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Artists Among Us: Solitude allows the words to flow

The Artists Among Us is a series of profiles of Queen’s staff members who pursue artistic endeavours in addition to their work at the university. The Gazette will feature staff members on an occasional basis and welcomes suggestions. If you have ideas of people to profile, please contact Wanda Praamsma at wanda.praamsma@queensu.ca

Musician Megan Hamilton, an administrative assistant in the Faculty of Law, will be performing this summer at the Wolfe Island Music Festival, while her new album is set to be released in September. (University Communications)

Megan Hamilton first started writing music when she was in her late 20s, while in Toronto after studying theatre at Ryerson. She was living alone for the first time in her life, and while lonely at times, she found the solitude freeing.

“I started writing music, short stories, plays. There was no social media at the time, and I didn’t have a computer – very few distractions,” says Ms. Hamilton, now a well-regarded Canadian musician who also works full-time as an administrative assistant in the Faculty of Law. “I felt I didn’t need anyone’s permission and it became a really creative time for me.”

Even though she never imagined herself singing, Ms. Hamilton recorded a few songs with a friend. It was then that she decided she “could do this,” and instead of pursuing theatre, she moved into the musical sphere. 

“I liked that with music, I didn’t have to wait for other people, which I felt like I was doing in theatre,” she says. “I could just go out and do my own thing.”

A few years later, in 2006, she released her first album, Feudal Ladies Club, and since then, she’s toured across Canada, promoted several more albums, and developed a following for her folk/pop-edge/shoegaze style. In August, Ms. Hamilton will be on stage at the Wolfe Island Music Festival, and on Sept. 25, she releases her fifth album, Forty Warm Streams to Lead Your Wings. This latest album is being produced by singer/songwriter and producer Jim Bryson, who has toured and/or recorded with The Tragically Hip, Sarah Harmer and Kathleen Edwards, among others.

“It’s a really busy, exciting time,” she says. “It’s satisfying, getting my music out there, since it’s a much bigger challenge these days.” 

Ms. Hamilton also combines life as a musician and Queen’s staff member with life as a parent, as mother to a four-year-old daughter. It’s a delicate balance, she says, to find time for everything, and the space to write. 

Like her early days writing alone in Toronto, Ms. Hamilton needs complete quiet and separation to set down the stories that become her songs. And, perhaps aptly, her lyrics are often rooted in themes of loneliness, sadness, and love/relationship issues.

UPCOMING
Megan Hamilton plays the Wolfe Island Music Festival Friday Aug. 7.
Visit her Facebook page for more information about her new album, Forty Warm Streams to Lead Your Wings, and tour dates.

“I usually start with a visual image,” she says. “Then a scene unfolds, and generally the lyrics flow pretty quickly from that. I also love playing with rhyme and rhythm. I play games – like working with syllables, trying to figure out how to structure a line. I think these things all stem from my childhood, things I used to do. On long car rides, I would count telephone poles – there’s this rhythm there – and then chop the poles down in my mind.”

Through promoting her own music, Ms. Hamilton has become an expert organizer, and those abilities extend into her work in Queen’s Law, where among other administrative duties, she helps with event planning and payroll. She also provides public-speaking coaching for law students who are preparing for moot competitions. 

“I really love that, working with the students,” she says. “I’m really grateful for my position in the Faculty of Law. Everyone is really supportive of my musical career, and when I do have accomplishments to share, they are always there to celebrate with me.”