Recently, young female artists such as Feist, Jenny Lewis and Norah Jones
have been making a significant name for themselves in the creative arts. Megan Royal is following their path. As she takes her seat on the piano bench, she takes a deep breath and allows her fingers to take over the music. Music and the arts are not just a passion for Royal, they are her entire life. She says, “I wake up in the morning and I am either singing, playing, or designing from sun up to sun down. I love expressing myself.”
Royal, who studies fashion design at the Art Institute of Chicago, uses her talents and knowledge of the piano as a form of release when it comes to her clothing design. She explains, “It’s strange. When I’m stressed or having a meltdown with the amount of work I have to do, I play. My mind just completely wanders and everything that worried me before just seems petty, I guess.” Royal didn’t choose music as her major because she couldn’t imagine having it forced upon her. She says that music should be fun and not a chore.
Luckily, she gets to mix fun with schoolwork on a daily basis. According to Royal, the greatest thing about attending her school is that everybody has an appreciation for the arts. During classes, students are able to collaborate musically with one another. Not many college students are offered opportunities such as this where they are constantly being exposed to other musicians and encouraged to play with one another – especially when they aren’t even music majors.
Royal began playing at the very young age of three. “My parents had enrolled my older sister in lessons at the time. During one of her lessons, I was in the living room watching the very first episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I remember Will Smith’s character was playing ‘Fur Elise’ and I walked over to the piano and played the notes without really realizing what I was doing. My parents freaked out, dropped my sister from piano lessons, and enrolled me the next day. I guess you can say Will Smith taught me how to play the piano.” Royal continued with her lessons, but she quit after the age of thirteen. She explained that after so many years, there really isn’t much more knowledge that your teacher can provide you. Playing the piano takes a lot of dedication and practice, like most instruments. Since Royal is typically a solo artist, it can be tough to stay on top of her craft because she only has herself to keep her motivated.
Royal finds that coming up with creative new pieces of her own have helped hold her interest in the piano. Old influences like Mozart and newer influences such as Ben Folds have helped Royal to create a modern, yet classic sound to her pieces. It can be challenging to create a modern sound on the piano in order to grab an audience because the piano is such a well-known instrument, especially when played solo. “My sound is an accompaniment of the old, classical styles that I grew up playing. They’re simply beautiful. But the best part [of the piano] is you can bust out a sequence of jazzy or rock, and it just flows so well.”
Currently, you can hear Royal’s unique spin on classical piano at well-known Chicago locations such as Schubas Tavern, Abbey Pub, Gallery Cabaret and many independent coffee houses. What’s next for the Royal? She explains that she can’t imagine her life or her future without music in it. After graduating in the winter of 2010, her plans consist of moving out of Chicago in order to experience new challenges. “My dream would be to move to New York, get a job designing immediately, meet other music lovers, form a band like Broken Social Scene…I want to do it all!”