Interview with Misty Crowd

I was initially intrigued by Misty Crowd‘s beautifully captivating vocals and quite interesting musical arrangements, then completely blown away by the depth of the composer’s insights and the fascinatingly unique lens in which she views the world. Poetry, internal movies, meditation, the role of the composer as a musical filter, and intentionally challenging herself in many different ways… Misty’s philosophical ideas are incredibly refreshing and inspiring.

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So how did you get started as a musician? Does it run in the family, or did you have any formal training?

Misty: When I was very young, my Dad used to play for us classical music before going to bed. So I grew up with that. I started training my ears from a very young age. When I was 15 or 16, I was more into popular music. But I had that passion for classical music too, so I started taking classical piano classes. I did that for 3 years, but the desire to explore other areas and experiment was bigger so I quit school.

Because of my classical background, I am into film music as well. But I also belong to the song-writing side, because I keep writing indie rock. Bands like Björk, Portishead and Sinead O’Connor inspire me. However, when I want to use classical knowledge, then I go to film music.

Okay, interesting. So you started to talk about your musical influences. Do you have any others that you’d like to mention?

Misty: Well, I can say Danny Elfman. I love him! He is so dramatic when he writes. Also, Trent Reznor—I also love his band, Nine Inch Nails. He inspires me from both sides—his band, and as a composer as well. Hm, let me see… Terry Riley, Phillip Glass, Yan Tiersen, Astor Piazzolla, Brian Eno…

Yeah. So what programs or equipment do you use to make your music?

Misty: I use Logic Pro X, and Pro Tools. Also I use Sibelius, for notating. Sometimes I use FL Studio.

Okay. So what was the first piece of music you ever wrote, and what made you want to write music for the first time?

Misty: Oof… Should I talk about the song-writing side first? Or only pieces, as a composer?

How about both? Or whichever one you think is better.

Misty: I started writing as soon as I got my guitar. It kind of just happened. I remember I used to have a diary, like every girl. But then I was like, let’s make my diary a little more interesting! So I started writing songs, instead of just writing in my diary. So my songs became my life diary. So that’s why at first it was really hard for me to sing for my friends, because it was so personal. But then I tried it once with a friend, and she loved it. And I was like okay, so… Everyone can read my diary! (laughs) So that was when I was 15 years old—the first time I wrote a song, composed every part of it. Then I started playing with friends, and we started adding other instruments. That’s how it all started.

“I started writing songs, instead of just writing in my diary. So my songs became my life diary. So that’s why at first it was really hard for me to sing for my friends, because it was so personal.”

The first time I wrote an instrumental composition, that was a long time ago… I was hired by a man who had written a poem, and he wanted to add music to it, to become an anthem. And in that project, I knew this was the path I wanted to follow. I write poems as well, but working with this guy, my role changed. I was leading him with whatever he wanted to do with his poem. For example, I sat down, and said “Can you read the poem for me?” So that way, I was able to see what words were important for him, and every emotion behind each word. I translated those emotions that showed up when he was reading it. He loved what I did with the music, but I just loved the experience in the studio. Sitting down, translating everything. Because I only used my piano before, but in the studio, we made all the arrangements. I did write all the instrument lines, but at the studio it was another level.

And how did you get to work with the guy and his poem? Was he one of your friends?

Misty: Actually, the gig was for a friend of mine, but he had to travel. Something weird always happens—that’s how you get good luck! (laughs) But he told the person that he had a friend, who’s very talented, and she can take it to another level! So it was through a friend of mine.

Okay, interesting. That’s pretty cool! So what’s your compositional process like? How do you go about writing a piece of music, if there is a formula?

Misty: I just follow my gut. I always start with emotion. I can be playing my guitar, and I like how it sounds… And I’m just warming up, and I like the progression, and I keep going, and then I’ll start humming… Before I start losing it, I start recording, just to have the idea. At the beginning, it was harder, because when you have less resources, you can feel a bit limited. But now, I can use my DAW. When I start feeling something, then I just start recording, and I can start adding everything that comes to my mind, just like that. It’s easier and faster. But usually I start with emotion, chord progression, the melody itself, and the last thing I do is add lyrics.

Okay. So you already talked about this already, but I was going to ask if you’d consider any piece or song that you’ve written to be autobiographical? Like the story of your own life?

Misty: Each of them! I come from the song-writing side. Even when I compose, and it doesn’t have lyrics, I have a movie in my head. And it is in that movie, my emotions are always involved. It always has something from me. Of course, my own songs contain more of my personal experience, because it has words, because I can share my life through my songs.

“Each of [the songs I write is autobiographical]. I come from the song-writing side. Even when I compose, and it doesn’t have lyrics, I have a movie in my head. … Of course, my own songs contain more of my personal experience, because it has words, because I can share my life through my songs.”

