Know your worth. It is normal to start on the bottom of a totem pole and to earn your way up over time. Unfortunately, this world has normalized a culture of overworking people without proper compensation. This standard is widely accepted, either through internships or being an assistant. Although you may be ‘green’, it’s important to listen to yourself. Know when it’s the right time to move on as you grow beyond your old limitations. Your health and worth go hand in hand.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Megan Graney.
Megan Graney is a singer, songwriter, and musician. The Bay Area native uses nostalgia to bring sonically rich journeys through memories and lived experiences of her listeners, allowing them to process their authentic truth. Megan is a strong advocate for mental health, caretaking, and sharing vulnerability in her craft.
Megan is most well-known for her stylistic approach using healing lyrics and colorful production. Her versatility in performing a variety of genres from jazz, americana, gospel, folk, and choral music earned her the opportunity to gain accolades including the following:
- Sang background vocals for Rita Ora (VH1’s Trailblazer Honors)
- Performed choral originals at Capitol Studios
- Performed the National Anthem for the Los Angeles Rams in 2018 with Angel City Chorale
- Performed with Andy Mientus for his tribute to Joni Mitchell at Hotel Cafe (Los Angeles) and Feinstein’s at the Nikko (San Francisco)
Previous performances include shows at The Village Studios and The Descanso Gardens Summer Series. Prior to her artist career, Megan earned credits in major films including Despicable Me 3 and The Nut Job 2. Her work at Bear McCreary’s studio, Sparks and Shadows, ultimately earned her the studio management role for Brazilian film composer, Heitor Pereira, located at Hans Zimmer’s company — Remote Control Productions. Megan continued to earn further credits assisting Canadian based film composer, Andrew Lockington, for the last 3 years. Credits include the Emmy Award winning series Delhi Crime, Daybreak, and American Gods.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Megan! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in the Bay Area and raised in Castro Valley, California. My town was extremely diverse and graduated a lot of talented individuals who have since become rising stars in opera and Broadway.
I’ve always been an avid daydreamer. I was raised with old school music, but always remained too shy to sing in front of anyone. As I got older and gravitated towards vocal jazz, I found my home through choir where I could enjoy singing without being in the spotlight. Both of my parents were the most supportive in all of my interests, letting me play basketball, run track, dance ballet and play viola.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
A few years ago, I worked for Heitor Pereira, who composed the music for Despicable Me 3. My favorite cues featured a glorious choir singing at Warner Bros. Studios. I suddenly had a lightbulb moment and realized, “I can do that. I’ll be surrounded by other singers like that one day.” It completely shifted my desire from wanting to support artists, to becoming an artist of my own. Once I saw how I could blend my experience as a vocalist with a business background, my doubts of leaving a ‘stable’ job disappeared.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Oh gosh, there are so many — most of which revolve around traveling hiccups. A few years ago, I was referred to sing background vocals for a Joni Mitchell tribute by Broadway native, Andy Mientus. The day was supposed to be easy — fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco, go over the music with Andy’s team, and perform his set the next day. In reality, my flight continued to get delayed due to foggy weather. I finally arrived at the hotel close to 9pm and had missed the rehearsal. Andy graciously had a gin and tonic ready for me upon my arrival and joined me with his Music Director, Ben Rauhala, to go over my parts in the middle of office cubicles. Once we finished, the hotel’s fire alarm immediately went off and we had to evacuate outside. There was indeed a small fire that needed extinguishing a few floors above our room. By fluke, I met the entire music team as we waited for the green light to go back inside and finally sleep.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The mistake is funny now, but was not comical when it actually happened. After a year of preparation, our music team had everything ready to go for a week of recording at Warner Bros Studios. Unfortunately, I was under the impression a photographer would already be there — ready to capture film scoring behind the scenes. If you didn’t know, it’s crucial to have someone covering press shots for online media posts and future articles. With my luck, we had no such person present for this role. Our contractor graciously agreed to take photos of the orchestra, the key lesson I took away: never assume anything. Always over communicate expectations with everyone involved. That mindset has minimized any damage control and allowed me to stay more present for important moments.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am inching closer to the release date of my very first single, “Borrowed Time,” which is coming out at the end of April. I’m also finishing my first EP which encapsulates healing thematics and my most vulnerable moments around mental health awareness and addiction. I’m so honored and thrilled to share my music and give the listener subtle easter eggs of symbolism, both lyrically and visually. It’s my greatest hope that this project will spark important conversations and although these issues are not unique, they have touched my life very personally. I am excited to hold space as an artist for anyone that resonates with these experiences.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I think it’s vital to have diversity represented in music, film and television to broaden viewers’ perspectives, awareness, and ignite inspiration. It’s our job as creatives to widen the lens of everyone’s experiences. When diversity is honored, our culture will reap the benefits and become more well-rounded, more inclusive, more understanding and certainly more humbled. There is a missed opportunity if we only surround ourselves with those who look the same and share the same thoughts. Diversity encourages expansion and growth past people’s comfort zones. It challenges a cemented perspective or previous judgement. It can ultimately inspire children to be creative, to be seen, and to be heard on a larger scale as they grow up. Most people are watching entertainment in their home, with their partner and/or family. Children see the accepted precedent in our culture through entertainment. It’s no secret that the media has a very powerful influence, and yet we are still rising to the occasion for everyone to be represented.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Loose lips can cause a career dip. Los Angeles is the hub of nepotism. There have been a few sour experiences where I wasn’t treated the way I deserved. As I continued my journey, I was so grateful I kept negative feedback to myself. I would often run into the same colleagues or mutual friends in a different work setting. Privacy is everything and your true reputation will speak for itself.
