Entertainment

Birch

NYC-based indie pop artist Birch, the moniker for musician and producer Michelle Birsky, produces music that passionately deconstructs societal norms. Coupled with an extensive knowledge of music production and live instrumentation, Birch’s sound puts a synth-driven twist on tracks reminiscent of Bon Iver and St. Vincent.

What were you doing prior to the shutdown and how have those projects been affected?

Prior to the shutdown I was living in Brooklyn. I was working on a new album (still am), scoring a short film, and working on a batch of commercial music for a licensing company. I was also bartending at night! The biggest thing that has changed is that I no longer have a day job, as the restaurant in which I was a bartender is closed. Luckily, I was able to see my musical projects through and finish everything during quarantine.

Before everything shut down, I was saving up to move to LA. My goal was to leave NYC in July and move to LA in the pursuit of continuing my artist project, Birch, and focus more of my attention on film scoring. COVID has both expedited and thrown a wrench in my plan. When my boyfriend and I discovered that we’d no longer have income from our day jobs, we decided to sell all of our stuff and move out of Brooklyn and into my parents’ house in Vermont. I’m incredibly fortunate to have this house to live in, work on music, and network with music/film folks in LA over the phone. Slowly but surely, we’ll make our way out to LA.

“I used to think that if I had infinite time, I’d be able to create amazing work. But now that I DO have the time, I’m realizing that I work best in smaller increments of 2-3 hours..."

How do you think this will affect the nature of performances?


I think that eventually, once there’s a vaccine, things will go back normal in terms of big performances, festivals, etc. But I’m curious to see what it will do to indie music performance. I’m terrified for some of the beloved NYC venues that might not survive this and for the many artists, like myself, who are fleeing the city because they can’t afford to stay there anymore. It’s definitely going to change the NYC music scene, which was already struggling with the expenses of an ever-changing NYC.

But there’s something beautiful about the raw living room performances that people are giving on social media right now. They’re so intimate—I feel like you get to know and understand the performer so much more than you would from a stage. I enjoy doing live streams because it feels so much more natural to me; there’s such a low barrier to entry, and everything can be more spontaneous.

Living room live stream during quarantine

Living room live stream during quarantine.

How has this changed the way you approach your work?


In some ways, I’ve had a difficult time concentrating, especially on things I don’t really want to be doing (like writing jingles for commercials). In a way, this whole experience has made me think fast and make crazy decisions (like moving out of my apartment), and I think that’s translating to my music. I’m writing things that I want to write, not necessarily things that I think other people want to hear. It’s freeing in a way, and I’m excited to see the album that comes out of this.

I used to think that if I had infinite time, I’d be able to create amazing work. But now that I DO have the time, I’m realizing that I work best in smaller increments of 2-3 hours. If I spend the whole day trying to create, I get foggy and end up thinking I suck. The best thing I can do is work for 2 hours, stop, and then come back to it later with a fresh brain. I’ll definitely continue to use this strategy, even when all of this is over.

What parts of your industry do you think will be exposed from this experience? (For example, things that needed to be changed…)


This whole experience is really going to expose how little musicians are able to earn from their art when touring is no longer an option. The majority of working musicians make their living from touring, and when that is taken away, we’re left to really grapple with what we as a streaming culture have done to these artists. When music is no longer a commodity that is purchased in album form, when streaming sites have completely cornered the market and lured us into caring about “stream count” rather than actual earning for our art… it doesn’t leave much for an artist.

“In a way this whole experience has made me think fast and make crazy decisions"

If you could identify a silver lining, what would it be?

I’m learning about how adaptable humans are, and I’m surprising myself in my adaptability. I think when something drastic happens, it shifts our priorities. We discover that the things we thought were massive deals just aren’t important. And we discover that the really important things, like our relationships, our art, our passions - those are the things to cultivate. I’m learning through this experience that you can only plan so much. Sometimes life throws you a curveball that makes your priorities shift. May all of our priorities shift for the better.







“Sometimes life throws you a curveball that makes your priorities shift. May all of our priorities shift for the better."