Today we have the Spotlight – Michaela Slinger. Hailing from BC this young artist is making a name for herself. We sit down with Michaela to talk about her music and her debut album Panorama which is out now. Check out more of our conversation below.
You started in music quite young, what drew you to music and what are some of your first memories of music?
I’ve loved music and singing for as long as my memory goes. It feels like it’s always been a part of me! My parents were swim coaches before they had me, and my mom says that while she was pregnant, I would start dancing and moving any time there was loud music playing on the pool deck during practice. Obviously, I don’t remember that, but I have so many fond memories of music early in my life. I loved singing Christmas carols with my big family, gathered around the piano at my great aunt and uncle’s. I took to performing and musical theatre early on and revelled in every part of the process.
You yourself are still quite young, what drives you to keep going?
I guess just that — the fact that I (hopefully) have a lot of life left, and many more experiences to turn into music. I’m actually about to turn 25 and feel like that’s a scarily high number, but it’s all relative.
Who are 3 artists that influenced you growing up, and who are some artists folks would be surprised you are a fan of?
I listened to Taylor Swift and John Mayer endlessly in middle and high school. My parents played a lot of 80s music, too—we’d listen to Prince and AHA in the car. They were also hardcore U2 and Coldplay fans.
I don’t know if any artists I love are surprising to people. I like listening to different genres of music depending on the activity I’m doing, or the feeling I’m looking to tap into. Lately, I’ve been listening to HAIM and Arlo Parks on repeat. I’m back on my Taylor game with her re-release of Fearless, and I still listen to John Mayer once a week. But I also love finding new and exciting artists that inspire me. There’s an R&B Canadian artist named Loony who I’m into right now.
You are based out of Vancouver, BC currently. What do you think it is about the city that has helped to shape your sound?
I think growing up in this area my entire life has shaped me in ways I’m probably not conscious of when it comes to music, but there’s a grandiose quality to Vancouver’s natural beauty that I think is embedded in my songs. It’s that, but also mixed with reflection, questioning and uncertainty in my lyrics—this can be a lonely and competitive city, too. Maybe even more than my sound, though, Vancouver has shaped the way that I get inspiration to write. Getting outside to the ocean or the mountains always resets me.
You first struck it out in the scene with your single “Flux”. Looking back now with how much you have grown and learned, is there anything you would do differently?
I think it’s important to honour the learning process and not dwell too much on things you could’ve done before you knew better. Honestly, I feel like I’ve been lucky with the people that I’ve met and the support I’ve received early on. I think I’d just try to perform even more and jam with more bands. I got to play my songs with a band for the first time and it was the most exhilarating thing ever—little did I know I’d have to ride that high through a seemingly never-ending pandemic.
Luckily though Flux garnered the attention of Louise Burns and you were able to really get things going. Tell us a bit more about your relationship.
Louise and I met at a music conference a year before I released Flux publicly, and at the very beginning of me deciding to pursue music. She became a formative mentor for me and was so generous with her time and talent. I started going over to her place for my first-ever cowriting sessions, and she’d make me lunch and tell me great industry stories and then help me become a better writer. Louise also encouraged me to get a MIDI keyboard and experiment with writing on Garage band. She’s always believed in me enough to push me, and she was a producer on Panorama, my debut album.
Your video for “too good to be great” is such a mood. You look somehow unhinged, yet also prim and proper. What was it like shooting it and how did you come up with the concept?
I love the description of “unhinged, yet prim and proper.” I think you nailed it. I’d shared an early idea with my director Miranda MacDougall that played around with decades and characters a bit—I hadn’t explored the more performative, musical theatre side of myself yet in a video. As usual, she took my initial thoughts and transformed them into something amazing and cohesive. The concept works in tandem with the song: both are about realizing that the life you’re living is prioritizing what you “should” do over what you really want. Because of COVID, it was a very small shoot at 604 Studios in Vancouver. I’m lucky that I get to work with my closest friends, so it was also incredibly fun, and they had me shoot the cigar-smoking, whiskey and wine-drinking scenes all by 11am. It was the closest to a party I’ve come in a year.
Your upcoming album is 18 tracks. I do not think I have ever seen an album with 18 tracks let alone a debut. It is ambitious but also leads the listener on a journey. Tell us a bit about the concept you were going for? How did you convince people to go for it?
