Jeff Meegan is a Chicago-based singer, songwriter, composer and producer. Even if you aren’t familiar with the name, chances are, you’ve heard his music.
Jeff has had his songs featured on the CBS soap opera, “The Young & The Restless,” “ABC soap opera,” “One Life To Live,” “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts,” “Gotham,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “the documentary,” “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!,” “Glee,” “Revenge,” “Dear John,” Hallmark movies, Lifetime movies and numerous other shows.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff and discuss his music and career.
Daily Planet: When did you realize you wanted to do music as a career?
Jeff: I was thinking about this, and I started writing music when I was around 14 years old. My parents were both musicians and they met in music school, so I was always surrounded by music.
Drums were my first love! I started playing drums around 9 or 10 and I started chording things out on the piano when I started writing music at 14. At 16 I had gotten a 4-track recorder, so that was probably the beginning of my career aspirations. I was like ‘this is really fun and cool. I would like to do this.’
What all instruments were you learning to play at that time?
We had a couple of pianos in the house. I was playing drums at the time and I did take piano lessons when I was like seven or eight years old, but I never really took to it. I never practiced. I was more interested in the drums. Then freshman year in high school I sat down at the piano, started playing chords, and wrote a song.
Drums are the only instrument where I took lessons for quite some time; otherwise, I’m just self-taught on most things.
You’re currently writing, singing and producing music for mediums like TV and films. Did you ever consider becoming a touring artist?
Absolutely! When I was younger, I dreamt about being on a stage, under the lights, and being a big star. I was writing songs, and bringing demos to A & R (artists and repertoire) offices in L.A. and New York. I absolutely did want to do that.
Sometime in the nineties, I was recording this demo with Eric Darken, a friend of mine, in Nashville and he asked me why I wanted to be an artist, because they are on the road all the time. They are away from home, and it’s hard to have a normal life. That’s when I started thinking of just writing and producing music instead of taking the artist route.
How did you finally get into creating music for TV and films?
Quite by accident! I was singing on a track, and a friend of mine was producing it for another writer. During the session, I asked what the song was for, and it turned out it was for the soap operas. This writer was signed to a publisher in L.A., Heavy Hitters Music.
I asked what the name of the company was, and there was some apprehension giving it to me, but I did finally get it.I sent Heavy Hitters a demo and didn’t hear anything for months and months. I think I called them a couple of times. Finally, around six months later, I got a call. I was at work. I worked for a company that made mallets for xylophones and marimbas. The owner said he heard the demo, and she wanted me to write something, so I did.
She asked for three or four revisions and finally said she liked the track. It ended up on the soap operas. “One Life To Live” was my first placement ever, and that sort of started it. She continued to ask me to write for the company. Pop music, country, and then ultimately some jazz. She hooked me up with the composer Brad Hatfield. So that’s where it all began. It was quite by accident!
Who have your musical inspirations been?
That’s a really tough question. I write so many different kinds of music and I’m involved in so many different projects. I mean from [Claude] Debussy and [Wolfgang Amadeus] Mozart, to [George] Gershwin, Cole Porter, Barry Manilow, The Carpenters, Sting, Phil Collins, Pat Metheny, and then Mel Torme. I loved his voice, and of course Frank Sinatra.
I think the most important thing that anyone who wants to get into the music business can do is listen to as much music as possible. You can get great ideas from everywhere.
Are you contacted and asked for specific genres of music in advance or do you create various styles and have it out there for clients to find?
It’s generally the first one. Almost every piece of music that I write is written to brief. I write a lot of music with David Tobin (film score composer) for a company called Audio Network. We do lots of different albums for them in many different styles. It all depends on what they need.
Stuff like Christmas albums or classical are in big demand. We had a “Golden Age of Hollywood” album out recently with classic Hollywood musical numbers on it. Projects like that are always composed to a brief. I also write a lot of music that ends up on “The Young & The Restless.”
There are a couple of different genres that work for that show, so I try to stick to those genres to make it useful for the show. It also happens to be genres that I like writing!
Is it difficult to have to write so many different genres of music?
I think the difficult part is learning to trust yourself and learning to trust that your ideas are valid and good. That’s the difficult part. Logic tells you that if someone asks you to create something then they obviously believe you can do it. But that’s not always how you feel inside. You don’t tell yourself that when you get a gig right away.
You’re always nervous and like ‘can I do this?’ It comes down to listening and being familiar with the music. For me, it’s all about collaboration, because I didn’t go to college. I don’t have a music degree, I’m self-taught in virtually all these areas. Whether it’s production, playing the guitar, or playing the keyboard. I work with other people to fill in the gaps of things I don’t know.
