Michaela Slinger Talks New Single “Make You Sad”

Kat Harlton

Michaela Slinger combines youthful, energetic, harmony-rich melodies with old soul lyricism—think Maggie Rogers meets Joni Mitchell. She recently released her new single “Make You Sad” and we had the opportunity to chat with her about finding inspiration, working with Polaris Prize listed and JUNO-nominated Louise Burns and JUNO award-winning Kevvy, and what’s next.

Kat: Can you talk about the inspiration behind your new single “Make You Sad”?

Michaela: Make You Sad was inspired by a challenging conversation I had with someone in my life, where we both brought past hurts and assumptions and unsaid feelings into it. It was necessary but upsetting, and I recorded a quick voice note that ended up sparking the song in a writing session. That voice note idea is the opening line of the track: “Say you want to have a candid conversation / Doesn’t seem like that.” 

Kat: What do you hope fans take away from the track?

Michaela: That relationships are complicated and messy, and also that words have real consequences. I pride myself on trying to be an honest person, but I’ve learned that sometimes the truth that might set me free ends up hurting someone I care about. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be real with each other, but I hope the vulnerability and lyrical content of the song can accompany listeners as they navigate their own tough conversations. 

Kat: You wrote alongside Polaris Prize listed and JUNO-nominated Louise Burns and JUNO award-winning Kevvy. What did you learn from working with them?

Michaela: They both co-wrote this song with me and produced the entire debut album that I’m releasing later this year. I’ve learned so much from these two, and I wouldn’t be where I am without their support of me, championing of me to the label, and investment in my growth and development as a writer, recording artist and producer. 

On Make You Sad specifically, I got to see both of them in creative action. Kevvy is an incredibly multitalented person, and he devotes himself to crafting the perfect sound for each artist he works with. After the initial time we spent deciding which voice note to use, and discussing the meaning and vibe of the song, he created the track so quickly. Those drums, the synth pads he chose—it was completely what the song needed, although I never would have been able to know that before he’d done it. Louise is a melody and background vocal queen, and she’s also a bassist and multi-instrumentalist. She’s one of the only people whose constructive criticism I seek and actively welcome, because she’s so talented and knows how to push me further. Louise will spend a long time trying to get a note right or figuring out a novel melody idea. It was an honour to get to work with both of them so intimately on this track.

Kat: How have you been staying connected during Covid-19? Has it affected your creative process at all?

Michaela: Initially, it did. I think many of us were in a dormant state of fight or flight, and grief, and great uncertainty. I don’t usually exist daily like that, so I wasn’t writing or creating much. That said, I was craving connection and performance, so I started a weekly Instagram live series in April 2020 where people requested songs and gathered together for an hour from various corners of the world. It was nice to feel like I played a role in convening others during those early quarantine days. 

I’ve been back writing lots at home, trying to figure out my very DIY home studio set-up and experiment more as a producer and writer. I wrote most of my debut album at home on my couch on Garageband, so that’s familiar, but it’s more challenging now because my partner is also home all the time. I’m typically a very private writer, so this is helping me be a bit looser with sharing and letting other people hear an unpolished idea. 

Kat: What’s next?

Michaela: So many exciting things! The Make You Sad music video is out on January 29th, directed and filmed and edited by my incredible team of dear pals: Miranda MacDougall, Callum Gunn and Harry Hill. After this, I have two more singles and my album release. The fact that I’m finally putting out all this music is a bit overwhelming, but I cannot wait to have this snapshot of me available for others to engage with. 

For more on Michaela Slinger visit: www.michaelaslinger.com

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