Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Michaela Bekenn

Photo courtesy of Auteur Research.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Toronto-based singer-songwriter Michaela Bekenn recently unleashed the music video for her debut single “The Earth Has Music.”

The track invites the listener to “tune into their inner space as the place where all answers emerge and the moment as the ultimate teacher.”

The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Bekenn about “The Earth Has Music” and more.

Music Bugle – What gave you the idea to write your debut single “The Earth Has Music”?

Michaela Bekenn – The song was born days after my father fell from a roof, nearly injuring his spine. The event woke me up to the impermanence and uncertainty of life. During and after his recovery, we shared walks through old growth trees, surrounded by the music of birds, wind and water. Every moment felt like a gift and a chance to begin again. We learned how to listen more deeply, to slow down and be in awe. The song explores the changing of the seasons in nature and in life and what it feels like to dance on the edge of a transformative shift. 

Music Bugle – What was it like making the video for “The Earth Has Music”? 

Michaela Bekenn – The video was filmed in Niagara, Ontario at Decew Falls conservation area and the local beach near my family home. I had a general vision for the project, but the filming was based on intuition and working with and honoring the natural landscape. Videographer Stacey Koudys was very in tune with my vision and also infused it with her own fairy dust. She has a natural way of working with light and capturing the magic of nature. The video features improvised contemporary dance on land, sand and in water. Along with many forest frolics and playful barefoot moments! 

Music Bugle – How would you describe Toronto to someone who has never been there before? 

Michaela Bekenn – Tkaronto is a Mohawk word that means “the place in the water where the trees are standing.” Toronto is located on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Toronto is a city of diversity, creativity, community and complex history. Around every corner is a new community and endless stories. I live between Little Tibet and the Polish Village, which intersect and yet are so unique. Toronto is also a changing city that is divided between the agenda of gentrification and the people that agenda marginalizes. I was born here and have watched the vertical structures cloud the horizon. I love visiting the places of the city that have so far been preserved from hefty development, where the Ma and Pa diner is still at the heart of the community. 

Music Bugle – What do you enjoy the most about being a singer-songwriter? 

Michaela Bakenn – The never-ending learning journey. Songs are a channel through which I get to know myself and discover again and again how to translate lived experiences into music. I appreciate the aspect of storytelling and how a song has the capacity to completely captivate a listener, transcending space and time. For me, being a songwriter is also about being courageously vulnerable, sometimes, expressing what feels inexpressible. Each time I sing or pick up my guitar, it nourishes and grounds me. 

Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Michaela Bekenn – Everyday is so different. Somedays, it feels like a needed pause from the hamster wheel of my former life and other days, it just feels like too much to metabolize. All the uncertainty and global grief seems an invitation to keep arriving back to the moment, cultivate gratitude and not hold on too tightly to that future idea of myself. Cancelled plans and postponed gigs are the name of the game! Overall, I have more clearly understood my privilege in having access to resources and the ability to safely physically distance. Amongst the challenges, this chapter has offered the space to be reflective, wake up, slow down, bake bread and make music from my heart.

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you feel the need to escape? 

Michaela Bekenn – I am fortunate to live a skip and a jump away from the Lakeshore beaches and High Park in Toronto. Those two spaces are my refuge when I need to clear my mind, dissolve stress, or just be in awe by how small I am within the vastness of nature. 

Music Bugle – Generally speaking, what have you been working on improving lately? 

Michaela Bekenn – My musical journey started out on the piano, trained through the Suzuki method and RCM. The drilling of technique and examinations left me wanting to distance myself from that stress-inducing world and yet, the piano is still one of my favorite instruments to play. After all these years, I am working to brush up on my dusty theory and deepen my ability to improvise on the keys. The pandemic pause has given me the time to focus on that more! 

Music Bugle – How would you define the year 2020? 

Michaela Bekenn – Navigating the changing tides, learning to surf. Nothing is permanent… even the most “set in stone” plans. Gratitude for community. Humans are vulnerable. Longing for hugs. There is global suffering. There is inner work to be done. Music is medicine. Baking is soothing. Frontline workers are heroes and deserve more – praise and pay – than they get. 

Music Bugle – Away from music, what’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

Michaela Bekenn – I grew up within the Shaw Festival Theatre community, where both of my parents are actors. I started watching plays and musicals at the age of three and performing professionally by the age of 12. Live storytelling has informed my songwriting every step of the way.

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise? 

Michaela Bekenn – Joni Mitchell, The O’Pears, Raul Midon, Limestone Chorus, Jeremy Dutcher, Fleet Foxes, Weather Station and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

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