SHEERA TALKS “WE’RE HERE”, SOCIAL MEDIA & ARTISTIC GOALS 0 257

As the issue of gun violence once again rears its ugly head in the United States, singer-songwriter Sheera’s new single “We’re Here” is an uplifting anthem that addresses the matter with powerful, thought-provoking lyrics. She’s also launched the We’re Here movement, a project that gives a voice to the millions of young American people looking and working to make a difference in their country. Sheera spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about the new track, preparing to focus on her education for a while and what she’d like her musical legacy to be.

TITL: When did you first realize you wanted to make music a career and did you ever have any other career plans before embarking on this journey?

Sheera: Ever since I stood in front of the TV singing the Winnie the Pooh theme song, I dreamt of being a singer. Music was always my passion. It provided a catharsis for my own emotions about growing up without a dad in the house. I started writing and performing my original songs when I was asked to write my middle school graduation song. Since then, I have performed in local clubs, my music has been played on top 40 radio stations. I have written about 40 songs to date. I have over 1.2 million downloads/plays of my music on Soundcloud and other platforms.

My greatest interests in song-writing and the broader aspirations within my musical career are to spread awareness and increase compassion about topics sometimes too hard to discuss. I was inspired by the lives of my friends to create songs which described their stories and struggles. My song “Where Are You Now” dealt with the feelings of alienation and isolation that many teenagers experience. This song was written for a freckled boy that I knew since pre-school, whose mother suddenly passed away in 5th grade due to an overdose. “Where Are You Now” ended up being produced by Grammy award winning producers Mike Mani and Jordan Omley who also produced another 4 of my original songs.

Through music I want to give hope. Two examples are “A Better Place” and “One Day At A Time”, produced by multi Grammy Award winner Damon Sharpe, opening a door to shed light on young people struggling with depression. I hope to use music to impact cultural and social change. I also hope my music helps others through their struggles and uplifts them.

TITL: Which artist would you say you’re most inspired by and how does that inspiration come through in your music?

S: I am inspired by Halsey, Charlotte Lawrence, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Khalid and Blackbear. Halsey is not afraid to make social commentary, she is a rebel. Charlotte Lawrence and Blackbear for their unique sounds. They write about things we all experience, infidelity, anxiety, etc. Khalid because he is all around amazing and Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez are classics.

TITL: Your latest single “We’re Here” protests the ongoing gun violence in the US. How important is it for you to use your platform and status as an artist to address an issue that affects so many, and do you wish other artists would and should do the same?

S: I think we should all use whatever resources we have to make the world safer, where people are treated equally. I think it is time for our country to unite over issues that affect us all. I am very passionate about seeing a change to gun laws to protect innocent victims of gun violence, especially school children.

The recent mass shootings at schools such as Santa Fe High School and Parkland deeply troubled me and all of my friends. It is difficult to feel safe when there is violence all around you. The most recent shooting in Maryland marked the 154th mass shooting in 2018. The US has had nearly as many mass shootings as days in 2018. The number of U.S. students killed in school shootings so far this year is greater than the number of U.S. military personnel who have been killed in combat operations. Nearly 1,300 children in the United States die from gun-related injuries every year. There is something really wrong with a country that will not put laws in place to protect its children. Musicians have incredible power to uplift people. I think we all have a responsibility to give voice to important issues to make the world a better place.

TITL: In line with your new single, where exactly did the idea for the We’re Here movement come from, and do you think if you hadn’t started it, that someone, in time, might have done?

S: The idea for We’re Here came from watching the coverage of all of the recent shootings and wanting to give a voice to stand up and unite to tell the current administration that We’re Here and we want a change made to gun laws to protect innocent people. The first lyrics “We don’t want to be the hunted we’re so tired of being scared” because we are now all so aware of the possibilities of shootings in our every-day worlds. Even this weekend there were several shootings. This is a serious issue that affects us all.

The current administration is doing many things that negatively impact the world my generation will inherit. Alienating our allies, removing critical environmental protections, escalating discord. We’re Here is a voice for our generation to speak out to create a more positive future.

TITL: The movement is helping to give young people a voice when it comes to many issues impacting their lives today. To what extent are you finding the movement empowering people to speak up and out about the things that matter to them? Which key issues, aside from gun violence, are you finding they’re most concerned/opinionated about?