For me, collaboration is just the key to everything. If you want to do great classical music, then you have to work with guys who know classical music. If you want to write great jazz music, you must work with people who are great jazz musicians and writers.
The first time I heard one of your songs was while rewatching an episode of the former NBC series, “Family Ties”. The episode was in 1987, season 6, episode 15, titled, “Miracle in Columbus”. Your song, “Dash of Christmas Eve”, is featured near the end of that episode. Was this your first break?
Really? That was my song? If it’s “Dash of Christmas Eve”, it is my song. In 1987 I was 18 years old so they must have dropped some different music in the episode (after the original airing). I’ve got to get that and add it to my IMDb page!
The first big break I was aware of was on “One Life To Live.” I was on vacation at the time with my family in Florida and I got a call from Heavy Hitters Music and they told me my song was going to air on “One Life To Live” that day. So I was quick to tune in!
You’ve had song placements in Lifetime movies, Hallmark movies and soap operas. You recently had a song featured in the HBO Max special “Harry Potter 25th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts”. With that kind of success, for you musically, are there goals you haven’t met yet?
There’s lots of them! That’s a really cool question! I’d love to write a song for a feature movie. David [Tobin] and I, along with our friend Tim Garland, did all the music for “Supersize Me 2: Holy Chicken!,” which was a feature documentary. But I’d love to do something for a big-budget movie, to write a song for it. I’ve toyed around with writing a musical for the theater many times.
I’d still like to do that. I think it would be a lot of fun. That’s a long journey and I’m having a hard time finding a good story to tell. My main career goal is to keep writing relevant music and things people want to hear.
Given the fact you work with orchestration, various musicians, etc. How did Covid-19 affect what you do?
It certainly affected the way we get things recorded. With Audio Network, most of the things we do for them are recorded at Abbey Road (studio in London, England). So once they closed during the lockdown, that changed a lot of things and pushed things back.
In fact, our “Golden Age of Hollywood” recording session was on the day they closed the doors at Abbey Road. We were the first ones canceled. They are now back open but there are still rules in place on how many can be at the studio at one time, so it’s changed the logistics of how we get things recorded.
Slowly but surely, it’s starting to get back to normal. It didn’t alter the writing process much, but it definitely changed the recording process.
Of all the songs you’ve written, do you have any that are more special to you or any that just mean more?
I have a lot of favorites. The special ones are probably a bunch on that original Christmas album (“Season of Love,” 2007) like, “Together on New Year’s Eve”. My wife and I were married on New Year’s Eve. “The Bells” off that album was written for my two daughters.
On my album, “After You” (2010), there’s a song written for my daughters called “Fill Me Up.” Those are very special to me.
Then last year (2021), I co-wrote a song with Brad Hatfield and Gaye Tolan Hatfield called “Grateful For It All”. It was used in a very special tribute episode for (the late actor) Kristoff St. John on “The Young & The Restless.”
I had my Mom in mind while writing the lyrics. She had been ill for many years and was my inspiration. The episode and song turned out beautifully.
You had a song placed on the DC/Fox network TV series, Gotham. Can you tell us about that?
They used the tune “Ain’t Life Grand” in 2015 written with the fantastic Gaye Tolan Hatfield and then “Cherry Blossom Moon” in 2019, a big band ballad written with David Tobin and orchestrated by Curtis McKonley. It was a thrill as I’ve always liked the “Batman” series. I thought that show was pretty good as well! It’s always a blast to hear your music in a show you like!
As far as your own personal albums, you released the pop album, “After You” in 2010, and the jazz album, “Velvet” was in 2018. Do you have any plans for any new personal music coming up?
I hope so! It’s really hard to find time to write my own stuff these days. I’d love to do my own big band album with some orchestra. That would be a blast! A bunch of the pop songs I wrote for “The Young & The Restless” have not been released. I’m thinking about putting a collection of that stuff out later this year. The jazz is always on my mind, because I really love recording in that style and writing that.
The songs on “Velvet” are very near and dear to my heart as well. That was a fun project to work on with Brad & Gaye Hatfield.
You released your original Christmas album, “Season of Love,” in 2007, any plans for a new one?
There’s no current plans for a new one. I’ve written so many Christmas songs for different companies and I sing on many of them as well. I’ve written over 50 Christmas songs. This year David Tobin and I were asked to do another album of Christmas ballads. That will push the total up to more than 60 Christmas songs. Maybe at some point I’ll re-record some of those, because so many of the tunes we’ve done for Audio Network are great,
Father’s Lamb, one of the songs on “Season of Love” is one of my favorites. Last year I was looking to get that one re-recorded with a real orchestra and it didn’t come to fruition, but hopefully this year, I’ll get that out as a single.