“I remember being in the hospital and saying to the neurosurgeon, 'why did this happen to me?'"
Cara Walkam, AKA Meadowhip, has been through more than most, so it’s somewhat surprising to find Walkam cracking jokes and complaining about the construction outside her house as she settles in for the interview. Considering her history, there’s an underlying expectation that maybe she’d be a little more fragile and wary of new experiences, however, it’s quite the opposite.
“In the last couple of years, I’ve started learning to play the flute because: Lizzo”, She confesses and then laughs before diving into her long history in the Aus music scene, from playing in bands to writing for different artists. Her personality exudes warmth and energy, and for someone that didn’t know her well, there would be no hints that she suffered a major hemorrhagic stroke in the spring of 2019.
“I was on holidays when it happened, 'cause why not,” She jokes.
“I remember being in the hospital and saying to my neurosurgeon - I'm like off my face on painkillers at this point - ‘Why did this happen to me? Is it my lifestyle? Is it because I’m trying to do too many things?’"
Like many musicians, Walker took pride in her ability to walk the thin line of balancing a full-time music career with a full-time job until something had to give.
“It’s funny because, before the stroke, I had always written music, I had always performed music, I had always been in bands, but when you’re in your early twenties, you get funnelled into this ‘real life’ nonsense, like the rate race,” She explained.
Arriving home from her holiday from hell, Walkam started to reevaluate what was important going forward, seriously considering how she wanted her life to look from here on out.
“I was thinking about everything a lot because, you know, all you can do is sit at home - you can’t drive, you can’t walk - you just sit and think and ruminate like crazy. I eventually got to a point where I was like, ‘what am I doing? I’m just gonna throw myself at it. Work is secondary, it doesn’t matter.
“So it was a huge mindset change to try and de-prioritise everything else in my life.” She explained.
In Walkam's mind, “the rat race” that she was once a part of suddenly lost its appeal. Instead of trying to perform in both work and music, she made an active decision to de-prioritise work and focus solely on her music, no matter the outcome.
“When you have a near-death experience, you kind of get pushed into a situation of, ‘ok, if I only have another year and a half to live, what do I wanna focus on?’ and you just don’t have time for all the negativity and self-doubt.
“I have this sense now that I will die at some point, and I had never thought like that before. I’ve always been a nihilist, and I’ve always been terrified of death, but having had that experience, I’m like, ‘oh shit, that’s gonna happen to me one day.’”
“And music has always been a priority to me, I’ve just never treated it like one. I’ve been a neglectful parent up until this point.” She laughs.
So in the years after her stroke, Walker threw herself into music, attending songwriting sessions and working with different producers. Through her newfound resolve, Meadowhip was born, but Walker just didn’t know it yet.
“Most of these tracks were written during lockdown, so I had these fortnightly sessions with Chelsea [Warner], and we would just sit down and bash something out. I would show up with an idea, or we would come up with something on the spot. It was all done over zoom and written over a six-month period, so the songs kind of sit within a single theme.”
Despite her drive, Walkam never set out to intentionally create her new project, Meadowhip. Rather it grew organically, as all good things do.
“I feel like a big part of it was chatting with Chelsea. I remember doing these songs and thinking that I didn’t really know what to do with them. They didn’t really suit my band, I didn’t know whether to release them on my own or pitch them to other artists. That was a part of the conversation I was having with her [chelsea], and I just didn’t know if I wanted to release these on my own, I had never considered being a solo artist - I always thought It was too hectic. She was like, ‘what the fuck, just do it.’
“It was mostly having those conversations during those sessions that made me think, ‘maybe I can do this.’”
The new E.P Ruckus is a collection of sultry and smooth songs that follow in the footsteps of 90s R&B stars like Ashanti or Ciara. Walkam's voice shines and guides you through vulnerable lyrics that connect on a deep and harrowing level. It’s a fantastic debut, but Walkam isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“I have a whole bunch of songs in production that I want to release next year, including a couple of collaborations.” She says.
“I almost feel like I’m making up for lost time by just constantly releasing songs. I’m just like, let's go, let’s go, let’s go.”
You can listen to her new E.P Ruckus here.