MusicMusic Features

Mitski Manages Indie Stardom in the Social Media Age

Released last year, Mitski Miyawaki’s Bury Me at Makeout Creek cemented the the 25-year-old New York singer-songwriter as one of the premier voices in indie rock. Though it was the third of her career, Makeout Creek was Miyawaki’s first record to gain massive critical acclaim. It’s in support of the album that she has embarked on a nationwide tour with PWR BTTM and Palehound.

Though some might confuse Miyawaki’s raw emotion as a consequence of angst or sadness, this seems a gross misinterpretation. Sure, there are hints of long-lost love or cautious uncertainty about the future, but there is never any sense of defeat or anguish. Every inch of Miyawaki’s music is a celebration of the self, and it is that confidence and power that has resonated with such a wide and varied audience.

Miyawaki isn’t surprised that audiences didn’t take notice until her third album. In fact, she says, until now, they were never supposed to.

“[Makeout Creek] could be called a breakout album, but realistically, it’s the first album that I did any work for. The first two albums I made, I didn’t play shows for. I just put [them] on the Internet as my junior and senior projects in college. There’s this impression that I just came out of nowhere and kind of lucked out and was suddenly ‘discovered,’ but I think the reality is just that I’ve been building and working at it little by little. So, it’s been nice finally seeing some recognition.”

Like other ascendant indie stars, Miyawaki has experienced increased pressure to engage with her fan base via social media. She is highly active on Twitter, where she shares thoughts on music, politics, social issues and whatever else comes to mind, not unlike any other media-conscious person in her early 20s. But she expresses ambivalence about the experience of interacting online.

“It’s hard [not to interact], because I just have a really strong understanding that the person talking behind the screen is a real person with a real life, and I don’t want them ignored or neglected,” she says. “I’m trying to figure out how to balance my own personal energy and also be a good person to other people. I think a lot of people on the Internet interact with me… not really understanding that I’m a person behind the screen. I’m more than just an image or a symbol.

“I’ve started to understand that,” she continues. “Before, I’d be so confused why people were throwing such strong emotions and words at me. I think it’s because young people who grew up on the Internet sometimes forget that thing they are throwing all this stuff at is an actual person.”

As she negotiates a hectic touring schedule and the Rihanna-esque reality of recording her fourth album in as many years, Miyawaki says she is considering taking a reprieve from the constant interaction.

“I’m thinking of scaling back [my Internet presence],” says Miyawaki. “I’m slowly trying to wean myself from it, because it’s taken up too much of my energy [and] my time. I don’t want it to start affecting my artistry, because I don’t want to make music that caters to people or is worried about what people will think or say.”

As for an update on the currently untitled new album, Miyawaki is currently in the mixing process and is too “in the thick of it” to discuss details in depth. Bury Me at Makeout Creek will be a tough act to follow, but as long as Miyawaki continues to share her compelling personal stories via song, passionate fans will be there to listen.

WHO: Mitski, Palehound, PWR BTTM
WHERE: Caledonia Lounge
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 14, 8 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $10 (21+), $12 (18–20)