Mieka Pauley is a wonderful independent artist emerging out of Boston. Her first full-length release, Elijah Drop Your Gun, came out recently after a couple of previous EPs. Mieka’s soulful voice, interesting lyrics and unique melodies grab pretty much everyone who listens. She’s the epitome of a DIY artist breaking through in the wide world of music because her talent raises her above the fray.
You are an artist that has some serious cross-generation appeal. From frat boys to baby dykes to soccer moms, everyone I’ve played you for digs you. Do you also find that to be true?
Oh definitely, there’s always variety at my shows. It depends on the venue as well. I love that songs can reach all sorts of people
What do you think the allure is?
I have no idea! I wonder if it’s because I keep my songs vague enough that anyone can write themselves into them (as long as they’re not constant sunshine-y, well-adjusted sorts…).
I was going to credit your sexy, soulful voice and the philosophy that people either want to be you or “know” you.
Oh, totally. I wear jeans on stage, and then, all of a sudden, everyone’s wearing jeans. It’s crazy.
See? I knew it. Being an indie artist, how do you reach and widen your audience of jeans wearers?
On-line stuff is ridiculously essential. Facebook and iLike have been key in a viral sort of way. And it really does translate into more people at shows, which is the whole point for me. And then having the support of some cool radio stations (like WERS in Boston) has really helped. And WNKU in Cincinnati! Don’t wanna forget them.
It takes a lot of stamina and faith to try to make a go of it. Actually, one of my favorite tunes of yours is “Faster” because of its exploration of the various phases of faith. Can you tell us a little about what into that one? Or how faith as a theme informs your art in a broader way?
In general, I don’t like to talk about specific songs, for the very reason that I depend on folks writing themselves into the songs. (In other words, a description unique to me would exclude the people I’m trying to reach.) However, more generally, I’m intrigued (maybe obsessed) with things spiritual, and this really creeps into a lot of my songs. I was raised Catholic (although I wouldn’t call myself Catholic now) and so a lot of my spiritual obsession and fears end up being represented by Catholic imagery and metaphors (angels, devils, heaven, sin etc).
So let’s talk in generalities… when I first played your stuff for musician/producer friend of mine he was blown away by some of your melodic progressions. Who or what are your influences?
I studied a lot of classical music when I was little (piano and choral) and then I also bought myself a fake book in high school. There are so many more interesting melodies and chord progressions than are represented in pop music. I don’t claim to even use a significant percentage of them, but I do sometimes intentionally try to integrate that stuff, because it can be really beautiful, and keeps things interesting. And a lot of it maybe is subconscious, simply because I started studying it so young.
You also definitely throw down some amazing turns of phrases, playing with meanings and twisting words around. I love a girl who makes me work for it and think about it. Does that talent come naturally to you?
No!! I never was a writer, and it wasn’t until recently (last couple years) that I realized that the lyrics were what I valued most in my songs. BUT I’ve always been an avid reader, both of novels and poetry — I can’t get enough of good writing, people who know how to use the language in an artistic way. I set myself pretty high standards, and maybe that’s why I’m not as prolific as I would like to be.
Great writing, poetry is sorely lacking in music today. Thank you for your high bar. Speaking of music today… which peer/current artists do you listen to and draw from because you certainly have a forward-leaning edge, especially on the new release?
Noam Weinstein is a brilliant lyricist, with brilliant concepts for songs. Harriet Street (the lead singer produced the album you’re referring to) has amazing dynamics and orchestration in their songs, and a direct link with that part of you that makes you “feel” music. And current artists who are not my friends but that I really get into and hope to subconsciously draw from are Mia, Radiohead, RJD2… they sound nothing like me, but there’s an art to what they do that I would love to absorb.