ABOUT

Toronto singer-songwriter Meredith Shaw has a friend and fan in Gordie Johnson, the ace guitarist, songwriter, singer and producer of the legendary Big Sugar and Grady. He not only produced her debut pop album, Place Called Happy, but brought her out on the road for some 50 dates last year. She even has three co-writes on Big Sugar’s newest album, Revolution Per Minute, including the latest single, “Little Bit A All Right.”

The new single from Meredith’s album is actually a remix of “Acted Badly,” a song she played live at Big Sugar’s shows night after night, that Gordie reworked in the studio and features Big Sugar’s DJ Friendlyness. “We wanted to capture what the song sounded like live with Sugar,” says Meredith. “It’s coy, with almost Marilyn Monroe-like vocals, tongue in cheek lyrics, and now with the remix has a total reggae tilt.”

Place Called Happy is largely a positive album, where broken hearts don’t stay broken for long and life’s low points are quickly turned around. Produced by Gordie at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales studio in Spicewood, Texas, near Austin, the 10-song release flips from emotion to emotion within stylistic variations of pop music that take a cheeky Lily Allen approach to the vocal prowess of Adele.

From “Joey,” a playful, riffy number that confidently gives the boot to a bad boy to the country-tinged “King of the Road” about that very same guy, Meredith infuses tons of personality into a genre that’s often devoid of it. She comes by that outgoing, quirky and playful nature honestly. She’s an on-air personality at Toronto radio station Boom 97.3 and also has an illustrated product line of “happy people” called muffymade (greeting cards to chocolate). Pop is her thing.

What she didn’t imagine on was that “the dusty Austin” vibe would seep into the songs while she was recording down there and give the music a stamp she never would’ve got in Toronto. “We’d go out for dinner in Austin and there was a mariachi trumpet band playing and we were like, ‘We should put trumpets on ‘Little Fishy,’” she says. So they did.

That song — about that certain little fish who always comes back — was from the second batch of songs Meredith recorded with Gordie. The first trip to Texas yielded five songs — “Joey,” “Girls Who Believe,” “Stars,” “Acted Badly” and “Happy” — enough for an EP. But they felt the creative flow was going so well with her main co-writer Patrick Ballantyne (Gordie’s long-time collaborator) that they kept at it and soon had enough songs to return and finish a full album, including the seductive “So Good” and achin’ “Breakin.”

Since Place Called Happy came out, Meredith has performed in Nashville, New York, Vancouver, but mostly Ontario to the East Coast of Canada with a band and sometimes just as a duo with Tim Chaisson. Last summer, the pair did some festival dates with Big Sugar, Meredith ended up doing all their summer shows, about 20 in all, and then she joined the band for 38 dates that fall.

“I ended up opening a few times, later on in the fall tour,” Meredith says. “First, I would do guest vocals and then I would come up and do a couple of leads. I would do ‘Acted Badly’ off my record every night in a mash up with Sugar’s ‘Turn The Lights On’.

“Wide Mouth opened and then by the end of the tour I was getting up with Wide Mouth and singing in their set as well. Shawn [Verreault] and I would duet on ‘Companion.’ That was a pretty huge experience for me. I’d never traveled on a tour bus before. I was the only girl on the tour bus for two months. I loved it. I had such fun time.”



THINGS I CARE ABOUT

VON CANADA
I volunteer with these guys. If you love babies this organization is for you!
www.von.ca

GIRL TALK
This group is just getting started but they are all about building the self-esteem of young girls – love that. Plus my company muffymade designed their logo.
Girl Talk website

PWA TORONTO
This is an organization that gets all proceeds from a big event I do the fundraising for each year during PRIDE week.
www.pwatoronto.org

SCHOOLS WITHOUT BORDER
Schools Without Borders (SWB) is a unique youth-led organization that makes education and learning more accessible for young people.
www.swb.ca