As I’d suspected she would, Megan Rüger brought the house down during her first performance at the club, but she disappeared from the lounge after a few minutes of greeting and shaking hands with members of the audience.
I found her in the library, occupying the octopus chair and dipping mozzarella sticks into a large bowl of marinara sauce. “I needed a snack and a quiet spot after the show,” she explained between bites.
I plopped into the rhino chair. “I’m not surprised. That was a high-energy performance, and I don’t know how you did a 90-minute set in those spikes,” I said, gesturing toward the heels she’d kicked off, which were sitting on the floor beside a tentacle.
Megan shrugged. “They look nice, but I absolutely hate high heels. I don’t have the grace required to wear them, they hurt, and I’m already 5’9” as it is.”
The tall rocker with the powerhouse pipes gained national attention this year as a contestant on season six of NBC’s The Voice. She was eliminated from the vocal competition during an early round, which I thought was a shame, and I told her so.
“Thanks,” she said, “but I can’t say anything bad about the experience. I did season 10 of American Idol, and I liked how the atmosphere on The Voice is more like a family. On Idol, there’s a lot of tearing down and criticizing as opposed to encouraging and coaching. And that’s another thing I liked about The Voice. I’d never had a vocal coach before.”
Rüger’s celebrity coach was country star Blake Shelton. “He and Usher turned their chairs around for me pretty much at the same time. I chose to work with Blake because I thought he could give me some behind-the-scenes perspectives about working as a musician in Nashville. Now that I’m off the show, maybe I should have gone with Usher. It was a bittersweet process, everything happens for a reason.”
A native of Wisconsin, she “up and left and moved to Nashville” shortly after turning 20. “I found out quickly that Nashville is not an easy town to make money in, and making music itself is not cheap. The best advice I was given when I moved here was to be patient, which I think I have been since I am coming up on six years of living in Nashville, pursuing my dream.”
Rüger has spent those six years working the Music City club scene, playing 80s and 90s rock with a few country covers mixed in. Since her time on The Voice, she’s been back to her home state for some shows, performed in New York and Las Vegas, and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund production of an EP.
“So what can your fans expect to hear on the new record once it’s finished?” I asked.
“A rockin’ album with just a splash of country,” Megan said, noting that she was running low on marinara. “It’s a little different from what they may have heard me do, but it’s still definitely me. It will be unique to what is being played on the radio today in that I have a lot of attitude that I am not afraid to show. Especially the lyrics in one of my originals.”
“When you were on The Voice, you were often compared to Pat Benatar, Joan Jett. Do you consider them as influences?”
“Well, no one likes to be categorized or put inside a box. I’m my own person and my own singer, but I am definitely inspired by them, and Annie Wilson from Heart. I’d say my style is something like Joan Jett meets Pink, and I wonder if my downfall on The Voice wasn’t that I stood out as too different. I feel like I might have been too much for the show.”
“In what way?”
“I’m a rebel. I do like to sing Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, and Pat Benatar, but at the end of the day, I’m Megan Rüger,” the golf-playing, Great Dane-owning, dark chocolate-indulging, and shark and alligator-fearing singer said. “There’s a lot of pressure on singers to conform because we’re constantly being judged on who we are, what we say, and what we look like, especially when you don’t fall into the category of what people want you to be.”
“And who you are is a rocker.”
“I can sing country if I want to – and you’re expected to in Nashville — but I definitely love to sing 80s rock. I’d like to bring that sound back.”
“I’d say you’re doing a good job,” I remarked. “And you seem very at ease when you’re onstage doing it.”
Megan sipped sweet tea. “When I’m on stage, I’m at peace. Everything makes sense. I’m always bouncing around, though. I never stay in the same place on stage for more than a minute. I put on a pretty intense show.”
“Indeed you do, ma’am,” said Currie, who appeared at that moment to replenish her supply of marinara sauce.