Check out our interview with Megg Farrell of Sweet Megg and The Wayfarers. Their album will be released On September 14th and we can to chat with Megg about her music, the album, and her experience in Paris.
upfrontNY: How did you get your start in music and what do you love most about it?
Megg Farrell: I grew up in the city, my parents are actors. I kind of have always been in the New York world. When I was 16 I started playing ukulele as a joke and playing bass in a cover band. Music was always a big part of my life and my dad was a songwriter. I found this ukulele band called Sonic Uke and it was these 2 guys doing these weird ukulele covers in the village and I emailed them asking where they were playing I needed to see them. They emailed me back and asked if I wanted to open for them. I wrote songs and did that show and then I got into the ukulele world. I started writing songs and doing that.Then I continued on with music. I took it seriously, but never full-time seriously because I never thought I would be able to work in music full-time. In college, I studied jazz and lived in Paris for a year and went to the jazz school there and got a band going there for a year. When I came back to New York I kind of fell in with this old-time jazz team. It is all based on this place called Mona’s in the lower east side. I started singing with them and learning a lot about the music. I was working in film at the time and I started gigging and the gigs basically started paying more than the documentary job. If I could do music full-time and make money I’m gonna do that. Since then I have been doing it full-time.
It’s hard to describe what I love most about it because to me music, it’s almost like its breathing for me. It’s always been something I’ve had to do. I use song writing almost as a therapy. It was always a part of my soul that it’s like I can’t not do music and now all of a sudden I’m working in it full-time. It all fell into place.
upfrontNY: That is great how everything worked out!
Megg Farrell: I’ve always been a harsh critic of my own music. It’s kind of why I never took it seriously because I wasn’t proud of the product, but I have been studying the whole time. It took me a while to get serious about it as a career and by the time I got out there I’ve gotten years of training under my belt and I’m more proud of the product and producing now more than when I was younger. Now I’m proud of what I do, the two bands that I work with, and the two albums I’m working on now. Now I’m excited to put it out there and get people listening.
upfrontNY: Going from New York to Paris what was the transition like for you? Do you feel like going to Paris was the big push to get you forward with the music career?
Megg Farrell: I think it was in a way. I had this weird thing start with the ukulele, it’s this weird world where it was in Boston, Paris, New York where these ukulele clubs and there were forums that people would follow. I didn’t know this at the time, but all my performances were being taped and I was up on all these forums. These guys in France became fans of mine and we became close. My relationship with France started when I was around 18 and I went back and forth and was finally able to go for that year. It felt like finishing a goal. It was nice to be out of New York, where I had been my whole life. Growing up in the New York music scene is kind of daunting because you kind of feel like you’re never going to be anything because making it in the New York music scene is like making it big time. You just assume that’s not going to happen. But in Paris when I was out there people were extra nice to me because a New Yorker musician they think that is so cool.
That was really nice, I was studying it thoroughly, and my band did well. It was definitely a culture shock because all of my classes were in French. I was changed when I came back to New York. The spirit of Paris is different from New York because their values are love and art and culture where here its work and making money and making it. I’m more of an aesthetic and I believe in beauty for the sake of beauty. Getting a chance to do my music fully and live where people were in tuned the way I am in tuned, it made me come back to New York and I could continue living in that way and I didn’t have to do New York the way you’re supposed to do New York.
upfrontNY: After coming back from Paris what was it like being back in New York?
Megg Farrell: It is great. It is funny how New York is. It moves so fast here and you have to hustle so hard. I often forget I’m doing that. It takes me whenever I leave the city on tour or something and people are like “oh you gig full time that’s awesome and in New York”? To me its like work, but I always have to take a minute to appreciate how lucky I am to get to do it full time.
Because of the jazz world I’m in there’s plenty of work at this point in this style of music I am able to do it full time. It’s really special and definitely have to work a lot. During the day I get to rehearse and work on booking and now I’m working on my own original music again.
upfrontNY: You have a lot of residencies can you tell us about one of your favorites?
Megg Farrell: St. Mazie in Williamsburg its this awesome bar. It’s my “cheers” in New York. I live very close to it. The owner is a really awesome guy. He is the sweetest guy in the world. Him and his wife run the place. We play a lot of bars in the city and it is uncommon for bar owners to treat you as an adult as a musician and usually give us the bare minimum, but he treats us with respect and the whole staff is super sweet and whenever I go there they all treat me super well and I have a really good time with them.
We play there usually twice a month on Saturdays. Whenever we play there it is so roughty and a bunch of people. Because we love the place so much and the energy is good and the staff gives us good energy we usually play our best and our most energized. It is also a beautiful bar.
upfrontNY: You’ve played in New York, Paris, is there anywhere else you really want to take your music?
Megg Farrell: Paris is always going to be my second love. In America, my boyfriend and I are looking at St. Louis. He is in a band now that is based out of St. Louis and he has to fly down there whenever he goes out on tour and I’ve been going down with him and I love the city. It’s such a wonderful place.
upfrontNY: Can you tell us about your song “Here Comes The Man With The Jive” ?
Megg Farrell: That song was written by the great Stuff Smith, who was a violin player. He wrote the song and the recording we found. There is a whole genre of music from the 20s and 30s that’s viper jazz and all about smoking weed. We do a couple numbers that are viper jazz and “Here Comes The Man With The Jive” is one of those. When it comes to the old world jazz world in New York we are known to be an energetic band and roughty. This song we will often close our sets with. Not only is it one of our favorite songs, but the way it builds from the quiet to the roughty at the end is exactly the way I like it. I like dynamic change. We are really proud of the way it ended up.
upfrontNY: Your album will be released September 14th, what can people expect from the album?
Megg Farrell: An eclectic mix. We are in a scene of people that are really into authenticity and they kind of will choose one era or one vibe from the 20s and 30s and really recreate it. I am more scatterbrain with my approach. I like a lot of different stuff so whenever we do our set we will go from playing a really bluesy number to playing like a rock and roll feel and New Orleans feel.
We wanted the album to be that. We wanted it to be like a gig. It is kind of a little mixed bag of everything we like. There are a couple Billy Holiday tunes that are on there. There are some gypsy jazz stuff and we’ve got some ballads. It’s a mix of all the different jazz that we like. We got some of the top musicians from New York to be on the album.
upfrontNY: I love how you have incorporated so many different types and styles of jazz.
Megg Farrell: The reason I got involved in this type of jazz music is because it’s fun. I love jazz and studying it because it’s difficult and you really have to study music to play jazz well and I love the challenge of that but I like to dance and wiggle around on stage. When I found the old-time stuff I found I could both have the technicality of jazz, but also jump around the stage and get really roughty.
That’s what I want people to know. People who like jazz and the heavy stuff can get something from this album because we have great players, great solos, and doing things that are interesting in the jazz world, but it can also be for people who don’t listen to jazz and it can be fun. I want to be a crossover so it’s not just one or the other.