S: I think that other key issues that our generation are passionate about are drug-overdose and drug recovery, depression and suicide prevention, cyber-bullying and immigration. Our generation has unique issues due to social media and the pressures that brings, along with the division in our country today.

TITL: Do you think the movement, and the growing number of young people voicing their opinions, is having an impact? Do you think the likes of government, notably Donald Trump, are, in any way starting to pay attention to the voices of the people, or is there still a considerable way to go before they take much needed action?

S: I hope that Trump is beginning to understand that truth, integrity and alignment with the America’s core values of liberty, equality, diversity and unity are what matters to our generation.

TITL: Music is, and has been, a powerful tool, for many – not just artists – over the decade. Coupled with the power of social media, do you feel like there’s no barrier the two can’t break in the sense that social media and the power of words can, metaphorically at least, move mountains?

S: Musicians are now in an amazing position to influence culture through the distribution of their messages online and through their social media presence. Unlike in the past, important messages can be spread without the participation of large corporations or labels. Music has always inspired change and hope. I think that artists have a great social responsibility to set an example that is not self-destructive but instead lifts people up.

TITL: Away from the movement, what are your own long-term professional and artistic goals? Which venues would you most like to play and which artists would you most love to share a stage with?

S: I hope to keep writing music that matters. The music video for “We’re Here” is going to be a large group of millennials and teens singing together. I’d love to sing this song and share the stage with this diverse group – well-known and unknown – the song was meant to speak for our generation to say “We’re Here” to create a better tomorrow.

TITL: Do you have any upcoming performances you can tell me about?

S: I get to start college this week and for the next few months I will be focusing on my education.

TITL: Finally then, the music world has lost some incredible artists in recent years – most recently Aretha Franklin – whose legacies and songs will live forever in the hearts and minds of those they touched. With that in mind, what would you like your musical legacy to be? If you wanted people to remember you for one particular thing, what would you want it to be and why?

S: I would want to be remembered as someone who wrote honest music. Someone who used my own painful experiences and compassion for others suffering to help uplift and comfort people dealing with difficult situations. I hope my music also inspires people to stand up for what they believe in and to be strong and have hope for a better future.

Give “We’re Here” a listen below and to find out more about Sheera and the We’re Here movement, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

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ALEX FRANCIS TALKS ED SHEERAN, TOURING & THE POWER OF MUSIC 0 185

Having opened for the likes of Stereophonics and with a number of as yet unannounced festival dates for the summer coming up, singer-songwriter and guitarist Alex Francis is starting to make waves. While supporting US music YouTuber Megan Davies on her first headline UK tour, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with him after the first night show in Manchester to chat favourite songs, future plans and his admiration for Ed Sheeran.

TITL: Guitarists have long since been a staple of the music industry, but what is it about the instrument that makes you connect with it so strongly?

Alex Francis: That’s a great question. When it comes to outside my voice, it’s my instrument. Guitar playing has always been a vehicle of sorts for me I guess. I didn’t go into music just to play guitar – my brother plays really well and he’s developed an amazing style – but I came into guitar playing later on. I like it and I was interested by it, but I was never on a quest to learn “Stairway To Heaven” or anything like that. I started singing from a young age and I decided that I needed an instrument to be a vehicle for that. It could have been the piano; I’m trying to chase that path as well at the moment. My sort of genesis of guitar playing, stylistically…I like the idea that I have a feel for how I do it. I don’t really know how best to describe what that is. I just use it as a vehicle to carry what I’m doing.

TITL: There’s a very Ed Sheeran-esque sound and tone to your voice, particularly when it comes to certain songs in your set…

AF: I love Ed Sheeran..

TITL: Given how he’s, I’d say, easily the most modern, successful guitar player in the world right now, do you ever feel any pressure to sort of live up to that and find yourself maybe one day selling out a stadium like Wembley or the Etihad, like he has?

