Introducing the incredibly talented Michelle Miears, the musical mastermind behind MIEARS. Michelle is the frontwoman of Houston-based electronica trio, BLSHS, but was more than ready to take the industry head on with her first solo project whose EP, Who Will Save You?, debuts on 2/17 on Loose Narrative. With a voice comparable to those of Lauren Mayberry and Georgia Nott, Miears enjoyed multiple festival appearances with the band, countless words of praise in the media and a grueling schedule of tour dates and sets at festivals like CMJ Music Marathon and SXSW. However, after work stalled on the follow up to BLSHS’ debut album, Michelle began a journey that would start with a question and end with a whole new solo project.
That project, known simply as MIEARS, found the singer writing, producing, performing and recording the solo effort, while only allowing famed engineer John Griffin (Matt The Electrician, What Made Milwaukee Famous, Southern Backtones) to mix the project.
The result, Who Will Save You?, is an emotionally driven musical narrative, that explores the compulsive and cyclical nature of relationships. A self-described melodic-pop soundscape, Who Will Save You? is a DIY take on melancholy pop music, complete with ethereal melodies and synthesizers. With the EP now complete and ready to be unleashed, MIEARS is preparing for the next chapter of her life, in which she’ll perform as a solo artist for the very first time.
This bad babe was kind enough to team up with Raw Femme for a special interview in celebration of the release for her new single called “Directional”. Take a listen by clicking the headphones above and support this amazing woman!
What initially inspired you to become an artist?
My grandparents were my first inspiration; my Papa wrote and played with a band called The Sparkles and eventually formed a band called The Branded Four, which he, my Nana, and my Aunt B all played in together. I always thought this was such a cool part of my grandparents’ history. They always had instruments around, my favorite being their grand piano. Piano was my first instrument, which I started playing by ear at the age of 10. My best friend Heather taught me some basics, and we would sit around and play Hanson cover songs and songs that we wrote. We would record vocals on her karaoke machine and I remember recording a Spice Girls song on a hand-held cassette tape recorder one time as well. To be honest, Hanson inspired me a lot to write, sing, and play music at that age; they were all so young when they first came onto the scene, and I thought it was so cool that some kids my age could produce such great music. I ended up taking the ultimate band “nerd” path (nerd is in quotes because I personally think band is the coolest thing ever) throughout my middle and high school career. I played flute from 6th to 12th grade, and snare on the drumline during marching season my sophomore and junior year. I bought a drum set my senior year. I just always wanted to learn and play new instruments, and loved being a part of something bigger, like marching band. I loved every part of it; the rehearsals, the comradery of being in band, and the performances – it all felt so epic. Singing was my weak spot, because I have always had major performance anxiety when it comes to singing. If I could pinpoint an exact moment that I thought to myself “I have to do this music thing now,” it was seeing Paramore live for the first time. I love Paramore, and Hayley Williams is one of my favorite vocalists; when I saw her live for the first time, her energy was contagious. I think I caught some kind of music bug from her or something.
How does music affect you and the world around you?
Music strongly affects me; it is always there, through the good times and bad. It inspires me, it helps me reflect and be introspective, it helps me learn about myself and others, it helps me cope during difficult times…it is so many things to me. Both listening to and creating music affect me in many ways. Creating music and everything that comes along with it has taught me more about myself than almost anything has; it has taught me hard work and dedication, it has taught me creative, social, and business skills, it has taught me how to be myself and how to understand my past and my experiences…I could go on and on. I think music has a strong impact on the world around me as well; music shapes our experiences, and we remember our experiences often times through music. Music is the soundtrack to our lives, and often times it reflects what is going on around us, helps us understand and cope with real-life issues, and also teaches us about the past. I cannot imagine life without music!
Where do you usually gather songwriting inspiration? What was your songwriting process for Who Will Save You?
