WASHINGTON — Look once and she’s on Broadway with James Franco in “Of Mice and Men.” Look twice and she’s on the silver screen with Robert Duvall in “The Judge.” Look a third time and she’s in a fashion magazine still obsessed with her Blair Waldorf wardrobe from TV’s “Gossip Girl.”
But right now, the multitalented Leighton Meester is touring the nation with her debut solo album, “Heartstrings,” a tour that kicks off Wednesday night at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia.
The concert is her first time back in D.C. since she was 11 and her family stopped in Washington during a summer road trip from Florida to New York.
“We walked around for a really long time,” Meester tells WTOP. “I just really wore the wrong shoes and walked around for a really long time, and the entire rest of the summer when I was in New York … my feet had blisters all over them. So I had to deal with my D.C. feet for a long time.”
The shoes? Keds. The type? Heels missing from the back of the shoe. The store? Payless.
Yes, a lot has changed for Meester, who has enjoyed a lucrative career on stage, screen and airwaves, including pop collaborations with Robin Thicke and Cobra Starship. Still, between the money and the fame, something was missing for Meester, who yearned for personal expression through music.
“I love all my collaborations and everybody that I worked with prior, but (I prefer) just sitting with myself and having no self-judgement or worrying about if it’s going to sell or if people are going to hear it or relate to it or dance to it,” Meester says. “If I could envision making any kind of music on my own, it would always be this record and this sound. … It took a long time, but this is it.”
The “Heartstrings” album came out in late October. Since then, Meester has enjoyed a residency in Los Angeles, playing a regular gig every Tuesday in January.
One of her favorite tracks comes midway through the album. It’s called “L.A.,”a song she describes as “fun and chimey,” but with contradictory lyrics that are “sarcastic, lonely and desperate. ”
“I just end up with songs that are very ironic,” she says. “It’s like, ‘I love you, but not too much.’ ‘I need you, but go away.’ … The record itself is about loving but being guarded in that love and always worrying that maybe you won’t be loved back.”
Meester says the album’s singer/songwriter flavor was inspired by the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Tori Amos, Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks.
“I think it’s a combination of being connected to the child in them and the insecurity and loneliness.”
If she’s connected to the child in her at The Birchmere, she might just leave D.C. with blistered feet.
“I’m wearing the same shoes,” she jokes.
Listen to the full interview below:
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