This week, The Knox Student sat down for coffee with folk singer-songwriter and senior Missy Preston.
The Knox Student: Can you quickly describe your musical style?
Missy Preston: I perform mainly acoustic folk music that I dub “angry folk rock country breakup songs.”
TKS: Do you specialize in breakup songs?
MP: I feel like I do. I’m trying to break away from that slightly, because I feel like a lot of my songs have become É a vehicle that I was using, and I think there’s a place for that and it’s become kind of smeared in society Ñ using the honest vehicle of relationships, especially with women. [Society] shames women not for being too promiscuous, but for being too emotionally promiscuous. I have no problem with being emotionally honest [in my songs], but I’ve recently been dabbling more in creative fictional [storytelling].
TKS: What has the process been like to produce an album, both conceptually and technically?
MP: This winter break, I had extra time and I realized one of my best friends had spent thousands of dollars on recording equipment for no particular reason É [we] set aside three days and I just sat down and [performed] most of [the songs] in single takes. Content-wise, I have several albums worth of songs right now, but anything before my sophomore year at Knox isn’t making an appearance [on an album]. I’d like to do an album or two that features those [early] songs, but it’s just hard to sing them and feel truthful.
TKS: Does the honesty or sentiment in your songs die away after performing them countless times?
MP: I say that the feelings are always there, but sometimes they come out in different ways, especially in live performances. É I say you can be honest with the music, it just isn’t always the same song. I guess it’s like different people looking at different paintings might see something different depending on how they feel that day.
TKS: Do you always have to be “in the mood” to write a song? Or do you ever write a song just because?
MP: I would say both. Right now, Valentine’s Day is coming up and I’ve never written a happy-go-lucky love song, I feel like it’s a lot easier to write an angry song. É I would say that most of my songs that I enjoy come out within a one to sometimes two-day happenstance. I create songs that I call my “mush pot songs” Ñ songs I just dabble with and pick up every week, two weeks or so and play with them. They’re never really my favorites, my favorites are the ones that just come out on paper. I would say that all in all, it happens pretty quickly.
TKS: Do all the songs you write eventually get performed? Or do you have a process to filter out material?
MP: I think I only have one song that I particularly keep to myself. I think everything else I’m pretty much okay with other people hearing, it just doesn’t always happen.
TKS: So you’re also an actress. How does your background as an actress inform how you perform on stage?
MP: So, David Bowie’s approach was to have all these different characters that he then performed, but he later had to run away from these characters and bring back David Bowie to perform. I feel like there could be some dabbling later in my future with a performance attitude or character that I’m going to be able to take on that would make it easier for my stage presence. But now, it’s me getting up there and performing truthfully. But once again, I feel like the more I move away from that vehicle Ñ of just using honesty to make my music Ñ that I’ll be able to integrate more performance aspects into [my performance.]
TKS: Aesthetically, what are you trying to convey or present to people in your performances?
MP: So when I performed [with Kyle Hall], the people who knew me gathered around in a semicircle and sat down, and they sat down kind of like it was story time. É I think a lot of my songs have visual aspects to them. When I’m writing, I imagine certain moments and even certain colors or scenes that are sometimes real, sometimes just what I feel goes along with [the song]. I think conveying that type of story imagery, those vignettes, É make [the song] universal. It’s like a sharing time.
TKS: How much do you think showmanship factors into a live performance?
MP: I guess it’s hard for me to separate myself from the person performing. É Because I haven’t actually stepped back to analyze [my performance]. I’ve been too focused on being prepared and having a good show than I have been with tweaking it almost to where I can have a good stage presence. É I wrote a song about an old woman who fell in love with a diner and built it up from the ground because this man left her. É I guess sometimes I feel that that is the character I’m performing Ñ that kind of trustworthy person who is older than they seem.