AF: I think what Ed Sheeran is doing is phenomenal. Being able to do that – sell out shows at Wembley and here in Manchester as you mentioned – is incredible. What makes him so admirable, when I think about it is the fact that he’s presenting those songs in their most basic format. Now I’m all for production, I love all that stuff and I do it with my own records, but that guy can present his music in such a bare bones kind of way and it’s the truth and the power of a strong melody and great lyrics. When I think about him, it fills me with great hope that you can be a great songwriter with your lyrics and your narratives, your melodies and it’s still strong enough to connect with people on that scale. I’m a great admirer of Ed Sheeran; I think he’s doing a great thing not even just for a genre but music as a whole; the way he writes such great songs that people are receptive to – there’s a power in that.

TITL: I’m assuming you’ve played bigger shows than the one you did tonight, so taking that into account, how do you personally feel about playing smaller, more intimate venues like this one?

AF: I’ve been very lucky to play some really big theatres and arenas and to go out with other acts that are doing that but to be truthful, I get a kick out of every single version of a venue. Like tonight, for example, it doesn’t and didn’t matter to me how many people were here; we had a cool crowd tonight. I’m just want to connect with people, like I have with you. We hadn’t met each other until tonight, but we connected, and I’m glad to be able to talk to you about this. For me, I guess I’m looking for connection. There was a fella I was talking to just now and he asked me what it was I wanted from this and what I wanted to do…I’m just happy to give my art out to people. I want to be able to connect; that’s the only thing I really want. I like to give this out, I want it to be public and I just want to connect with people..on any level.

TITL: It’s been said over time that many things can bring people together and connect them with one another, but I guess music is a key part of that. Music has stood the test of time whereas many other things and ‘ideas’ per se haven’t..

AF: You can trace music back…it’s primitive. You can go back to a caveman hitting a club against the side of a wall because it meant something and people responded to that. I believe in the power of music. I’ll say this as well, sometimes playing in front of a really, really big crowd is sometimes much, much easier than playing in front of a small one because you don’t have such a level of attention that maybe you’d hope for, when compared to large audiences. We’re stripping these songs really far back, and as you were saying about Ed Sheeran earlier, you give people the bare essence and if that’s strong enough, then hopefully you’ve got something good. I wouldn’t speak for Megan but I’m sure she would come from the same place.

TITL: Megan mentioned earlier that it’s the connection to her music that she cares about most when it comes to people’s reactions, and that she once got a message from a soldier overseas who listened to her songs to help him sleep.

AF: Oh wow. People respond to the power and the connection, primitiveness of music.

TITL: Speaking of the connection so many of us have to and with music, which song do you personally feel most emotionally connected to?

AF: That’s a great question. Do I only get one?

TITL: Yes.

AF: You can’t do that to me!

TITL: I can…I did it to Megan earlier…

AF: I tell you what, I’ll give you one song but it won’t be the only one I can think of. I would say…maybe “Case Of You”. Actually, let me scratch that one. Let me think…I love “Man In The Mirror” by Michael Jackson. I love that song – there’s something really ethereal about that song. It puts the hairs on my arms up every time I think about it. He accesses something in that track. I’m not talking about him…I mean he was an artist, but there’s something in that song…a message. It’s a message that people try and do a lot; it’s been tried in other songs and been done well, but I think the message in that track is incredible.

TITL: Just in case you wanted to know, Megan chose “River” by Joni Mitchell..

AF: Ah! And yours?

TITL: “Everybody Hurts” by REM.

AF: Incredible…incredible.

TITL: I can come back to that song at any time, no matter what mood I’m in, but especially when I’m feeling a little low, and the message of that song – the reminder that I’m not alone, really touches me. And I think it does for a lot of people.

AF: It’s a beautiful song. Michael Stipe has such a beautiful turn of phrase to his lyrics. It’s such a relatable lyric, isn’t it? It’s one of those songs…kinda like one of those Motown tracks from back in the day when they were so simple but so profound.

TITL: It’s proof that you don’t need heavy instrumentation or production to get a message across or make a song connect with an audience. If the lyrics are honest and heartfelt enough..

AF: I’m really into those kinds of songs. I feel like we’ve got a common thread here; we’ve been talking about Ed Sheeran, “Man In The Mirror” and now “Everybody Hurts”…they’re songs that just give you the message straight up and down.

TITL: There’s something almost therapeutic about the message in those songs..

AF: Exactly and we understand what it means to have a connection to a song in that way. Some people do, some people don’t. It’s like that Bob Marley quote: “The greatest thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain.” It’s a great way of putting it.

