New York singer Meredith O’Connor is not your average popstar. Firstly, the rising star is only 18 and has already had a huge hit under her belt, but secondly, she decided to use the fame garnered from that hit to promote something positive, as opposed to selfish. She has accomplished a lot for her age and we were in awe before we even met her!
We had the chance to sit down with the statuesque brunette to talk about her career and why hers is different from other young women whose careers take off on the back of a viral hit.
That hit we’re talking about is ‘Celebrity’ which has over 2 million hits on Youtube and was released when she was 16. Her journey to stardom wasn’t the usual route of playing small gigs in her hometown, or even studying music. She was a model, scouted at the age of 14, but also has a strong background in theater since the age of 8. Fun fact: she was on the New York Theater scene with lea Michele before she shot to fame on ‘Glee’.
After starting to write music at the age of 15 while still modeling she took a liking to her new venture and decided to dive head first into a new industry. After releasing ‘Celebrity’ she knew she had a knack for music, but wanted her career to be about more than just herself and her talent.
While Meredith didn’t set out to “brand” herself in any way, her own experience of being bullied all through her school years was something that became a natural part of her image and what she wanted to use her platform for.
“Growing up I was bullied for being a child actor, for being tall and thing, but they were just bullsh*t reasons. Once I learned not to take it personally, I realized there was actually nothing wrong with me,” she said.
Soon, her music and her brand became all about loving yourself no matter what. She knew she was uniquely positioned to spread a positive message coming from a place where she had experienced it herself.
Her latest single ‘The Game’ was written for bullied kids, and she speaks about the message behind the song when she tours around the country talking to schools.
We asked her what the reaction to her message and she said it was very mixed, obviously because in some of her audiences there are bullies, and they are usually the ones who don’t like her.
“Most of the kids in my audiences have been bullied or kids who self-harm. The reaction has mostly been positive, and some people have even come up and told me how much my music has helped them,” she said. Overall, Meredith wants her audience to feel empowered from her music.
Just like she did, Meredith encourages her fans and her live audiences to find a passion or a skill to combat any negativity in life.
“Being bullied isn’t a reason to hate yourself. I used music to help me find my confidence, and I want others to find theirs also.”
We asked her how her former bullies now perceive her, since she has become a singer and she smiles, giving an answer we kinda expected.
“They tried to be nice to me once they heard my music. Of course I forgave them, but I still don’t excuse their actions. Bullying is always a bad decision.”
Meredith is part of a breed of young female musicians popping up on the scene who want to stand out from the rest, by standing for something. There are no lack of celebrities who don’t stand for anything but their own egos and ignore their built-in responsibility to their fans, but not this girl.
She said all celebrities have a responsibility to be a positive role model because people are watching. For her it means the difference between fickle and long-lasting fans. It’s not just about her music, but it is her brand, and she wants to use it to help others.
Moving on to the topic of music, we ask her about her idols and why she looks up to certain singers. Lady Gaga is the first person she cites, mostly because she stands for something and anyone who knows Lady Gaga knows this. Whether you like or hate Gaga, you cant fault her for being vehemently passionate about gay rights and loving your individuality.
Meredith also mentions her former theater pal Lea Michele, who uses her celebrity for currency by bringing awareness to animals rights.
While she doesn’t name names, she does say there are “others” on the pop music scene who could do a better job of using their influence in a positive manner. And names don’t even matter because there will always be celebrities who think like that, and always have been. It happens in every generation, and it almost expected. What is actually unusual is seeing someone with a huge platform using it to promote something other than themselves, for a worthy cause.
These days that’s what people are taking notice of. Bono has been doing it for decades, championing the cause of health and socio-economic stability for numerous African countries where poverty is rife. Just to see any celebrity speaking out for a cause immediately gives them an added measure of credibility, showing they are human like the rest of us, and care about others.
That’s what makes Meredith so special. Being a former bullied kid, she could’ve just left the past behind her and carried on with her career to great success. But instead she felt the weight of responsibility to bring encouragement to the kids growing up in the generation behind her, so that they don’t feel hopeless or alone.
Another singer she looks up to is Christina Aguilera. The former pint-sized Disney star with the giant voice wrote most of her ‘Stripped’ album with a woman by the name of Heather Holly, who Meredith is now working with on her new album due out late 2014.
“Heather has a big feminism vibe, especially having worked with Christina. Her lyrics are all about the power of a woman,” she said. Meredith’s next album will be centered on one major theme: finding self-confidence. She is also working with Kenny Ortiz, who has produced some of Pharrell’s hits.
Aside from the new album she is currently working on, Meredith is gearing up for a world tour where she will hit the UK, Australia, South Africa, Italy, Japan and China. She will be doing a lot of speaking as well as performing in those regions.
We asked Meredith what her advice to other young women would be, given that she is still quite young herself yet has found her voice in a big way.
“I would say find something you are passionate about, and through that you’ll find your confidence.”
Before our time is up we wanted to know what makes Meredith O’Connor a powerful woman, which is something we like to ask all of our interviewees.
“I feel my confidence and happiness doesn’t come form anyone else. That’s what makes me powerful,” she said.