20 Questions is a Q&A interview series with musicians, authors, and everyone in between, celebrating experiences both shared and individual in the messy game of being human.
“Prior to the pandemic, I was really go-go-go and wasn’t paying attention to what my mental health needed. I’m still working on it, but I’m better at setting boundaries and not beating myself up for not going out to that show or doing that activity. Instead I try to check in with myself and connect with people that lift me up.” Meagan Hickman’s blend of pop-soul, memorable grooves, and honest lyrics shed light on love, loss, perseverance, and self-discovery. Her music meets listeners with an opportunity to take a step back and see fresh perspectives. Drawing from her childhood influences (Bill Withers, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder) and modern artists (Sara Bareilles, Ben Rector, Jess Glynne), Hickman’s songs make you want to think and to dance. Hickman’s recent 2021 releases “Obsession” and “Still Here” showcase her vocal range, soulful roots, memorable grooves, and uplifting spirit, while her latest single “You Go Your Way” is an upbeat and nostalgic look into a real-life love story.
Hickman released her first full-length album SIGHTLINES in 2015, bringing diverse audiences an eclectic mix of pop rock anthems such as “Seize the Day,” “He’s My Man,” and “Love the Love.” She specializes in catchy hooks that combine a variety of styles and genres to connect with all listeners. In 2019, she released three singles — “Together,” “Unique,” and “Who Are You?” — each fueling her theme of self-discovery, female empowerment, and perseverance. Outside of creating and performing her own music, Hickman has toured the world with internationally recognized choirs, recorded national commercial jingles, and has embraced the music business side as a production coordinator for top Billboard artists including Walk the Moon, Goo Goo Dolls, Gavin DeGraw, and more. She is also involved in alumni work for her alma mater Berklee College of Music.
I had the chance to get to know all things Meagan Hickman for this week’s edition of 20 Questions, where she told me all about her greatest influences, her favorite type of song to write, why beauty has nothing to do with how we look, and lots more.
What’s one thing that made you fall in love with music?
I would say there are two times in my life where I fell in love with music: as a kid (I really owe all the credit to my folks) — I wasn’t very sport savvy and didn’t show much interest in regular group activities. As soon as my parents realized I had a gift for singing and performing, I just dove head first into every musical avenue I could get my hands on — piano, voice, choir, dance, musicals, etc.
The second time was when I was in high school. My teachers helped me realize that I could aspire to be just like all the incredible songwriters I had come to admire. I remember I was 15 and started to study the songwriting of so many incredible artists: Bonnie Raitt, Bill Withers, Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder, India Arie, Jill Scott, Sara Bareilles, John Mayer. The list goes on!
As a songwriter, which artists have influenced you the most?
Oh, this is tough — there are too many to list! From an early age I was heavily listening to Queen, AC/DC, Stevie Wonder, Motown, and disco. Once I was old enough to dig into music on my own, I fell in love with Bill Withers, Bonnie Raitt, India Arie, Jill Scott, Joss Stone, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, and then my greatest influence to date hit me like a freight train my freshman year of college: the incredible Sara Bareilles. Once I heard her music, I felt like someone finally saw me. She’s just absolutely amazing.
Which genres would you describe your music as falling into?
Depending on the song, either indie pop, pop rock, or pop-soul.
What time of day are you most inspired?
There isn’t normally an exact time of day (I wish I had a better writing schedule) but if I had to choose, I’d say either midday or around sunset. I always have my keyboard facing out a window so I can look out and see the beautiful sunset colors as I write. I am also often inspired when I’m listening to other artists’ music. It normally puts me in a fresh mood. I definitely have a harder time writing when my list of to-dos is through the roof.
Who is your style icon?
Right now I’d say Maggie Rogers meets Dakota Johnson. A mix of comfort, class, funkiness, and hippie vibes.
As an artist, what would you say is the general theme of your music?
Uplifting, inspirational, can-do, perseverance, change, and new beginnings.
Favorite book of all-time?
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.
How would you characterize your latest single “You Go Your Way”?
“You Go Your Way” is an anthemic and driving summer pop song. The sentimental story is a breakup song presented as a hopeful new beginning. It’s for anyone that has had to make hard decisions in their relationships to better themselves and the goals of their partner. Sometimes letting someone go to flourish on their own is actually the best decision for both parties — no matter how hard it may feel in the moment. The song was inspired by true events in my personal life. After returning home to Chicago from a Nashville trip, I had the realization that my partner and I would need to relocate to different cities to further our musical careers. This epiphany inspired the story of “You Go Your Way,” which I wrote thereafter to process the feelings that were occurring in that moment. In the end of the day, it became more of a nostalgic look back on all the beautiful many years that we have spent together and the adventures that lie ahead.
The best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Just do you! Seriously though, it’s so easy to look around and want to fit in, but the people I’ve always admired just do it their way, no matter how or what it looks like.
The last series you binge-watched?
Atypical. Absolutely loved it. Such great characters and writing.
Favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
Burn some candles, sit at the keyboard and write, do some yoga, make some comfort food, read a book, or watch a good movie.
Headphones or earbuds?
These days I’m using my AirPod Pros more and more because I held out for so long on buying them, but when approving a final mix, I have to be wearing my AKG headphones.
What does the word “beauty” mean to you?
Confidence and kindness. It has absolutely nothing to do with how we look. I am working on this mantra everyday for myself. When I feel strong mentally and physically, beauty shows through.
What is your favorite kind of song to write?
I love writing driving pop songs. There’s something about that 4 on the floor or syncopated toms and then when the chorus hits — you just feel that high! I equally love a slow funky R&B jam. (More on that to come.)
One artist you would love to collaborate with one day?
Favorite movie of all-time?
That’s a tie between You’ve Got Mail and the Ocean’s trilogy. I usually switch between action and comedy, but those movies have my favorite actors in them.
One song that you will never be sick of?
“Between the Lines” by Sara Bareilles. Just brilliant.
One thing that’s been keeping you sane during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Focusing on being OK with myself above all things. Prior to the pandemic, I was really go-go-go and wasn’t paying attention to what my mental health needed. I’m still working on it, but I’m better at setting boundaries and not beating myself up for not going out to that show or doing that activity. Instead I try to check in with myself and connect with people that lift me up.
The best compliment you’ve ever received?
“You’re like Sara Bareilles but funky!” or “You should sell that song to Disney.”
What can we expect to hear next from you?
New soulful, groovy, funky, pop/R&B jams!