Myles turns to soul mecca for deferred dream country record

Courtesy of Megan Myles
Megan Myles performs Friday at 1884 Lounge.

Courtesy of Megan Myles Megan Myles performs Friday at 1884 Lounge.

Megan Myles EP release party with DJ Mike Anderson and Jeff Ross

Friday at 1884 Lounge, 1555 Madison, inside Minglewood Hall.

Doors open at 8 p.m.

Admission: Free.

For more information, call 901-312-6058, or visit minglewoodhall.com.

Having sung for "as long as I could talk," Mid-South singer-songwriter Megan Myles dreamed of a career in music, but her parents, wary of too-lofty ambitions, kept their daughter grounded.

"My parents were those parents that taught me that music wasn't going to get me anywhere and I needed to go to school and I needed to get an education," Myles says. "So I went that route instead of doing what I was obviously passionate about and knew would make me happy in the long run."

On Friday, Myles realizes her long-deferred dream when she officially celebrates her debut EP, the three-song Wheels Within Wheels, with a show at Minglewood Hall's 1884 Lounge featuring guests DJ Mike Anderson and up-and-coming artist Jeff Moss. The dream project, which received a quiet digital release over the summer, teams Myles with a dream producer, one whose name might not readily come to mind when considering the singer's country-tinged roots style — Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell. He is the son of legendary Hi Records producer Willie Mitchell and his successor running the board at South Memphis soul music Mecca Royal Recording Studios.

"As soon as I heard her songs and her singing, I knew this was something I definitely wanted to be involved in," says Mitchell, who tackles country music for the first time with Myles' EP. "I'd always wanted to do a country project, but the opportunity never presented itself before now."

Myles' path from growing up in Collierville to recording on South Lauderdale Street was an unusually long one. As a child, she sang in youth talent shows and weddings where she embraced everything from Michael Jackson to Garth Brooks to Fleetwood Mac. She continued to sing for extra money through college, but once she graduated, a more conventional life began to take hold.

Though she wrote songs in her dwindling free time, she stopped performing. She earned a degree in criminal justice and got a job in the district attorney's office where she still works with at-risk youth. And she had two children of her own.

"As you get older, you kind of let go of dreams or things you're passionate about, and you grow up and enter the real world and have to take on responsibilities you weren't expecting," says Myles, who was persuaded to take up music again by a friend who had heard her songs. "I cut back my hours at the DA's office and turned my life upside down and headed in a different direction."

Myles started her own band as well as the acoustic trio Well Played, which also includes Moss. It wasn't long after getting back on the scene that a mutual friend, deejay/manager/producer Robert "Flip" Jones, introduced her to Mitchell. At that first meeting, Myles, who didn't know much about Mitchell or Royal at the time, sang some of her original songs.

"I was surprised that she had no real musical training because she had some really nice melodies and lyrics that were better than good," Mitchell recalls. "When she sings her songs, it sounds like the voice of women all over the world who have shared these same experiences. There's something about her voice that makes her sound like she's representing everybody."

Drafting help from Royal regulars like Lester Snell, Mitchell jumped into his first country record, though he admits "we tried to Memphis-ize it a little bit."

For her part, Myles was wary that a producer best known for R&B could successfully guide a country record, but her doubts were dispelled early in the recording process.

"The first thing Lawrence said that he noticed about my voice was the bluesy tone I have," Myles says. "We talked about how interesting it would be to fuse or cross the genres of music because I'm pursuing a country path, but there's so much more behind my voice than country. I don't think either one of us knew the direction it was going to head or what was going to come out of it. We were both leery of it, but I'm very pleased with how it came out."

As she embarks on a new phase of her music career, Myles is sad her father, who always pushed her to never be afraid, did not live to hear his daughter's recording debut. But she is tickled that her mother now has become her biggest fan.

"She's proud of me. She's still the constant voice in the back of my head telling me what a huge risk it all is," Myles says. "But she's seen a huge change in my personality since I started doing this, and she realizes how happy it makes me.

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