It’s the day after The Voice finale and by 6 a.m., most of the Season Eight contestants had boarded a plane and were winging it back to their hometowns. But runner-up Meghan Linsey had one more day to cram in some press and take meetings in Los Angeles before heading home to Nashville. The same fire that fuels her passionate performances is also licking at her back.
“I’m relevant right now because I was just on last night, but I’m only relevant for a few more weeks, because people forget,” Linsey says candidly. “I really think you have to move quickly.”
Despite not yet having a record deal in place, the 29-year-old Louisiana native, who came in second behind The Voice winner Sawyer Fredericks, is moving full steam ahead.
“I started recording some stuff before I came out to do the show, and I’m planning on getting back into the studio pretty quickly,” she tells Rolling Stone Country. “I plan to have something out pretty quickly — an EP or definitely a single.”
This is the new Meghan — not the country chanteuse from the duo Steel Magnolia, but the soul singer who was born on the bayou and honed in Music City.
“I grew up in New Orleans. I grew up singing soul music, and then I moved to Nashville. . . I just always tried to put a soulful spin on what I was doing with Steel Magnolia, and then with my own stuff. And so I feel like that’s really been who I am. It’s just really come out on the show.”
Linsey wouldn’t be the only recent country artist to decamp to another genre. Remember Taylor Swift?
“I think with Taylor, she still writes amazing songs. She’s still totally herself. I don’t think that anything has really changed, other than she has a bigger audience now. That’s kind of my goal — put out music and have a lot of people hear it.”
Linsey’s immediate focus is about moving from Team Blake to Team Meghan — but first, she has to get back to Nashville. The Number One item on her to-do list is a no-brainer.
“Sleep!” she exclaims with a laugh. “Going to sleep with the dogs. Sorry, boyfriend!”
But first Linsey sat down with Rolling Stone Country over lunch in Los Angeles to talk about how she intends to build on her Voice fame.
Are you completely moving away from country, or are you just adding other genres to the mix?
The Voice was an opportunity for me to show America what I was capable of outside of the country genre, because I had been in it for so long, and people hadn’t really heard me — who I am as an artist. I definitely want to move in a more soulful, pop direction. I live in Nashville. I love country music, and I write country songs, so I don’t think I’m ever going to be completely out of the genre, but I think that it’s just a great opportunity to expand what I do, and to reach other audiences and people.
Is “Change My Mind,” the original single you performed on The Voice, indicative of your new sound? (The song went to Number Five on the iTunes chart immediately after she debuted it earlier this week.)
I think so. Obviously, it was a big power ballad. I think I’ve got some more upbeat, sassy, fun songs up my sleeve. I sent Blake [Shelton] a ton of songs, and that was the one he thought was the best one for the show and for the single. I didn’t even know Blake was going to be the one picking the song! I actually wrote that song with two of my best friends, Julie Moriva and Dee Briggs, and my boyfriend, Tyler Cain, produced the track that they released. My friends played on it, my friend mixed it, so it was a great opportunity for everybody around me to have that moment.
Are you going to be working with country radio with the new material?
Obviously, I had to wait and see what’s going to happen with this deal, and see what the next step is as far as a record deal goes, but I think for sure. [SiriusXM’s] the Highway has been one of my biggest supporters. They were playing my stuff independently before I got on the show.
“I’m at a point in my career where things have to happen now”
Why were you initially part of a duo, Steel Magnolia, as opposed to pursuing a career as a solo artist? Did you view it as a safety net?
When Josh [Joshua Scott Jones, her former fiancé and singing partner] and I started Steel Magnolia, we had written one song together. Somebody had sent our song to a guy who was a manager, and he got back to us and was like, “I love you guys as a duo! Do you have any more songs?” And we just kind of lied and said, “Yeah,” and we went and wrote a bunch of songs, and sent them in. I don’t know if it was a safety net as much as the way the universe worked out.
Have you heard from Josh at all?
Yeah! I still hear from Josh, and he’s very supportive. We’re both really supportive of each other. I want him to be successful, as well. It’s a good, positive relationship, which is good! [Laughs]
In that time between Steel Magnolia and now, were you able to make ends meet, or did you have to do something else?
I’ve been playing shows and supporting myself that way. Obviously, it hasn’t been easy, by any means. I’ve tried the independent thing, and that’s kind of where I was when I got on the show. I’m at a point in my career where things have to happen now. I don’t have parents with tons of money, and I don’t have a record label, so I didn’t have those things to lean on. And I got a call to audition for the show — you know, they seek talent for the show — and I honestly had not even thought about doing a reality show. I had been on a reality show, and had had some success, and I didn’t know if they would even want someone like me on a show like that.
Especially since you won your first reality show, CMT’s Can You Duet.
Yeah, exactly. Deciding to do this was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done in my life. And going and doing that Blind Audition, and putting myself out there, and being vulnerable, was really hard. And I struggled with it.
You saw what happened with Julie Roberts in 2013. She had come off a record deal, and it was heartbreaking when none of the coaches turned their chairs around.
I was worried about that, especially toward the end of my song, when no one was turning around. I was very worried about that! But I think I’ve always been a risk-taker, and I’ve always believed that you go big or you go home, and I think the risk has obviously paid off. I wanted this really bad, and it worked out.
Why do you think The Voice hasn’t had a big superstar come out of the show?
A lot of times, people wait. They’re like, “Oh, I’m going to write this record,” and they wait a year to put something out. I think you’ve got to be quick.
Do you think Sawyer Fredericks has a shot?
Yeah. He’s so good, man. I adore him, and I adore his family, and I think he’s so talented. I really do.
You mentioned Taylor. Is there anybody’s career you’d like to emulate?
I got to sing with Kelly Clarkson last night, and I think she’s a real example of what it is to be a really strong female in music, and she came off one of these shows [American Idol]. She’s maintained integrity, and she’s just so giving and kind and a really great role model. When they asked me who I wanted to sing with for my A-list, she was my first answer.
Did you know her before?
I met her in passing once, and then she tweeted at me a few weeks ago when I sang “Something” from the Beatles on the show. She sent this tweet out about me being one of the best singers she’s ever heard, and I was like, “What?!” I’m such a huge fan. And her voice is insane. We rehearsed yesterday at 9:30 in the morning. She was hitting all of those notes at 9:30. I was like, “What planet are you from?” She’s so nice, and Blake’s that way, too. And Reba. I think they’re all superstars who are kind people. They remember names, and they come in, and they make you feel like you matter. And I think that’s important in an artist.
Will there be a duet with Kelly on your album?
Oh, man! I hope so! There are no plans, but that would be great. I didn’t ask her!
You toured with Blake before The Voice.
He’s no different at all. I mean, not at all. Maybe just more money. [Laughs] Nothing’s changed as far as his personality and the way he treats people. He’s exactly the same, and just as funny.
When you envision your career down the road, what’s your dream scenario?
I just want to be making records, and I want people to hear them and I want to write songs. I want to build a dynasty, essentially. I have so many aspirations to do other things outside of music, like I want to host things, and I want to have a clothing line. . . It’s just getting there, and I think the show’s been a great platform to propel that.