I first heard the artist Michelle Blades’ music a few years ago when I discovered her album “Ataraxia” and fell in love with the artist’s impressive vocals and her idiosyncratic experimentation with sound. I then discovered her other work, such as her albums “Polylust” (which leaned more towards electronic) and “Mariana” (which is a powerful affirmation of the artist’s singing talent and songwriting abilities before she began to experiment more with sound). Through her career, her albums have all taken on different distinct sounds that demonstrate her diverse range and fearlessness to try new things. I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Blades to discuss her life, musical career, and new work.
Michelle Blades was born in Panama and moved to Florida at a young age, where she spent most of her childhood. During this time, she was exposed to music through her father, who was a Latin pop musician. Her first experiences playing music started after she turned 16, when she left her home to live with her grandparents, which was a huge turning point in her life since it offered her a freedom she never had before. After getting her first paycheck from a job at Jamba Juice, she went straight to a music store and bought a ukulele, the first instrument she learned how to play. Being self-taught, she tells me that she did not initially have many influences for her music and would just experiment, teaching herself new things. As she got older, though, she tells me some of her biggest influences for her work would be Andre 3000’s “The Love Below” and Duke Ellington, specifically the song Supreme Being. Michelle remarks how “The Love Below” was hugely influential because it showed her how “everything is possible in the studio, music has no rules” – a realization that demonstrates itself in Michelle’s own experimental work.
Michelle moved to Arizona at the end of 2009, where she attended ASU for a few semesters before dropping out. In her time there, she started a band called North Dakota with two friends (Emily Hobeheidar and Mo Neuharth) and released an album together entitled “Pat Waggy,” which was Michelle’s second fully realized album release (her first being 2010’s “Oh, Nostalgia!”) and is available to listen to on Bandcamp. While in this band, Michelle and her bandmates all switched off playing instruments, making them better all-around instrumentalists.
Besides starting off on her path as a serious musician, Michelle tells me that her time in Arizona also gave her one of her most meaningful relationships: a Star Trek series writer named Joe Menosky. She was an avid philosophy reader and immediately connected with Joe, a fellow philosophy lover, when he would buy sandwiches from the store she worked at. After first meeting, she and Joe began to regularly meet up and, as she tells me, they started to have a “guru – student relationship.” This relationship eventually led to her love of Star Trek, since Joe was a writer for the series, and introduced it to her. This love for sci-fi will greatly inform her new music because, as she tells me, she is currently at work on a sci-fi space opera. After this discussion, the science fiction influence appears more relevant even throughout her earlier work, as her album “Ataraxia” is filled with interstellar sounds. It will be exciting to see what a space opera from Michelle Blades might be like, though she tells me we will have to wait some time, but not to be discouraged because she will still be releasing small EP’s until she finishes the much longer space opera.
After her time in Arizona, Michelle moved to Paris and began releasing her music under the label Midnight Special Records, to which the artists Clea Vincent, Laure Briard, and Le Groupe Obscur are also signed. Since Michelle has lived in so many different places and speaks three different languages, I asked her about her favorite language to sing in, to which she answered that it was her native tongue, Spanish. She tells me that she is used to singing in English, but that when she does, she has a “careless thoughtlessness” about doing so, and that she “feels powerful singing in [her] native tongue.” Her newest EP, “Nombrar las Cosas,” is sung entirely Spanish, and features a range of songs that perfectly showcase her signature stylistic variations: from the smoother, calm “Globitos,” which reminds me of her earlier album “Mariana,” to the fast-paced, energetic “Mota o Perreo.”
Curious about how she creates such a wide range of sounds, intent on not sticking to one style, I asked about her creative process. Michelle tells me, “I don’t have much of an order. I’m very laissez-faire.” She then describes herself as being like a cat because she waits for ideas to come to her just how cats wait for treats and attention rather than always seeking them out. Specifically in regard to her musical style, she tells me that she does not even think about it. Instead, she simply attempts to “chase the way [she] feel[s] and translate it sonically,” which makes perfect sense given her diverse range of sounds that span her discography.
Currently, Michelle tells me that she is listening to a 60s UK band she found called Please and the Jamaican artist Jennifer Lara. Besides music, she reads a lot and likes to garden.
I also asked which of her songs she is most proud of, to which she said her song “Saturnino” from her album “Ataraxia” – a term with a similar meaning to “nirvana,” a title influenced by her love of philosophy since it comes from the teachings of the philosopher Epicurus.
Lastly, her relationship with the Star Trek writer Joe has lasted over the years; however, as of recently, Michelle tells me she has had trouble contacting Joe, and that he has seemed to disappear. Joe Menosky lives in LA and if you happen to know him, you can contact the station to help us reunite Michelle with her former mentor, who helped inspire her love of sci-fi that is currently the main source of inspiration behind her in-progress space opera. Before the release of this new project, you can listen to her latest EP “Nombrar las Cosas” and you can expect some singles and smaller EP’s before the sci-fi space opera is completed.
Interview Written By: Marshall McKeever