TITL: So how did this run with Megan come about?

AF: I have a great agency who work wonders for me in the UK and do the same with Megan. I met Megan for the first time tonight. We’ve been talking and conversing via social music. I listened to her music and my agent pitched it in, saying he thought it’d be a really cool fit. For the last few months, I’ve been going out with artists who are trying or starting to break through over here, which is very much what we’ve been trying to do with my music. I love what she’s doing and I love the way she approaches her own music, the songs that she covers. She’s got a really individual style of doing that. It’s really cool, the way she blends all the music and the rest of it. I was like “yeah, let’s do it..let’s get on board.” Any opportunity to tour. I was just talking to Kelsea (Megan’s manager) earlier and saying the same thing. I love being on the road, wherever I am and the same goes for Gee my guitar player.

TITL: How have you found audiences to be different or similar when playing shows here and elsewhere in Europe or in the States?

AF: As far as the US is concerned, I’ve done literally a handful of shows over there. I haven’t done a massive amount. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Europe in the last 18 months. One thing I have found is that in my experience, being a relatively new act to a lot of people, I tend to feel like, especially in Northern Europe, they’re very receptive to music that isn’t perhaps on their radar. In the UK, I think we’re quite choosy about what we like, but I’m the same. I was born in Hampstead; I’m as English as it gets. You kind of have to ‘earn’ it a bit more over here – don’t get me wrong, I haven’t got a problem with doing that, and that’s part of the path we’re on. I feel like people can get on board with your music for a little bit less in Europe, but at the end of the day, I just want people to connect with the songs. As for the US; I’m dipping my toe in…I’m going to be in Austin next month playing SXSW. Excuse my French but it’s a bit of a clusterfuck of opportunity…so I’m gonna try and be in as many places, meet as many people as I can.

TITL: So aside from this tour and SXSW, what does the rest of 2019 have in store for you?

AF: We’ve got some pretty tasty ones in the diary for the summer festival circuit. Some of it’s still unconfirmed and I’ve been sworn to secrecy, so if you’re sniffing for an exclusive, I’m hard pressed to let the cat out of the bag. There’s going to be festivals all summer and then I’m going back to Germany in September; doing a little run of headline dates there. We actually rejigged the dates because the Megan opportunity came up, so I’ll be there in September and then I’ll be in New York that month too. I should probably mention too that I’ve got a single out right now called “Whatever Happened..”

TITL: Go on, give it a plug..

AF: It’s out now on Apple Music, Spotify. We played it tonight. And, we have another one dropping on May 3rd so keep a look out for that. There’s a video dropping in a few weeks. Social media is AlexFrancisMusic..check it out.

TITL: Looking further ahead, and given, as you’ve said, that you’re a relatively new artist, what’s the long term goal? What’s the big ambition?

AF: It’s actually really hard to know. It’s kind of tricky to pin down quite what that should be or what that is. All I can really say is that I’m going to try and keep developing what I’m doing. I want to try and become more familiar to people. I’m not trying to conquer the world, I’m not trying to get 10 million listeners on Spotify…I just wanna keep playing shows and have people connect with the music. This is so cool because you didn’t know me from Adam today and I just met you, and you were like “I wanna hear what he has to say”…sometimes I ramble and talk crap, but this is so much of the reason I want and wanted to come out and do this kind of tour with Megan and again, I don’t want to speak for her, but I think she would vibe on this as well. You want to access people, you want to meet people and talk to people. I got a really lucky opportunity to go out with Gee and the rest of my group and open for Stereophonics in Europe. This time last year we were still out…and it was cool. Sometimes it felt like a film…being whisked around all sorts of places, and it was so exciting to do it. We had such a blast every night and we got to get my music out there to people, hoping they’d connect with it.

TITL: I asked Megan the same question and she said, very much as you have, that her ambition is to get her music out there and have it connect with people.

AF: Exactly – for me, the connection is what matters. And, if I’ve got an end goal, it’ll be to do this until I can’t do it anymore.

Check out “Whatever Happens” below and for more information on Alex Francis, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter. Header photo credit: James Boardman.

