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Carmel Mikol
I would like to introduce to you a wonderful folk artist from Toronto whose latest creative effort has gotten my attention: Carmel Mikol.  What is different about her is that with her CD Creature  released last August, she is also including  a book of poetry and prose.  Fantastic!  What a wonderful opportunity to share the most intricate parts of her personality.  Off this album, one of her songs,  “Twenty-Something Girl" has been awarded the grand in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the folk category.  Having already been nominated for 3 East Coast Music Awards, Carmel has shared stages with top shelf talents like Jimmy Rankin, Meaghan Smith and Garnet Rogers.  I had the opportunity to explore the matter further in the interview below.  For more info, visit CarmelMikol.com

Interview by: Valerie Bastien

Valerie: Give us a little bit of history about who you are and the music that is close to your heart.

Carmel: I’m a writer and touring musician from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I write because the world throws constant questions at me and I look for the answers in songs. I grew up on a small family farm with no TV, no electricity, and lots of books. Also, there were old 45’s – Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles. Folk music of the 60’s and 70’s if the foundation of my musical training, but there is no one place to find the source of my own writing. I’m also influenced heavily by the beat poets and hip hop.

Valerie: What other artists would you compare yourself to?

Carmel: Bright Eyes, Sarah McLachlan, Joe Pug, Shawn Colvin

Valerie: Your have received a very positive response to your CD Creature released last August 9th, 2011.  What is the big idea behind the title and how does it reflect the overall vibe of the album?

Carmel: Creature is about the varied sides of the human character: the good, bad, pretty, ugly. Each song on the album analyses a different aspect of the human experience: social, political, personal. The album aims to dissect human behaviour into its many parts and poses the question: What kind of creature are you?

Valerie: Why was it important for you to attach your book of poetry Creature of Habit and prose with it?

Carmel: The book happened more organically than intentionally. It gives some context to the songs on the album, many of which are not typical female singer/songwriter subject matter. The songs deal with social problems, political corruption, and the folly of consumerism. The book tells the story of my father’s draft-dodger days from Chicago to Cape Breton and give a bit of history for the viewpoints I express on the album.

Valerie: One of your songs Twenty Something Girl won the prestigious John Lennon Song-Writing Contest.  Describe what elements of this song made it a winner in your opinion?

Carmel: Twenty Something Girl was recorded live off the floor with just my acoustic guitar and vocal. This allows the lyric to stand out. The song is a commentary on a lot of relatable problems and injustices in our world and I think people connect to the restless feeling of anger and distrust in the song. To me, a song is most powerful when it is stripped of fancy production and forced to stand alone: melody and lyric.

Valerie: Tell me about a song on Creature that wrote itself up really fast in a moment where you felt really inspired.

Carmel: Many of the songs on Creature were written quickly in a fit of inspiration. That’s how I write mostly. But I Miss the Moon and most of Lion or Lamb are good examples of songs that felt as though they were already written and I was merely an instrument they were passing through.

Valerie: Is there a song on the album that is contrasting in style to the others that you would like to discuss?

Carmel: I Miss The Moon is much more sentimental and overtly emotional than many of the other songs on the record. It snuck up on me and I didn’t intend it to land on the record. In the last ten minute of studio time I had, I sat down at the piano and played that song for the first time. We used that first take and I think we captured a rare emotional immediacy.

Valerie: What is your favourite song on the CD and why?

Carmel: I always like to sing Lion or Lamb. It’s fiction, but it feels like it could be my one story…

Valerie: Why do you enjoy blogging about your experiences on the road on your website?

Carmel: I’ve been blogging about my road experiences as part of a writing project called Waywords. It represents a way for me to connect to each community I tour through and to let people in on my creative process. It shows how each place influenced me artistically and I’ve been posting clips of songs and writing I’ve done in each place. I think it’s important to acknowledge the impact of each town on your work and to honour the people and places who inspire me.

Valerie: Where can we hear your music and see you play?

Carmel: Stop by CarmelMikol.com to see live videos of the songs from Creature, preview the album and pick up a CD, book, T-shirt or digital package. I tour extensively across Canada and the US and dates can be found at CarmelMikol.com/shows

Valerie Bastien is a vocal coach, teacher, musician and freelance journalist.
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