Meghan Cary '88

January 31, 2003
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She is a poet and a musician who weaves the story of her life into her own songs. She is an actress who hawks MCI and Pampers in television commercials, but who also energetically interprets Shakespeare's works on stage. Yet Meghan Cary didn't start out in an artistic mode.

" I originally wanted to major in math and science at Duke. I wanted to be an engineer," says Cary, "but I got bit by the acting bug. I started performing and I knew from the first moment that this was where I wanted to be."

This led to a quick turnabout concerning her major, delving into drama completely. "I told myself--my scientific side told me--that if this thing, acting, is something I really need to do, that I should test it out, and I did," she says.

At Duke, she was involved with Hoof 'n' Horn, the student musical-theater group,and she attended the National Theater Institute at Connecticut College. "NTI felt like 24/7 of nonstop performing and analyzing those same performances. It was a definite learning experience."

She says she fondly remembers what David Ball, the Duke drama program's director at the time, said to her: "If there is anything else, besides performing, that you can possibly do, then do it, because if there is, you'll be defeated. How much do you really want it?"

Cary soon answered that question. Straight out of Duke, she headed to the University of Florida's Asolo Conservatory to further her study of the theater. "I knew that the art of acting was something I was totally unprepared for [right after college]. If I had gone to New York right then, I would have been chewed up and spit right back out."

After Asolo, she moved to the Big Apple and became involved in the New York-based Actor's Shakespeare Company, which she considers to be her "most inspiring theatrical experience."

She met her fiancÈ, Matthew Black, at one of her play performances and soon joined his band, singing harmonies and, at times, the lead. She was living out her childhood dream of singing, she says. When Black died, that dream was abruptly interrupted.

It was probably the bleakest point in Cary's life. "After Matti's death, I remember going into the bar where our band would always play, and the man there asked when we would come again. When I told him what had happened, he asked if I could play, and things went from there.

" That was what started it all. After I recovered from the shock of his death, I started doing commercials and voiceovers."

She also began her career as a solo singer. "One thing led to another and I had a producer and an engineer, and I made a CD. Billboard magazine got a hold of the CD, and I found that I had arrived on the scene."

The first selection off the CD, "New Shoes" (also the album name), was written after Black's death. The song reflects on what death leaves behind--in this case, new shoes that she had recently bought him, "still sitting in the middle of [their] bedroom floor." All of her songs strike a similar, personal chord with the listener. Her style of music, as she puts it, is "folk rock with a country twang," infused with her wistful reflections and her bittersweet voice. Combined with her one-of-a-kind, mellow vocals, her songs are haunting in their ability to capture the stuff of life and still it with an unusual, melodic sensibility.

With the critical acclaim of New Shoes, Cary soon dived into her second project, Onion Dreams. "Creating the album was a really ego-stripping experience. I was peeling away the lyrics of who I think I am and revealing the lyrics of my true, real core. Hence, I coined the term 'onion dream.' An onion dream is a type of soul-searching.

Cary seems to be on her way to fulfilling another type of dream. On the heels of Onion Dreams, she'll release a live CD this spring that will include snippets of the storytelling that she performs along with the music in her shows.

" Expression is expression," she says. "Whether I'm getting people to listen to my songs or moving an audience with my lyrics, people are still becoming part of my world. That is what I live for."