Meagan Chandler’s body is her instrument. Well, technically her voice is her instrument, but the vivacious singer draws her lyrics and one-of-a-kind music from bodily inspiration. Her voice, she says, “just happens to make noise.”
The 33-year-old self-proclaimed wanderer will release her first full-length album, Sensual, at a release party at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 24 at Shine Restaurant in Boulder, and she hopes it will be a party for the senses.
“When you come into the world of the body, it takes things into a really sweet but sometimes dark place,” Chandler says. “And our bodies are something that all of us have in common. All across the world, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, we all have this similar terrain. We feel similar things, we need similar things.”
The cultural eclecticism of the native Boulderite’s past is evident in the album, which is freckled with jazz, dub, flamenco, hip-hop, pop, country and even Mediterranean sounds.
“I’ve been wandering for a good 15 years now, and I actually feel like it was like a critical stage of my development,” she says. “In every single place I found another piece of myself, and every piece was critical.”
Chandler’s infatuation with the body’s wisdom and the music of other cultures began when she was 14 and began studying flamenco dance, which later brought her to Spain, where she studied the fiery musical form. This lasting interest-turned-career is what has sustained her for the last 12 years, as a singer and teacher of flamenco music.
The album’s opening track, “Eve’s Song,” makes apparent the singer’s Spanish influences, with its fusion of ethereal religious lore and the later integration of Spanish lyrics to moderated Montuno. While this is the only appearance of the Spanish language throughout the album, the singer’s crisp lyrics, referencing everything from Greek mythology to classic literature, remain a focal point. And according to Chandler, her allusive lyrics derive from a deep love of stories.
“Stories and mythologies are kind of the framework of our psyches, of how humans are built,” she says. “Archetype is one of the most interesting places for me to explore my mind, and it comes out of a somatic place. I love to study the deeper meanings of stories and see how they live inside of me.”
Her songs, too, live inside of her, she says, and she views the creation of this album as a long overdue birthing. And last September, when Chandler had found the versatile producer and musicians featured on the album, as well as adequate funding via Kickstarter, she got to work, finishing the album in approximately six months.
“The urgency that I felt was like giving labor,” she says. “I was like, I gotta get this baby out.”
She watched the songs take on lives of their own, which lent to the non-linear genre progression of the album.
“It was a choice that I had to make,” Chandler says. “Do I want to narrow this down and fit it into what our culture says that an album is supposed to do, or do I want to let these little song babies have their own lives? And in the end I was like, OK, who am I to tell my children what they’re gonna be when they grow up?”
And they have grown up, into a full-length collection that is as varied emotionally as it is musically. From the playful “Lost Boys” to the tender “Morning Rain,” from the fantastical “Merciless Flowers” to, of course, the sultry “Sensual,” the album is united by a strong sense of the feminine, which is symbolically depicted on the cover by a pomegranate.
The symbol, according to Chandler, refers to the Greek mythological figure Persephone, recalling the pomegranate seeds she ate in the underworld. But beyond that, she views it as representative of femininity and mystery.
“We’ve been in such a masculine-dominant scenario for many thousands of years that there’s something especially mysterious about things feminine,” she says. “The wisdom of the body is often something that’s attributed to feminine things.”
And at this point in her life, Chandler is on the brink of her own mystery.
“I had to wander as far and as long as possible and have huge adventures and experiences,” she says. “But now, as I’m turning 33, I am for the first time starting to feel a longing to put down roots. How do I want to take all that wandering and actually plant a garden somewhere?”