“Just sing into the mic,” he grimaced, in a raised and frustrated tone. In this moment my body would only produce tears instead of the sound that I knew it was capable of producing from my vocal cords. My voice turned into the resemblance of an uncertain choir kid, whose shaky falsetto was barely audible during the dreaded solo. I knew that I could sing, and I knew that I loved to sing, so why could I only convey my passion in the safety of my car or bedroom? I had been singing, writing songs, and teaching myself to play piano since I was 10, and my severe stage fright had held me back from publicly creating or performing music for many years by this time. I had finally decided to brave my biggest fear by joining a band which consisted of two guys who wanted to play loud pop-punk in a tiny 10×10 space with no vocal monitors. My uncertainty was reassured in this coffin of a room, when the drums and guitar completely drowned out my attempts to resonate through the muddy noise. Flashback to one week before this moment, when said “band mates” called to give me the great news: they were giving me an opportunity to be their lead singer. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “this is really it…my one golden opportunity!” Spoiler alert: my first rehearsal resulted in my ultimate dismissal. “We just don’t feel like you’re progressing fast enough for us,” was my reason for termination.
Luckily, I learned that there is no single “golden opportunity” that exists: you just start carving a little path and creating little opportunities for yourself as you go. My next opportunity would be one of my most fond and memorable: I was a hype-man/backup singer for a group called ZolotiNatioN, which was founded by my brother and a few friends. My brother asked if I could sing some oohs and aahs and hype up the lead artist, while we were backed by a laser-light show and wore paint on our faces. YouTube it: it’s all there and documented. My brother’s encouragement and my experience with ZolotiNatioN eased me into performance: I slowly came out of my shell while hidden behind the lead singer, behind the face paint, and behind the flashing lights. Eventually, this particular band decided to perform DJ sets and nix the live-aspect altogether. Again, I thought my dreams were crushed.
Instead of giving up, I started taking vocal and piano lessons in Houston to hopefully network with some local artists and find my next path. It was through my piano teacher that I expressed my dreams of being like Imogen Heap: a composer, producer, songwriter, engineer, singer, and my overall biggest influence. My piano teacher networked me with two local producers who were interested in working with a female vocalist to make electronic music. He felt it would be a perfect match. I met the guys at a local bar and we talked about our goals and our influences, and we decided to form a band. This band would eventually be called BLSHS and we would go on to produce and release two EPs and a handful of singles and covers. BLSHS is still a band, but our activity declined over the last 2 years due to life-circumstances. I’ve been told that being in a band is like being in a marriage with multiple people: I believe it. We all sink or we all swim, and life gets in the way sometimes. It was during a period of sinking that I decided I loved music too much to sit idle.
Over the last year and a half, I have spent my time under a rock and on a massive learning curve. Although I always wrote and self-recorded my vocals in Logic Pro for BLSHS, my role in the instrumental production was minimal, though it did grow with time. I produced a handful of La Roux covers for a benefit show that we played in early 2014, which was the gateway to my eventual passion. By our second EP, I was sending produced tracks with vocals from Logic to my band mates, which would then get dumped into Ableton and expanded upon. My skill-set in Logic was a meat-and-potatoes starter pack for full-cycle writing, composition, recording, and production. I started composing and producing a few songs in Logic which were intended to be shared with my BLSHS band mates, but since we were in a lull at the time, I quietly worked on them and decided I would take this time to learn and satisfy my craving to create music. The autonomy of this process was something that I had never experienced before: I was able to make all of the creative decisions and venture down any road that I wanted to with my music. This independence satisfied my desire to create music while I awaited BLSHS’ next move. Months passed by and I had eventually created enough songs to make an EP, so I decided that I would release these tracks as a solo artist. Luckily, my band mates were extremely supportive of me in this decision.
What I have learned over the last year is that creating an EP by yourself is extremely liberating, but it is also terrifying at the same time. There is no one to bounce ideas off of, no one to turn to for advice, and no one to give you validation that your work isn’t total garbage. Yes, I can show my mom my songs and she will always love them, but the collaborative environment is totally gone when you decide to work as a solo artist. The credit is all yours (unless someone wrongfully assumes that a male counterpart helped you create the music, which has happened), for better or for worse. If people dislike your music, there is no co-creative shoulder to cry on and no one to commiserate with. This is one of the scariest feelings that I have faced so far as a solo artist/producer. I know that my work will be critiqued as a self-produced and recorded artist, and especially as a female self-produced and recorded artist. I don’t have a ton of analog synths, I don’t have the best VST plugins out there, and my gear is limited. I worked with what I had at the time that this EP as made: a very small tool-kit and a basic skill set that I stretched and utilized as best as I could during that time period. There were times when I thought to myself: “maybe I should wait until I’m better at this before I release something”. If we all had that mentality, no music would ever be released. I will never be at my pinnacle and I will only be able to improve each day. Hopefully my next EP will showcase how I’ve grown and what I’ve learned since “Who Will Save You?” was created and completed. I definitely do not plan on giving up, as I love creating music too much to do so. Composing, writing, and producing music is a skill set that can only be expanded upon and something that I hope to enjoy into the golden years: now that is truly a golden opportunity.
MIEARS debut EP, Who Will Save You?, will be out February 2 on Loose Narrative. You can listen to her debut single, “Reaching,” here.