I sat down with Megan Liscomb in her home to chat about her upcoming album “NEON” from her solo project PJ Sparkles. I’ve always been a fan of Megan’s music projects, so I was excited to get to talk to her about some more in depth topics regarding music, the creative process and what’s coming up in this new year. Her album is dropping on Friday, January 12th, and is available digitally here → https://pjsparkles.bandcamp.com/ ←
Scroll down for photos and the interview!
What inspired this solo album? Did it come together quickly or was it something you spent a lot of time working on to finish?
I️ found myself with a totally different schedule, I used to work a 9-5 but really more like 8-6 kind of job. But I got laid off, which was honestly amazing because I got to restructure my life and have more time for creative projects, and once I did that I asked myself, “Well what do I want to do?”, and I wanted to do a solo record like this for a long time it was just always hard to find the time to do it. So once I had the time I was just like ok, let’s do this! I was also inspired a lot by my dad, and playing music with him when I was small. He was really into country and bluegrass and old 70’s alt-rock, so that was another big inspiration for me. As far as the writing process, that was actually pretty quick. I started writing the songs on the album last January, and in April I recorded the first 5, and then over the summer recorded the last 5, so once I got into it everything happened pretty fast.
What’s your favorite song off of NEON?
Hmm, my two favorites are “Just Kids” and “Neon”, which is funny because they’re the quieter songs on the album, and I wanted to make more lush arrangements on this album, but those are the ones that just feel really strong to me. Those two songs were actually the most fun to record. When we were recording “Neon”, Mike, my sound engineer at Earthling Studios, kind of surprised me and asked to play cello on the track, and it was one of my favorite moments of the recording process. Then on “Just Kids”, I engineered a situation for myself where I would be really anxious and nervous to record it, because I read an article about Brian Eno as a producer and how he would always push musicians to make them really uncomfortable to try and get better performances out of them. So it’s sort of this idea that when you’re relaxed you’re kind of just on auto pilot and you’re not really paying as much attention, but when you’re a little freaked out you tend to slow down and you’re able to get a different quality. So I basically Brian Eno-ed myself and decided that I was gonna try and nail the recording in one take, without sharing it with my producer beforehand, to kind of put myself in maximum performance anxiety mode. And even though the song Just Kids isn’t even about my life, I just read Patti Smith’s memoir and got really emotional and wrote a song about it, I still felt very vulnerable performing it and still managed to get the song done in one take. Afterwards we were both just like “ yes, that’s the take!”
What are some of your musical inspirations or influences?
I listened to a lot of Patsy Cline, Angel Olsen, Beach House, Galaxie 500… just really a lot of different things to pull some ideas together.
When did you first start playing music?
I started playing guitar and taking lessons when I was 11. My dad plays and was always showing me little things before then, a chord here, a chord there, so I always knew how to play a few things on guitar.
What’s your favorite part of the process; writing, recording, playing live?
That’s really hard to say, because there’s great things about each part. I love writing because you get into a mindset where you’re not really thinking about anything else, and it’s really nice because it doesn’t have to be scheduled, I can just go do it when I feel like it. I love recording because its always so great to finally realize all of your hard work and actually have something to show for it. And I love recording at Earthling Studios with Mike, because he just wants to help you make your vision happen. There’s something kind of magical about leaving the studio with a CD of your music and listening to it in the car ride home. And I love performing because its this whole other world of just connection excitement. It’s just really great when it goes well and when it goes bad…. You just gotta go home with a bottle of wine and a big big burrito.
Do you get nervous before playing a show?
I don’t get super nervous anymore, but sometimes right before we’re gonna start I get this feeling like I’m strapped into a roller coaster going up a huge hill, but then right as we start playing it goes away and I realize I really have nothing to worry about.
Who did the artwork for NEON?
Matt Terrones. He played in a local band called Kids! He started posting some drawings on Instagram last spring and I just loved the style, so I reached out to him and asked if he would be down to do the artwork for NEON. He lives in Philly now, so it was cool to have someone that used to be involved in the San Diego music scene collaborate with me on this album.
Personally, what is your biggest struggle being involved in the music community?
I think one of the biggest struggle is that it’s sometimes hard to keep things going because there’s not a whole lot of money in it, especially at a local level. I mean I do some light touring but I’m super unknown outside of San Diego. So sometimes its hard because I wonder how I’m going to keep supporting my music and myself, and it can get pretty discouraging at times. Also it can be really challenging to get things done the way you want to do them. I mean, I made this album with my tax return money.
Do you ever go through creative blocks? What helps you overcome them?
Ohhhh yeah. I think one of the best ways to get through a creative block for me is to listen to a lot of music, and to listen to new things. Also, if I’m feeling really blocked sometimes the best thing to do is to go try and do something else instead, like drawing or crocheting something. Really just going and making anything kinda loosens things up for me.
Are you interested in any other art forms? What do you enjoy doing artistically besides music?
Yes! Not that I would ever actually be a filmmaker, but I’ve been really interested in film lately, in a way that I wasn’t before. I just think its so interesting how you can really read a film like how you would read a book. In college I studied literature so that’s something else that’s always been an interest of mine… but again, I don’t know if I would ever write a book.
What are you most excited about and what are some of your creative goals for the new year?
I’m really excited about all of my musical projects in 2018; I have this solo album coming out, I just joined Hexa playing bass with them, and then Soft Lions is working on a new album that we’re probably going to be recording next month. So yeah, it feels like I have my hands in a couple cool exciting things for the next year. Also I’m super excited to be playing bass in Hexa, I’m starting to play cool bass riffs and kinda getting more familiar with it, its super fun. I’ve been wanting to learn more about it, and not just play bass like a guitar player.
Who are some other local artists that you think people should be listening to in 2018?
I’m a huge fan of the Wild Wild Wets, Dream Joints, and Naïveté!
And finally, how would you describe NEON in 6 words?
Little pink tape made of dreams.
I highly suggest buying NEON and giving it a listen. Trust me, this is the album that you didn’t even know you needed. It’s dreamy, moody and wonderfully beautiful from start to finish. Follow PJ Sparkles on Instagram to stay up to date on upcoming shows!
And check out Megan’s other projects: Soft Lions and Hexa