MEGAN DAVIES TALKS “GIMME”, SOCIAL MEDIA & ARTISTIC INSPIRATION 0 48

Having already earned herself a growing army of followers across social media and seen her music streamed millions upon millions of times on the likes of Spotify and, most notably, YouTube, Megan Davies has achieved a great deal in the last few years. A passionate and creative singer-songwriter, she’s currently in the UK to play four shows on her very first headline tour here, and ThisIsTheLatest caught up with her before the first show in Manchester to talk artistic inspiration, performing for the cast of The Greatest Showman and what the future holds.

TITL: As an artist and an individual, how would you sum yourself up in a few words?

Megan Davies: I would say acoustic – everything started out acoustic for me, even if it was a big pop track I was covering. Raw in the sense that I try to be as honest as possible when it comes to the things I like and what I want to say. Hopefully passionate because I just love it so much.

TITL: Personally and professionally, who are you most inspired and influenced by? How do those influences filter through to the music you make?

MD: I love John Mayer a lot – his guitar solos are really cool. He doesn’t seem to…he always seems to be pushing to be better at what he does, which I find really inspiring. I’m a huge fan of this Brit named Imogen Heap…

TITL: “Hide And Seek”.. a beautiful song.

MD: She’s someone I’ve listened to for a really long time and I think is really inspiring as a female who does as I do; record and produce my own stuff that I post on my YouTube channel, that kind of thing. I remember when I was in high school seeing an article and a picture of her at a huge mixing board at home, in her living room and I was like “That’s so cool.” I think she’s someone who is very inspiring. People like Ed Sheeran – I saw him play a stadium in Nashville where I live just a few months ago and he was just standing up there with an acoustic guitar singing to THAT many people..

TITL: He played the Ethiad Stadium on his last tour here which holds something like 80,000 people. It’s incredible to see how just one guy and a guitar can captivate so many people like he does.

MD: Literally no-one else could do what he does.

TITL: Who would you say you feel most musically connected to?

MD: That changes a lot. I feel very emotionally connected to a lot of different types of music. I’m definitely one of those people who can cry at certain music if it hits me the right way. I remember when I was twelve years old being connected to Avril Lavigne’s record; super emo, but nowadays, there’s so much. I love Radiohead, Coldplay – a lot from the UK. It’s amazing that you can listen to so much nowadays, especially with streaming, so you can make your own playlists to fit whatever you’re going through in life. It’s hard to say just one artist because I feel like I connect with a lot of them.

TITL: You mentioned that you can cry to a lot of music but what’s the one song that can and will make you cry every time you hear it? Is there one?

MD: “River” by Joni Mitchell.

TITL: Mine’s “Everybody Hurts” by REM..

MD: Yes!

TITL: The last time I recall hearing it on public, national radio was September 12, 2001. It was the last song played before the country held a two minutes’ silence.

MD: Oh my God.

TITL: And of course, it’s such a true, honest and relevant song, especially now as mental health is becoming more of a talking point and more artists are starting to speak out about it. The song has such a powerful message.

MD: Of course, yes. I think with “River”, for me, it’s kind of a song that comes on a lot around Christmas time. It’s a sad sounding song and I’m one of those people that isn’t a big holiday person – I’m not super happy over the holidays and that song, I don’t know…it hits a nerve for me. It’s a great song.

TITL: As a singer-songwriter from Nashville, often considered the music capital of the States, do you ever feel any pressure to live up to the success and legacy that the city has thanks to the many artists who have come from there and achieved so much over the decades?

MD: I don’t think so because I’m not a country musician. I think if you’re a country musician, there’s a lot more pressure. I think there’s a lot of great music that comes out of Nashville don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing bands that have come from there, with different styles of music, but I’ve always been on the fringe, I guess. When you’re not in country music, I guess that’s where you are – how can I explain it? You kind of feel like you’re a little bit more on the outside, which I love…creatively not doing what everyone is expecting from you. I personally don’t feel that because it’s SO country. Everything in Nashville is so much country music. I feel like I get to skirt along the outside a little bit.

TITL: You don’t fit into the Nashville norm, as it were…which is and can be a good thing.

MD: Absolutely yeah. I wouldn’t take it any other way for sure.

TITL: It’s like that saying “You were born an original, why die a copy?”

MD: Exactly. I like that.

