Written by Maria Arroyo
“The best career choices and paths are the ones that choose us.” – Meghan Cary
Some of the greatest moments as a writer are those personal connections in interviews. There’s a mutual love and understanding of what the speaker is sharing, and it inspires something within you. Speaking with Meghan Cary does exactly that.
Meghan Cary is a folk and singer/songwriter based out of the Philadelphia area. She’s been at it for a long time, playing every venue possible, playing in her respective category for the PHL Live contest, which is where I first had the pleasure of hearing her play! Cary has also been a huge advocate for women’s rights, women’s equality, and for speaking your truth, however and whatever that may be.
One of the most remarkable aspects of her story, also happens to be a sad and painful one. Matthew Black, Cary’s late fiancé, is the person who really brought music to life for her. “And when he died,” Cary says, “I was left with nothing I had intended to do in my life. I decided that the one thing I could keep was what he brought me. I picked up his Martin, and messed around until I found things that sounded right.”
While her story is heartbreaking, she also shares that it happened for a reason.
“I kind of came kicking and screaming into the music thing. I did NOT consider myself a musician. But I feel like the whole way along, Matthew was up there in heaven saying ‘Okay… I left you the guitar, I got you singing with me, I gave you some inspiration to write about, will you PLEASE JUST GO AHEAD AND DO IT! This is what you’re supposed to do!'”
“He used to say, ‘Angels are messengers and they come into our lives to give us something, and they leave, and they have to because the message is ours, they’re not ours.’ He gave me music, and he left. I now, however many pears later, consider myself a musician.”
Now, the real reason we set out to talk with Meghan Cary is to share her experience bringing the new music video for her song “River Rock” and talk about why this movement is so important for today’s society. During our talk, she really digs deep into the history of women’s quality, voting rights for women, and all of those things.
“We started the whole River Rock project back in March,” Cary shares, “and I really got into it. In August of 2019, we celebrated the Pennsylvania ratification of the 19th amendment right here in Philadelphia. And I thought ‘Dang, my song ‘River Rock’ would have been perfect for this occasion…’ When I was informed that the really really big celebration is happening in August of 2020 as the celebration of the centennial of the ratification for the country. So I said, ‘Great! I’m going to make a music video for my song ‘River Rock’ and see if I can find someone to make a real music video.’ This is when I met Will Drinker, who is the director of the video.”
She then shares a little history on Drinker, a huge feminist with a family with a history of activism in the Philadelphia area, and describes him as a “shoot for the moon, land on the stars” kind of guy.
“This needs to be more than just a music video,” he says. “This [music video] would be enough to be a celebration of women’s rights to be heard and to participate and to make change by voting. Let’s make this something that people can use to inspire, especially women, to go out and exercise their right to vote.”
“I immediately had tons of ideas rushing into my head,” Cary says.
“We just started going at this with so many ideas and it just started growing like a chia pet,” Cary says wittingly. “I originally thought I would release this in March to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. I was recovering from being really sick, and in the beginning, it was just me and Will, but then it started to grow and grow and grow… into something so much bigger. Then I thought, ‘Well, as long as it’s ready to go by August in time for the real big celebration, it’ll be alright.’ That’s when I found Vision 2020, and said to myself, I think we need to work on this together!
I just started calling people up and sharing the story of the Justice Bell and the video and I just ended up calling the head of Vision 2020 who isn’t easy to get a hold of. We talked and she really got it, and we decided really early on, and we started to partner together, but I really didn’t know what that was going to look like until about June.”
While she was sharing her experience, I thought maybe she misspoke when she said the ‘Justice Bell’ when she meant to say the ‘Liberty Bell’ but then she said it again, so then maybe I thought I totally missed a HUGE chunk of history from class…
“Do you know the story of the Justice Bell?” she asks.
“Honestly? I’ve never heard of it so please tell me!” I shout.
“So, the Justice Bell actually lives right here in Pennsylvania, in a chapel just outside of Fort Washington Park. Back in 1915, they were creating these suffragettes that would rally men to vote for our right to vote.”
I just think to myself, “probably such a strange thing, right? Like ‘Hey Mr.! Can you come out and vote for our right to vote? K, thanks!'” Honestly it’s such a crazy idea to me, and it wasn’t even that long ago!
