By Morgan Quinn
One of life’s great joys is to be gifted an opportunity to purposefully listen to music you hadn’t been exposed to before.
This week, Miriam Lieberman’s most recent full-length release, Just Transforming, was this gift. While proceeding with my mindless 9-5 admin tasks, I stuck my headphones on and devoured this album.
It immediately invited another listen. Then a third.
The instantly more-ish nature of Just Transforming is due, in part, to the collective skills of the performers on display. This is coupled by a musical maturity evident in the choices of not only what to include but, perhaps more importantly, what not to.
“It’s a testament to Josh Schuberth, the producer,” Miriam enthuses. “He would always say, ‘before you record anything, ask yourself – does this serve the song? Is this needed?’
“And so the album is filled with beautiful, technical playing – but it’s restrained. “Each string part or vocal harmony, for example, is there to elevate the overall piece. It serves the song by having a particular and precise function.”
A Pleasing Balance Between Musical Worlds.
With Just Transforming, Miriam has struck a pleasing balance between the pop and world music genres. There are unmistakable, exotic influences that drive each composition’s tone, which are channelled into a traditional pop song structure that is delivered via the medium of modern, clean production values.
“There is a progression in the music I’ve released,” Miriam states. “My last few albums have been heavily inspired by West African music, as is my new album. It’s also very much calibrated with folk music and my own personal journey.”
In our chat, I pointed out a resemblance to the vocal styles and song composition of Joni Mitchell’s album Blue.
“That is a great compliment,” Miriam says. “I look up to, and admire, Joni so much. And I love that album. Her range, and the emotion she can evoke in her lyrics, inspires me. There’s something very bittersweet about those songs.
“It’s beautiful when artists can make you feel both happiness and sadness within one piece of music.”
I was curious to know more about Miriam’s approach to writing both her lyrics and her compositions, and whether there is a particular philosophy that guides her. I highlighted a particularly ear-catching lyric:
Don’t let them know
Though you might be shaking inside
Just hold your head high
And somehow it’ll all be alright
“That song was written about a specific person that I loved who didn’t feel the same way about me,” Miriam reveals. “But your interpretation is as valid as the meaning I felt when writing it.
“The beauty of songwriting is that it can mean something very specific to the writer, but be totally open to interpretation.”
The idea of connecting with a listener in such a way is a kind of magic that can be achieved with many different mindsets and methods. For example, perfectionism, improvisation, and collaboration. Miriam let me in to her process and outlook when creating.
“I’m definitely not a perfectionist,” she states. “When I’m writing, I’m very conscious and accepting of that. I tend to be guided by the feelings I experience when I’m writing.
“There’s a song that I started a couple of days ago that I know is good, because during the process I had a strong emotional response. It’s about my mother, who passed away recently – we had a very peaceful and strong relationship. I’ve been going to the swimming baths early in the morning to have a freezing cold swim, which mum loved to do.
“Those kinds of activities, and writing music about my mum, makes me appreciate our relationship even more.”
On the Just Transforming album, Miriam is joined by Lara Goodridge, Susie Bishop, and Lara Norman. Both Norman and Bishop will be joining Miriam, comprising the eponymous Trio, for the Saturday, 5 August Canberra performance.
“When you share your music with others, particularly with other musicians to perform, it adds so much more value to any given piece you write,” Miriam says. “I’m very lucky to have the musicians that played on my album perform with me live. They give the music so much depth.
“They both lead their own projects, so to be with them is an honour and a privilege.”
Whilst the translation from studio to live can be jarring for some songwriters, for Miriam and her trio performing is as natural as any part of the creative process.
“I love playing festivals,” Miriam beams. “Having a chance to see what other musicians are doing is one of the most beautiful parts about touring.
“I’m especially excited to come back to The Street Theatre, which is a beautiful venue. It’s a very welcome opportunity for me to play in Canberra, too.
“It’s a city that I personally love.”
Miriam Lieberman Trio will be gracing The Street Theatre on Saturday, 5 August at 7:30pm. Tickets are $29 – $35, which you can book now online via thestreet.org.au