Through time, as I am getting more skilled, I can kind of disguise my own experience through the song. When I started, I used to be very literal: “This happened. I woke up. I brushed my teeth. I went to sleep.” But now with more skills, you try to be poetic, use imagery, there’s a lot more things involved. You know, “As soon as I opened my eyes, I heard the sound of…” Whatever. It’s the same story, but I can use my skills to say more.

Okay. So how did you come up with the pseudonym “Misty Crowd”?

Misty: Oh my gosh. Funny story. Well, I have two versions, but I think both are connected somehow. First, I love jazz. It’s one of my favorite genres. I love Ella Fitzgerald. She’s kind of like my favorite singers—I love her. She sings this song called “Misty”. I remember when I discovered her music, that was one of the first songs of hers that I heard, and I kind of clicked with her, and I thought oh, I wish I could sing like her! I could say that is one of my favorite songs of her.

And the other version of the story is that I meditate a lot. I remember in those days, when I was writing a lot, and my friends started asking me about posting my music and sharing my stuff. And they started asking if I would use my real name, and I was like hm, that’s a nice question, I don’t know. I remember, three days passed, and I thought about it. And one day in my meditation session, that just kind of popped up. Misty. Misty. I was like ooh, Misty! Sounds good! It could be my artistic name. Okay, let’s try it! And so I started asking my friends how they thought it sounded, and most of them were like okay, it sounds cool. But it needs a last name! And I was like okay, so I started again with my search. And I thought crowd. Crowd. Misty Crowd. Sounds good. And that’s how it came to life.

Yeah, I meditate too! When you’re so relaxed, a lot of ideas come.

Misty: Yeah! And when you’re a little worried about something, during your week, sometimes there is a moment in your meditation, where you get your answer. Like an epiphany!

Yeah! So what genres of music are you afraid to write in?

Misty: I would write in any genre that allows me to express my thoughts. I always feel that what you have to say is more important than the structure itself. Therefore, I’m always pushing every genre that I write for.

I would write in any genre that allows me to express my thoughts. I always feel that what you have to say is more important than the structure itself. Therefore, I’m always pushing every genre that I write for.”

Yeah, interesting. So have you written any music in the video game realm?

Misty: No, not yet.

All right. What would you find appealing about writing video game music?

Misty: Oh my gosh! I’m a gamer! I grew up playing video games. I’m super excited—I’m about to take a class in school. What I really like about game music is that it’s music for emotion. It’s not that different from my process of writing a song. I think I find it a little different from scoring for film, because in a game, you need to be in the moment, whatever is happening there. It will all depend on the choice of the player. You can predict what the player will do, but you need to write—just in case—what if he takes this side, that side. So I can’t wait for that class. It won’t be very different from my process already—I have a movie in my head, it’s like a game! I like the idea of playing with different outcomes.

Okay, yeah. So there was a video you posted on Instagram, with the caption “There’s not such thing as a meaningless sound. There’s no arbitrariness in its order. One sound leads to another as a reminder for those who listen.” I really liked that! Can you talk more about that?

Misty: Basically, in that moment, I felt like music itself has a purpose. Everyone who comes to Earth with this gift, of feeling it… I feel that we cannot express 100% of what we hear. It’s so… I don’t know… I don’t know the word in English! I can’t find it. But the point is, it is so big, it’s bigger than us. And when we just let it be through us… I feel like my role in this music world is to be like a filter. Whatever I hear, as my skills develop more, I can express more truthfully what I hear. So what you hear, other people can hear as well, but with your filter, you have power—with your own emotions and who you are, your personality. You can give it a path for others to listen to what you hear through your own ears. Every small thing or detail that I hear—the sound of opening the window, moving the door—is a story in itself. It is connected with your own life story.

“I feel like my role in this music world is to be like a filter. Whatever I hear, as my skills develop more, I can express more truthfully what I hear. … You can give [your music] a path for others to listen to what you hear through your own ears. Every small thing or detail that I hear is a story in itself. It is connected with your own life story.”

Yeah, like sharing your perspective. Interesting! So what’s the most recent compositional challenge you’ve faced, and how did you get through it?

Misty: Oh yeah. I know. That one… I’m still working with that one. It was an assignment for school. I had a lot of fun. I am used to working or writing without a specific structure—I’m very free, by myself, when I’m writing. For this assignment, I was requested to follow a structure. So that was a little challenging. We didn’t have like a specific topic—we were free to choose the topic. But we had to follow a structure. So it was hard for me because when the notes come, I just let it be. And then after that, I just start tweaking. So this was the opposite—working in a box.

Too many restrictions? (laughs)

Misty: Yeah, I don’t like that. So how did I overcome that? Well, I try to be as true as I could, to my personal work flow. Because that’s the thing, when you have a structure that you are not used to, the way to go is to be flexible. That was the only choice. I had to write a melody without music in the background. So I was like whaaaat!?

