Whether it's a therapy consultation or the first engagement between possible lovers, rendering-up a condensed representation of yourself can resemble the most superficial of intimate encounters.
For L.A. based Singer-Songwriter and playwright Misao McGregor, it's far more cathartic to reminisce about what lingers, remaining unstated. On the opening track of her première album, "Kid In The Corner," McGregor ruminates over her ex, decrying, "we fucked up a lot my dear and, uh we drank when the water wasn't clear," while the piano colors the atmospheres of her mix an emollient shade of blue, emphasizing her readiness to take things forward: "come to the table when you're feeling unsteady and we'll hold each other up."
Frolicking with the reminiscent undertones of the title, which is perceived as the term for someone who is close-knit to another, it's concurrently beautiful and vulnerably exposed. Matched to the softness of a harmonizing variation of McGregor's distinct voice, the budding songwriter maintains she's ready to divulge the inners of her most profound emotions, and with "Kid In The Corner," she chronicles her journey through emotional turbulence and eventual catharsis.
Fresh off four years of theatre and music study, McGregor consciously marshals therapeutic narratives throughout her debut album. "Sitting here trying to write up a love song, god how cliche, I wrote these words at thirteen years old," she sings of her past and the heart-churning infatuation she felt when near her crush on "She Was Worlds Above Me."
The effect is a melodious song that flirts between electro-festooned instrumental backings and an incredible closeness when the drums come in, combined with a character that is soft and more sincere than the overly-remedial folk songs you'd find on the radio. "Kid In The Corner" feels more arranged with revelations McGregor has selected and cohesively chronicled to draw a picture of her past concerning: abuse, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, self-harm, queerness, PTSD, calamities, empowerment, and cleansing.
While her songwriting strength is undeniable in her ability to paint an auto-biographical picture of her life, McGregor mixes streaks of passion and catharsis with minimalistic instrumentals throughout this LP, while preserving her bent for providing some fraction of encouragement to anyone feeling something similar to what she describes throughout "Kid In The Corner."
Earlier E.P.s suggested at the impassioned swing of McGregor's voice—look to 2016's ardent "Brave"—,but "Kid In The Corner" significantly develops this notion, preserving her efficacious resounds for the most gut-churning minutes. She dispenses a more cautious side on the melancholic, raw piano-vocal ballad "Eventually" and summons the imposing vocal pressure of her belting icons and more rambunctious instrumentals proceeding the empowering "Runaway." Everything on the record feels so inventive, always corroborating the story-line with magnetizing vocal performances that convey her emotions immaculately.
"Eight" brings a crisp, flowing feel to the playback, but its principal anecdote—a long-distance relationship with her mother—feels well-refined and utterly heartbreaking at the same time. It functions on multiple levels, working in tandem with flushing synths and unintrusive piano accompaniments, and as McGregor adds a covering veneer of self-awareness to her solicitudes, you can feel her predilections as if they're your own; like someone is whispering them softly in your ears.
In the inaugural portions of "Weather the Weather," a carbonated piano and McGregors melodious top-line sets up a jaunty feeling of eloquence in you as she tunefully sings: "I could weather the weather, I don't know how I could weather the weather and figure it out." She continues and develops on her emotions with a multifarious aggregate of vocal harmonies that work in tandem with each other as they pump-up the energy of this piece, spilling over into every boulevard of your cognizance.
It's staggering how comfortably adhesive the details that promote "Kid In The Corner" present with: the steady remorse of McGregors voice when she says, "what do I know? I'm just the kid in the corner," or the intense, desirous piano stabs that make way for an empowering horn section on "Stay In The Desert," a track about losing someone she loves ("I don't want you to go away tonight," she begs on the chorus.)
McGregor effortlessly inhabits the soothing auras of her debut with timeless fashion, facilitating an enormous presence with her profound temper—listen to "Eventually," where the Japanese-American non-binary femme battles with her crushing depression—and still, the abundance and clarity of her voice removes the record from bitterness, or inauthenticity, smoothing-off her clinical disposition like a brushstroke soaked in emollient sonic colors all over listeners' ears.
"Kid In The Corner" continually faces you with heartfelt honesty, touching on bruises that will feel all too familiar to some and which were designed based on the reality she has endured up until this point.
Can you run us through what the recording process looked like for "Kid In The Corner"? Where did most of these songs manifest themselves initially? Was it by way of the piano, a few top-line melodies, or lyrics you already had awaiting you?
Even though I’ve been playing piano and singing for most of my life, I only started self-producing and recording my own stuff at home in 2019. I was at a point in my life where I knew I needed to make a change and music was the one space that I could be in complete creative control. So “Kid in the Corner” was actually recorded a couple of different times and ways throughout 2019-2020 with various different equipment and production styles. I was trying to discover what I wanted my overall sound to be like and I finally feel like I have a better understanding of it now from where I started.
