Michaela Anne (Photo by Natia Cinco)
When she opened for Watchouse at the 9:30 Club on Sunday, Michaela Anne performed at the legendary venue for the first time. But it was also a homecoming of sorts. She comes from a military family — her father was a submarine captain, and her uncle was commandant of the Marine Corps during the Obama Administration — and she lived in Fairfax County while her father was stationed at the Pentagon.
She can’t really call anywhere home though; because of her father’s career, their family moved every other year. Michaela “complained about it a lot,” including how her father had “ruined my life by moving us to beautiful Southern Italy,” she told the audience on July 17. She’s not bitter about the experience, however, saying, “in hindsight, it was a really cool way to grow up.” (The prospect of growing up almost anywhere other than my native Akron, Ohio, sounds pretty good to me, and I could’ve used a fresh start at least once while I was growing up. Having a shared history with people can be great, but it can also be a weight you have to carry.)
“I probably have a song about it on every album, and this is the latest,” she said, introducing “Chasing Days.”
“Chasing Days” is on her latest album, To Be That Free, released earlier that year. She came up with the title track when she visiting her husband’s family, who are farmers in Maine. His young cousin, Tiger Rose, was running around naked, and her grandmother wistfully remarked, “Oh, to be that free again.” The song beautifully captures the joy and wildness of childhood.
Stream “Chasing Days” by Michaela Anne on YouTube:
While she can be sentimental, Michaela has her sharp corners, too. She talked about getting “unsolicited advice about what a female singer-songwriter should doing,” and “99% of the time,” those comments are coming from men. She characterized these comments as “amusing and borderline offensive.” (A therapist once told me, “Never give anyone advice,” and he was probably right.) “If I Wanted Your Opinion You Would Know” is a take-no-shit response, which, she said, “some people find…very irritating. I’m okay with that. I don’t read the Youtube comments.” I’m hesitant to give advice, but I’m not sure anyone should any comments on YouTube, ever.”
Between “Chasing Days” and “If You Only Knew,” she shared an anecdote about her uncle, who is one of many “intimidating” personalities in her family. Someone told her about seeing a story about “some ogre-looking motherfucker” testifying in Congress while dipping tobacco, who happened to share her last name. “That’s my uncle,” she said.
While many of the personalities are, as she said, strong and intimidating, they’ve also been supportive of her choosing a career in the arts. I can relate, a bit; while my family aren’t military, they’re all very strong personalities, and they can be a lot, but they’re good people, and I’ve always known they have my back. Strong personalities are a real asset, too, when those people have to go to bat for you.
Watch Michaela Anne perform “If Only You Knew” live in Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s Prescott Park on YouTube:
Michaela’s set opened with one of her new songs, “Mountains and Mesas” continued with “By Our Doing.” The set also included “I’m Only Human” and “It’s Just A Feeling,” but she saved the biggest emotional punch to close with. While “Who You Are” was written a couple years ago, it took on new meaning for her recently. In the last year, she had her first child, a daughter. When Michaela was five months pregnant, her mother suffered a massive stroke five days after her 63rd birthday. She spent a month in a coma, and she had to relearn basic tasks like speaking and eating. Michaela described “watching my mom and her first granddaughter live parallel lives,” which she called “an amazing human experience.”
“Who You Are” is about being a better person, and learning to love people the way they need to love. As she’s gone through this experience, she’s had to learn to love her mom the way she needs her to. She’s also watched her father become a full-time caregiver. It’s inspiring stuff, deeply emotional, and it’s why Michaela Anne has been noticed by many as an an emerging talent.