Feminism, meditation, & getting behind the boards.
Birch (she/her) is the musical project of Michelle Birsky with bandmate Mat Towles. Based in Brooklyn, NY, Birch blends the best parts of electronica, pop, folk, and rock, writing music that sheds light on the political and social issues of today.
What does “raise the femme voice” mean to you?
To me, raising the femme voice means listening to and giving a platform to people who identify as female. We tend to forget how recently women were considered equal members of society (under the law), but it hasn’t been long at all. It wasn’t until 1974 that women were able to get a credit card without her father or husband signing for her, for fuck's sake! Because of the way our society has been established, with men at the helm, female-identifying voices have not been heard at the same frequency as male-identifying voices. It’s vital that we continue to raise the femme voice so that we can someday reach an even playing field.
Can you tell us a little bit about your playlist?
My playlist is made up of female-identifying artists that I admire and listen to on repeat. Some of these women are my friends, some I admire from a distance, all make me feel seen, heard, and understood.
How have you been influenced by those artists?
Wow, in so many different ways...St. Vincent’s self-titled album showed me how to write in metaphors; Lizzo taught me it’s ok to love myself; Sylvan Esso influenced me to experiment with electronic music; Angel Olsen’s “White Fire” made me realize there is so much power in a long, slow, repetitive song and I will always cry when I listen to it...These artists have shown me that there are infinite ways to express yourself and the most powerful thing you can do is be authentically you.
How do you balance the business and the creative of being an indie musician?
I take my time very seriously (perhaps too seriously) and I set aside specific times for creating and for business. Right now, I’m in the process of pitching to labels, so I’ve had to set aside a lot of hours to be on my computer emailing, going to meetings, etc. But I also make sure to set aside time every day to write, practice, play music.
Your next release is called “Femme.one” (we’re into it already). What’s it about?
Ah I’m so freaking excited to put this album out! Femme.one is a feminist concept album about the trajectory of the female experience (through my perspective). The album is a series of songs about my exploration of what it means to be a female in this world. Over the past few years, with all the chaos of US politics, there’s been a deep exploration of the role of the female in our culture. I’ve gone through the same exploration, on a more personal level, and have documented it in this album.
The songs explore topics like: my first experiences with sexism as a young girl; my great grandmother’s experience as a woman in contrast to my life; a song-letter to Mike Pence about his abortion laws in Indiana; a song about the #MeToo movement; there’s a song about falling in love while coping with a past sexual assault.
It’s complicated and messy; sometimes sad but ultimately optimistic. My hope is that female-identifying people will see themselves in these songs and that male allies will listen and allow the music to expand their understanding of the female experience.
When did you decide to get behind the boards and produce your own music?
It began as a solution to a problem. The band downsized from 4 musicians to 2 and we had to figure out how to play live with less people! At the time, I was really influenced by artists like Tei Shi and Grimes, and I decided that I wanted to give Ableton a go and see if I could create my own beats and approach my sound more electronically. So my wonderful bandmate Mat Towles and I spent months adapting old songs, working on new ones, and practicing our live set using Ableton.
Through that process, I learned the ins and outs of production and electronic music and was able to co-produce my latest album with my friend and producer Ariel Loh. Now I’m at the point where I’ve started to produce remixes and score films on my own, so I guess I’m officially a producer.
If you could give advice to the Michelle Birsky of 10 years ago, what would you say?
Believe in yourself, you are so much more capable than you think.
What do you do when you need a break from music?
I meditate. I get really, really quiet to remember what’s important. Or I listen to a podcast. Or I watch movies to numb out and forget about my responsibilities because I’m a human.
Who’s one artist on your playlist we need to start following immediately, and why?
Lizzo! She is a self-love, body positive, goddess of a human. She’s so powerful. I love her.
Birch's Latest Release
Birch's Charity of the Week
Planned Parenthood is my charity of choice, keyword choice. Planned Parenthood is an organization that provides affordable health care for women. It saves female lives. In this political climate, it is so important that we protect our bodies and our rights.