Exploring the sound of local artists. This week: Jerrika Mighelle
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In the wake of her mother’s passing, local artist Jerrika Mighelle finds a deeper meaning in her music and uses her passion to stay connected with mother.
“She’s in my music. She is in every note, every song,” Mighelle said. “It is my way of communicating with her. Every time I play, even just in my house and not in front of people … That is the way I feel closer to her.”
But she doesn’t want that to define her, hoping her music would be a tribute to her mother’s life.
Releasing her first solo album just last Friday at The Plus, the UW-Eau Claire graduate said she describes her music as folk Americana, taking inspiration from a wide range of artists like Patty Griffin, Peter Gabriel and Sarah Jaffe.
Having moved around to various states all around the U.S. including Utah, California and Colorado, Mighelle said she always found herself returning to her hometown of Eau Claire.
Her most recent trek back to her homeland was inspired by family.
Growing up in a household with seven other siblings, Mighelle said music was a staple in her family’s day-to-day schedule. As a result, when Mighelle and her sisters, Jerissa and Elizabeth, formed their band called QuinnElizabeth, the sound came naturally and it was comfortable to be on stage with them she said.
At her album release, Mighelle, Jerissa and Elizabeth performed a favorite road trip sing-a-long of theirs: Peter Gabriel’s “Washing of the Water.”
One of Mighelle’s other sisters, Jesseca Erb, agreed that having music throughout their childhood was pivotal to their family’s communication.
“Music was the beautiful energy that was in our house,” Erb said. “It was kind of like the auditory expression of how much we all loved each other.”
This past July, Mighelle said she and her family lost someone near and dear to their hearts, their mother. Both Mighelle and Erb agreed that having their mother, who would constantly sing while she worked around the house and play oldies on the radio, heavily influenced their view of music.
Following her mother’s passing, Mighelle said the loss caused her to stumble in life. It is something she struggles with every day she said. The one thing that has helped her during this time has been writing and performing music.
“Art forms are so beautiful and can reach anyone,” Mighelle said, “and music is very much that outlet for me.”
A celebration of a milestone, Mighelle said releasing her album felt humbling, but she knows it is just the beginning of her career.
Her favorite part about performing, she said, is the exchange between the performer and the audience. The connection she has during her set, she said, is the reason she expresses gratitude toward those who thank her for her performance – because it is a “give and take.”
A long time friend of Mighelle’s, Amy Johnson, said Mighelle was not always so confident performing solo. Johnson said over the years, she enjoyed watching her friend grow musically in her songwriting and onstage.
“Her ability to be herself on stage and involve humor really attracts her viewers,” Johnson said. “I think it will be part of how she builds on her success by having that humor and charm shine through when she is performing.”
After years of strumming, Mighelle’s guitar, purchased brand-new in 2008, displays the wear and tear of what she calls her “raw sound” with a battered patch where her hand hits the soundboard illustrating her journey as a musician.
At the beginning of her album-release performance, Mighelle told the crowd after playing the same guitar her whole musical career with the original strings, that earlier Saturday morning, one of the strings broke.
“You know what they say,” Mighelle said. “New strings, new beginnings.”