Q+A is a regular feature now on Dream Big Cape Breton. These are interviews done over the Internet, via email or Facebook. I send someone 10 questions, then they write back their responses! It’s quicker than an in-person interview, and saves precious time and fuel. The questions vary from person to person but you’ll see a lot of similar questions being asked, especially the first three.
If you would be interested in being a Q+A participant, just contact me. I’m interested in everyone’s story. You can quickly find all the other interviews on the blog here.
Today’s Q+A is with Carmel Mikol, a singer/songwriter who grew up in North River and who is currently based in Halifax, although she tours all over North America. Her website is here and you can Like her on Facebook here. She is also up for the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and you can vote for her song “Twenty Something Girl” here.
Oh and, when we were little, we played Barbies together. We go way back.
1. What’s your age?
I’m rapidly nearing the end of my twenty-something-ness. I vacillate between complete comfort with this fact and utter terror.
2. CB born and raised? Or recent transplant? (Plus whatever biographical details you feel like giving).
I am made in Cape Breton. I was raised on a farm in the North River Valley. When I have the pleasure of truly going “home”, it is still to Cape Breton that I go. I’ve lived many places and currently spend much of my time on the road touring with my music. But the great pull of home never leaves me.
At her CD release party last August, Carmel had this sweet vintage typewriter on hand for people to write her a note with. And that's why she's so awesome.
3. “What are you up to these days?” I.e. what do you do for a living, what are you working on, are you a student, in the workforce, writing songs, etc?
I’m a touring singer/songwriter and writer. I have released two albums and a small collection of poetry & short stories. I’ve been up for some awards; won some and lost some. I help run a concert series called Music Shapes New Glasgow, now in its second year, and I produce a new creation project for Celtic Colours called “Roots to the Future”. I am also in the middle of a funded public art project called “Waywords” that allows me to engage and interact with communities I perform in.
4. When you are back on the island, what are “must dos” for you?
I must sit in my father’s workshop and watch the pines sway outside the window. I must jog along the sea in Jersey Cove. I must walk to the top of the hill by the house where I grew up and look down at the fields. I must visit my friends. I must make supper for my mother with food from local farms. I must write.
5. What are your favourite things to do outside, in CB?
Hiking. Running. Walking through the trees. I also go to where my father is buried and watch the clouds move in and out over St. Anne’s Bay.
6. Favourite Cape Breton music venues, past and present?
I love the beer and sweat of Governor’s. I like the good surprises you find at the Upstairs Club. I love the quietude and intimacy of the Cape Breton Fudge Company. I swoon for the wide opened piano at the Red Shoe. But nothing beats the North River Hall when it’s filled with good friends, and my dear friend Rosie MacKenzie’s kitchen when she has her fiddle out…
7. Tell us a bit about your creative process.
I live and work by this simple motto: A writer writes. This reflects my firm belief in creative work ethic, commitment, and the importance of production. You cannot only dream of writing, or think of writing. You must actually write. I write constantly in a cycle of joy and despair that sends me reeling through poems, stories, journals, and always back home into the warm arms of songs. I am seeking a great story. One day, I may find it.
I snapped this shot of Carmel at the CD release she had for "Creature", her second album. Her live performances honestly make the hair on the back of my neck stand up - such good writing, such beautiful singing and playing.
8. Are you planning on sticking around in CB? Why, or why not?
I plan to have my own small house in Cape Breton someday, a place that is not my mother’s or my father’s or my childhood home, but a home of my own. I would like it to be a place of art, food, conversation, music and love. A place where I can find solitude to write and still welcome others warmly. A place that gets buried in the winter and breathes in the summer. A place where I can have dogs. Until then, I rack up miles coming and going and coming home again.
9. “Dream big” for a minute: what are some innovations or events or just plain old “big ideas” you think Cape Breton could use?
I want to start an annual Folk Festival on Cape Breton Island that showcases songwriters, story-tellers, poets, and modern folk artists. I want to unite the already rich cultural community behind a new arts venture that empowers small communities, engages young people, engenders a culture of community, volunteerism, and innovation, and brings new people into the heart of Cape Breton.
10. Finish this sentence: Being from Cape Breton, to me, means…
I get to sleep in my own bed when I come home to play Celtic Colours.