Michelle Miears, known simply as MIEARS, caught our attention earlier this year with her outstanding EP, Who Will Save You? and the Houston-based electro-pop artist is doing something a little different than your typical synth-based music. She is continually stretching to expand her knowledge and make music that emphasizes her wonderfully ethereal vocals and using a computer to do it. Of course, we had questions and she was gracious enough to answer them for us!
So I would like to introduce you to MIEARS!
Aaron Mannari: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us! First off, tell us a little bit about yourself and background.
Michelle Miears: I am super excited to do this interview with you! Thank you for your time as well. My name is Michelle Miears and my solo project is called MIEARS. I am also in a band called BLSHS. I am based in Houston, TX and I have been playing instruments, performing and playing music in various capacities since I was 10 years old.
I taught myself to play piano by ear around the age of 10. My second instrument was flute, which I played from 6th-12th grade, and I still play a bit and use flute in my production from time to time. I played snare on the drumline during marching season my sophomore and junior year of high school. I have been singing for fun since I was 10, but did not publicly perform until my recent past due to performance anxiety.
The first project that I was a part of, a band that my brother was also involved in called ZolotiNatioN, provided me with my first experiences as a vocalist/performer. My brother produced a track that became my first songwriting effort, and my first experience using a DAW (a free version of StudioOne at the time) and with self-recording my vocals.
Around the time I joined BLSHS, I purchased LogicPro 9 so that I could grow my skill set and contribute to the project effectively. I eventually upgraded to LogicPro X and I have added to my collection of synths and gear steadily. My next wish list item is a Roland JP08, which I want to use on my next EP. I love writing and producing emotional, synth-driven music. In my spare time, I love spending time with my family and volunteering at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter walking dogs.
AM: Oh man, I could absolutely see you walking a pack of dogs down the street too! What prompted you to start your side project, MIEARS?
MM: I think I started MIEARS without even realizing what it was yet. My band, BLSHS, was working on our second release and things were moving a bit slower than anticipated. With three different personalities and lives involved, we were doing our best to make our schedules work and to finish the release as soon as possible. We experienced a lot of delays and there were times filled with dead space and waiting for schedules to align.
During those periods of dead space, I would work at home in LogicPro X writing, composing new demos and fleshing out songs. I had a lot of pent up musical energy that I needed to place somewhere. I wasn’t sure if these songs that I ended up creating would be allocated to BLSHS for future releases or if they were just for my own personal learning and enjoyment. The more I worked on these demos, the more I realized that they all worked together and they really reflected me personally.
I was accustomed to working in a collaborative environment, so it was exciting to discover that I could create a body of work from my own home. Since BLSHS’s EP was still being mixed at the time, I showed my bandmates some of my songs and received positive feedback from them which gave me some confidence. I talked to them about possibly releasing these songs under my own name and they were super supportive.
I really just craved the ability to create and release music under any circumstance. Being able to create music on my own allowed me this type of independence and freedom. I posted a few social media posts hinting at a project to hold myself accountable and to ensure that I would finish what I had started and then I just took it one step at a time from there.
AM: When most people talk about a solo project, they still have some help. You did it all! What sort of mental freedom does it give you when you are able to control almost every aspect of the creative design?
MM: It is extremely liberating to have total control of the creative design of a project! You can work on your music any time, day or night, and even in your pajamas, from the comfort of your home. You can be as productive as your mind allows and you can also take your music in any direction that you want.
There are some downsides, though. If you are having writer’s block or if you are doubting yourself in any way, there is nobody to push you along or reassure you. You own the outcome of your work, good or bad. Being in a collaborative environment has many positives, as you all fuel each other’s creativity and you can all bring your strengths to the table to contribute to the greater good of the project. As a solo artist, you have to work really hard to be strong in as many areas as possible. I am thankful that I can experience both collaborative and solo creation, because it gives me the best of both worlds. BLSHS is one outlet for me and MIEARS is another.
AM: I can absolutely see the benefits of both worlds. So what or who inspired Who Will Save You?
MM: Who Will Save You? was inspired by my real-life experiences in relationships. Each song does have a particular person or experience tied to it. I have noticed a pattern of slipping into a caretaking role in my relationships, where I am co-dependent on someone needing me. I have experienced relationships where my partners have had depression, have been through traumatic life experiences, have had major illnesses, etc.
I have struggled with measuring my self-worth based on my partner’s own level of happiness or my ability to take their pain onto my shoulders. This can become an unhealthy dynamic. My journey to understand my own patterns and behaviors in these co-dependent relationships helped form this EP, as it is all based on my nostalgia, my questions and my realizations from these experiences.
AM: The down-tempo electro-pop sounds you’ve created is something that is becoming a little more common, but is still on the fringes of pop music. What made you decide to head down that particular path?
MM: When I first wrote “Directional”, which was the first song that I fully completed on the EP, I was just working with sounds that spoke to me emotionally. I was really focused on finding the emotion within the song and just letting it lead me down a natural path to completion. I bought a MicroKORG around this time and filled out the low end of the song with it, which I think heavily contributed to the sound on the entire EP. I used the MicroKORG for most bass parts on the EP and a lot of the synth work. Thinking back on that particular time period, I was listening to a lot of Basecamp and Wet at the time, so perhaps I was in some kind of down-tempo zone without realizing it.
AM: Even though we do call your music electro-pop your music has an organic feel to it with a lot more focus on your vocals. Tell us a little bit about how that came about.
MM: I think this dynamic may have been a product of my overall knowledge within Logic and the tools that were available to me at the time that this EP was created. I had a bit more experience with self-recording, layering and arranging vocals than I had with instrumental production at that time, but I focused on bringing myself up to speed in all areas. I also only had a few instruments and software synths to work with on the instrumental side, so I wanted to fill the sound out with the instrument that I know best, my voice.
I felt very natural using my voice as an instrument and as a tool to fill out my songs. I love to experiment with harmonies, oohs and aahs and vocal accents. It is an easy instrument to audition while driving around in my car. I might have basic instrumental demo that I am listening to while driving and I can sing and play with my voice auditioning parts and deliveries in real-time. I can get a great feel for where the song should go through this process.
I have, at times, had a song 99% complete, but I am searching for something to really top everything off and round it out. Usually, the missing link is a vocal part. I can hear these parts in my head and then I really love getting into Logic and chopping things up, playing with different reverbs and delays and making it come to life.
AM: We’ve tweeted back and forth a bit recently about you coming out to the Seattle area. But we still want to know when you are going to be touring the west coast?
MM: I really hope to make my way out west soon! If I can find a few locations to hit along the way, Seattle would absolutely be at the top of my list. I have always wanted to visit Seattle! I’ll do some research and really look into this; you will be the first to know when I make this happen!
AM: We love Seattle! It is home for us and I think you’d really like it here. And we can’t wait to see your shows live. Thank you again chatting with us!
MM: Thank YOU! My pleasure!!
You can pick up Who Will Save You? by MIEARS on iTunes right now and check out the video for “Directional” below.