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Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: Mirabelle Skipworth

Mirabelle Skipworth moved to Pittsburgh from Chicago about a year and a half ago. She’s quickly become an important part of the local scene with her emotive and relatable folk songs. “The Narrator” is an empathetic examination of the nature of turmoil. Mirabelle recently spoke with WYEP’s Joey Spehar.

This conversation may be lightly edited for content, clarity, or length.

What’s your musical history up to this point?

I grew up about an hour outside of Chicago and that’s where I really started to play my music out. I started heavily writing music and gigging when I was just about sixteen… which was a good way to work out the kinks early on. I think I wrote a song a day that first summer of learning guitar. I released a few albums while I was there and was still writing primarily straight-forward folk music.

I moved to Pittsburgh just about a year and half ago and was able to get involved pretty fast here thanks to the likes of Mark Dignam, Brad Yoder, and a ton of other folks. I think the move was a turning point. I’ve gotten to do a lot of touring here and really expand my sound. Making music with my full band, “Mirabelle Skipworth & The Brink Of” (which includes Terry Boring, Pete Bush, Ariana Bigler, Steve Hobough, and occasionally Julia Norah), has been really fun. Excited to get some of our stuff recorded.

How do you describe your sound?

I usually say it’s “alternative folk”. I am definitely influenced by folk music, but I don’t think I fit within that category perfectly. I take a lot of influence from the alt rock sphere (Manchester Orchestra, Frightened Rabbit, and Radiohead) and from folk-adjacent singer-songwriters (Damien Rice, Adrienne Lenker, and Gregory Alan Isakov). I enjoy making and listening to emotive music above all.

Your new EP, "The Morning’s Malaise," comes out later this month. Tell us a little bit about it?

It will be a four-song compilation of songs. Each song kind of touches on turmoil/confusion in some aspect of someone’s life (emotionally, personally, spiritually, and politically). It’s a vulnerable project and I hope people are able to resonate with the lyrics. I am excited to tour with it in March.

What’s also cool about this project is that I got to involve a lot of my talented friends. It was a collaborative effort.

Tell us more about the song “The Narrator.” What inspired you to write it?

I wanted to write a song where the lyrics were pretty straightforward. It’s a song about hurting and how other people hurt too. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with other people’s pain than it is to acknowledge our own. We find ourselves telling people that “everything is going to be okay”, when not even believing it for ourselves. I think it’s a sentiment a lot of people can relate to on some level.

What was the first album that really changed your life? 

It’s hard to pick one out, but if I had to it probably has to be "I and Love and You" by The Avett Brothers. I used to listen to that album all the time. I can thank my parents for putting it on. I fell in love with the way they took on heavy subjects through their lyrics. There is something so bitter-sweet about it.

Which Pittsburgh artist(s) do you wish more people knew about?

The list is too long, but to just list a few: Julia Norah (who also mixed my single and new EP), Cody Piper, Anthony Jardine, Holy, Hers, Danny Rectenwald (Canyon has been on repeat), Lindsay Dragan, Sean Atkins, Van Gilder, My Politic, Georgia English, Ol Whitetail, and Mark Dignam. They all have music out! Also, a few people who don’t have music out, but I think people should keep an eye out for: Jennica Tamler and Aiden Annegarn. Okay, I think I’m done.

Any other super interesting things we should know about you?

I occasionally put on DIY shows in Pittsburgh under the name “Skipworth Productions” (super original, I know). Love propping up quality music! I hope to do that more in the coming year with the songwriter scene.

Oh also, I have a trumpet that I like to play poorly every once in a while.

Lear more about Mirabelle Skipworth here.

Check out previous Pittsburgh Artists of the Week here.

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.