All of my songs are written from first-hand experience or emotion, so typically my songwriting inspiration happens in real-time, based on a feeling that I am having, or a memory that I recalled, for example. I have written songs while feeling desperately heartbroken, nostalgic, and many things in between, so usually some kind of emotion triggers the desire to write. I also tend to reflect a lot while driving, so sometimes I’ll emerge from a long drive, ready to sit down at my piano and write. I typically sit down to play at the piano if the mood strikes, and I play until I have a progression that I really love or that is super emotional or suitable for the moment. Vocally, I typically start with a melody, and then sculpt the lyrics around it. The chord progressions and vocal ideas are often recorded as a voice memo on my iPhone so that I won’t forget. From that point, I start to compose the skeleton of the song in Logic, starting with the chords and working my way through the song from there, until all recording and production is complete. I listen to each demo/version of the song in my car to critique the song and make mental notes of what I want to add, change, or remove. Until my brain is totally quiet about a song, I do not stop working on it, and that’s a hard line to draw sometimes. With Who Will Save You?, the writing/recording/production process took me about a year.
True or false: It is the duty of an artist to put her personal emotions into the music she plays.
While I do tend to mostly write about my personal emotions, I would say that it is not my or any artist’s duty to do so. Some writers tell stories of history, some writers talk about sci-fi, and some writers talk about the club scene…you name it, and it’s probably out there. I think it is often expected of female artists to write about personal emotions and topics like heartbreak and love. Bjork recently stated that it’s “as if our only lingo is emo.” The criticism of writing about subjects other than personal relationships is something Bjork has noted experiencing. I think the beauty of creating art and music is the freedom to express, so I do not think that an expectation should be placed on any artist, male or female, to write about personal emotions.
Name one person dead or alive who you’d love to cut a record with and why?
Imogen Heap; she is the ultimate, full-package artist. She is an amazing writer, composer, producer, engineer, tech genius, innovator, singer; you name it, she does it. If I were to shadow her for one session in the studio, the amount I could learn from her is something I can’t even quantify.
What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
If the artist is present and in the moment, that’s the best. I love it when the artist on stage is visibly and audibly connected with the music that they are performing. Good sound is a plus as well, of course. I am a big fan of lighting production as well; even simple, little things go a long way. I once saw the band Wet perform at Fitzgerald’s here in Houston, and they had these photography umbrellas with white lighting behind them. Their silhouettes were beautiful in front of the glowing light, and even though it was a fairly simple set-up, it totally took the experience up a notch. Plus, they sounded amazing and they were totally present with the audience. Unfortunately, I don’t have any lighting or visuals to go along with my performance yet, but that would be amazing to have. My approach is to have fun, stay connected to the music and the audience, and to dance as much as I can. I don’t think my feet ever stop moving on stage. I play a keytar, so luckily that gives me some freedom to dance and feel the music a little bit. I feel awkward when I’m totally still while singing, so I try to avoid that.
What embarrassing songs might I find on your MP3 player?
I am a proud Hanson fan to this day. Over the holidays I was listening to some throw-back songs from “Snowed In,” their Christmas album J This might embarrass some people, I suppose, but I’m not sure why. Hanson still releases and plays music, has an avid fan base, and is self-sustained from their music; that’s pretty impressive, to me!
What are your future plans? A tour hopefully!
I do hope to tour and play a lot of shows this year to support this release! My dream would be to play again in NYC; my band BLSHS played there in 2014 for CMJ, and it was an amazing experience! I also already have four to five demos pretty far along in production that I am working on for my next EP, so there should be new music coming sooner rather than later, after Who Will Save You? is released. My main goal is to keep creating and to keep pushing to improve my craft.
What’s your interpretation of a Raw Femme:
I love reading about creative, motivated, and empowering women and gaining inspiration from them. Seeing through other women’s eyes and reading about their experiences is so uniting and creates such a sense of community. Raw Femme’s online publication is an amazing outlet for this! Not only does Raw Femme inspire women through its editorial content, there are also events that help unite and support women from around the world. It is awesome to know how many women are out there working hard to let their voices be heard, and it is exciting to know that I am not alone in my journey as a woman in music. There are so many women out there who inspire me to continue pushing forward! Thank you for the community that you have created; I am so excited to have had the opportunity to interview with you, and I can’t wait to continue following Raw Femme on its journey!!