TITL: You uploaded your latest video “Gimme” two weeks ago. How did you come up with the concept for the video and why did you choose that song as a release?

MD: That was a song that was written a little bit ago – early 2018, I think. I was out in LA, working with a producer who was making beats and I was writing to them. It was really fun and that was one song that came out of it. I had just watched this episode of Black Mirror – I was binge watching it, it’s so good – and we were kind of just bitching about social media. There’s that one episode that was all about social media and that was so uncomfortable to watch. It was like so scary and so…he was making this track and I was kind of just writing down these lyrics, putting my guitar to it. We wrote it and recorded it – it was kinda just a fun jam session – and towards the end of the year, I’d been looking at some of the songs I’d been writing and that one just felt so relevant, and I felt that it would be a fun one to put out.

As far as the video goes, I came up with the idea for it in the shower. *laughs* I was running through it in my head I guess and I was just trying to think about what I would do in terms of a video. I ran out of the shower and wrote it all down. I got my laptop and just wrote the entire treatment which ended up beings something like two pages. I started sending it off to all the video people I knew in Nashville asking “Can you help me make this?” We got it done, which was crazy – it’s one of the more ambitious videos I’ve done.

TITL: But it works with the song – and I think once you have a visual that fits with a song, as yours does, then its “pull” can be and is often magnified – it reaches a bigger audience. Someone can listen to a song and like it, but sometimes you need a visual to go along with it to really put the song into context and put out there exactly what you’re trying to convey through the lyrics..

MD: Totally. With this song, sometimes you can be like casually listening to the lyrics and be like “yeah this is a good pop song” or whatever, but once you actually listen to those lyrics, it’s actually very dark and very tongue in cheek. It’s not super happy, so with the video, I wanted to put a sort of scarier video to it.

TITL: Given that you launched your career on YouTube, how do you feel about the dominance social media seems to have over many industries, including music, and people’s lives in general? Is there such a thing as “too much” social media?

MD: Oh absolutely. I have very mixed feelings about it as I think most people do. I think most people have a love/hate thing with it. You wanna totally cut off but at the same time you don’t. I feel the same way. I’m grateful for the internet and everything that it’s brought to my career as I would never be able – or have been able – to do it without that platform, but I can’t lie – it causes me a lot of anxiety; a lot of social anxiety and depression. It definitely affects your mental state. I have very mixed feelings about it but the more I talk to people about it, the more it seems they feel the same way. If there’s anything that ties us together, it’s that aspect of it.

TITL: This is your first UK headline tour. Just how excited are you to be embarking on this new chapter of your life and career?

MD: I am so excited. It’s so cool to be so far away from home and to come here and first of all play music that I created back there, but also see people who’ve been listening to it and who I’ve had conversations with online. The coolest part is meeting people who are so far away, but have been connected to what I’m doing in different ways.

TITL: For those who perhaps haven’t listened to your music or who are coming to see you on this tour, what can they expect from your set?

MD: They can expect some new songs for sure. I’m a big fan of trying out new music before I release it. There’s a song, it’s brand new…just a few weeks old, that I’m going to be playing on this run, and a lot of the new stuff hasn’t been released so I’m really excited to try that stuff out. People will hear some OG Megan Davies too, but there’ll be a good variety.

TITL: You’ve been championed by the likes of Parade Magazine and Music Radar among others, but do you actually care that much about what critics and the like think, or are you more concerned about the thoughts and opinions of those who come and see you, support and follow you?

MD: I definitely care more about the people who are connecting with it, than those who are “forced” to connect with it, like it’s their job to write about it or something. I do care – I don’t want people to not like it – but I’m also the person that doesn’t want to look at it, good or bad. If it’s a great review, that’s fantastic, but I don’t read it, and if it’s a bad review…I’ve gotten this far based on my own creative tastes – I don’t want to colour that too much, you know? It’s definitely flattering when someone does like what you do, but I do like to keep it more between me and the people who are listening in the audience or wherever they may be because they feel a connection with what I do.

TITL: What’s the nicest or best thing someone has ever said or written about you and how do you deal with any criticism directed your way? Do you find it easy to shrug off or does it linger in the back of your mind?

