Funky-folkster indie singer-songwriter Meiko can thank her finger-snapping, toe-tapping single "Stuck On You" for helping her to connect with her Japanese heritage.
The song, off her months-old sophomore CD "The Bright Side," has attracted a big radio following in Japan, where her late maternal grandmother was born. So when the prospect of a Japanese radio tour came up, she jumped at the chance.
"My whole life I've been curious about my family (in Japan)," said Meiko, who is a quarter Japanese but had never met any of her Japanese relatives. "It was just kind of sad that this was my family, but I didn't know anything about them."
Her curiosity started when she was a young girl. Her father was raising her and her sister after their mother left the family when Meiko was just 3.
"I grew up in a really small town in Georgia where there weren't any Asian people. That's where the whole Meiko came from," she explained. "Me and my sister knew we were different, but we totally looked like white girls so we had nicknames for each other - Meiko and Keiko," which they pronounced Mee-ko and Kee-ko.
"When I went to camp and stuff and started playing music, I would always go under Meiko," she said.
Before the Japan trip, Meiko contacted her mother's sisters, and they helped to arranged meetings with family in Japan.
"It was a whirlwind trip because I was super busy (doing radio) and then at the same time I was meeting my long-distance relatives for the first time," said Meiko, who swings into Club Congress next Thursday. "I played a show in my grandmother's hometown, and 15 of my family members showed up that I had never met before. It was really surreal."
Meiko was so impressed with the Japan trip that she hopes to do it again. She also could see herself living there.
"It was super cool. I really loved it. The people were so respectful. There was no trash anywhere; it was a very clean place, and the food was amazing," she gushed. "People were generally optimistic, and I can't tell you one negative thing about the trip. It was really inspiring."
As for her relationship with her mother, Meiko said the pair catch up on occasion through email.
If you go
• What: Meiko in concert with Buddy.
• When: 7 p.m. next Thursday.
• Where: Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St.
• Tickets: $10 in advance at www.hotelcongress.com, $12 day of show.
Meiko on ...
• Her new album: "I'm really happy with it. I'm happy I got to experiment with all the things I really wanted to. I wanted to play around with beats, and I wanted to mesh a lot of organic instruments with programming stuff. That was something that I always wanted to do, and I was given that opportunity, and I'm really happy that I did. ... I wanted to take those risks, and I wanted to see what it would be like to work with an electronic-y producer guy. I always wanted to see what I could do with finding a middle ground between program beats and layers and mash that with very organic instruments. I'm super happy that I got to do that."
• Returning to Club Congress, where she's played a couple shows in recent years: "I love that place. I'm going to try to stay at the weird hotel. I was totally creeped out the last time I stayed there, but it has such a cool vibe. And the bar downstairs (the Tap Room). I'm very excited about that. ... I remember having amazing Bloody Marys there."