Meg Ashling: The voice of nature deserves to be heard
Photo by Jason Frank
If you frequent the busking corners of area farmers markets or venues with inclinations toward folk and country, you've no doubt come across the distinctively soulful and honey-toned voice of Meg Ashling. That voice possesses a idiosyncratic power, one that at first is disconcerting in its strangeness, but upon its settling lends credence to the old notion that women - the Sirens of Greek and Roman mythology - can hold power over a listener through song.
Having relocated to a farm near the South Dakota border, Ashling has made infrequent appearances around town this past year, but came back under our radar this week with the news that she's looking to friends and fans to help fund her upcoming album project. Her new songs incorporate themes about living in harmony with the land, and may at face value seem suspiciously new-agey to some, "new age" a misnomer of a phrase that in reality incorporates teachings dating back thousands of years. Ashling is endeavoring toward music with a conscience, with a higher purpose, and with true sincerity - and achieving that will prove no small feat, to be sure. We checked in with Meg to learn more about the project, and how moving to the country has inspired her creative process.
Gimme Noise: How long ago did you leave the Twin Cities for the farm?
Meg Ashling: I moved to Marietta in July of last year because my friends needed help on their farm and I had been talking to them since the winter of 2011 about coming out. It's kind of crazy because I was born in Montevideo, which is not too far away, and it turns out that my great-great grandfather David Webb was the first settler in Lac Qui Parle county, and my great-great grandmother gave birth to the first white child here. It's definitely been an experience of going back to my roots, after finding out that my great-great grandmother also used native medicinal plants and foraged for roots and berries, and that I'm basically doing the exact same thing she was doing in the late 1800s.
It seemed we were seeing quite a lot of your performing around the Twin Cities - when you weren't traveling - then suddenly, you'd picked up and moved! What motivated you to leave town, and what have you been up to during that time?
After performing solo for about seven years, I grew very tired of living in the city and barely scraping by as a musician/gardener, when all I really wanted to do was live off the land and become more self-sufficient. In June of last year, I got out of a five-year relationship, which allowed me the opportunity to get the fuck out of town. Since I moved out here, I've been learning a ton about medicinal plants and nutrition, brewing my own beer, meditating and spending lots of time in nature, cooking up a storm, writing and playing music, and I also fell in love with my friend's brother whom I came out here to help on the [farm] and we got engaged! We've been doing lots of planning for next year's garden and trying to find more ways to use our land wisely so we can provide for ourselves and others.
Tell us a little about what we can expect from your forthcoming album project.
My upcoming album will be comprised of eight original tunes and one old folk song, pretty much all inspired by the natural world/man's impact upon it, and the nature of reality/existence. The song topics range from fractal geometry, zero-point energy, chemtrails, disappearing bees, taking the time to listen to nature, and the illusion of separation we are all experiencing. I plan on having some of the best musicians in town backing me up, and I'll be doing the recording at The Pearl studio in Northeast Minneapolis. We're going to record everything in analog and in mono, and once I can afford it I'd really like to make a vinyl record. I believe that keeping the recording as close to the source as possible is very important, because I want to be able to transfer a very high vibration to the listener and elevate them to an ecstatic state of being.
How has living on the farm inspired your music, both the themes and music itself, and your ability to be creative? And how would you say the music and your creative process have changed in the transition from urban to rural living?
Well, I grew up in a very small town (Kerkhoven, MN) and I've always been more accustomed to life in the country than life in the urban jungle. I realized that after nine years of trying to make it in the city, I was severely depressed and unable to concentrate on my creative goals because I was constantly feeling the collective angst and perturbation of the people around me. I'm a very sensitive person, and I'm easily affected by the energy of my environment. I find it hard to think when there are so many waves passing through me all at once. Since moving back to the country, I have found a lot of comfort in knowing that I can go for a walk outside and not see another soul, that I can sing as loud as I want and run around in circles and know that I won't bother anyone. I feel so much closer to the nature spirits and I feel that I can receive and transmit messages from them without disruption from outside sources.
When I first came out here this summer, I had a very intense mushroom trip where I realized that for the first time in many years, I didn't feel like I was under surveillance, that I didn't have someone constantly watching me. That was a big wake-up call that I needed to be a free spirit and focus on learning how to heal myself and others with my music. Since then, I've been learning about overtone singing and incorporating healing vibrations into my music. More and more I'm learning to become a transducer of positive energy, allowing it to flow from myself to others and manifest real change. I don't think I would have gone in this direction had I stayed in the city, just because I never had the space to create an environment for myself in which I could fully allow these energies to work through me.
You've not only been producing new music lately, but also food. Can you tell us more about that, and how the two are for you related?
I believe it's very important to sing and pray over your food, especially conventional food, because you can really change it on a molecular level and imbue it with a lot of vitality. When I'm cooking I sing and say things like, "This is going to be a delicious organic meal that our bodies can absorb and use to keep us healthy and strong". The first time I stumbled upon this concept was while reading the book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers by Stephen Harrod Buhner, where he mentions that in ancient times people couldn't just go to the store and buy yeast, they had to pray over their brewing vessels to invite the good spirits (wild yeast) in and keep the bad spirits out. I've been experimenting with using wild yeast since I've been out here and praying over my beer and it really seems to give it more oomph than conventional beers.
I also sing and play the Tibetan singing bowl for my seeds and seedlings, and I talk to them when I transplant them and tell them everything is going to be okay and they're going to be happy in their new homes. I figure that if you put good energy into the plants every step of the way, then you'll reap the maximum amount of benefits from them come harvest time. Everything we experience is vibratory in nature, and we have an opportunity to choose which level of vibration we want to resonate with.
We see from your Facebook page that an essential step for you in starting this Indiegogo campaign was to get yourself a bank account - now, not having a bank account is about as off-the-grid and independent as it seems one could reasonably get these days. Can you tell us more about your decision to crowd-fund your album?
I believe I haven't had a bank account since 2005, and somehow I made it this far without needing one. I decided to go the crowd-funding route because I have seen other friends utilize it with great success and I know that I wouldn't be able to afford to make a high-quality recording on my own. I thought about just doing everything myself but I know I don't have the skills or the available technology to make that happen. I figure if I can use this option to not only help support my own creativity but also pay other musicians and engineers to do what they love, then it's worth a shot. For a long time, I've been really anti-capitalism, and I realized that I wouldn't be able to get my message out to the world unless I find a way to use the system against itself. Really I'm doing this because I believe that the voice of nature deserves to be heard, and I don't see many other people who are writing songs about the things that I'm writing about. If I can activate one person or elevate them to a higher level, then that's all I really care about.
If you'd like to contribute to Ashling's project, you can visit her campaign site between now and February 24 here.
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