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Mieka Pauley has come home, at least for a day. She was live in studio at WERS, showcasing her beautifully rich vocal talents in a three song set that was anything but the typical acoustic performance. Fresh off an appearance at SXSW and eager to continue touring, Pauley was happy to be back in what she considers her adopted home. “I moved a lot as a kid,” she says. “I grew up all over the place, and when people ask where I’m from, now I say I’m from Boston. Even though I’m living in New York, this feels like coming back home.” It’s good to have her back. Pauley is an absolute joy to be around, very warm and genuine with a great sense of humor. And she’s a fantastic singer to boot.
Mieka started her set with a track entitled “Faster” off of her “From The Mouth of Paris” EP. A powerful piece with a wonderfully melodic chorus that lyrically focuses on the changing world around her and her ability to keep up, “Faster” got the session going on a very high note, and it was quite lovely to hear her play it acoustically. She followed up the pop-rock tune with a much bluesier, darker effort in “Run,” a song from her 2007 EP “Elijah Drop Your Gun” that displayed her wide vocal range and superb songwriting talents. Her ability to traverse the lower range of notes before seamlessly jumping into higher scales while maintaining a lyrically complex flow through the chorus was astounding, and made “Run” the standout performance of her studio session.
When she scrapes the lower depths of her voice, a sort of bluesy, rocker rasp comes out, and gives the listener a slight hint of Melissa Etheridge, but she shatters any permanent comparison by jumping up octaves higher as effortlessly as she strums her guitar.
While she can’t be exactly compared to other artists out there, Mieka has received guidance and been influenced by some of the artists she’s toured with, including Edwin McCain and Citizen Cope. “I think a lot of it is almost mentorship,” she says, “not a serious mentor-mentee relationship, but the type of situation where you talk, and you find out what they’re doing and what’s working for them. Then I get to see what going on tour really means.” What does going on tour really mean? “For them, they got drinks and bathrooms and showers, they’ve got crews selling their own merchandise, they have inventory,” she explains. “For me, the green room is a McDonald’s bathroom, and I put on my makeup and get ready there, and I use the honor system, put ten dollars in the box and take a CD.” While her description of touring can’t exactly be called glamorous, she lives for the experience, and sometimes gets a chance to play the opposite role in terms of mentorship. “I think everybody’s always a step ahead of somebody,” she states. “Where you’re at, you always want to be farther, and you might not think you have anything to offer, but sometimes I’ve got answers for other aspiring artists, and that’s how I play the role of a mentor.”
Recently, it was announced that one of Pauley’s songs, “Devil’s Got My Secret,” will be featured in the upcoming film Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding
Mieka finished off her set with a track titled “Colossal,” the leadoff piece on her latest EP From The Mouth of Paris. The song truly showcased the power she has as a vocalist, and when she reached the chorus the emotion and passion in her voice as she belted out the words was a stirring aural experience. Pauley is full of talent, and it would be easy for someone with her ability to take it for granted. But there is no shortage of effort here. starring Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener. A big break for Pauley’s career, she attributes the amazing opportunity to Suzanne Hilleary, who does non-exclusive licensing with her company, WacBiz. “She’s been helping me out for a number of years, and she was able to put my song on the music supervisor’s desk, and he dug it, so we were psyched about that.” Asked about how the song would be used in the film, Pauley recalled how earlier in her career one of her tunes had been featured in a TV show, and she “didn’t even notice it, my friend had to point it out to me.” But this time, her song plays an integral part in the narrative. “It’s basically the full song, and it’s featured in a montage with no dialogue,” she explains. “Four minutes of me singing, that’s the best possible thing you could have. There’s nothing better than being able to sing your entire song and not be interrupted.”
Everything she does, from her songwriting to her performances to her constant touring, she pours her heart into, and it shows. She is a truly compelling person to be around. And did I mention she was funny?
“What’s interesting about John Legend is that I’ve never actually opened for him, but I did something with him called “In The Round” which was a songwriter’s circle, back when his name was John Stevens,” she recalls. “A few months later, all of a sudden, he was playing with someone I was calling “Kayne” West at the time, and I only later found out it was Kanye, and then he blew up and changed his name to John Legend.” She pauses, and laughs to herself. “So when I get big I’m gonna name myself Mieka “Holy [Expletive].”
Mieka’s plan for 2011 is to continue her ongoing, “everlasting” tour, as she calls it, and if time and money permit, she may begin work on a new album or EP. And as for another return to her adopted home? “Hell yeah, I’ll be back within the next few months,” she replies excitedly. “There will definitely be a summer show at least.” It’s safe to say Boston can’t wait for another homecoming.