Q&A with Michaela Slinger
Fresh off the release of her debut album Panorama, BC-based Michaela Slinger, took some time to talk with CMI about the personal experience of writing about life, packing thoughts and feelings into an album and connecting with fans during lockdown.
Q: How did it feel to prepare for your debut album Panorama? What was the most exciting part of the project?
I don’t know if I’d say I had preparation for Panorama—it felt more like hitting the ground running. I’d returned home from the CMI program in 2019 to a demo deal with 604 Records that turned into a full deal, and so it was full speed ahead. I pulled some songs from previous unreleased projects and wrote a bunch when I returned to Vancouver. The most exciting part was witnessing my songs blossom into fully realized tracks in the studios, especially when we had people come in to track live vocals and strings. You’d be hard pressed to find me happier than that.
Q: Where did the album name come from and were there other titles considered?
Once Panorama came into my head, I knew that was the title, even before I’d written the title track. I wrote the song “Panorama” to sort of explain the album title. The meaning is multi-layered: I grew up on Panorama Drive, spent some formative years at university near a mountain view called Panorama Ridge, and I also was trying to capture my life into a neatly packaged album. I found that to be a necessarily incomplete process, and it felt like trying to capture an incredible viewpoint in a panoramic photo and then returning to it later only to find it all blurry and distorted.
Q: What about Panorama are you most proud of?
I’m proud of all of it. In 2018, I took the scariest leap of my life to pursue some vague idea I had of my music dream. Three years later, I released a full album that feels true to me and like such an exciting jumping off point for the rest of my career. If I had to pinpoint one thing specifically, I think it would be the self-trust I gained as a writer.
Q: Is there a particular song you relate to the most on this album and what do want fans to take away from it?
It changes on the daily, but I think “Panorama” resonates right now. I’m about to turn 25 and I feel like I’m in the process of undergoing some reframing of my priorities as well as reflecting on the fact that my “childhood” is over. Not to be dramatic—I’ve got a youthful spirit and I’m grateful for every day that I get to keep living, but I just mean that I can’t say that I’m in my “early twenties” anymore and feel like this age gets lumped in with the catch-all “adult” category. And I’m saying goodbye to my childhood home at the same time, so I think there’s just a lot of reflecting and acknowledging that life keeps moving and moments are fleeting.
Q: How did the visuals for your project come together and what was the inspiration?
Panorama was all about me catching everyone up on the first 24 years of my life, and in some ways feels like my own personal childhood graduation ceremony. Something I care about as an artist is making music that feels honest and specific and simultaneously relatable to many people, and I like using the word “ageless” to describe that. It makes perfect sense to me that bright, youthful visuals could coexist alongside complex melodies and lyrical depth.
I’m a very active person, so I often want there to be an element of movement or motion in my images. I can’t really tell you how I got the idea for the album artwork, but one day I just sketched the idea in my journal: me, hanging upside down on a line or post, hair cascading into the foreground. I wanted it to feel serene and ethereal, but also a bit playful and startling.
Q: How do you recommend artists find their aesthetic on social media while staying true to themselves as artists?
I feel my relationship with, and dependence on, social media as an emerging artist is something I’m trying to do a better job of defining for myself. I want to become the best songwriter and musician that I can be, not the best social media persona. But, that said, it’s also a crucial part of strategy and sharing who you are with your audience! I’d just suggest treating social media like the massive social experiment it is, stay playful, and just explore what works for you and see what sticks.
Q: How have you adapted your connection with fans without the possibility of live shows; Has that been difficult?
Incredibly difficult. I’m grateful to have collaborators at 604 who can help me create behind the scenes videos for YouTube that provide my audience with a more holistic picture of who I am and what my songs mean. But I’m certainly counting down the days until I can book my first ever tour.
Q: How have you evolved as musician since completing the CMI program?
I’ve realized how much of my joy and inspiration comes from feeling like a part of the world, connected to everything. The pandemic pretty much took away everything I loved doing and left me with a clear picture of what matters the most to me. Although I wish it didn’t happen in this way, I have my priorities in check. I’ve also leaned into gratitude and simplicity in a way I hadn’t had space to before. And, as a musician, I’m writing now more than ever and allowing myself to be exploratory and curious about sounds will shape my next chapter.