Oh, just a solo melody?

Misty: And I had to write the lyrics of that melody, without music, and I was like whaaaat!? No way! I actually couldn’t dig in 100% to that part of the assignment. I just created a chord progression—I had to do it. Then I created the melody, and then the lyrics. Because I know myself, and that’s how I work. So I did it.

For that first part, that was my request. But as soon as I started doing that, I got inspired. And I just said okay stop. If I don’t write this down, I’m gonna lose it. And I won’t forgive myself for losing this amazing idea. So what I did was create a whole song, as I was feeling it, put in the lyrics… I wrote the first verse, and the Chorus, then I went to the bridge, and then the last thing I did was verse 2. I was so uncomfortable, so I just jumped around. I didn’t know how to follow just a line. But the outcome was that my instructor loved it, and by that time I was ahead of my group. Because the only request was just the melody line. But I couldn’t stop there, I did the whole thing. He didn’t ask me if I jumped around or no. (laughs) I just told him that it was super new to me, that whole process of having a new structure. I can show you the song later!

Yeah, I’d love to hear it!

Check out the song here: “The eyes of a stranger”

 

Okay, you might have just answered this question. But if there’s something else… Which piece of music have you written that’s the most different than anything you’ve written before?

Misty: Oh yeah, that one was super different. But also, I am always collaborating with friends. I always pick the weirdest projects, so I can learn! That’s the beauty of being an artist among other artists. We are all different, we are all working differently. True artists, who are really true to themselves, writing from their heart. And finding another person who is doing the same as you’re doing, being true in their genre—that’s amazing!

I was working with this guy who was writing some very psychedelic, low tempo stuff… It was a Spanish song. His vocals were awesome! He contacted me, because he heard “Cold Lips”, and he loved my vocals there, and he was looking for that—he was looking for a female vocalist.

And I was like okay, send me the audio, so I can have an idea for your project. But as soon as I heard his voice, I was like “No! We should make a duet! We should sing together.” So he took my advice, and I learned a lot in that process, about how he writes. He had a melody that was hard for me to follow. He’s a male, so the tonality of his voice didn’t match with mine. So I felt my job was more harmony, and kind of leading him to my range, my timbre.

My favorite part was when we were recording. I was singing what I felt in the moment. And if he liked it, he would just record it, so he had it. But I loved when I was singing, he was already feeling something, and he would sing, and I would sing back. It was so real, improvising. And that’s what we used in the song. He hasn’t finished mixing everything yet, but when he is I can send it to you! It’s really cool—it’s a psychedelic song. My vocals are so high, and his are so low, so it’s cool.

That sounds really neat!!

Misty: So that’s why I love collaborating with people that are working in different genres. I collaborate with EDM guys. It’s easy for me to come up with a melody, and the words. And I love to write.

Another good thing about collaborating is from genre to genre, you learn so much. They are so different, even in writing. I love rock—that’s my favorite one, because you can talk about anything. Existential stuff, storytelling… Even nonsense, but give sense to it. And EDM, for example, you need to talk about dancing, party, energy… Things like that. And that’s something I’ve learned about working with different types of genres. And even the production side of it is totally different, from genre to genre. And I only know that because I’ve been open to working on different projects.

Yeah wow, that’s fascinating. Is the song that you posted on your soundcloud, “Life of Lights”—was that a song where you were featured?

Misty: Yes, that was with a friend of mine. We’re actually working on other songs together as well. He’s in charge of the music, and I am the song-writing side. Most of the time, you work as co-producers.

Okay. So what sorts of activities or hobbies do you have outside of music and games? You mentioned meditating—is there anything else?

Misty: That’s my favorite. I draw—I like to draw a lot. Sometimes an idea can come disguised in different ways. I remember that my favorite ideas come from impulse. I start writing the dialogue between characters, and then I feel the music while I’m writing the scene, drawing it… Then I pick up my guitar, and I start composing. So it’s kind of a weird way to give life to a story. I can never predict how it’s going to happen. I do have a wall of white paper, because I never know when it’s going to come back. So I just need to have it there, with all my paints, brushes. If I need to paint something, I paint it.

I also love to read. I’m always reading. Not necessarily popular books, but spiritual books. I already have a psychology degree too, so anything that challenges my mind, I love it! I need to be always learning something new. I love meeting people, talking to strangers. I told you, I don’t know when the music is gonna come. I feel like my job is collecting experiences. The more new experiences I have, by the time the music comes, I’m gonna be ready! I love going to new places, spending time with family. Asking questions that no one wants to ask. I enjoy the reactions of people when they get those weird questions. (laughs) I don’t do it to bother them. I do it to help them reach that mindset in which they can become a better person.

