Megan Luttrell's music is a classic Midwestern mix of folk, blues and country and yet still more than the sum of these parts. With an instantly recognizable voice in the style of Bonnie Raitt and Melissa Etheridge, Luttrell already has one album under her belt (2016's Broken Bottles) and a recent single called "Miss You." We are fortunate to share an exclusive interview with Luttrell about her music, background and book recommendations, too.
Tell us about your music. How would you describe your style?
That is always such a hard question! I describe my sound as a mixture of folk, roots, Americana, blues, and classic country; powerhouse female vocals accompanied on acoustic guitar.
You recently released a new EP, Miss You. How did this EP come together? What did you learn from the recording process that you’ll take to future projects?
I recorded two songs, "Miss You" and "Folk Singer," with Matthew Mulnix after playing in one of his Lawrence Songwriter Showcases at S&S. "Miss You" is a song that I wrote years ago and never really played that often. I was going through some old music and showed it to my husband, who really liked it. He encouraged me to keep working on it and when I got it to place that I liked, it because one of my favorite songs I'd written. "Folk Singer" is something I wrote right before I defended my dissertation in December 2018. I had always felt torn between academia and music and this song became the anthem for my confusion. I had the funds to record two songs and these were the ones that really stuck with me at the time. I learned from this experience that it is so helpful to play with a metronome! It really helps the other musicians playing on the songs. It's something I will do from here on out when recording. I also learned to be clear about what I want from the recording, to go into it with clear goals and ideas so that the end product really captures the sound and feel that I'm trying to achieve.
Describe your creative process. Does music come easy to you or are you a heavy editor of your work?
Writing is something that has always come pretty easily, but it definitely comes in waves. In the past I would write a fully-formed song in one sitting and I didn't do a lot of editing. This is probably why I have a lot of songs that I have never really played. I am revisiting older songs that were just ok and reworking them into something better. Still, there are a lot of times where an entire song just kind of falls out of me without much editing. Sometimes a song forms around an idea, a phrase, a feeling, or just a single word. There have been a few times where I have dreamed that I am playing a song that I haven't written in real life yet.
When did you first start writing songs? Who were some of your earliest influences?
I started making up little songs as a kid, but didn't get into real songwriting until high school. I remember that Michelle Branch was popular then. Seeing a young woman singing songs she had written and playing the guitar was really inspiring. I listened to all kinds of music in high school, from pop to folk to metal, so it's hard to pinpoint specific influences. My mom was in a lot of bands when I was growing up and I was always inspired by her and the music she played (Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Etheridge, Janis Joplin, Rolling Stones etc.). My dad and I listened to things like The Who, Van Morrison, and The Band when we were in the car together.
What new music are you currently raving about?
Another hard question! I know that when people ask me about what I listen to I always forget some of my absolute favorites. New music I'm raving about (I would say new to me, not new in general) would be mostly local artists I have had the pleasure of seeing perform. For example, I saw Carter Sampson play at Folk Alliance a couple of years ago and have been listening to her a ton lately. We actually had one of her songs as our first dance at our wedding. I did a songwriter showcase with one of the singers in the group Blue False Indigo and just fell in love with their sound. Other artists I've recently seen and really liked are Erin Eades, Kat King and her band The Typing Pool, and Signal Ridge. Though not a local group, I am also really enjoying War on Drugs lately.
What’s ahead for you in 2020?
I will continue to book shows in the Lawrence, Topeka, and Kansas City areas. I'll also keep hosting the Women's Songwriter Showcase each month at the Kaw Valley Public House in Lawrence. I'm really excited about the April show because it is the one year anniversary of the showcase. I'm putting together an all-day reunion show for April 4th. The event will also serve as a fundraiser for the Lawrence Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center. Other than booking and hosting the showcase I will keep writing new music and, if it works out financially, to record my second album.
Megan Luttrell's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
1. Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
2. MaddAddam Trilogy (Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood, MaddAddam) by Margaret Atwood
3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
4. Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro Kazuo
5. Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia by Richard E. Cytowic
6. The Wump World by Bill Peet
7. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
8. Alexander II: The Last Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky