Misty Lyn Bergeron of Misty Lyn & The Big Beautiful has been a fixture of the Michigan folk music scene for over a decade. Last July, Misty and her partner Eli Eisman were involved in a major car accident that left both of them with serious injuries and a long recovery. Seraphine Collective member Linda Jordan met with Misty at Beezy’s Café in Ypsilanti on October 21, 2015 to discuss her recovery, what inspired her to play music and advice for new musicians.
First of all, how are you?
I’m pretty good, considering. I’m healing, and so much better than I was. I’m trying to stay patient with it. It’s been 2 ½ months since [the accident]. The doctors will tell you that at 8 weeks your bones are supposed to be completely healed, but that doesn’t mean everything else is. Everything is kind of jarred, but I’m getting around; I walked here. That helps with the mindset, because it is hard to be at home a lot.
However, there are gifts in it, too, like reading poetry, which I never had time to do before. I can’t complain. It could have been so much worse. I try to stay focused on the light. I’m singing again already, and I appreciate the healing aspect of that, which is a gift in itself.
How were your first shows back?
They were great. I feel like it was perfect the way it happened. I had to cancel a bunch of shows. I was laying in the hospital bed thinking that I was going to be able to get to them. I thought, “okay, I’ll give myself two weeks,” but when you’re on morphine you don’t know how bad it is. One after another, I had to cancel my shows. I had my eyes set on the Marshall Crenshaw show. I thought, I just want to be able to do that. I think it is good to have a goal like that, because then you can push yourself a little bit more than you would have. It was a quiet, perfect show with a really warm crowd; packed house. I was able to sing by myself, which I haven’t done in a very long time. I love playing with my band, but sometimes I can’t hear myself. So it was nice to hear myself and the melodies I wrote on my couch years ago. The crowd was really receptive. I gave CD’s away after the show, because people have been so generous to me throughout this whole process. I don’t even know how to say thank you; it’s ridiculous.
I was so sad that I couldn’t make it to the Misty Lyn Tribute show
Yes, that was so inspiring. I watched the tape twice. It was very sweet. Kudos to people wiling to do something like that with two days notice. It was also really interesting to hear other people play my songs. It really opened them up in a way that I hadn’t heard them before. I appreciate them a little more now
Have you been writing any new songs?
Yeah, actually, I have. I’ve been having a hard time finishing them, but I have a lot in the works. That’s another thing that this time provides me. My job right now is to play music, for better or worse. I can’t do it as much as want to, because I can’t get around, but at home I have time to read poetry and listen to new music. That is inspiring me to write more. Feels good to be writing. I love what I have and I’d love to finish one.
I want to go back and ask about how you became a musician. When did you start playing music?
When I was 25. I kind of knew I was going to be a musician as a teenager and through my college years. It was this weird knowing. I would go to shows and I’d be angry that I wasn’t singing. I would just think, “I feel like that is where I’m supposed to be.” I got my first guitar my super senior year at MSU, and I wrote my first song within a year. Fast forward a couple years; I started volunteering at The Ark and that’s when I got involved got involved in the folk scene. I did my first open mics and house shows. I had a very fortunate path. From the time I played my first open mic at The Ark to the time I played the Ann Arbor Folk Festival at the Hill Auditorium was four years. I feel really lucky about that.
Who inspired you to start playing music?
I had a friend who would make me mixed CDs and he always included alt-county on it, and I had never heard it before. That Sun Volt song, Windfall, completely blew my mind when I heard it. I felt like I had come home. I thought, “This is what I want to hear.” So I was introduced to Whiskeytown, Wilco, and Hüsker Dü. That’s when I started writing. Also, Tom Petty was a huge first love of mine of mine. My friends were responsible for me actually getting on stage and performing songs that I wrote. Chris Bathgate is the one who literally nudged me on stage. It took some years for that all to happen.
Do you get stage fright?
Oh of course. I still do. Well, if the sound is good, I am not nervous, but that happens maybe 20% of the time. If I can hear myself: bliss. I’m enjoying playing quieter shows right now. They are relaxing in a way. I definitely get a lot less nervous than I used to, but I still have this day-of-show weird crankiness. I think, “Oh, I”ve been crabby all day. I guess I’m a little anxious.”
How long as Misty Lyn and the Big Beautiful been a band?
About 9 years now. I’ve been playing with Matt [Jones] for over 10 years. They are family at this point. That is what I value the most. Situations change, people chance, but when you are in a basement playing music together, it puts you right in the moment. It is nice to have people who have known you that long, then every little move doesn’t influence what you think about each other.
Do you have a favorite place you like to play?
The Ark is always magical. It is relaxing and it feels like home. They treat you like you are family. It’s a quiet setting. I like quiet settings. I also like festivals, like Harvest Gathering is a blessing every year. It’s rejuvenating. It kick-starts your love for music and your faith in humanity all at once. I love Mittenfest, too. Mittenfest is like a huge family reunion; that’s how I think of it. All of them have been really fun.
Do you have any advice for female musicians starting out?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from this accident—that I wish I could have cultivated in myself without getting smashed into at 45 mph—is life is so short; you cannot care about what people are saying about what you are doing. You just can’t. My self-doubt is basically gone now. I just don’t care. I could die tomorrow and I know that now. I wish I could gift that to every young person. You want that your whole life, because imagine what you could do. I would often judge my own songs and second-guess myself. I was separated from my own art. Now I think it was a gift from wherever, and it’s not for me to judge it. I’m booking a lot of solo shows now, and I just don’t care if people think it’s enough that I’m alone. It’s enough for me. It’s been such a gift and people are responding really well to it. So, my advice is that if your heart is telling you to do something, do it.