It's quite simple, really. Rochester singer-songwriter Meg Gehman set out to record a new album. She adhered to the protocol. Raise the money, write the songs, secure the producer, rinse, repeat. Then things got peculiar; things got weird. The money was raised, no sweat, the songs were penned, and the producer — David Chance (of Ruff Endz fame) — was on board. But upon meeting in Baltimore, Gehman and Chance ditched the songs she had written and set out on a pop odyssey. And the resulting album, "Leap," is just that: a leap.
"I had picked out 15 of my best songs," Gehman says. "And I sent them to him. He liked a bunch of them. So I went down there for the first time thinking we were going to work on my songs. As soon as I walked in he had this loop playing, a groove, and he said, 'Let's vibe on this a little bit, see what we come up with.'"
By the end of that day, they had written what would be the album's first single, "Out of Tune."
"This was my first time really working with a producer," Gehman says. "I loved it. We collaborated on every single song." Eight songs she hadn't planned on writing. She was out of her comfort zone, creating pop tunes with a producer she'd never worked with. And she was in Baltimore.
"It was really unnerving for the first 15-20 minutes," Gehman says. "This guy's got a voice, I mean he sings like a f***ing angel. He's amazing and he was scattin' and doing all this stuff, and I said, 'I can't hang with this guy.' I was all insecure. But I thought, 'As long as I'm down here, might as well.' He knew how to pull the best out of me."
But before you start throwing a pity party for Gehman as a poor railroaded musician, just listen to her when she says: "I set out wanting to make a pop record." According to the singer-songwriter, the singer-songwriter is still lurking in the pop shadows.
"These songs are definitely 100 percent my lyrics," she says. "I'm a good lyricist; I'm proud of that. And he's a melody guy, he hears hooks. He made this much more pop than I'd ever done before." Gehman assures it's "Pop" in a good way.
"Yeah," she says. "Some people use it like it's a curse word. I've done the introspective, brooding singer-songwriter folk thing for so many years and I've loved it. I did Meg and the Clams and had such a great time with that, and This Other Life with all original stuff and it was just great. I've just got a different vibe on now."
The material on Leap is much more lighthearted. Gehman and the throaty vocal intensity she's known for is still there, so is the gravity and ache of her lyrics.
"For me, lyrically it has to say something," she says. "That's very important to me. My songs are always going to have elements of love and pain in there. What else matters? Nothing. But there's definitely a lighter touch both in the music and the feel. There's some really hardcore club dance songs on there."
Gehman plans on taking the electronic treatment on the album and re-creating it with more organic instruments, shifting the music from rock to pop to rock again.
"It'll be a little bluesier this way," she says. Hang on, baby. It's gonna be one helluva ride.
And the songs she had planned on recording before Leap's pop leap? "They're still there for future projects," Gehman says.