INTERVIEW: Michaela Bekenn

Hi Michaela, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi there, thank you! I have been navigating the changing waves of this uncertain time of the pandemic, along with the rest of the world. It’s helping me practice staying in the moment, cultivating gratitude, and not getting too far ahead of myself. Cancelled plans and postponed gigs seem to be the name of the game these days! It teaches us not to hold on too tightly to that future idea of ourselves. Although there have been challenges, this chapter has also offered me the space to be reflective, to slow down, and make music from a more intimate personal place.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “The Earth Has Music”?

This tune is from my forth-coming album. Recorded and produced in Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario, by Fred Gabrsek. After a few years of working and re-working the song I am excited to release it and let it find its home in the world. “The Earth Has Music” explores the changing of the seasons in nature and in life, and what it feels like to dance on the edge of  uncertainty and change.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

The song was born days after my father fell from a roof, nearly injuring his spine. This event woke me up to the impermanence and preciousness of life. It taught me that the unpredictable and uncomfortable moments often lead to the deepest discoveries. One of the many discoveries that emerged: the unknown is always around the corner. We can’t hide from it, so we might as well learn how to lean in. During and after my father’s recovery we shared walks through old growth trees surrounded by the songs of birds, wind, and water. Every moment felt like a gift. We learned how to listen, not only with our ears but our entire awareness. With every cycle, mother nature teaches about going with the flow. Within every “ending” there is a new blossoming of life.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

The music video was filmed at Decew Falls, a conservation area along the Niagara Escarpment, as well as a local beach near my family home in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Both areas are situated on the traditional territory of Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples, many of whom continue to live and work there today. The landscape was an inspiration for the project. Although I had a vision for the piece, the filming process was informed by intuition, alongside videographer Stacey Koudys. The video features a communion with nature through dance on land, sand, and in water. Along with many forest frolics and playful barefoot moments! All of which were spontaneously choreographed and improvised. I enjoyed drawing on my early background in ballet and contemporary dance to bring the visual representation of this song to life. Working with Stacey was a joy. She had an natural sense of what the video called for, capturing the golden sunset, dusky moonlight, and focusing on the raw poetic details of nature.

How was the recording and writing process?

The songwriting process began with the opening guitar progression and first verse, which came pouring out one night, completely unfiltered. The tune stuck in my mind for weeks, so I made a concerted effort to build on the foundation. I shared it with a fellow songwriter whose perspective on song structure helped guide me to keep writing and bring it to “completion.” I say that in quotations because from my experience, a song is never finished. There are just many stages in the journey. The recording process reaffirmed this. The song shape-shifted when new musical layers were added. I was fortunate to work with producer Fred Gabrsek, who produces from both an intuitive and technical framework, drawing on his expertise as a musician, sound designer, audio technician, and luthier. I collaborated with a team of seasoned musicians who each added their own unique layer. The recording experience was like one long jam session, a co-creation. I learned so much through that process.

What role does Toronto play in your music?

Toronto has always represented opportunity, creativity, and community for me. I was born in the east end of the city but grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake, within the Shaw Festival theatre. My parents are both actors there, and I also spent two seasons with the festival as an actor at a young age. The theatre is the heartbeat of the town, which provided a creative and whimsical backdrop for childhood. I wrote many a song while strolling along the lakefront and through the local streets. I returned to the city as a teen to study English, music and drama at the University of Toronto, and have continued to call Toronto home. My current work guides me to all corners of the city. In one day I might lead a music program at a daycare, a meditation session in a corporate office, and a storytelling program for seniors. I learn from everyone I have the opportunity to work with. With such a diverse array of people surrounding me, my encounters and reflections often turn into songs. I am grateful for the abundant arts scene here. Attending live theatre, dance, and music events are my medicine, and give me fuel to keep making art. Even during the pandemic, the city remains a vibrant place, behind temporarily closed doors.

Does the new single mean we can expect a new material – how’s that coming along?

Yes! The album is a culmination of over four years of material and production. The album is in its final stages, and I am super excited to finally let it fly the nest!

Any tentative release date or title in mind?

I am working toward a release date in early 2021. The album title will encompass the fact that these songs simultaneously reflect the past and present within my journey as a songwriter and a person.

What else is happening next in Michaela Bekenn’ world?

My world is about juggling a myriad of different gigs, while serving a variety of communities. I am a yoga and meditation teacher, youth arts facilitator, and certified sound therapy practitioner. The next path will likely be working toward my Master’s in Music Therapy, while recording an album of original meditation music on my crystal singing bowls.

Stream/listen to ‘The Earth Has Music’ now:

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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