Musician, songwriter, and producer Meg Toohey returns to her rock and roll roots with her newest single, “That’s All Over Now,” via Symphonic Distribution released last week.
“I dug out my old record player and did a deep dive into ’70s Springsteen and Tom Petty, Dire Straits, and early Bonnie Raitt,” she said. “I tried to recreate the production styles and sounds that I loved hearing, bells, baritone sax, jangly guitar, and slippery slide guitars. I knew that was where I wanted to go stylistically with this next group of new songs.”
Earlier this year, Toohey released her first solo album in almost 20 years, Butch, inspired by influences like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and more contemporary singers Brandi Carlile and Lucinda Williams, to which she received critical acclaim. With the success of Butch, she pulled together the same team for “That’s All Over Now” working with mixer Rachael Alina, drummer John O’Reilly Jr., Nadia Digiallonardo, and co-writer Dawn Kamerling.
“’That’s All Over Now’ is that song that I always want to blast when I’m on a road trip,” said Toohey. “I wanted to make sure that this group of songs had a lot of that feel-good vibe behind them. I guess it’s my way of trying to find some sunshine in these tricky times.”
A Berklee College of Music graduate, Toohey got her start on the Boston music scene, writing and performing alongside the likes of Lori McKenna and Josh Ritter. A move to the West Coast found her playing for the Weepies, touring with the iconic Manolo Garcia, and playing with former David Bowie guitarist Gerry Leonard. Toohey also produced projects for singer/songwriter Garrison Starr, as well as a track for a GRAMMY-nominated album by comedian Margaret Cho.
Toohey’s work has also been heard in a variety of hit TV series such as Pretty Little Liars, Vampire Diaries, Parenthood, Grey’s Anatomy, Gossip Girl, and other shows on MTV, PBS, and more. Her work with The Weepies has also been featured in films including Sex in the City, Friends with Money, Morning Glory, and Last Shift (which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015).
A move to NYC found Toohey playing guitar for one of Broadway’s hottest hit shows. In January 2020, she took her final bow along with the rest of the cast as Sara Bareilles’ Tony-nominated Waitress: The Musical closed after wowing audiences for nearly four years. In addition to her on-stage Broadway work, Toohey appeared in live TV performances on shows such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Listen to “That’s All Over Now” here.
What inspired your new single, “That’s All Over Now”?
I had written this song at the end of writing my “Butch” album. It was almost tacked on, but I decided to wait because I knew I already had a new group of songs working, and I wanted to be able to release another recording quickly. At the time, I also was on a huge Springsteen bender. I bought a record player, and my friend Dave had loaned me a bunch of other classic ’70s albums that I hadn’t listened to in a while like Todd Rundgren, Van Morrison, Chicago, etc. I loved the textures like bells, strings, and horns mixed with crunchy driving guitars in the older recordings, so when I recorded this new group of songs, I was really drawn to producing them with those sounds.
Tell us about the writing and recording process.
I wrote this song with my partner, Dawn Kamerling. She is a badass music publicist/secret writing genius. We knew each other for twenty years and then fell in love after my marriage ended, so we’ve been through a lot together. Because I really trust her instincts, she’s been able to write and edit with me that has really helped me focus.
I’m obsessed with recording. I love-love-love the process and feel like it’s something I’m constantly exploring. Normally, I will play every instrument on my tracks at first; then, I send that session to a drummer. I pretty much always work with John O’Reilly Jr. I do play drums too, but it’s something I’m really particular about, so I always have killer drummers play on my albums. From there, he sends me drums from his home studio, and then I usually go back and re-track some guitars and bass, and maybe reach out to another musician friend to add their own flare here and there. On this recording (“That’s All Over Now”), I had a friend from Broadway play Baritone sax. On an upcoming release, I’m working with Sara and The Waitress band. I love collaboration, but I also love being up in my own head and my own space and completely losing myself down the rabbit hole of sounds.
You were fortunate to be a part of the Broadway musical, Waitress. How was that experience?
It was life-changing. Being on Broadway was a dream I had since I was a kid. I loved musical theatre and was in all the shows back in high school. When Sara first started writing Waitress, I had the thought that maybe I’d like to do something like play on or write a musical someday. When she called me and asked to play the show and move to NYC, it was sort of kismet. It was incredible to be around all these crazy talented people firing every day at 100%. I loved the family that I gained by joining the NYC Broadway community, and I loved having some structure for a while, which was something I hadn’t really had as mainly a freelance touring musician and composer. It was the hardest job I ever had—eight shows a week, no matter what else is happening in your life, through sickness and health. But it renewed a work ethic for me and gave me a whole new networking system, which in this business is priceless. Sara is always wonderful to work with, too, so that definitely sweetened the gig. I certainly didn’t mind playing her music almost every day for four years.
How have you been spending your time during the quarantine?
I’m lucky enough to have my own home studio/man cave in my basement. I’ve been able to write and play a lot of music. I’ve been practicing and learning how to play the pedal steel guitar, so that’s been fun to have a new challenge. I also am one of those super nerds that love to build stuff, garden, cook, go fly fishing. Besides missing my Broadway community and friends, I have been enjoying the slower pace of life.
I’ve got a whole album’s worth of songs waiting in the wings! In the following months, I’m going to be releasing them one at a time. Keep an eye out!