- Do not compare yourself. There is room for everyone because everyone has their own path. I had a nasty habit of comparing myself to fellow peers. Social media seemed like a black hole for questioning myself during moments of doubt. I have friends who didn’t have as much lag time as I did with their careers. I celebrate watching the journeys of people I admire as they come into their own success. I consider myself to be a “proud late bloomer.” We are entering a time where age no longer determines your peak.
- Long-term success is not immediate. It takes a village to support your dream. I’ve seen several artists take advantage of situations and wanted success overnight. They abandoned people who helped them grow from the beginning. Building a team with integrity adds value to a long-term career. No one wants to be a flash in the pan and it’s important to guarantee that your success is everyone else’s success too. When you have people who genuinely want to see you succeed, there is less risk in others fearing they are being used for a short-term play.
- Accept there will be things you don’t like to do to survive. I used to wait tables for several years to maintain a financial cushion while I pursued a freelance lifestyle. A good portion of my hustle jobs have been related to customer service. There’s nothing more humbling than working with the general public. I was able to find joy in positions I knew didn’t suit me well for the long term. However, it did teach me patience and gratitude. I met wonderfully creative people through those jobs who were just like me. Now, a few of those friends are helping my dream come true.
- Know your worth. It is normal to start on the bottom of a totem pole and to earn your way up over time. Unfortunately, this world has normalized a culture of overworking people without proper compensation. This standard is widely accepted, either through internships or being an assistant. Although you may be ‘green’, it’s important to listen to yourself. Know when it’s the right time to move on as you grow beyond your old limitations. Your health and worth go hand in hand.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Establish boundaries and expectations from the beginning. Committing to those boundaries and executing the follow-through is a game changer to thriving. I think it’s very easy to feel the need to prove yourself when we work in settings that are conducive to that behavior. There will always be environments that will test your edge. Prioritize yourself first, be vocal about what you can do in a realistic timeframe. It’s imperative to learn how to course correct when you find those boundaries continue to be challenged.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There is a lot of science on how music affects the brain. I originally went to Berklee to become a music therapist, but realized I was too sensitive to work in a hospital. I would love to see more artists using holistic healing methods through their craft to help people heal. We all know music is a universal outlet for people to feel and express themselves. There are millions of people who suffer from mental illness and degenerative disease that would greatly benefit from this kind of service. There are a few partnerships I am looking into that would integrate healing into live performances. Stay tuned!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Absolutely! Again, it takes a village. My partner and music manager, Donavan Brown, has been a huge influence for me to stay grounded. He has been the ongoing voice seeing my true potential as an artist. Donavan has extensive experience in artist management and building custom dream teams. I’m thrilled to finally have a partner I can be creative with. He has been a pivotal person through my journey with grief after I lost my father in 2020 from congestive heart failure. My gratitude for him is an understatement.
Another key person is Mitchell Haeuszer, a dear friend of mine who is talented beyond belief. We both went to Berklee, but didn’t meet until I moved to Los Angeles. Mitchell has quite literally been my sound board through my journey as a songwriter. He is the engineer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist playing a majority of the arrangements on each song. I usually come to him with lyrics and a melody/thematic idea. Mitchell lays down the foundation of instruments based off of what I’m hearing him play, and what ideas come to me as he arranges. We have a very efficient flow as a team. I could not be happier with the final product of what we create together.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This quote has stuck with me from my mom, “Find someone that makes you laugh.” Although my parents’ marriage was far from perfect, this advice became relevant on a daily basis. My mom and I became caretakers once my dad was physically impaired from heart failure, as he secretly coupled that with alcoholism. Through our seasons of hardship, we found the humor in life, and he always knew how to make us laugh. I think the previous year was obviously brutal for everyone on many levels. My father’s passing further solidified my belief that mindset is everything. I’ve learned how to equally honor joy and it’s opposing feelings, no matter what. There’s something about laughter that moves you from dwelling in a stagnant place to having forward motion in healing.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
This is a tie between Sade and Russell Brand. Sade has been a musical icon for me since I was in elementary school. I admire her class, sophistication, and ability to create timeless music. As a child, I would sing her songs in my room and always gravitated towards vocalists that sounded like her. Her bravery is unique to me with how honest she is in her music.
I have great respect for how Russell Brand has blended his role as a comedian while providing incredible resources to political awareness and spiritual growth. He has curated a community for thought provoking discussions around mental health and addiction. I would love to emulate a similar connection with my own listeners.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me on all social media platforms. I will be creating a Patreon for those who wish to connect on a consistent basis. To be continued!
Photos: Tristan Onfroy
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!