“Anything that challenges my mind, I love it! I need to be always learning something new. I love meeting people, talking to strangers. I told you, I don’t know when the music is gonna come. I feel like my job is collecting experiences. The more new experiences I have, by the time the music comes, I’m gonna be ready!”

You can be in a community, but not everybody is 100% transparent. I don’t know how, maybe it’s a gift from God, but I can see people, even when they are hiding themselves. So I feel like my job is to help them show themselves. So that’s why I love the uncomfortable questions. I do it in a nice way, a warm way. I use my psychology. (laughs) I love learning everyday, something new.

Yeah! So about the painting—you just have blank paper on your wall that you just paint randomly whenever you feel like it?

Misty: Yes, I do.

That’s so interesting!

Misty: I have weeks that I don’t do it. But just the fact that I have it there, and I see it every day, it’s a mental thing that you are open to creativity. I don’t know, it’s like a psychological thing. It covers my whole wall.

I really like that! How did you think to do that?

Misty: In paintings and drawing, I am very minimalist. I love details. Sometimes I use a part of it to brainstorm a part of a story that comes to me. Every day, I add something new. Another purpose is to draw a… A complex drawing, with so many details. I draw it in black and white, with a pencil or whatever. The point is to just pay attention to details. The positive side of having a psychology degree is that you know yourself. Drawing details is a way to keep myself sane. Life can be so… Like every day, happening exactly the same. And drawing is a way for me to get away from that, have fun, take risks. I have that little space to push myself to another level. Being as detailed as you can… I should send you a picture of what I’m trying to say!

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“Life can be so… Like every day, happening exactly the same. And drawing is a way for me to get away from that, have fun, take risks. I have that little space to push myself to another level. Being as detailed as you can.”

Yeah!

Misty: A very complex painting, imitating it is a challenge. Because you’re not the author of it, so you need to develop your own process. Sometimes it takes hours, or days. And I love that, to push myself to another level. I haven’t taken drawing classes, but I really enjoy it, and I love the challenge. And the inspiration behind that wall is symbolic.

So do you completely fill it up, and then do you take it down, and put up a new one?

Misty: Yeah! When I’m finished with the project, when I did what I needed to do with it, then I take it out, and replace it with a new blank pages.

How long have you been doing that?

Misty: About a year. I moved by my own about a year ago. I couldn’t do that in my parents’ house—there was so much noise. Now that I live on my own, it’s easier to develop a work flow in which you feel comfortable, being the best as you can in whatever you do. So I used to share my bedroom with my sister. I did something similar, but not the same thing. I painted the whole wall, a blossom tree. Again, I love the challenge, of being so detailed. So I decided to paint the whole wall, and it took me a month to complete it. First the sketch, and then using different materials. I was using a ladder to reach the top of the wall. I love to put my heart into everything that I do, and I love the challenge.

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Yeah, that’s so interesting! Very cool!

Misty: Thank you!

All right, so now I have a list of rapid fire questions. Give short answers as quickly as possible. Ready?

Misty: Yeah!

Okay, what’s your favorite video game series?

Misty: Pokémon!

Pokémon! Okay! Favorite key?

Misty: E minor!

Favorite character theme!

Misty: Batman!

Okay, favorite battle theme!

Misty: That’s a hard one…! Aaahh… Troy! There’s a lot of fighting, I love the music in that one.

Okay, pick one: magic, strength, or defense?

Misty: Magic!

All right, if you could live in any video game world for a week, which world would you live in?

Misty: Sims?

(laughs) Okay! If you could befriend any video game antagonist, which bad guy would you want to be friends with?

Misty: Oh my gosh… It’s not that easy! Antagonist… The bad guys are the bad guys! I never want to be friends with them.

(laughs) Okay! If you could make an entire world inside an instrument, which instrument would you want to live inside?

Misty: I would love to live inside a… It’s a percussion instrument. A space drum! It looks like a UFO! A Hang Drum!

(laughs) Oh yeah, those are so cool!

Misty: I love how that sounds!

Okay, last one! If you had to make a weapon out of any instrument, which instrument would you fight with?

Misty: Well, I would fight with the strings of my guitar!

(laughs) All right. End of rapid fire questions. So what are some of your future plans? What are you working on now?

Misty: I would love to start having opportunities to perform live. I feel very excited about just writing down my ideas. Where I come from, I used to perform often. But here, it has been hard to find a place to. For upcoming artists, the doors are not always open. You need to already have followers, a huge massive platform already. So that is something cool that I want to do, as soon as I can.

Okay. Those are all the questions I have! Do you have any final comments or anything else that you want to add?

Misty: You should never stop doing what you love. Follow your gut, too!

Great! It was nice talking to you! Thanks!

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“I love to put my heart into everything that I do, and I love the challenge. … You should never stop doing what you love. Follow your gut, too!”

Check out Misty Crowd’s diverse tracks on soundcloud:

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