For the past decade, Meghan Kabir has played all the parts, helping shape the sound of the 21st century by writing songs for Kelly Clarkson, Selena Gomez, Serena Ryder, and other genre-diverse singers. With Blackberry Winter, though, she introduces her best material to date, kicking off the newest chapter of her solo career with a batch of songs that marry the hippie-friendly spirit of her '60s and '70s influences with the punch of modern pop. It's the first release in a two-part series of new EPs, spotlighting a young musician who, having already played a role in elevating the careers of other artists, is ready to unveil her own unique sound. It's a sound that honors Kabir's diverse roots: a childhood spent moving across the country, from small-town North Carolina to big-city San Francisco to the Nashville suburb of Franklin, TN; a diverse, multi-cultural upbringing, courtesy of her bohemian mother and Afghanistan-born father; a number of years spent in Los Angeles, where she worked as a Warner Bros solo artist, a background singer, and a top-shelf pop songwriter; and her eventual return to Nashville, where she recorded Blackberry Winter at Music Row’s historic MCA Records with producer Jarrad K.
Relocating to Tennessee represents a full-circle moment for Kabir. A free-spirited, eco-conscious musician who sells incense and crystals at her own merch table, Kabir has made the pilgrimage back to her musical roots, creating art in the same city where she wrote her first songs. Of course, leaving Los Angeles meant leaving behind her career as a songwriter for other artists, a sacrifice Kabir felt was necessary to chase her own muse.
"As a songwriter, I've gotten so much out of my system," she explains. "I've written music for folk singers, for country bands, for rockers, for EDM albums. These new records aren't about anyone else, though. They're about what I have to say."
"The cover images to the records are two profiles that face each other — a metaphor for facing yourself," she explains. "This project has been so therapeutic in just that…It’s about digging deep into the core of who I am, embracing those truths, and then being so bold as to reveal them to the world. I’ve never felt more at peace with my art. Authenticity is such a beautiful thing and I believe it shines through in all aspects of your life."
Kabir and Jarrad K first crossed paths during a songwriting retreat in France, where they bonded over a mutual love not only for pop music, but for organic sounds, as well. Working together on Blackberry Winter, they build a bridge between those two worlds. Tracks like the speeding, spunky opener, "Joyride," and Queen-esque power ballad "Kiss and Break Up" mix analog keyboards and classic rock guitars with the earthy sounds of pedal steel and banjo. The rest of Blackberry Winter strikes a similar balance, with Kabir singing about hurt and heartache in an elastic, emotional voice that's clearly seen plenty of both. Meanwhile, she steers toward a warmer sound with Indian Summer, pairing each EP's mood with the season that inspired it. Together, the two records form a complete picture: one of an articulate singer/songwriter who's able to examine life and love from all angles.
"I'm a very emotional writer," she adds. "It's hard for me to write something I’m not emotionally connected to in some way, If it moves me, chances are it'll move someone else. That's the feeling I've always chased in the creative process and has never led me astray."
Blackberry Winter and Indian Summer form Kabir's official solo debut. Both EPs are the hard-won result of years lived, miles driven, hearts broken, and lessons learned — and both are well worth the wait. "American Spirits sitting on the dash, dreamcatcher on the mirror & my Fender in the back," she sings during "Joyride," before pushing the pedal to the floor and chasing down a brighter horizon. Just try to keep up.