One of the beautiful things about pain and heartache is that it can often produce moving works of art.
For Midwest Americana folk artist, Jerrika Mighelle, the disintegrating of a tight-knit family unit was a catalyst for her growth as a songwriter. With eight children, family had always been a vital part of the Mighelle clan. After the painstaking loss of her mother in 2016, Mighelle turned to her guitar for comfort.
Originally from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Mighelle spent time in both Utah and California before settling back in Eau Claire for a while. At the age of 24, she began her musical career as a drummer in the band QuinnElizabeth, which also featured her sister Elizabeth; this is where her own songwriting would find its footing. After two of her own successful album releases, Like the Sea (2017) and Brightest Star (2021), it was time Mighelle set to work on another project.
This past Friday July 7th, Mighelle released her third album, Be Brave, a 12-song narrative about the fickle passage of time, and what it’s like to open up space for yourself amidst the tumultuous climate of our world. As society continues to get back on a pre-pandemic path, Mighelle recognizes the importance of showing love in a time of uncertainty and unrest. Permeating through each song is a mixture of grief, courage, and the promise of a brighter future.
Be Brave opens with a mellow number, “River on the Run,” featuring haunting vocals and a steady melody that meanders like a gentle forest stream. Despite the rather melancholy tone, the lyrics denote a hopeful view of the future, where better days are coming. Mighelle sings, “River on the run / Moving towards the sun,” a natural reminder to push through the tough times.
One of the album’s acclaimed singles, “The Fuel,” is perhaps my favorite song of the collection. As the melody mounts, enchanting harmonies accompany the chorus as Mighelle’s soulful voice delivers a message of hope and courage. At the song’s heart is the desire to embrace fear and use it as “fuel” for positive change instead of letting it hold you back. The music video follows a young girl as she conquers her fear, struggling to reach the top of a large staircase. At the top, she releases a paper airplane over a stunning vista, symbolic of embracing her freedom.
The album’s title track, “Be Brave,” relays a more straightforward message: to be the main character of your own life because “one day we will fade away.” Coupled with an upbeat and triumphant rhythm, Mighelle’s rich tones encourage listeners to “be brave” with their choices and live life before it’s too late. An anthem of courage and conquering fear, it’s no wonder that this number takes the coveted spot of title track.
Yet another single off the album, “My Greatness,” takes another outlook on life. Lamenting a lack of accomplishment and something to show for years of work, Mighelle recognizes love as the one thing that has truly blossomed in her life. Underneath the song’s upbeat folk melody is a more personal detail about her life as a queer artist, where she felt “wrapped in shame’s dark blanket” before accepting the love she always had.
Closing with “Remember When,” Mighelle’s tender vocals tell a nostalgic tale of her gone but far from forgotten mother. Looking back on pleasant memories, a slow and steady melody enhances the song’s laid back yet melancholic vibe. With each note, you can hear her grief and yearning for a return to those beloved days- something we all long for to some capacity.
Seeking to expand her horizons, Mighelle is currently a master’s student at the University of Minneapolis, where she studies Human Rights. In June, she co-emceed Eau Claire’s Blue Ox Music Festival with Justin Bruhn of Pert Near Sandstone.
Fresh off her latest release, this summer she will be playing several venues across Wisconsin. Mighelle continues to be a triumphant voice in modern Americana music, and Be Brave is the latest example.
Photos by Tom Smouse