Interview With Michal Towber
Artist: Michal Towber
Label: Skywithstars Music
Good vocal countenance enhanced by qualifying adjectives (the lyrical cosmetics), of well-developed substantive preparations (songwriting), designed in essence to beautify an eleven-track voice complexion; resulting in a vocal, almost visual condition (at least in this particular CD case) of what is musically called: Coma!
Singer/Songwriter and classically trained musician Michal Towber brings to the listener that one essential element of any good (listening) CD thing - The Endowment, of the predominant property, of Talent!
Opening with "Alone", an audio mental representation of lyrical prosopopoeia. Towber sings to the listener using a good "vocal-sense" of understated beauty. And this is the musical irony of Towber - she is young (very young), but she sings with the learned maturity of years.
The forth-track, "Desireless," is a well-written rhetorical device of figurative lyrics. Listen to the words:
"We had music for dinner/hate and sweet/to wash the bitterness of words from our lips… Daddy I'm a bad girl/give it to me straight/don't tell me life is honey/when you and I know that it ain't/ I couldn't be your angel/ I had to steal a kiss/ and if you could be here now/I wouldn't be desire-less."
Played with a good pop of percussion (Larry Ciancia) and featuring (under the fluency of hands) a well-placed intermezzo of Towber style keyboard passion. It is both articulate in production and replete in tone(ality), and it does serve as a vocal example on how a good artist works (sings) their way into song.
Two other tracks worth mentioning: "Fly To You" (the seventh-track), is a ballad composed (sung) with intoxicating word intensity, and is set well vocally within the melodic parameters of well arranged keyboards and guitar. Her final track, "Tissue Paper Wings," is a beautiful Tonic/Dominant Towber relationship. It is a musically straightforward duet with herself … she plays, and yes, she sings!
Produced by musician Joseph Simon (mellotrons, vibes, guitars) with the added basic building ingredient of Dan Rothschild (bass), Coma is a successfully played CD revolving architecture, which has modulated into a reflective voice-emphasis musical paradigm of well-written material that only gets better … once it has sung!
"My present age is 23, as of August , but I like to tell people [I'm] 52."
Signing with Columbia Records before the age of seventeen, Classically trained pianist, self-taught guitarist, two-times Emmy nominated composer and songwriter, Michal Towber has also shared the roster with such musical greats as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Bob Dylan. Sky with Stars, Towber's first CD, was critically acclaimed with excellent reviews appearing in such places as “Seventeen,” “Cosmogirl” and Rollingstone.com. A composer for “One Life To Live” on ABC, she has also been the feature performer on the Oxygen Network's morning show program. Her music has been included on the Dawson's Creek Album and on Delia's In Your Head Sampler. And now in 2003, Michal Towber releases her second CD, Coma. With all of this accomplished, by the musical age of twenty-three!
[Steven Digman] As a singer/songwriter, what do you consider to be the deeper art - writing the song or singing the song - and which do you enjoy the most?
Michal Towber I have a lot of respect for both songwriters and performers. I think that they are both equally challenging occupations. I think artistically, songwriting is much more personally revealing and I have always found it easier to sing my own songs than to sing covers. Probably because I never wanted to mutilate anyone else's music, but also because I write very honestly and not abstractly, so everything that I sing about comes from personal experience. I'm not the type of person who puts on a very elaborate stage show; I just play the piano and guitar and sing. I don't have background dancers or anything. If you're talking about someone like David Bowie, though, then the stage show is just as creative as the song writing.
[Steven Digman] What musical influences have influenced your music?
Michal Towber I have two categories of musical influences: The ones that I tell people, and then I have the guilty pleasures [that] I am almost embarrassed to admit. In the first category I would put 11 years of classical piano lessons. Also Billy Joel, Elton John, The Carpenters, David Bowie, Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, Bright Eyes, Fiona Apple, Nine Inch Nails. The second category is constantly evolving and only revealed when I am drunk (which is rarely).
[Steven Digman] What non-musical influences have influenced your music?