MD: It definitely lingers – I’m a deep thinker, for sure. It’s honestly why I take breaks on and off from social media. I try not to spend so much time on it because it can kind of get to you. The nicest thing anyone’s written about me…there’s been a lot of great things. Just on the personal message type side, I’ve had some really amazing stories shared with me. I had a soldier in Afghanistan who reached out and said he was listening to my covers at night to help him sleep. I thought that was pretty cool. It’s things like that that I remember the most rather than a straight forward compliment – it’s nice to get those for sure – but I love hearing those types of stories from people, who my music has helped through a difficult time or something. I’ve definitely had my share of terrible things written about me on the internet and it kind of stings a little bit. I’ve gotten better at pushing it off, but there’s always that stuff – the good and the bad of the internet. This is the job – it’s all part of it and can be – is – one of the not so great parts.

TITL: Your career has given you many amazing opportunities, including, perhaps most notably, performing for the cast of The Greatest Showman. As someone who loves the film and saw it twice in the same night, I have to ask, what was that experience like?

MD: Twice in one night?

TITL: A friend and I saw it and loved it so much, we went to the screening straight after it..

MD: Wow. There were two components to that whole experience. The first was that I got to go and meet the cast, visit the set and film the video that I have on YouTube, and sing for them. That itself was very surreal. I hadn’t seen the movie yet – I had the song, but that was it. I didn’t really know if this was going to be a huge film or not, at the time..

TITL: It turns out the answer was yes…

MD: It was six, seven months before the movie came out, and just to meet the cast, Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, was pretty mind-blowing. Then I got to go to the premiere. That experience blew me away just because I had never experienced anything like it. Nashville’s not a movie town, it’s a music town. To see such a huge premiere with the red carpet, and see so many people and be drinking champagne, was like…it literally felt like a Cinderella moment. It’s hard for me to even explain it to people; friends and family back home – it feels like I’m describing a dream. It was so surreal. I got to watch the movie with the cast and crew around me which was super cool and everyone applauded after like every song. It was an experience I will never forget.

TITL: I still don’t know how “This Is Me” did not win the Oscar for Best Song, but the soundtrack has a Grammy now so there’s that..

MD: It was on the Billboard charts for forever…I had a feeling when I was on set that the film was going to be pretty amazing, and then when I saw it I just thought “Wow, it’s going to be huge.”

TITL: The soundtrack broke the record for the longest time an album held the number one spot here a while ago; the record that used to be held by The Beatles Sgt. Pepper record..

MD: Good for them! That’s amazing.

TITL: You’ve also collaborated with the Red Cross and American Cancer Society. How important to you is it to be able to use your platform to benefit and support such organisations and those less fortunate? Would you like to see other artists – and perhaps people in general – do the same?

MD: I don’t judge people for what they do – people support different causes for different reasons and in different ways – but those two approached me, and when you build a following online, that’s something that happens a lot. Charities, brands…they all tend to reach out, and the Red Cross and ACS…those two were no brainers for me. Of course I’ll spread the word about having a plan for your family to get out of the house if there’s a fire – things like that are important and we did little PSA’s, things like that. They’re both causes I feel super passionate about.

TITL: Aside from this tour, which after the UK you’re taking around Europe, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?

MD: At the end of this tour, it’ll be mostly focused on releasing some new music. Like I said, I try a lot of new songs out when I’m on the road. I have some YouTube videos that I need to work on and that involves me not travelling. I spent a couple of days in London before we came up here to start the tour and I really enjoyed it so I’ve been thinking about going to London…I like going to different places and writing; being creative.

TITL: Finally then, taking into account all you’ve done and achieved so far in your career, what other goals and ambitions do you still want to fulfil? What’s the ultimate goal?

MD: So much. For me, since I’ve built so much of my audience on covers, I really want to develop as a songwriter and performer. I still feel like I’m always trying to get better at what I do; I’ve a lot more to give as a creator and musician. That’s my focus more than the numbers…it’s cool when you get really big numbers or a reaction, but yeah, I think that’s more my goal at the moment. You’ve gotta explore…I could probably just do covers for a long time, but that wouldn’t be satisfying to me. I want to push myself creatively and I feel like I’m meant to do more.

Check out Megan’s latest video, “Gimme” below and keep up to date with her and her music by visiting her website, following her on Twitter, giving her page a like on Facebook and subscribing to her YouTube channel.