All of the songs on the album were written at different points within the last six years of my life. Some were written in my childhood home, others were written in practice rooms when I was in college. But most often when I’m writing, I’ll just sit at the piano and start to play around. When I’m able to form a pattern on the keyboard, a melody comes to mind and whatever emotion I’m feeling or exploring in that moment becomes magnified. Even though it starts with the music, I feel like the lyrics are where my work really starts to take over. I discover a lot when I’m writing, whether it’s about feelings I’ve suppressed or scenarios that I’m exploring in my head.
When you think back to each of the emotions you channeled into for "Kid In The Corner," which ones stood out as the most facilitating for your songs' narratives? Do you feel like those emotions played a significant role in the way this lP was presented? How?
I think the driving force behind “Kid in the Corner” is nostalgia and trying to confront abuse. There are several other emotions mixed into each song but overall, it’s a concept album that looks back at my life’s experiences. It always sounds funny for me to say that because I feel like, “Oh, but what makes me so special?” But then again, I am the only subject I know best apart from anyone, so who else could be able to tell my story?
Lyrically, I really don’t shy away from anything in this album. I openly sing about being queer, dealing with eating disorders, suffering from PTSD, trying to reclaim a traumatic narrative, and generally exploring my feelings about death and legacy. It really sounds like a bummer now but I promise it’s effective! (I hope). Either way, each song attempts to tackle a different experience that’s been formative in my life. And the way that the album is ordered is intentionally meant to strip away different parts of the facade that I put out. “Blue Boi” is the first song on the album and it’s very much a presentation of “here’s everything that I can be.” Then you get to the last track of the album, “B major,” and it’s more of a representation of “but this is what I am.”
Were there any crucial learning experiences you can recall during the creation of "Kid In The Corner"? What were they, and how do you think you'll incorporate those lessons into your personal life and your next artistic endeavors?
Absolutely. Everything I do or engage in is a learning experience. But specifically for this album, I decided to learn how to produce and mix my own stuff. When I started getting into this realm of digital branding and releasing music here and there, I felt like a fish out of water. I knew how to sing and play the piano, but those skills almost felt obsolete. Marketing oneself online is a whole other animal to tackle. And then trying to find a producer and mixing & mastering engineer that can translate and enhance what you want to put out there? All of that felt so intimidating to me. So I bucked up and decided to do everything myself like any other masochistic person would.
I’m very stubborn when it comes to my artistic projects. I like to have control over everything. But I also love to learn. Producing and mixing this album was a way for me to develop skillsets that I can easily take with me for any future artistic endeavor. And I truly don’t envision my life without making more and more music.
Were there any specific songs that proved to be a challenge to present vulnerability through "Kid In The Corner"? Why were these songs significant in how heavy were they on you when putting it into song?
It’s funny, but being vulnerable is not a challenge for me. I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, and the most common word that was used to describe me growing up was “sensitive.” I used to hate that because I felt that being sensitive implied that I was weak. But making “Kid in the Corner” has shown me that all of the emotions I’ve ever felt, the ones that have clung to me no matter how hard I try to shake them off, are all a strength that I can use to create something devastatingly honest and beautiful.
That being said, some of these songs are hard for me to listen to. They tap into these deep emotional caves that I sometimes wish I didn’t have to explore. But they’re a part of my life’s story so they can’t be denied or ignored. “B Major” and “Stay in the Desert” are still difficult for me to listen to. But they’ve captured some integral experiences in my life that have made me who I am today. While it’s hard for me to put my demons on display for everyone else to see, I understand that it’s an important process for me to go through in confronting them. I give them all of the power if I remain silent and complicit in their advances. But by reclaiming the narrative, showcasing them for what they are, and proving that I can endure them no matter what, I can start to build upon what I have left in me.
If you could give your listeners some words that would act as the prologue to the experience you've intended with "Kid In The Corner," what would you feel the need to say, and why?
Get ready to dive deep into someone’s psyche. There are audio clips of home videos scattered throughout the album so it is undeniably nostalgic and meaningfully so. If you can take 40 minutes out of your life to listen to someone else’s story from beginning to end, I would be truly grateful and forever indebted to your patience and empathy.
More than anything when the world is as divided as it has ever been, I truly believe in the power of storytelling and standing in the light of one’s truth. If we are able to give one another that respect and dismantle the walls we have built up within ourselves, I think there can be some avenues for connection and collaboration that might not have otherwise manifested. We are nothing if we do not have each other.