Michelle Myrick releases memoir, album to accompany song series
By Mark Squibb | Vol. 12 No. 17 (August 28, 2019)
When Michelle Myrick, who grew up in the Cape Pine Lighthouse and St. Shotts, launched her performance exhibition “Song Series” across Canada, Norway, and the Middle East last summer, she said audiences wanted more.
For the exhibition, Myrick had revisited many of her songs and sought to translate their messages through a new artistic medium; paint.
“It was my husband (Reidar Olsen) who suggested I paint my songs,” explained Myrick. “I thought that was a crazy idea to being with. But, as he aptly put it, you don’t know if you can or cannot until you try it.”
Her first painting was of one of her first songs— ‘Voices with the Wind.’
She said that revisiting the material decades later, she was able to bring a new perspective to her own work.
“It was about thirty-two years ago I wrote that. I was a different person then. I was 21, 22 years old. So much life had happened in the last three decades that brought a different perspective to that experience that I had over 30 years ago,” she explained.
She soon realised that this was a path she needed to follow.
“I felt some healing. I felt some resolution,” she noted. “The first year of painting it was like my entire emotional state was bursting out of me onto the canvas. I created 138 that first year.
“I swear I painted in my sleep… I just couldn’t get it out fast enough.”
For the exhibit, Myrick paired the music and artwork, along with anecdotes and stories about the subject matter.
She explained that while she writes generically enough for people to connect with the music and the artwork, the stories behind the art is very personal, and she relates some of those stories during the ‘Song Series.’
Her new memoir Stepping Stones, launched at the Social Centre in Trepassey Tuesday, Aug. 20, and to be launched in St. John’s at the Masonic Temple Theatre on Sept. 13, delves deeper into those stories, and the life lived by the artist behind the art.
“The audience has said ‘Michelle, we’d love to read a book on that.’ I mean, how much can you tell in two hours?’ Not very much. It has to be very much ‘nutshelled,’” she explained. “They were connecting with the songs and the paintings, but mostly in the message, mostly the message of believing in yourself, of not letting your thoughts hold you back, fear, doubts, all of those false beliefs we buy into.”
Coinciding with the launch of the memoir is the release of the album ‘Songs from the Song Series,’ a collection of songs form the exhibition.
She told the Irish Loop Post her hope is that her work helps people look beyond their circumstances and realize their true potential.
“My purpose, as a songwriter, as a painter, as a writer, is to help people, myself first, to begin with, understand our experiences and our role in them. How we are creating our own lives, by what’s up here,” she explained, a finger pressed to her temple. “We always decide what’s up here… it’s our perspective that holds us back or propels us forward.”
And lest anyone say of Myrick, as Shakespeare once put it, she ‘jests at scars that never felt a wound,’ Myrick has had her fair share of personal tragedy.
While finishing her education degree at Memorial University, her father, brother, and uncle were lost at sea.
“It was quite a shock in the entire area for three men to be lost like that, so quickly, so abruptly,” said Myrick. “It was quite a blow. I was 21 years old at the time.”
Her father had taught her how to play guitar when she was 12, and, at 15, she performed on stage for the first time, her father alongside her.
She wrote ‘Voices on the Wind’ in reflection on the tragedy.
“I wrote that song over on the spot where they were lost,” she noted.
She recalls writing the song “Palace of Delight,” about her father, with renowned singer-songwriter Ron Hynes.
“One of my father’s guitar buddies was Sonny O’Neil,” said Myrick.
That’s Sonny, as in Sonny of ‘Sonny’s Dream.’
“So, I grew up as a kid listening to Sonny play guitar in the kitchen at Cape Pine with my father. “Ron, although he didn’t know my father, he knew, shall we say, the cut of that man because of his uncle Sonny. Sonny and my dad were the same age, grew up in Trepassey or St. Shotts, and they both loved to play guitar and sing. He asked me to write from a different perspective, to make the speaker in the song a different person. And that speaker turned out to be my dad, speaking to me about me….
In writing that song, the song gave me resolution. In talking to Ron about him, it was like the first time I spoke about my father as a person, not as my parent. A very subtle shift in perspective, but it unlocked something in me, and it dialed down the sorrow enough for me to write an incredible song with one of our most legendary writers.”
It’s one of the many stories in Stepping Stones.
Myrick explained that she also garnered inspiration to tell her stories from another Southern Shore woman: Anne Marie Hagan.
Hagan’s father was murdered in front of her by an ax wielding neighbour.
In recent years, Hagan has been speaking publicly of her journey to forgive the man who caused her and her family so much pain and grief.
“Me and her really connect because we both lost our dads at around the same age, and suddenly and tragically,” said Myrick.
“It really impacted me because it was the first time that I’d seen someone do something positive with something terrible that had happened to them,” Myrick added of Hagan’s example. “It taught me that you can use your story. Your story can empower you and not weaken you. If you stand on top of your story instead of in it, that makes the difference. That’s what this book is about,” she explained.
Myrick argues that’s it’s not the experiences in our lives, as much as our responses to those experiences that shapes who we are.
“The way that we let that experience influence our lives, influence our behaviours, influence our beliefs, that’s personal,” said. “It’s our thought process, it’s what we believe about ourselves, it’s about our self belief, our self worth. For years I was a victim, because I thought so. I thought I was a victim, so I behaved as a victim, I felt I was a victim. It wasn’t until I changed how I thought about those experiences that I got the stepping stone to higher awareness and a higher perspective of my own life.”
Myrick, who has had a storied life of her own, living and working abroad for several years, said that the first step to accomplishing something is to try it.
“Try. That’s the thing,” said Myrick. “If there’s something that you want to do, whether it’s starting a new business, or taking a trip by yourself , or doing something artistic, you don’t know if it can or can’t do it until you try. Believe in yourself. Believe in all that you’re capable of. Because we are. We are all capable… I wrote some of theses songs 25, 30 years ago. And I never did anything with them before, I didn’t think they were good enough. I didn’t think I was good enough. I never tried painting before because I figured, ‘I can’t do that!’”
But, she warned, beware, because the work is not easy.
“Me going through this process over the last year has been extremely emotional,” said Myrick. “Many days he (Reidar) came home and found me curled up in a ball, because this is hard work, but it’s worth it.”