Quick Q and A with Meg Braun

Meg Braun is one of the Chicks.   Chicks with Dip that is.  Eleven established singer-songwriters got together to record a celebration of Joni Mitchell’s Blue album.  It’s a legendary album and their interpretations are loving tributes to those classic songs.

Meg has been hooked on the music scene since moving to New York from Ohio.  She’s gained new friends by being involved with the close-knit singer-songwriter community and has gained new songs along the way—enough to fill a couple of CDs.  She loves the scene so much that she got involved with helping to run a coffeehouse—to help others find a warm and nurturing space to share their music.

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 I happen to know that you’re as jazzed about running marathons as you are about your music.  How did you get the running bug?  And what’s your best time?  Do you have any more races coming up in 2013?

I actually got the running bug when I couldn’t get into a spin class, had just gone through a nasty break-up, and needed to work out. So, instead of diving into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, I dropped my bags into a locker and just went outside and ran.  I think I maybe went a mile that first time out, but it was satisfying so I kept at it.  I do find that running also feeds my creativity and songwriting in a way that other forms of exercise never have.  Being out there for a few miles clears my mind and generates ideas.  I don’t listen to music when I run, so I often work on song ideas when I am out there.

Last November, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon, when New York’s was cancelled.  I finished it in 5 hours and 45 minutes, though I had hoped to finish in under 5 hours.  That is my goal for next year!  But my motto with running is that it is not about how fast you go, it only matters that you cross the finish line.

I plan to run the New York Marathon in 2013 and raise money for breast cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  It makes every mile that much more important!

Your songwriting is described as “fearless.” Does that mean that your songs are about topics that have previously not been attempted or that your instrumentation knows no bounds?

I think the fearlessness in my songwriting is not so much topic related, as it is that I am not afraid to tell the truth in my songs, even if it is a hard thing.  My song “All Along” is about a hoped for reconciliation of old friends, where the narrator is the one who allowed time away hurt the friendship and knows that she is responsible. I think when my songwriting was described as fearless, it was referring to writing about the uncomfortable things within ourselves, and not compromising on the honesty that it takes.

I love that your first CD Tomboy Princess includes literary allusions to folk stories and fables and yet the songs are very contemporary at the same time.  Did you consciously decide to write songs with that kind of motif?

I did.  As a little girl, I loved fairy tales and folk stories.  When I started getting serious about my songwriting, this was a “way in” for me to write about what I knew, while adding my own ideas to these old tales.  I liked the idea of turning the fairy tale upside down.  Why can’t the princess save the prince?

How would you compare your newest CD, Broken Places to Tomboy Princess?  

Well, Tomboy Princess took me 5 years to make and I am pretty sure I made every mistake you can make when you produce your own CD!  Broken Places was produced by Tom Prasada-Rao, and we made the CD in a week!  But I think the topics addressed are quite different between the two projects.  Tomboy Princess focused a lot on my childhood and growing up.  It was my first batch of songs that were written when I was learning how to write a song.  Broken Places is, at its core, about grieving and healing.  It is a “break-up” CD in some sense, but also about finding strength in the “broken places.”  I feel the topics there are more adult by comparison.

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How did the idea of the Chicks with Dip come about?

In some sense, it came about very organically.  Back in 2003, many of us met at open mics in the city.  We decided it might be fun to get together outside that “scene” to get to know each other better.  When we first met (in Allison Scola’s apartment!)  there wasn’t really any plan to get together after that first meeting but we had so much fun that we met again, and again.  The membership has changed over the years, as some have moved away or had career changes, but the sense of camaraderie and support has remained consistent over the last decade.  And really, once a “Chick” always a “Chick”.  And the “dip” part of the name really is because we consume a lot of dip at our gatherings.  I usually make the “signature” dip for the group.  But I also think having a name like “Chicks with Dip” reminds us not to take ourselves so seriously, and that we are about friendship first and foremost.

What is your opinion of Joni Mitchell?  Have you ever seen her live?  Do you have a favorite album or Joni period?

 I grew up listening to Joni Mitchell. My dad was a huge fan when he was in college.  He ran sound at the Canterbury Club Coffeehouse at the University of Michigan in the late 60s and heard her before she recorded her first album.  So, I like to say that Joni’s music is part of my DNA.  I can’t help but love her songs.  I have not seen her live, but maybe someday I will get to.  I have a couple of favorite albums, and Blue is definitely among them.  However, among my other top Joni album picks Court & Spark, Hejira and Night Ride Home.   And truthfully, I have not heard a Joni Mitchell recording that I haven’t been inspired by, even if it doesn’t rank among my favorites.  I guess inherited my dad’s love of her!

More information about Meg Braun is on her website.

Check out this video of Meg singing “River” from a Chicks with Dip show.

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