To Songs That Sent Us...
Misty Lyn Bergeron sings about a flower, a flower singing a song. “It takes you back a million times, sliding down that dirt till your skin bleeds, across the backdrop of your mind…”
Her lyrics are rapt with vivid sensory sweeps that make you feel the air, be it the warmth of summer’s lull or the compromising chill of oncoming autumn. Her soothing voice, (never wispy, never imposing,) and nostalgic narratives transport you to dreary playgrounds of the past, overcast by a storming mind’s melancholic reflection – she explores nature, she explores time, she explores death – but she is full of life. Her sound, forged by the adroit quartet The Big Beautiful, swells with warm, transfixing tones, sunny swinging guitar hooks over toe-tapping tambourines, and seesawing neo-country inflections wobbled over burning guitar sunrays ready to blaze out from a traditional folk sounding base out into a disarmingly explosive rock girth. It’s much more gothic singer/songwriter than folk or alt/country.
Misty Lyn grew up singing choir in a small Michigan town, maturing in the musical midst of the early 90’s; later on, while studying Kinesiology (“if that tells you how far away from the arts my college experience was!”) at Michigan State University, she found Whiskeytown, Son Volt and Wilco, galvanizing her inspiration to write songs. After graduation she got a guitar, experimented with writing and a few years later started performing. The origins of the Big Beautiful start, first as a duo between Misty Lyn and Ann Arbor multi-instrumentalist/multi-band-contributor Matt Jones. The pair met soon after another A2 folk fixture, Chris Bathgate, “practically shoved me on stage at an Ark open mic nite. [Jones] introduced me to so many songwriters and bands that have been a huge influence on my sound....Elliott Smith, The Decemberists, Nina Nastasia, Gillian Welch.”
Deciding she wanted a full band, she asked her friend Jim Roll (fellow full-plate player and producer) to play bass with Jones taking drums. This trio-portion has been playing together for about 5 years. Carol Gray, on fiddle/tambourine joined 2 ½ years ago, while guitarist/pedal-steel picker Ryan Gimpert’s been playing with them for 2 years.
Her debut LP, “For The Dead,” gets properly released Saturday at the Magic Stick. “It was a trial,” says Misty Lyn, simply, of the unintentionally drawn out, stop-n-start recording process. “It took 3 years. After 2 of them I scrapped almost everything and started over with [Roll]. I learned a lot and became a lot more confident in my abilities as a musician. I loved being surrounded by amazing musicians every week, and being in the studio is inspiring in and of itself. At the end of the 3 years a respected musician from one of my favorite bands told me it has to be "80% fuck it.", and I took his advice. I think he was right. I think in the end it was all worth it. This is a damn good record and I'm proud of it.”
“Every song on the record has to do with a time in my life when it seemed everything was ending. My parents were divorcing. My childhood home was falling apart and being sold. My long-term relationship was ending. My best friend and I hadn't spoken in 2 years. Basically everything I valued was dead or dying, and I was terribly sad for a very long time. I found great therapy in my ability to take a very specific feeling, or picture in my mind, and create a song around it...”
On songwriting, Misty Lyn said, “I've always felt like the songs were 'given' to me. I hear a lot of songwriters talk about how they have a very specific way they want a song to sound, and then they just pound it out...like..."I want to write a bluesy song today in the key of E."...and then they do it. I don't work like that. I'll sit down and something will just come...a line, or a chord progression...and I'll go with it. I'm never shooting for a certain sound or certain structure. The fact of the matter is I'm not a good enough musician to do that! Ha! I've had one word inspire a whole song. Or a paragraph in a book...or a scene from my childhood. Or the mannerisms of a friend.”
The feel of seasons, the smell of the indoors, the pain of heart and wear of the mind – all uniquely captured by her words and facilitated by the emotive sways and churning crescendos of The Big Beautiful.
She said having Ann Arbor as a home-base for writing and performing is “very rewarding. First and foremost, the friendships that have come out of it are priceless. To be around this many people that are this talented and motivated keeps me motivated and constantly reaching for the next level.” She said she didn’t feel that the community drifted one way or another, in terms of genre – rather, it’s simply “a sort of hub that attracts good musicians from around the state. There are so many music lovers here that are willing to take a chance on a new artist or band and encourage their growth. It's that enthusiasm that draws good music to Ann Arbor.”
Misty Lyn looks forward to even more local shows and further development of her current batch of new songs (for summer recording). She’s also planning a side project with Jones. Label support would be nice, but, “we’re going to keep touring and making records, regardless.”