Megan Bülow, now professionally known as bülow, is the 18 year old musician who is slowly making her way into everyone’s hearts. Born in Germany, and having spent her childhood in England, Texas and Holland, she’s now residing in Toronto and living out her dreams.
On a sweltering afternoon, Megan walks into the Mod Club in Toronto with her Tim Hortons cup in hand, profusely apologizing for running slightly late, and is happily exhausted. She sinks into the couch, still smiling, and starts to explain the whirlwind that’s been her life for the past couple of years.
Fresh into her North American tour and having just got off the MMVA stage, bülow begins to share the journey with me.
“It was a surreal experience for me, especially being in the same area as so many artists that I admire. It was very, very cool to see and I got to meet some artists that I really look up to. It was just very surreal. It was my first nomination, my first tv performance— it was a lot of firsts for that night.”
When I ask her if there was someone she was really looking forward to meeting, she excitedly replies, “I got to meet Shawn Mendes! I’m a big fan of his. He actually approached me, which I didn’t expect at all and he said he was a fan of my music!” She starts to recall the encounter in more detail and describes how she was so excited that she wasn’t quite sure what she was saying. “I was basically just repeating everything he said. I was like ‘I’m a fan of your music!’ and he was like ‘my name is Shawn’ and I was like ‘my name is Shawn!” she says in a fit of laughter, “but yeah, it was really cool.”
She’s been welcomed by the beginnings of her fame and still gets starstruck, but despite her young age, it’s been a long journey for the rising artist. She says she doesn’t have a specific memory that alludes to her wanting to be a musician, music has always been a part of her life.
“I feel like there wasn’t one moment in particular that I remember where it all started. It was always something I kinda knew. I was always singing, always playing guitar and I think when I started picking up the guitar, that’s when I started song writing. Quickly after that I started busking on the streets of England and testing out my original music at that point. My whole life has been music.”
Her music has something for everyone and I ask her how she would describe her sound to someone who hasn’t heard of her, but she explains that she doesn’t like to put a label on her music.
“I feel like I get inspired by so much music and I feel like my music is almost like a mixture of all the things that I’m inspired by. There’s definitely electro-pop elements to it. I love indie music, I love hip-hop so it’s kind of just a mixture of everything.” She’s inspired by various artists and shares that she would’ve loved to work with the late rapper, Mac Miller —who she truly admired and hopefully one day, Frank Ocean.
Bülow’s music is equally inspiring, and it’s impressive — especially from someone so young. Despite going to an IB high school – a program that is notorious for its high level of work – she persevered and finished, even though her heart was in her music. I ask her what her biggest struggle was while trying to pursue music and finish her schooling at the same time.
“My biggest struggle was balancing it. That was probably the hardest thing because all I really wanted to be doing was making music. It was hard because I had to split my time between what I love and having to do school work. It was the last thing I wanted to do, so it was hard finding a balance and I never really did find it.”
She reveals the hardships that she experienced while finishing the IB program and being a musician — something that she’s also been refreshingly transparent about through social media. I ask her if she has any advice for musicians going through the same turmoil, with being an artist and trying to appease family or societal standards by finishing school, and as expected, she has a mature take on the topic.
“It’s important looking at the bigger picture, that’s kinda what I had to do. If you have to do things that you don’t like in order to get to what you want, sometimes you just have to take everything day by day and just do it. In my case, every single day I felt like dropping out and it was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done but now that it’s over I’m proud I did it but I definitely wouldn’t do it again. It’s important to look at the bigger picture of what you want and don’t let other people push you to do things.”
She continues with adding some more advice for aspiring musicians by expressing the importance of just listening to yourself.
“It’s important to always follow your gut, your gut is always gonna be right and it’s so easy to let pressures from around you dictate what you’re gonna do but it’s so important — there’s so many moments where I didn’t follow my gut and the regret is so bad that I just wished that I went with what I originally wanted to do.”
Bülow can now focus on the most important thing: her music. Like any artist, her creative process can vary but she shares what it takes to get to her final product.
“It’s always a bit different but I feel like most of the time it’s lyrics and melodies that happen at the same time for me. Sometimes it’s a specific word that will spark a whole idea or something that somebody says. Most of the time, when I pick up my guitar or pick up my computer to make a beat, it’s usually both at the same time. I feel like I get most inspired or feed off a lot from other people’s energy. My creative process can sometimes be better in a room but I also find that being alone can be so much better than writing with people because you can just have your own perspective and don’t let other people influence it all the time.”
Whatever her process is, she always comes out with great results. Her two EPs, Damaged Vol. 1 and 2, are an honest and emotionally striking glimpse into her life for the past couple of years. I inquire specifically about her song titled “You and Jennifer,” which goes through a story of being “two-timed” or cheated on.
“[You and Jennifer] is something that was based on my personal experience and I feel like everyone has a Jennifer in their lives, in a way. I feel like that’s why a lot of people have been able to connect with it.”
I probe a little further about her specific situation, and she ends up giving some sound advice to anyone dealing with a similar problem.
“If people are always gonna be walking all over you, sometimes you just have to cut them off. It’s so easy to let somebody keep walking all over you. I feel like I’ve done that so many times, giving people second, third, fourth chances and sometimes you just have to know that it’s enough. I’m honestly sick of giving people more than 2 chances. I tried to do it cold turkey and totally separate myself from the situation, that’s why the song kinda has this ‘fuck you’ attitude about it.”
She also reveals that her favourite song off of the EPs is “Honor Roll,” “just because it encompasses the last 2 years of my life. So, it’s definitely the most relevant to what I have been recently going through, the same thing with school, balancing school and music. It was a really tough 2 years because all I wanted to be doing was…this.”
Now that she’s finally living the life she’s always wanted to pursue, I ask her if she has any words that she likes to live by.
“I think my favourite quote is ‘embrace the now.’ I love that quote because it’s so easy to get caught up in the past and the future and we actually forget why we do what we do. You forget to actually enjoy what’s in front of you. Sometimes you just have to live in the moment and just embrace it.”
With a busy schedule of touring, creating new songs and taking every opportunity to share her sound with the world, bülow is definitely ‘embracing the now’, but I was curious to know what she likes to do during her time off, when she isn’t slowly taking over the music world.
“I feel like that’s yet to find out because I haven’t had a lot of time off but I love being in nature. It gives me so much, especially if I wanna write or if I have down time to be creative. Nature gives me so much. I don’t think I used to really appreciate it until this year. I used to do kickboxing for 3 or 4 years—it’s something I gave up when school got super intense but it’s something I wanna get back into. In the next 2 months I’ll probably find out what I get to be doing in my free time.”
In this short conversation, I can see that she truly has a good head on her shoulders, incredibly down to earth and polite—definitely some of that Canadian blood running through her veins. She explains how she now lives in Toronto, Ontario and how the city holds a place in her heart.
“I love it, It’s home to me. I basically go here every summer, since I was a little kid. It was always the place that I was planning on moving to, so that was an obvious choice. It’s just welcoming because I now have family here and a good team. Everything’s good.”
A rising star, with a tour under her belt and accomplishing a bunch of incredible ‘firsts’ in the early stages of her career, everything is certainly good for bülow.