Finding the Beauty: MICVH Set to Release Debut EP, ‘Singularity’
Throughout her life, MICVH (real name Micah Cottingham) has encountered a wide spectrum of experiences, situations, and people that have shaped her worldview into one that is unique and all-encompassing. The folk/blues artist’s travels to foreign and domestic lands, where she has encountered triumph and tragedy alike, have led her to find the beauty and meaning in every life event.
Finding this beauty within the complete human experience is a recurring theme on her debut EP, Singularity, which hits digital platforms on Friday, April 26.
“There’s a theory that, as the universe expanded, there’s a moment of singularity that it came from. Everything that exists in the universe already existed in that moment,” MICVH notes about the title of her release. “This EP is my singularity. This is all of the things that existed within me, and now, it’s time for my expansion.”
Learning expression through music
Born into a musical family in rural North Carolina helped MICVH learn how to express herself. Her father – a musician in his own right – noticed that his daughter was more apt to express herself through song than spoken word at a very young age. So, he created an environment for MICVH that fostered that expression.
“I could understand you if you wanted to speak to me, but for whatever reason, I was like, ‘No, I’m not talking back,’” MICVH recalls. “My dad realized that I would hum and sing along to songs, so that was how he pulled open that door of communication for me. He would say, ‘If you want to sing, we’ll sing.’”
From there, the father-daughter duo became the best of friends, with MICVH describing her father as an understanding and loving voice of reason.
“I could come to him as a child with big, adult ideas, and he would take them seriously,” MICVH said. “Or, if I was excited about something, he would be excited about that with me, and not dampen it just because I was a kid. He did a really good job of making me feel respected and unconditionally loved.”
MICVH’s father also helped the young, budding artist begin to learn music’s many languages. She first added piano to her repertoire before picking up a variety of instruments that have included cello, trombone and, more recently, guitar. It was during these early years, as well, that he helped her appreciate the art of songwriting.
“I went to my dad and was like, ‘I want to write a song. What do I write songs about?’” MICVH remembers. “He was a big Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd type, and he said, ‘Write me a song about dark rain.’ So, I did. 15 to 20 minutes later, I had the melody and the words. I came in and was like, ‘Yes! I have a song!’”
Losing (and re-discovering) her voice
MICVH’s musical aspirations went on the shelf at age 14 when, just two weeks into her freshman year of high school, her father passed away unexpectedly.
“I knew the second he passed. I could feel it in my soul,” MICVH recalls. “I remember turning to a girl that I was friends with in class, and I said, ‘Something’s wrong with Dad.’ Then, the phone rings, and I remember my whole body boiling. My teacher got one of the boys to carry my books and get me to the office. My mom, brother, and the pastor were there, and I already knew.”
Following her father’s passing, MICVH recalls going into “a weird place of shock” and stepping away from making music of any kind for approximately two years. This was until a friend and hip hop artist by the name of Kim Wiggins asked her to sing the hook on a new project.
“He said, ‘I’m working on this song and I need a hook,’” MICVH remembers. “I said, ‘I can’t help you,’ and he calls me saying, ‘You’ve got to do the hook. It’s you.’”
After more convincing, the two collaborated over the phone, and later pulled different musicians in to fill out the project before performing it the following week. The beauty in this moment – and in garnering a positive response to a song they had never even practiced before – lit a fuse that inspired MICVH to begin creating again.
“In my brain, it was like my father died for nothing if I didn’t continue doing music,” MICVH said. “If I can’t make this experience into something beautiful, then it happened for no reason. I can’t accept that.”
One of the first songs MICVH wrote following this experience, “The Doorway,” appears on Singularity, and came about through a series of reminders of their relationship and the void left by his passing.
“I just had a weird day where I had gotten up, I put NPR on the radio, and ‘Amazing Grace’ was on,” MICVH recalls. “I sang ‘Amazing Grace’ at my dad’s funeral, and I thought, ‘I don’t turn on NPR for the music. Why are they playing ‘Amazing Grace’ right now?’”
