Q&A with Mishka

Categories: Q&A
Mishka is not your average reggae singer. For one thing, he was the first artist signed to j.k. livin', a record label founded by Hollywood's own Matthew McConaughey. But he is the embodiment of all those quintessential underlying themes that have made the genre what it is--a deep-seeded love for nature and the beauty of the world around us, an appreciation for the natural mystique that flows from it and through it, and a belief in the power of the human spirit.

He was born in Bermuda to a Canadian mother and Bermudian father who realized a lifelong dream of raising their family on the seas. Living life aboard a 40-foot boat as they traversed the Caribbean and skirted South America, it was inevitable he'd develop a oneness with the clear skies overhead, the sea rollicking below and the sweet sent of her spray as she washed up on the sandy shores of the islands where they made landfall. It was a simple life, and a bucolic life, and it seems to have provided the ideal foundation for the soulful roots and ringing clarity of Mishka's music.

New Times: You really did have an interesting upbringing, living on a boat and sailing around the Caribbean. Tell us a bit about it.

Um, yeah, it's going back a long time now, I was about three years old when we moved on the boat. It just seemed like a normal way of life to me, you know? I didn't really realize that it was different until I was older.

In a lot of ways it was idyllic, you know? It was beautiful. We didn't have any schedules or anything. In other ways it was tough, because we didn't have any of the modern conveniences that you normally would, like a TV or a washing machine. It was a pretty rustic lifestyle.

Overall it was a way of life I would prefer still to this day, though.

It not only impacted you as a person, but as an artist as well, right? Songs like "Coastline Journey" and "Mountains Meet the Sea" clearly reference it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, "Mountains Meet the Sea" really reflects back to that part of my life. Just sailing the islands and seeing all those beautiful places. It's the story about those experiences.

"Coastline Journey" is something more to do with more recent years, and just searching for waves, you know?

That island hoping was how you got into reggae and roots, right?

Yeah, I mean, it came from Bermuda, where I grew up mostly the first years of my life. There are many cultures in the Caribbean, and Caribbean music [in general] is really popular there.

How does Above the Bones differ from your self-titled release and One Tree?

I started the process of making that album in early 2000. I'd been on tour for about two years opening some shows, and I became friends with the guitar player Darryl Thompson, and he gave me an open invitation to come and work with him anytime and I was like, "alright, you want to come and produce some music with me?" And like a year and a half later I went to Georgia, to his house, and just played a bunch of my songs and we just started building the foundations together. Most of those songs I'd written over the course of 10 or 15 years, you know? Even before the oldest record I have. And some of them are new, that I just kinda wrote on the spot.

There wasn't really any theme to the album or anything. We just kinda went through and said, "alright, I like that one.  I don't like that one.  We can do this to that one." And we just kinda experimented and stuff, and that was the beginning of Above the Bones.

Then Matthew McConaughey stumbled onto you guys, signed you to his new j.k livin label and went in to the studio with you to lend his two cents?

Almost a year later I started working with Matthew McConaughey. When we started working together he was like, "well, I like what you've got, but let's get a producer to just kinda up the production a bit." So we went to a studio in L.A. to finish the album. And we took what we had, which I'd say was about half what it is now, and we just redid some of the tracks, some of the instruments. We added a few songs, took a few songs off. Then just mixed and mastered it.

It was an interesting collaboration. It was my songwriting and Darryl's production ideas, then Matthew's input.

If fans take just one thing away from your music, what would you like it to be?

Um, I don't know, I guess just a sense collectiveness amongst humanity, you know? I mean that's what the album's about, it's about honoring ancestors.

Mishka performs at Revolution Live (200 W Broward Blvd) this Thursday, June 11 at 8pm. Tickets cost $12.

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