Canadian singer-songwriter Elissa Mielke makes the kind of ethereal indie-folk that fully envelops you and feels like a world unto itself. Her new EP, Finally, is due later this week, and is a reflection of love and loss channeled through sparse, dramatic arrangements that revolve around a piano and Mielke’s captivating voice.
Ahead of the new EP, Mielke sat down to talk Bill Withers, The Royal Tenenbaums, and trusting your intuition in the latest Indie Mixtape 20 Q&A.
What are four words you would use to describe your music?
diary of secular hymns.
It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?
I’d want them to remember it for how it made them feel; and hope that would be a feeling of connection or knowing that they’re not alone in the universe. Although, 2050 – maybe they are the last people on earth?
What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?
I sang in India at a cafe once and it was a beautiful experience. In my personal experience, people are so respectful of live performance there. It’s really cool.
Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?
My Omi, who raised me. She thought it was awful that I was an artist and thought making music was dangerous – but that made it even more sacred to me. She also secretly loved when I sang, I could hear her listening through the door, even if she had to openly disapprove. We loved each other so much and I’m grateful for her influence— even though it was unconventional.
Where did you eat the best meal of your life?
I used to live in Tokyo and once went to this treehouse cafe in Koenji, and just pointed to a picture on the menu to order, I still have no idea what it was. You pulled the food up the tree on a string! I think cheese was involved? With a pancake? Maybe a fish? It was amazing.
What album do you know every word to?
My dad makes folk music and sings hymns and he’d play them every night when I fell asleep. I know them all like my own hands.
What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?
My friend Michael took a bus for 5 hours in a snowstorm as a surprise to see me play a show when I was 16. He made us stay for the very last performer of the set. A guy in his late 60s who played real quiet and weird, and was so nervous. Just Mike, me, my friend Caro, and my Dad listening to this guy at 3am in The Savannah Room in Toronto (now closed). It was perfect. Mike died unexpectedly a week later and it took me a while to see another show because I wanted it to be the last show I remembered as long as possible.
What is the best outfit for performing and why?
Ideally naked but that’s not allowed most places. One piece worksuits are a close second!
Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?
@thesessioniglive does these Instagram Lives where he takes these iconic albums and breaks them down to the stems. Like just the bass from Jackson 5 or Sade’s dry vocals. It’s so amazing and always makes me fall in love with music again.
What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?
“Oh Honey” by Delegation. Best song for driving slow into a new town with the windows down “ohhhh honeyyy.”
What’s the last thing you Googled?
Oh it was SO boring. I’m studying production so I spend a lot of time on reddit researching plugins and trying to understand technical problems.
What album makes for the perfect gift?
Bill Withers- Just As I Am.
Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?
Under a table in a field, when a bar of chocolate turned out to not just be a normal chocolate bar if you know what I mean.
What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?
I have given several people some questionable stick and poke tattoos and I’m pleased about that because they’re all on women who I love. I don’t have any myself but am thinking I’ll get a full body tattoo when I’m 75 just to keep the grandkids guessing.
What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio?
If every radio station played D’Angelo all day I’d probably listen to the radio a lot more. There was a Bonnie Raitt radio hour I stumbled upon once and that was heaven. I love when there’s a weird passionate old DJ who is just playing weird deep cuts where you want to shazam everything. I found “Hammond Song” by The Roches that way last year.
What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
I got really sick last year for a few months, and all these new friends in a new city dropped off groceries, wrote me letters, and would stand under my porch in my quarantine hellscape and make me laugh. It was the most alone, but actually the least lonely I felt all year because of all the kindness. It was really healing.
What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?
Trust your intuition no matter what anyone older, or wiser, or powerful says — and listen when people tell you who they are.
What’s the last show you went to?
To see my friend Donovan Woods play at the Troubadour. I drank beer and cried. It was nice.
What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?
The Royal Tenenbaums.
What would you cook if Obama were coming to your house for dinner?
Oh wow! I’m excited. Ricotta gnocchi, roasted fish, salad with every beautiful vegetable, cakes! I’d get carried away. I like cooking. I’m going to start the dinner playlist right away too.
Finally is out June 11. Pre-order it here.