Musician comes to terms with illness, assault on 'More Than a Body'
On “Body,” which falls at the close of Megan Taylor's debut EP, More Than a Body, the Dublin-born musician turns and addresses an unnamed figure — it could be a toxic ex, a past assailant or, possibly, the mirror — singing, “Can you look into my face and ever say that you saw me as somebody?”
Throughout the seven-song recording, Taylor, 23, works to come to terms with the physical and mental scars brought on by chronic illness and sexual assault, penning warm, atmospheric tracks (“I wanted people to feel like they were swimming in the song,” she said) that are unafraid to tread darker ground. “Once More” opens with the musician being “shoved underwater,” while “Flowers” finds her singing of feeling trapped in her own body, a sensation Taylor has experienced multiple times in her life.
“‘Flowers,' that was written when I was still sick and I felt trapped in my body,” said Taylor, who lived for nearly a decade with ulcerative colitis, an illness that causes inflammation and ulcers of the colon. “But it also had to do with surviving [sexual assault]. I did have someone [who heard the song] say to me, ‘Being a survivor of sexual assault, I feel this way all the time.' When I heard that, I was like, ‘Oh, that connection is there.' I wasn't sure people would be able to hear it with the words I chose.”
Despite the heavy subject matter, the music isn't devoid of hope — “Darkness seeps in, but so does the light,” Taylor sings on “Once More” — a trait the singer traces to strong friendships and family ties, saying, even when times were tough, “I never felt alone.”
This statement held true in the studio, too. Taylor partnered with drummer/engineer John Neumeier for recording sessions, which took place in the basement of Neumeier's campus-area home in March and April of 2017. (The two now perform as a duo.) Working in tandem, the pair worked to translate the sounds in Taylor's head.
“I'm not the technical one,” said Taylor, who will be joined by Neumeier in concert at Rumba Cafe on Thursday, Jan. 11. “I'm the one who's very conceptual, like, ‘I hear these reverb-y things in my head. Can you make them happen?' I think I used words like ‘thunder' a lot.”
For Taylor, music is a relatively new pursuit. Though she started writing her first songs at age 14, it wasn't until she turned 19 that she stopped disposing of them, finally venturing outside of her bedroom to perform at open mics.
“I had to have that breakthrough because it was like singing my diary out loud to people,” Taylor said. “I had to be like, ‘OK, I'm going to share my innermost and most vulnerable feelings with you. Here we go. I hope you like it.'”
While Taylor's confidence might have been an issue early on, she's become increasingly more immune to (and entertained by) any criticisms lobbed her way.
“There was one time someone posted on the internet, ‘I would rather smoke a bong full of pubic hair than listen to this snore-core,'” Taylor said. “And I was like, ‘I actually feel like I reached the top now.' It was an iconic moment in my life. It was so creative I couldn't even be upset.”