Mieke Miami is a Berlin-based singer/songwriter who has just released her excellent debut album In The Old Forest on Sonar Kollectiv. We expect Mieke to have a very bright future indeed. Here she speaks about her influences and inspirations, creative approach and her time in Ireland.
How does it feel to have your debut album out?
It feels really nice. I have been working on this for over three years and during the process I sometimes thought that maybe no one will ever hear this. So I am very glad I found a good record label (Sonar Kollektiv) that gives me the opportunity to spread my music. I also really like the artwork of the cover and booklet.
Mieke at work in the makeshift studio in Bantry
I actually wrote half the album in Ireland while staying in Bantry which inspired me a lot. A friend of ours, who is a musician as well, owns a little house at the bay. Right at the ocean in the middle of nowhere: no phone, no internet, no TV. An old radio was the only connection to the outside world. That’s what the song “Radioman” is about. I even sampled the broadcast of the program we used to listen to – you can hear it when you listen closely at the beginning and middle of the song. There is also a song called Bantry Bay on the album. I’ve been there twice now and I’m planning to go there again and again because the nature is breath-taking and I also think there is some magic energy going on there.
What was the first piece of music you loved?
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band “by The Beatles. My parents had the Sgt. Pepper record in their collection. When I was five or six it attracted me because of the colourful cover. Until then I had mostly listened to some classical music and children’s songs. So when my mom put the record on it blew me away! The sound somehow went right inside me and made every part of my body want to move. I´ll never forget that feeling and still get overly enthusiastic when I hear The Beatles.
What is your favourite song you´ve written?
I´m probably just writing my favourite song. It is for my son who was born in October last year. It´s not finished yet, but I know it’s gonna be good good good!
What artists has been your biggest influence and in what way?
As you will suspect from my previous answer The Beatles because they were my first musical love. In my childhood I used to dream that one day I would meet them by coincidence at an airport or so and they would ask me to be the fifth Beatle (because they needed a recorder in their band). That was before I learned they had split up in 1970 and John was dead….
Later I picked up the saxophone and got into jazz. I even studied jazz saxophone in Berlin and became a professional sax player. So musicians as Lester Young, Duke Ellington and Wayne Shorter, to name just a few, are a huge influence both in terms of being true to oneself and in the general field of coolness.
I also like J Dilla because his beats are the smoothest. And D´Angelo and everyone involved in “Voodoo“ -it´s a masterpiece of groove and taste. “For Emma“ by Bon Iver is a great and inspiring record (check out the video on the playlist, singing a cappella in a hallway in Paris) so is “Black Orpheus“ by Keziah Jones. I also like the warmth of Jan Jelinek’s electronic music.
I could go on forever, the list of artists I adore is endless. Let´s say everything I listen to, read, see and love becomes part of me and thus my music.
How important are your videos in relation to your music? Do you enjoy making them?
I enjoy making them a lot! I am a very visual person. My father is a dedicated amateur photographer and filmmaker, so I grew up looking at pictures and family movies all the time. Luckily my friend and bass player in my band, Steve Pfaff, has the equipment and knowhow to film and cut videos, so we make them together (except for “shine “that I made on my own with iMovie). There are two videos out yet, but there are lots more to come.
How do you know a song you´ve working on is complete?
My belly tells me.
Do you usually start with the music or the words?
Most of the time I start with two or three chords on the piano I get obsessed with. I play them over and over, and then a word pops up in my head that sets the theme or the mood for the song. From that moment on a dynamic between words and music develops and a song grows.
Do your songs change much when payed in front of an audience?
When I play in front of an audience I am extremely sensitive to the vibe I get from the people. When I feel the energy of people listening it makes me play better and more intense.
Also in my live band we are five people: drums/edrums, bass, guitar, synths/clarinet and me on epiano, saxophone and vocals of course. This gives us the freedom to do all kinds of stuff with the material- extend a song, play it with more punch than on the album or softer, depending on how the live situation feels like.
What song by another artist you wish you had written and why?
None. That would be like “who´s child by another parent you wish you had born? “ No can do.
What Band or artist would you like to play live with?
I want to be the terrible roaring rock saxophone for Rod Stewart.
Name a song that makes you happy.
“Ain´t No Mountain High Enough “performed by Marvin Gaye and Tammie Terell because it´s the friendship-song of my friend Johanna and me.
What is the best new band you´ve heard recently?
Onom Agemo & the Disco Jumpers.
What question would you like to be asked that you never are (and what would be the answer)?
What colour is the number four? The answer is dark red. I´m a synesthetic.
What’s next for you and the band?
We´re having a record release concert on May 5th at Bar Tausend in Berlin. Hopefully we´ll be playing some gigs during the summer and a little tour in autumn. Still looking for a booking agency though…meanwhile I´ve already started working on new compositions.