She continues, “I went to this open mic later that night. This guy walks in who I had never seen, and he’s about my dad’s age. He plays three songs, and all three songs are songs that my dad used to sing to me. The first two were kind of popular, but with the third one, I was like, ‘Wait… no one plays that song.’ Before I could even turn around and speak to him, he was gone.”
Two days later, MICVH called her mother to tell her the story. That conversation inspired a range of emotions that led to “The Doorway,” a song that acknowledges her father’s role in creating her, and the bond that they still share as musicians.
“She was like, ‘That was your dad’s birthday. He was mad that you didn’t remember, so he was trying to get your attention.’” MICVH recounts. “Angsty teenage me was mad about it. I wasn’t appreciative or thankful. I was like, ‘You can’t just come around when you feel like it.’ But, I was still longing and hurting. Under my anger, I wanted to reach out and say, ‘I love you. Come back.’”
Even through the pain of losing her father and best friend – and through finding her way through difficult teenage years marked by shifted family dynamics – MICVH carries a sense gratitude for having been fortified by the experience, and for having an outlet to share the beauty in something tragic.
“You’re either going to choose to accept it and make it into something beautiful, and make it worth something valuable, or you’re going to fight it,” MICVH said. “This is a part of life. How can it best serve the living? If my dad passing can best serve the living through me writing a song about it, and that helps someone with something, that’s enough.”
Reclaiming her power
After losing her father, the emerging notion that life is a limited-time engagement has pushed MICVH to travel the world.
“If I’ve only got today to do it, then I’m going to do what I’ve got to do today,” MICVH said. “I’m going to go see those places. I’m going to go take that risk. I’m going to take that chance, and it might be awful, but you have to.”
One particular travel experience led MICVH to Ra Wai, a small beach in southern Thailand. The trip took a dark turn when she was raped and abandoned at a hotel by a travel companion she considered a trusted friend.
“(This was someone) who I had known for years, and who I felt comfortable and safe with,” MICVH said. “Once I was in a different country with this person, they were able to take advantage of that anonymity in a way and do some terrible things. I ended up being abandoned at this hotel with nothing.”
With the help of a friend, MICVH was able to make her way out of Thailand, finding herself re-routed for a brief stay in South Korea.
While there, MICVH found the first glimpses of beauty through the chaos.
“I went from this crazy, hectic brain space in Thailand. I’m in South Korea and everything is just beautiful and clean. Everyone is super nice and friendly,” MICVH recalls. “How beautiful is that moment, where I got to experience these humans who don’t know me, have no tie to me or bias in whether I’m doing OK, and who don’t even know what I’ve just experienced? They were fully dedicated to making sure I was OK in that moment.”
From there, MICVH returned to Los Angeles, to the support of friends and with a sense of resolve to continue loving life. Then, on her way back to Los Angeles from a later cross-country visit to Nashville, she heard from her former travel companion.
“I got a text from a number I didn’t know. It was this person, and he was like, ‘Can we clear the air? Can I see you?’” MICVH recalls. “I said, ‘No, the air is clear on my end.’ That was one more thing he couldn’t have control over.”
That exchange served as the inspiration behind “Don’t.” On the surface, the song sounds like one of the EP’s lighter, sassier moments. To MICVH, however, it serves as a freeing release of the trauma from her experience in Thailand, so that she may continue to do the things she enjoys most.
“I don’t want to see it as this ugly experience. I want to take that back,” MICVH states. “I love surfing, I love hiking and climbing mountains. That’s all the beautiful stuff I want to put in this song.”
Since writing “Don’t,” MICVH has once again found comfort in traveling, after spending an empowering month on a solo excursion to the Dominican Republic. All the while, she bravely chooses to reflect on her experience in Thailand to provide perspective and support to those who have encountered similar situations in their lives.
“I would want anyone else dealing with that to realize that the number of people who are dealing with this is much higher than you realize,” MICVH said. “People are very quick to say, ‘Why wouldn’t you say anything?’ What am I supposed to say that makes a difference? Because, it often doesn’t.”
