Five Questions With… Misha Bower

Misha Bower is a co-founder of Toronto-based band Bruce Peninsula and a vocalist with The Weather Station, Daniel Romano, City and Colour, Timber Timbre, and Snowblink. She has now emerged as a singer-songwriter with her debut album, Trying To Have It All, available now on all platforms.

It follows the themes in her 2012 short story collection entitled Music For Uninvited Guests by telling new stories in song, each track delineating a character in a crucial moment of disclosure. Defiant, playful, reflective, radically honest—each character is accompanied by an arrangement that opens up like a secret inner door. With a full band, soaring strings, intimate guitar and piano, and impassioned vocals, Trying To Have It All is a journey through different takes on the art of coping.

Produced by Bower and her long-time friend Will Kidman (The Constantines), Trying To Have It All features a cast of acclaimed artists including Kidman on electric guitar and piano), drummer Nathan Lawr, bassist Dallas Wehrle, backing vocalist Lisa Conway, and Mika Posen on strings.

Bower also recently unveiled a new video for the album’s title track created by filmmaker Travis Welowszky; set against the backdrop of a nighttime carnival, the environment provides the perfect setting for a song whose character has a constant eye out for possibilities on the horizon. Trying To Have It All can be purchased through mishabower.com

 

What makes Trying To Have It All different from your past work?

Most of my past musical work has been with Bruce Peninsula, whose songs are like multi-course meals of sound. There are tracks upon tracks of guitars, percussion, synths, vocals—I wouldn’t be surprised if the time we spent tracking minilogue [synthesizer] for our upcoming record exceeds the time it took me to record my entire album. Trying To Have It All is sparer, more vocally and lyrically driven, and less experimental in that the arrangements and production were built up through a process of deliberate layering rather than sculpted from a process of exploratory demo-ing. The Bruce inclination is still in there—especially in the layering of harmony—but there’s a “less is more” feel to this record that noticeably sets it apart from past work. If Bruce is like a big meal, Trying To Have It All might be like a digestif. A small-but-lingering sip.

What songs on the record are you most proud of and why?

That’s an interesting question because I’ve felt differently about the songs at different times—both doubt and pride about all of them throughout the process of making the record. I’m proud of Bad Old Days because it’s a weird, theatrical little tune that took a lot of characterization and vulnerability in studio to get right, and I like the story that emerged from it. I also have a soft spot for Hostage Taker. It’s a darker, moodier tune that, for me, feels like a successful instance of “making the kind of music you enjoy listening to.” Those are two songs that come to mind—but if any of my other songs ask, I’m proud of all of them equally, okay?

How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?

My artistic evolution has involved developing as a musician and a writer, very much through a process of collaboration. I’ve often been in a supportive role as a vocal guest, and with Bruce, both the creative vision and its realization have always been shared. Although writing is relatively solo, I view it as an ongoing collaboration with my friend and editor, Jacob Sheen, whose feedback continues to teach me so much about the art of storytelling. I guess “relational” is a word that characterizes my artistic evolution, in that art in my life is so often an extension of friendship. Art feels like a setting in which many of my social connections originate, develop, and deepen. 

What's been the biggest change in your life over the past year?

I’d have to say…drum roll please…moving in with the special person in my life! After years of living solo, and really valuing that solitude—and, if I recall correctly, casually telling my partner on our first date that the closest I’d ever get to cohabitation was “two tiny houses on a huge plot of land”—it’s been a big change, but a welcome and wonderful one. I take back all my jokes about “submitting a single forever bill to the house of Misha.”

What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?

This question loosens some great music memories I haven’t called to mind in a while. I remember singing Tears For Fears with my brother, Saul, taking turns standing on my bed like it was a stage and doing what we both imagined was the definitive impersonation of Shout. I remember putting together living room concerts with my cousin, Carley, when visiting my stepdad’s family in Brantford for Christmas, dressing up and singing Black Velvet by Alannah Myles, Hold On by Wilson Phillips... If there’s some cosmic spreadsheet that’s tallying time spent on various activities, I’d love to know how many hours I spent listening to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston alone in my room, the same tapes over and over again… To this day, I’m pretty sure I’ve got whole sets of neurons that fire exclusively to the tune of Vision Of Love!

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