Intoxicating. One listen to Cheyenne Marie Mize and you'll be swooning, won over, knocked out loaded by her hypnotic torch songs and buttermilk-rich singing voice. Intimate and almost uncomfortably focused right on the heart, the songs on Before Lately, the first release from the resident of Louisville, Ky., are simple, honest, uncluttered and oh-so-effective.
Mize is a minimalist musician who uses gently-plucked electric guitar - marinated in reverb - piano, percussion and an assortment of strange little instruments. The song titles themselves are as direct as the music - "Lull," "Kind," "Not," "Path," "Best" - and they offer little clue as to the lyrical and melodic delights that lie within.
Mize, who'll be at the Jinx March 10, is a well-known musical figure around her hometown, for her solo work, her collaborations with maverick songwriter Bonny Prince Billy, and her singing, fiddling and harmonizing with area bluegrass and Americana bands.
She's also an accomplished and traveled classical violinist.
With Before Lately, she stands alone - and the logical question is this: What took her so long?
We spoke with Cheyenne on the phone from Louisville.
Keeping it simple:
"Maybe it's just a combination of my influences and things, but I think space is a very important part of music. I am classically trained on violin, and even in big classical symphonies you can have a hundred people onstage and still, the silent moments can be the most powerful. I guess that's not a conscious thing that I do in my music.
"And the minimalist aspect is almost more out of necessity. On Before Lately, I was the one playing all the instruments so that I could get all these things that were in my head, out, and record it in a reasonable amount of time."
The importance of dynamics:
"Even though I'm having another guitarist and a drummer play with me on the live show, I feel like we still bring that amount of space to it. And dynamics is a big part of it, too. A lot of music that you hear is all one volume, and it all kind of fades into the background because it's all just there, all the time. Again, maybe it's my classical background, but it's always been important to me to have those quieter moments, and then to make the louder moments a lot more powerful."
Her degree in Music Therapy:
"Music therapy, in general, is using music to accomplish non-musical goals. I got my degree to work with people, but by using music. There are music therapists that work in almost any setting you can imagine. But I work in an adult hospital, so I can help adult patients work on decreasing their anxiety and decreasing pain. Using music to bring up some issues around things that they're dealing with.
"I have a songbook that includes things from a lot of different genres and time periods, but all that might help to bring up some things that are going on. That might start a discussion about the lyrics, or how it connects to what they're going through. I also work with a couple of young men with autism; we work on anxiety, social skills and self-esteem through learning instruments and things like that."
"Electric guitar is just easier to play, period. For my hands. Even when I do play an acoustic guitar, I usually play a nylon-string. Just because I don't have an acoustic guitar that's good enough that I can play for a while and it doesn't hurt my hand! But I really like that (electric) sound - I like being able to control the sound more, and do neat things to it like add a little bit of delay or add some neat vibrato.
"The first amp I got was this Fender Princeton Reverb, which is just one of the most amazing-sounding little bitty amps. I've never wanted to do anything different since I got that little guy."
Cheyenne Marie Mize
When & where: At 10 p.m. Thursday, March 10, The Jinx
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