“They knew they needed to create some buzz about the Justice Bell, kind of like what we do now. We know we need to create a little buzz for people to know what’s going on. They decided to take the symbol of freedom and liberty, the Liberty Bell, and make a replica of it, and tour around Pennsylvania going from county to county, to get people to come out and listen.”
The Justice Bell is a 2000-pound exact replica of the Liberty Bell, only without the distinct crack that it’s known for. It also had the phrase that is essentially shouting “Justice For All” to the rooftops.
“When they were ready to ride around town, they put the bell on the back of a flatbed and went from town to town and created all this hoopla, all this buzz, to get all these men and see the replica of the bell.”
Cary explained to me that unlike traditional bells, that have that thing in the center to bang along the inner walls of the bell to hear a ring, that this didn’t have it, and for good reason.
“They took this part and chained it to the inside so it couldn’t swing. And the men were saying, well why isn’t it making any sound?”
And the women said ‘well, it doesn’t make any sound because it’s chained, just like our voices, we’re asking you all to please let us be unchained let us be heard… Let us vote!'”
You can imagine how SHOCKED I was to hear this story. This story, that’s probably one of the biggest strides in the history of women’s rights, and it’s never been told! Now I don’t remember a whole lot from middle and high school, but I’m pretty sure this just wasn’t a part of it.
“When they did this,” Cary continues “Pennsylvania did not ratify right away. So what these people did was take this to a countrywide level. They went around the country with the justice bell trying to vote for women’s suffrage.”
She also said that as they went from state to state spreading this message, that as a new state ratified the 19th amendment, that the bell was rung. It was rung a total of 48 times.
“It was such a great story!” Cary exclaims. “This is the piece that was missing from my video! I knew I was walking towards something and then women would come out and join me and we were gonna make it something special. We are walking toward the Justice Bell, and we’re gonna ring it!”
As she’s telling me this, I am shocked beyond words, and pretty sure I fell in love for a second there.
Meghan Cary begins to share how The River Rock project became as big as it had. She said that the team at Vision 2020 wanted to make the premier of her music video for “River Rock” to be the cornerstone of the event. She also says that as this project continued to “grow like a chia pet,” that she began to see that this was going to be one hell of a take-on. Certainly way too big for just her to tackle. She says they brought the incredible Jennifer Rishat on as Project Manager, so Cary could continue to act as a delegator, which was something super new and foreign to her.
“Besides working with a band,” Cary expresses, “I’ve never worked with a team, and I’ve never been a leaflet of a team, I’ve never had anyone to delegate!”
“It was a learning curve.” she admits. “As we started adding more people, those new people brought more ideas and more energy to the table. I then realized that I’m not supposed to do it all myself, and I started being able to let go and let people help in a way that I’ve never done before…”
Thus, the River Rock Project was born.
“So early on, we decided the video had to be about two things: the story of the justice bell, and it had to involve a bunch of women, and men who stand with women, raising their voices together and having this journey singing along. So that included a lot of people.”
Cary shares that they and the team put out a casting call for 100 people to be involved with the video, but then, well, it’s not a surprise we ALL know what caused the cancellation of the initial plan. Eventually, her and the time made some changes to how they would approach the project, and it ended up working out very well in the end. Watch the powerful new music video for “River Rock”
“The next step was getting that music video in the hands of as many voter groups as possible,” she says. “There are so many ‘Get Out And Vote’ groups, but that’s all their shouting. I’m trying to give them a little nudge, to pull people in by the heartstrings with storytelling and music, and I have the toolkit for you to do it.”
“If I just appeal to your sense of duty, you may vote,” Cary says, “But if I go out there with a song that touches you emotionally and helps relate to that struggle, that’s what’s anchoring them to make that decision.”
Meghan Cary also shares that the final event with Vision 2020, the “Toast To Tenacity” was an extremely successful launch! We reflected on the earlier comment with the Justice Bell and the fight for women’s right to vote, and we both agreed that it was such a huge part of history that seems to be passed over. “That’s why it’s so important to keep moving in this direction,” she shares. “We have some momentum, let’s get to the finish line.”
Connect with Meghan Cary