(Photos by Kelly Ocock)
“All I could think about was 15-year-old me – fresh off of braces, sitting in the back of Starbucks coffee with my best friends [listening to live musicians], saying ‘I can’t believe people are playing music for their lives,’” Michaela Stock (‘20) explained about opening for the band Michigander in East Lansing last month. Stock has known Jason Singer, lead of Michigander, an indie rock band gaining popularity in the Midwest, for just over a year, and he has become influential in her creative process as a budding singer-songwriter.
Amidst all the clanking of mugs and plates, and energetic chitchat in a crowded Lemonjello’s on Friday morning, Stock stood out in black wide-leg pants, a flowery button-down crop-top, and intentionally mismatched earrings. The only things missing were a microphone and a dimly-lit room because she truly looked the part of a musician. She was comfortable, and Stock’s dedication and passion were clear in her ability to be completely present in the moment.
A Studio Art and International Studies major, French minor student from East Lansing, Michaela Stock has a lot on her plate. On top of her studies, Stock is involved with the campus Folk Ensembles, runs the Hope College Concert Series and occasionally performs at Coffeehouse on Thursday nights. Stock calls herself “Type A” with the amount of planning and structure she puts into daily routines, but this is where her progression as a musician has come from. Her morning routine, for example, is “very extensive, but I’m highly committed to it,” says Stock. Up at 7 a.m., Stock begins each morning creatively writing with her “Writing Better Lyrics” book, then practices singing and playing the guitar, and reads poems both for creative inspiration and affirmation of her commitment to improving her craft.
“People might call it ambitious, but really my worldview is just having a constant pursuit of excellence in everything I do,” Stock said. “I am completely DIY [when it comes to music]. I never thought I would be in a position to be asked when I got serious about music because seriousness just happened to me.” Stock has been working at writing and singing since her start at 17. It is something that she loves doing, but she doesn’t let it consume her. “I never want to be one- sided; I try to be a full human rather than just an artist.”
This idea of being a “DIY” artist circled back into conversation throughout the interview. Turning to music after an injury that ended her 13-year ballet career, Stock didn’t learn from taking music theory classes and reading sheet music, but through rather unconventional mediums. Staying up late in Gilmore Hall watching and re- watching Ben Howard videos on YouTube and listening to “Song Exploder” podcasts that explain the processes of artists like The Lumineers, for example, are her bread and butter. This independence has truly made her experimental in how she finds inspiration and what styles or techniques she learns from other musicians.
So what kind of music does Stock find herself aligning with? “I’m a legit garage band kid – I just make what I want. I feel like a singer-songwriter, but don’t want it to be called that.” Stock goes on to interpret this later as wanting her music to have the ability to stand alone or be with a band and be just as effective.
When asked to describe her sound in 5 words or less, Stock finds it hard to encompass all that she’s trying to make it. “Sad [laughs]… simple, lyrical… I want to merge Julien Baker and The Japanese House and splash Lorde’s angst into it.” Her goal within the next 5 months is to make a blueprint for a future EP, and with that, creating a band name which she’s already thought of: “Cancelled Plans.” It’s a niche of people she’s trying to make music for: the people that love when events or plans made are cancelled. In five years Stock hopes to go on a tour with a Midwest band, and in ten she wants to own a music venue and record label in a similar fashion to The Knitting Factory, which has multiple venues tied to its record label because she is just as interested in music management as being an artist.
“I want to keep learning. The dream – wow, I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud right now – is to get a support spot on a national headline. Julien Baker would be amazing. Lorde or The Lumineers would be ridiculous… ‘Cleopatra’ is 45 minutes of absolute perfection. I have never cried at a performance until [seeing] The Lumineers. I wept.”
For other aspiring artists on campus, or simply students curious about music, Stock has some words of advice. “There is enough room for everyone in art. When it comes down to it, if you have a resource that will benefit someone else, share it. If you want to start playing shows, make friends. I think the biggest part for me is to be passionately curious and eager. As far as creating music, show up every day. Don’t cut corners because it will take you longer. Set goals that are tangible and accessible, but also big. And don’t be afraid to make them happen. Opening for Michigander was not a goal of mine, it was a hope and dream, but putting in work every day was a goal [that led to it].”
As for now, Stock’s plans are to focus more on music management, writing songs and working on the vision for her career. Stock is a great example for other students who have similar interests in pursuing art and represents a growing community of independent artists. There really is ‘room for everyone’ in every respect when it comes down to it, no matter the craft. Whether it’s participating in a choir or performing at Coffeehouse, Hope is an encouraging place for the arts.