Misty Boyce was at a meditation retreat when she came to the following realization: “The Adam and Eve story is the first ‘bros before hoes.’ God and Adam were like, ‘Sorry Eve, we gotta keep this tight between us so we’re gonna throw you under the bus.’ And that’s shaped society ever since.”
But Boyce sees her forthcoming album genesis as a rebuke of that narrative. “I don’t accept that to be true anymore,” the LA singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist tells American Songwriter over the phone. “I want a different story for myself and for everyone–for men, too. I don’t want us to be trapped under these dead archetypes.”
This sentiment also courses through Boyce’s new single, “The Clearing,” which premieres today via American Songwriter but is not part of the album. Written with and featuring Doe Paoro, it’s a slow-burning dream-pop reckoning on a series of catastrophic fires and the #MeToo movement. In the track, Boyce and Paoro navigate a world that feels both decimated and full of potential as their city and society adjust to major cultural and environmental upheavals.
“After the fires went out / that’s when the rain came,” Boyce intones in the chorus over churning synths. “Whatever we’re gonna be now / we’ve gotta build it in the clearing.”
“Sonia [Kreitzer, AKA Doe Paoro] and I wrote it like two years ago now,” says Boyce of the track. “It was after or during a lot of the fires in LA, and there had been some flooding, and #MeToo was new. It just felt like ‘Wow–a lot of change is happening.’ It was very apocalyptic, but also exciting at the same time. There was a whole paradigm shift happening, and I [remember thinking] ‘I really hope that we use this well. There is a clearing now. We need to rebuild, and I hope that we are responsible about rebuilding.’ It feels so much more poignant now than it did then.”
Though Boyce usually lives in LA, she’s temporarily living in Phoenix where she anticipates staying for about six months. “I have a few friends here, but my family is in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which is six hours from here,” she explains. “So it’s perfectly equidistant between LA and my hometown.”
In addition to speaking to American Songwriter about “The Clearing” and genesis, Boyce also told us about her jazz solo on the latest Sara Bareilles tour, her (successful) quest to collaborate with Taylor Goldsmith from DAWES, and her love of Andy Shauf and Billie Eilish. Check out the full interview and listen to “The Clearing” below.
Tell us about “The Clearing.” What’s the song about? What’s the vibe or sound you were shooting for?
Sonia and I wrote it like two years ago now, and it was after or during a lot of the fires in LA, and there had been some flooding, and #MeToo was new. It just felt like ‘Wow–a lot of change is happening.’ It was very apocalyptic, but also exciting at the same time. There was a whole paradigm shift happening, and I [remember thinking] ‘I really hope that we use this well. There is a clearing now. We need to rebuild, and I hope that we are responsible about rebuilding.’ It feels so much more poignant now than it did then.
How did you and Sonia get connected?
Through the community in LA. I played a show that was hosted by KCRW and she came because she was a fan of the series, and we had mutual friends. She really loved the show and we just set up a co-writing date and got together and it was really wonderful and easy, and then a song came out of it.
Can you walk us through that process?
We got together and literally just talked for like twenty minutes–like, ‘Wow, we’re into the same things, we’re thinking about the same things, maybe this stuff will all come out in a song.’ And then it did! We’re talking about women’s issues and wanting to start from scratch in a cool way.
We didn’t do anything with it for a few months and then we took the song to my producer friend Jon Joseph. I had just done “Telephone” with him, which was the first thing we had done together, and that was so fun. I was like, ‘Oh, I think Jon would kill this track.’
We got together with him and it was cool but it wasn’t quite right at first. It took us a couple tries to get the vibe of the song. I think we started out just on piano and it was too slow and sleepy, and then, after months–and I was also on the road with Lord Huron at the time and really busy and distracted–I came back around and I was like, ‘I think this should start with electric guitar, and maybe that will totally change everything.’ And it did, it started to work. I wrote the [guitar] part and tried to play it, then Jon played it better.
What can you share about your upcoming album genesis? How does it compare to your previous records?
It’s definitely a great progression from the last record. Honestly this feels like the record I’ve been wanting to make my whole career, ‘cause it combines all of my favorite things. It feels like the neo-folky things happening around Andy Shauf and Phoebe Bridgers and that kind of folk / Americana vibe, but it’s got some prog jazz elements to it. Taylor Goldsmith from DAWES is guest singing, and I basically moved to LA to work with that band, so that felt like a huge dream come true. I love the whole thing.
Are there any other recent influences that you can register in the music?
Yeah, I think Andy Shauf. His band Foxwarren, in particular, I love the [2018 self-titled] record they put out and had been dying to make something that sounds like that. My producer Jon is also really into him and that vibe, so I think we were going for that.
I love Billie Eilish and I love the way she sings. That kind of changed the way that I approached singing in the studio–just like a much quieter, whispery, intense thing
And maybe pulling from my super jazz nerd past there’s some bizarre Herby Hancock stuff.
Do you ever play jazz anymore? I know you have a background in jazz piano specifically.
I don’t really, but there are some moments when it comes in handy. Like with this last Sara Bareilles tour, I got to play a jazz solo in the set which was fucking awesome.
Was that planned or more spontaneous?
It was kind of planned in my mind. There was this one song where I was like, ‘I could Norah Jones the shit out of this song–I hope they let me do it.’ But I didn’t know that that would happen. When we were in rehearsal the music director Rob Moose was like “You should take a solo there” and I was like “That’s a great idea!” Then it sort of took off and got weirder as the tour went on.
The title genesis has this Biblical connotation, and I read that you had a religious upbringing. How does religion come up on the album?
It’s a major part of the record. I–as well as many women–[we] are just totally reworking the stories that we’ve downloaded from society without thinking about it. I was at this meditation retreat and it came to me that the Adam and Eve story is the first ‘bros before hoes.’ God and Adam were like, ‘Sorry Eve, we gotta keep this tight between us so we’re gonna throw you under the bus.’ And that’s shaped society ever since. I don’t accept that to be true anymore. I want a different story for myself and for everyone–for men, too. I don’t want us to be trapped under these dead archetypes.
“The Clearing” is out today. genesis is out September 25.