I guess it’s in the name: Panorama is catching people up on the first 24 years of my life and trying to fit all those messy experiences into some kind of organized chaos. The album is 12 songs and 6 spoken tracks featuring my grandparents, which I recorded on speaker phone early on in COVID-19. The chorus lyrics in Panorama do the best job at explaining the thesis of this album: You can try if you want, capture it in a frame / But you know looking back that it’s never the same. In trying to capture all that I’ve felt and observed so far in my life, I’m realizing that documentation is always incomplete, and life keeps going while you’re trying to catch up.
My label was very supportive about me doing a full album, even though we’d initially thought I’d do an EP. I write all the time and had so many songs to share, and this feels like an exciting and accurate introduction of myself.
Preparing for the album, you have been teasing on social media what each track means to you in a quick sentence or so. Why tell listeners what to expect rather than have them experience for themselves?
Like you said, those short blurbs have captured what each song means to me, or what I was thinking about at the time that I wrote them. I think there’s tons of room for interpretation. I also find that I often appreciate a song more when I’ve learned about the creation process. I’m a sucker for songwriting and production podcasts and videos.
Something that I love about you (other than your music) is that you are very “you” on twitter. I love it. Some artists tend to be overly curated that you don’t get a feel for them as a person.
I really loved playing comedic musical theatre roles growing up. Life just doesn’t need to be too serious or self-indulgent all the time. Also, I am the least likely person to have a super curated aesthetic. I admire people who do, but in any given day I feel like 5 different versions of myself. I think my social media reflects that.
While live shows have not really been a thing this last year, you were at least able to salvage that time to work on the album. I’m wondering though what your opinion is on internet shows, and how have they been for you?
I did a weekly Instagram Live series called Gone Viral last year early in the pandemic. It was a really nice way to connect with people as we navigated the uncertainty and scariness of COVID and stayed in lockdown here. Once summer came and we were able to see people outside, though, I felt like people (and myself) didn’t need another screen commitment, so I ended it. In general, I think everyone around me is generally exhausted by the past year and overwhelmed by the incessant presence of screens. I’ve been pivoting more to recording acoustic and behind the scenes videos to share out with people, rather than hosting a live virtual show. It gives people the opportunity to watch and listen on their own terms.
Talking about cancelled shows and trying to plan in the unknown
I miss performing a whole lot. Playing live is a big part of who I am as an artist, and I’m really at my best in person with people. Last summer, I did a very small acoustic tour to some outdoor locations here in BC. I’m hoping that I can plan some more safe shows like that this summer, and then I have my fingers crossed for concerts as we knew them starting up again as the vaccine is fully rolled out.
We’ve covered a lot about you today and your music, but I’m curious, what is one thing you wish that people knew about you that you don’t get to talk about during these interviews?
I really considered myself a generalist, or someone who’s interested in a lot of things. I was a competitive swimmer and soccer player growing up—sports and arts held equal weight in my life. Moving and being active are essential for me to feel my best. I also love learning and reading and graduated university thinking I’d work in the non-profit or education sector, and I still have part-time work in those sectors for now as I build my music career.
What are some things that make you happy and have helped you stay strong during Covid? Don’t cheat and say music haha!
Walks and phone calls with friends and family. Cooking food from scratch with my partner, falling back into love with fiction novels, my bike, the ocean and forest and mountains that I can escape to, planting herbs and veggies for the first time, getting to know my neighbours, cherry blossom trees in bloom—there are many!
Lastly as our favorite independent and smaller businesses have been hit hard this Covid season. What are some of your local favorite places to hype up and give a shout out to?
Vancouver is full of so many incredible small businesses. Shoutout to Pulp Fiction Books. Hunter and Hare and Community Thrift and Vintage for the few COVID thrift hauls I’ve done. Toshi Sushi and Hime Sushi for fuelling my takeout cravings. The Federal Store and Kafka’s for coffee and breakfast, Le Fabrique St. George for delicious natural wine, and all the breweries I love like Main St., Brassneck, and Electric Bicycle!
Today’s Spotlight – Michaela Slinger has come to an end. I want to take the time to say thank you to Michaela for spending some time chatting with us
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