BACKSTORY: A singer-songwriter with a flair for writing sad songs with poetic lyrics and a hopeful twist
FROM: Rural Ontario, Canada
YOU MIGHT KNOW HER FROM: 2021’s critically lauded debut EP, Finally
NOW: Preparing to release her much-anticipated follow-up EP, Mouse
Growing up in rural Ontario’s patchwork green fields and enveloping wilderness, Elissa Mielke’s childhood sounds like a fairy tale: she wrote letters to mice, penned songs about dancing trees, and sang hymns in church. However, this isn’t a Disney movie. The singer-songwriter felt cut off from the world by her deeply religious upbringing. Over the course of two beautifully crafted EPs, 2021’s Finally and the imminent Mouse, Mielke charts her journey from smalltown girl to LA-based artist, documenting all the scars she collected along the way.
“When I was a teenager, I recorded a song about trees dancing,” Mielke recalls over the phone. “And I couldn't put it out because you weren’t supposed to dance, because dancing led to lust.” Her family didn’t listen to the radio or watch TV, but outside influences still occasionally filtered through. “I heard The Beatles at school and saw movies at sleepovers, but music was intended for church.”
Even so, Mielke felt compelled to immerse herself in it. “I played trombone in a swing band that played senior centers,” she laughs. “I took opera lessons and I played piano as a kid.” That gave her the tools to create her own songs. “I started writing songs by playing classical music and singing over that.” Mielke’s talent was undeniable, and she ultimately ventured into the world and signed a deal with a major label, which she wasn’t really prepared for.
“Finally was kind of like meeting a person for coffee, and then Mouse is when they come back to your house and see your messy room.”
It took life experience, therapy, and perspective to find her voice and a degree of clarity. “As a grown woman, I've had to do a lot of undoing in terms of the internal filter that I have,” Mielke says. She was even still working through it on her 2021 EP. To drive the point home, the artist uses a dating analogy. “Finally was kind of like meeting a person for coffee, and then Mouse is when they come back to your house and see your messy room.”
The simple fact that she swears on Mouse highlight “Woman’s Worth” is a breakthrough. “It might not seem like a big deal,” Mielke says, “but to some people I really love, it will be blasphemy.” Regardless, she forged ahead. “My writing feels more honest than it ever has. I have less of a filter, and I think that's a good thing.”
“I like the idea of a song as a mantra so you listen to it when you’re going through it, but also take strength from it.”
Take lead single “Paper Moth Flame,” which is a mantra of sorts about learning from past mistakes in a relationship and taming self-destructive tendencies. “I've worked really hard to break some patterns,” Mielke says. “That first line, ‘I'm a paper, you're a moth to flame / Could I light a match and burn again?’ was me being drawn back to a person I knew wasn't good for me.” Interestingly, she doesn’t classify it as a breakup song per se. “I think it's less of a breakup song and more about choosing yourself,” Mielke muses. “I hope that someone would hear it and find the resolve to not go back to a thing that's not good for them.”
The track that set the tone for the EP’s candid approach is the appropriately titled “Get Well,” a sad song that’s unwaveringly hopeful. “I like the idea of a song as a mantra so you listen to it when you’re going through it, but also take strength from it,” Mielke explains. “In the chorus, I sing ‘I'll drive on, even on fumes.’ You have to keep going.”
Perfecting “Get Well” unlocked something within her and the songs just started coming. “They’re just appearing,” she says with palpable wonder. “They’re coming faster than I can release them. All the songs on this project appeared fully formed.” And once they’re here, Mielke doesn’t like to fuss over them too much. “I don't like the magic of a song to ever get lost,” she says, “and if you sit with it for too long, there's a whole army of other songs waiting for your attention.” After all, the Canadian songwriter is making up for lost time.
While the EP is about healing and reclaiming your power, it’s also a 360-degree moment for Mielke. She’s finally at peace with her past, which is where the title comes from. “‘Mouse’ was my nickname when I was a kid, and it's still what my family calls me,” Mielke reveals. “We grew up in the woods, so there were a lot of mice that would sneak into the house. I wrote them a letter and put it under my bed with a chunk of cheese.” All these years later, that sense of wide-eyed wonder still runs through each song on her new EP. FL