Interview: Meadowlark talk mental health and the beauty of postcards

MeadowlarkMeadowlark has a lot to be pleased about. With a lauded debut album under their belt and a soon-to-be sell-out headline tour, 2017 has certainly been busy for partnership Dan Broadley (percussion and production) and Kate McGill (vocals and guitar).

Yet despite the success, and plans for a second album already well underway, Broadley and McGill seem to be able to keep what matters firmly in the forefront of their mind: friends and family. In fact, Postcards appears to not only be a celebration of good music but a reminder of the importance of contact with the ones we love. "We called our first album Postcards," explains Dan, "because it kind of reflected our lives a little bit. There’s something poetic and romantic about receiving a postcard, and that's how we feel about our work." Kate concurs: "It takes thoughtfulness and care, and that’s important to us both in our private lives and in our music."

"We called our first album Postcards," explains Dan, "because it kind of reflected our lives a little bit. There’s something poetic and romantic about receiving a postcard, and that's how we feel about our work." Kate concurs: "It takes thoughtfulness and care, and that’s important to us both in our private lives and in our music."

Some might argue that the humble postcard is dying thanks to the proliferation of social media, which is why it is nice to be reminded of a time when writing to someone was an act of "thoughtfulness" as Kate puts it. Dan agrees: “We rely on Facebook and emails, and while the access is a blessing, I'm not sure it’s such a good thing that the art of sending a physical message to someone is dying.”

Meadowlark hail from the sea shanty streets of Plymouth originally, but now count Bristol as their home. “We are totally obsessed with the city," Dan admits. "We love it.  It's very different to Plymouth; the people, the places, everywhere there is just loads of creativity, and that's inspiring to us. I can’t see us leaving anytime soon." Kate is a fan too. "You can walk around and everyone is doing something creative," she tells me. "Plymouth is more of a working town, which is important too. In Bristol, we can share our creativity with other people, and there are so many great music venues like Colston Hall, it's hard for it not to feel like our true creative home."

Colston Hall has been subject to some controversy over the years due to the lineage of its name and its representation of a dark time in Bristol’s history. The venue will be changing its name as part of a rebrand in 2019, which again made the headlines over the summer. “It’s a tricky subject," Kate says, weighing it up. "I'm not sure we're qualified to comment on it as we don’t share the same experiences as others, but for me, by changing the name you're wiping the building’s history as a great music venue, and I'm not sure burying it is the right thing to do.  I completely understand why it's uncomfortable, but it needs to be so we can learn from it. The fact that we're still talking about it now stands as a reminder of how we must move forward together as a community."


Meadowlark has been writing and performing together for the past five years after the pair moved away from two already lucrative if not different careers in film (Broadley) and internet stardom (McGill). Their partnership is one of very different influences, yet the mix is obviously working if Postcards is any measure. It was a courageous move for both and demonstrates the pair’s willingness to push their creative edges. Dan says he is "still directing" but enjoys focusing on the band: "I am passionate about Meadowlark and the work we are producing. Luckily the two arts complement each other. I want to do both as long as I can, and would love to do a feature film in the future, but who knows. For now, I just like having hands in lots of creative pies!”

For McGill, Meadowlark heralded a different approach to music, moving away from covers and the confines of YouTube to develop a more personal sound of her own. “The move away from social media as a tool coincided with the way I was growing as a musician," she explains. "We both still use social media as a way of promoting Meadowlark, but I'm not as intense about it anymore and I don’t give so much away. I've seen too much bad stuff going on recently that I understand there is a dark side to social media now. It helped me to get me to where I am, but I don’t need to use it as a tool quite so much anymore.”

Despite this move away from social media as a platform for sharing the privacies of McGill’s life, it is undeniable that songs on the album continue to drip with both intimacy and fragile vulnerability. Kate believes this is the key to the album’s success. "It was really important for both of us to still bring a degree of honest emotion, and of course life experience, to every song. The songs that are close to home, such as "Family Tree", tend to be the most exciting and, paradoxically, difficult to record and particularly play live. However, when we do it it's so special and magical, and you don’t get that with other songs. "I think audiences can relate to it more if it’s more personal," Dan adds, "and we certainly aren’t scared of drawing on personal experiences to write great songs."

Meadowlark was one of a few new artists to receive funding via the PRS Momentum Music Fund, and it has been instrumental in the realisation of not only their first album but also their subsequent tour. "The funding was hugely important to us," Dan explains. "When you’re up against the major record labels and their PR machine, you need all the help you can get.  There are lots of funding opportunities out there, but it's young bands knowing how to access it that can be the problem, so the funding often goes to bands that already have representation or have received help before. We hope to be an inspiration to anyone starting from scratch, showing that there is money available and that it really is worth going for."

In fact, funding and charity is a subject close to Meadowlark’s heart, and not just in the arts. Mental health is also a key issue for both McGill and Broadley. "Mental health is something we have both spoken about quite a bit on our long car journeys around the country. I feel we are a guinea pig generation, as we've all grown up with technology that clearly effects young people so much. We have no idea how it's going to pan out, so sad to say I am not surprised that mental health issues are so prevalent now," says Dan.

"That said," Kate concludes, "we both find a huge release through our music, and hope that others will find that solace too."


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