Michal Towber My family is very artistic. Probably Heredity. My father is an etcher who teaches art history and plays the piano, sitar, guitar and French horn. My mother is a painter and my sister is a ballerina. We had a famous Yiddish performer in our family, too. Also, it's kind of cliché to say at this point, but I really think that my shyness and negative experiences throughout middle school and high school had a lot to do with my starting to write music. My friend Alli, who is an actress up at Yale with me, put it the best when she said, "Thank god we were ostracized and marginalized in high school, or we might never have found art." If I had had a lot of friends I probably would have been smoking pot with them instead of holed up in my room listening to Nirvana.
[Steven Digman] How would you describe your music?
Michal Towber If I had a nickel for every time somebody asked me this question ... actually by now I should have a witty tag line all thought out. I guess I sound kind of like the love child of Liz Phair and Fiona Apple, if through some technological miracle their union was possible.
[Steven Digman] How do you think the listening audience would describe your music?
Michal Towber Somebody recently described it as the 'Alice and Wonderland of music.' I really like that.
[Steven Digman] What one rule or rules in the theory of music do you like to break?
Michal Towber I probably break an awful lot of rules that I am not aware of. But I would say that I enjoy writing choruses with lots of words that aren't easily singable after the first listen. My producer almost had an apoplectic fit when I wrote “riptides of seratonin.” He insisted that nobody would know what seratonin means. But I like to give my audience more credit. I would rather listen to an intelligently written lyric, than “I miss you, I really do...” or something. I feel like pop music panders to the lowest common denominator sometimes. If people have to really pay attention to understand my songs, that's fine with me.
[Steven Digman] What one rule or rules should a singer or songwriter not break?
Michal Towber Songwriters should never say they are better than the Beatles. I worked at a recording studio over the summer and part of my job as an intern was to listen to the demos people mailed in. There were these two girls whose bio said they were the best songwriting duo since Lennon and McCartney. That is a big claim. It worked for Oasis though.
[Steven Digman] How has the Internet affected/effected your music?
Michal Towber I think the Internet is the greatest tool for independent musicians out there right now. It's an issue that I feel very strongly about. I think it is hypocritical of majors to be suing downloading services like Kazaa by claiming that they are supporting child pornography. It is a weak cover for purely commercial motivations. And downloading services are much less detrimental to the profits of recording artists than the majors would like the public to believe. Artists rarely recoup their recording advances, and thus rarely see any royalties from record sales. I know plenty of artists personally who have been discouraged from voicing their support for downloading because of the fear of negative repercussions on their careers. Major labels are strong-arming artists into silence, which is an infringement on their first amendment rights. The New York Times put it best when they said that the people who are using these services are not the enemy, they are the fans. This technology has opened up a whole new way for artists to communicate directly with their audience. I can record something on my 8-track and put it up the next day on my website ... It gives me a direct link to my listeners.
[Steven Digman] And finally Michal, how has the emotional and cognitive impact of your past (both musically and personally), affected the present, and hopefully, the future tense of your music?
Michal Towber It's funny because recently I had to go back and listen to a bunch of recordings I made when I was 15 or so, and my music has changed so much. There has definitely been an evolution. I would say that when I first started writing music, at 13, I wrote much more abstractly, and I felt much more like I was playing a character. There was more acting involved. Now I have a lot of life experience to draw upon for inspiration. I have actually experienced what it feels like to be heart broken, for example. So when I sing about it, I am not just imagining an ideal, but I am really singing about what has happened to me. There is nothing personal in my life that I have kept for myself; it is all in my music. Also, just musically speaking, I used to want to rock much more, because I wanted to be like Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. But I have recently gone back to my classical piano roots, so this record is much more piano based. And my voice has gotten lower, and richer. It is hard for me to listen to the earlier tapes because I sound like a little girl and there were a lot of things that I hadn't learned to do yet with my voice. I have never been trained vocally, so a lot of my maturation as a singer has come from just being exposed to jazz and the blues. I hope in the future to continue to explore other genres and to mature as a person and translate that into my art.
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