Bart Greenberg’s Compact Detective: Meg Flather

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Meg Flather

Hold On Tight

(This is the first in our web series of conversations between our “Compact Detective” Bart Greenberg and a performer discussing his/her latest CD, how the material was chosen, and why.)

“Women writing their own stories stopped me in my tracks.” — Meg Flather

Meg Flather’s new album, Hold On Tight, is about being in the moment. It’s a collection of songs that she has written in the last few years—inspired by events in her life and events in the world—ranging from her becoming her mother’s caregiver to President Obama’s election.

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The songs were not originally intended to form an album, but it became a natural fit when the singer-songwriter realized that they all had a common denominator: her own emotional reactions to these situations.

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“A lot of the songs are about telling the truth sooner.”

Flather has twin influences in her art: her love of musical theater and her connection with the female singer-songwriters of the ’70s (early Carly Simon; Suzanne Vega). For the first five years of her life, she lived in Micronesia, her parents Peace Corps workers. The music she first heard were her parents’ Simon and Garfunkel records and cast recordings her grandmother sent to them, such as The Fantasticks. So, the dichotomy in her musical tastes was set early. (As was her versatility: at 17, she played both Mame and Jesus.)

While at college at NYU as a musical theater major, she also became aware of the active folk-rock scene in the East Village, and what was playing on the radio. And she discovered that singing the pop music freed her and made her a better theater performer, because the former songs didn’t have the same “ghosts” the latter ones did.

She finds that when performing a song, whether her own or a cover, she still approaches it as an acting exercise, creating a character and exploring the dramatic course of the song. And when she prepares a cabaret show, she also examines the arc of the theme being presented. However, over her career she has found to let the “room find you. Don’t try to please them.” For her, it is as important to communicate to her audience as it is to entertain them.

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The title track of the CD was written on a day when her mother, who is fighting dementia, recognized her. She considers it a blessing and a privilege to care for her parents (she also saw her father through his battle with cancer). It is a reflection on the need to retain those good moments in life.

“Find a Way to Me” was inspired by a friend’s efforts to aid her autistic son. The mother’s fight for the moment when her son would speak affected Flather greatly.

“’Cause I Do” was inspired by Obama’s reelection as president. She thought, “If I were a mother, how would I explain what was going on in the world?”

The overwhelming sense of being tested by public media inspired “Like Me.”

Two songs in the collection are intended as a tribute to her husband (“He is my rock”) and their marriage: “He Shares Me with a Lot” was intended to be an honest reflection of a loving marriage as two people struggle with family disasters. And “At Midnight There Is You” considers how two partners each day make a choice to remain together.

“I Died” was inspired by the songwriter’s father coming to her in a dream. She feels she has “a cool relationship with the invisible world” and sees a freedom in being freed from those things that keep us anchored here, doing things just to be liked and to earn approval.

The stunning cover portrays her gripping her mother’s hand. This was not taken in some elaborate photo shoot, but was taken with a borrowed “smart phone,” the hands placed against a black blouse spread out on the bed. The simplicity and unpretentiousness of the creation is so reflective of Flather.

Meg Flather will have a second release party for Hold On Tight on September 16 at 7 pm at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th St., NYC. 212-757-0788. The cover charge includes a copy of the CD. For those who can’t make the show, the songs are available as singles on iTunes and the album will be available shortly.

Flather’s next project: Unexpected Trio (Meg Flather, Tracy Stark, Rosemary Loar), three singer-songwriters presenting their own songs. 53rd Above @ Broadway Comedy Club, 318 W. 53rd St., NYC,

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."