you at all with that fight?
MK: It is certainly therapeutic. When I wrote that song I was just venting. I had no plans to share it. Then I played it once and told the story and it was received so well that I tried that again and it was like a domino effect. Sharing it feels so good because it’s like saying to someone “Hey, here’s my whole heart and soul, scars and all,” and them relating and being grateful that I shared is the most rewarding feeling.
But, oh my gosh, yes it helped. This album release actually changed my life. Seeing the way the message was received was so healing to me. I think I owe a lot of credit to the fans and friends who supported and listened and connected with it, because they showed me that I wasn’t alone. That’s something I can never forget now, and I’m eternally grateful and more confident and joyful than ever because of it.
JL: The vast majority of the “Being Crazy Ain’t for the Weak” album is about love- whether it be love lost, heartbreak, or poking fun at love. Can you talk about the mindset you were in when you sat down to write the songs on the record?
MK: I wasn’t in a mindset. I was just trying to get through life. I wrote all of those songs months apart from each other mostly, and within a 2-year period. I was struggling hard with mental illness and I was sad and lonely. I was processing a lot that had to do with relationships and so love was naturally my muse.
JL: The record features a few different sounds, from straight forward traditional country to a more progressive sound. Do you think it’s important to have a versatile sound, especially at this point of your career?
MK: Honestly, I really don’t know. It’s probably more commercially successful to pick a label and stick to it, but that seems ridiculous to me, being that we are all humans with so many dynamics and dimensions. I’ve always claimed to be traditional, because it’s my roots and it’s what I love. But I have so much fun with the poppier stuff too. I don’t think being consistent in your sound is important. I think what’s important is being consistently authentic in your expression.
JL: You’ve had great chart success as both an artist and as a songwriter. After you achieve that kind of success, is there ever any pressure- internally or externally, to reach that level again with your next project/cut?
MK: Yes, a little bit. Charting was really important to me for this album and I worked really hard to make sure it did. I’m so proud of the album and how well it did, though that I feel liberated to create what I feel is right. I trust that the next project will fall into the right places and right hands just like this one did. I also know my fans are badass and they will make the release as amazing as this release was!
JL: You’ve opened for major artists such as Asleep at the Wheel and Emerson Drive. Have you learned anything from those experiences that you have tried to incorporate into your own show/career?
MK: I wouldn’t say I’ve learned as much as I would say that they inspired me to keep working hard at my craft and to stay humble.
JL: Do you have a favorite song you’ve recorded or written? If so, why is it so special to you?
MK: “Anchor” is my favorite that I have recorded and written. It was a divine write to me and the connections to so many who get the feeling behind that song has been priceless to me. That song continues to heal me and I love that it is healing others too.
JL: How hard is it to be a new female artist in country music right now? Does it almost seem like an uphill climb from the start?
MK: It’s 100 percent an uphill climb. The industry is outrageously male-biased, and I often get treated differently because I have “less opportunity” to offer than a male artist would. The funny thing is, the reason men are selling is because they say men are selling, so they are pushing way more men than women. It’s a cycle. It’s ridiculous. I could go on and on about the absurd experiences and bias I’ve witnessed. But at the end of the day, good music speaks for itself. I intend to keep doing my thing and singing my truth. And there’s a lot of great women rising in country music right now. There will always be a boys club, but there will always be great fans who seek out good music, regardless of if it’s from a male or female.
JL: What is next for you and your career? Have you set any goals for yourself for the rest of the year/next few years?
MK: Lots of touring and shows. I intend to release a very intimate small project in the spring and work towards a new album in late 2019 or early 2020. More than anything, I just want to keep cultivating deep and personal relationships with the fans and writing music that’s true to me. If I keep that as my sole purpose, the rest comes naturally.
*Images courtesy of Megan Katarina and Megan Katarina Facebook Page*