“Me being angry and trying to exact revenge doesn’t change what happened,” she continues. “The best thing I can do that I’ve found is to free myself of it and say, ‘I’m fine.’”
“It’s been very beautiful…”
“I don’t want my life to sound like it’s been a series of unfortunate events, because it hasn’t,” MICVH notes. “It’s been very beautiful. In between the hard things, like death and traumas, I’ve seen beautiful places in the world, and have had wonderful moments with beautiful people.”
The notion that life is the sum of all parts is paramount to “Copper and Wine,” the lead single from Singularity and a reminder that each of us, through our individual battles, is finding our own way, at our pace.
“It’s all beautiful. Even the awful shit you’re dealing with, it’s going to be beautiful eventually, whether you see it right now or not,” MICVH declares. “Sometimes we question the way things go in life, like ‘Why didn’t this work out in my favor?’ If you could just see that it did; it just didn’t work out the way you thought it was going to. Everything is exactly as it should be, and that’s that song. Just trust it.”
As a songwriter, MICVH realizes that people come to that lesson in various ways, and at different times. This inspires a certain tactfulness in her songwriting, so that the message of each song can be interpreted by the listener, based on his or her state of mind.
“I write songs in a way to where the people that are ready and open to receive the message will, and the people who haven’t dealt with that, or who aren’t ready to deal with it, can still take their own message from them,” MICVH said. “I try to be mindful that everyone is at a different place. I can’t ask everyone to move at my pace. Hopefully, it’s gentle enough in that way to resonate with wherever they are.”
“I didn’t really know if I was making an EP or an album, or what songs were going on it, but I knew I had to get some of these older songs out to move forward in my writing,” MICVH notes about the early process. “There needed to be that narrative for my next project.”
So, she enlisted the help of Kyle Weirzba – who recorded, produced, and played bass on Singularity – as well as drummer/percussionist James Ralls to help flesh out the release’s vision.
“All three of us were sitting in my living room, playing through different tracks that I had written, and trying to figure out which ones felt right, and which ones needed more space,” MICVH recalls.
MICVH credits her collaborators for helping re-imagine the vision for “The Doorway,” which went through major changes from MICVH’s original vision, and which welcomes the tasteful contributions of guitarist Rhett Miller.
“I will dare say (Rhett is), arguably, the best guitarist that I’ve ever met; that I’ve ever heard,” MICVH declares. “He’s very under the radar in that way, but there is world-class talent in that man.”
Singer and guitarist Jordan Hamilton also contributed on the EP, lending his acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies on “Copper and Wine.”
“It’s just a great collection of people that came in and helped me put this together in a way that I couldn’t have imagined,” MICVH reflects. “They put new life into tracks that had hit a stalemate. I didn’t know what to do with them, and they made them so beautiful.”
“To have people that were really invested in the music means more to me than I could ever tell them.”
After pushing the digital release of Singularity, MICVH will return home to North Carolina on May 9 to perform alongside hip-hop artist Yung Citizen at The Evening Muse in Charlotte in a hometown EP release show.
Then, she’ll come back to Nashville for a solo engagement at Deavor (305 Jefferson St.). This will be an intimate performance, and will serve as an opportunity for fans to ask questions about the origins and meanings of the songs that comprise Singularity.
From there, MICVH plans to take a hiatus from Nashville to gain inspiration from the outside world, which will inform the follow-up to the EP
“(Singularity) is the narrative of everything that exists within my universe. The next project is part of that expanding universe,” MICVH explains. “I see it as that big, bold movement outward. It’s going to be in rich hues of purple and green. I want to toss in some heavier rock and electronic elements that aren’t really found on Singularity, but keep it homegrown. I still want it to feel organic, but toss in some of those stronger elements.”
“I’m letting everyone know with this EP that, if they’re in these dark places, that I’m there with them,” she concludes. “And, with the next one, I’m grabbing their hands and saying, ‘Let’s take a walk and explore.’”