Best of What’s Next (SXSW 2013 Edition): Cheyenne Mize

Music Features SXSW

In celebration of the start of this week’s music portion of South By Southwest, we’re taking a deeper look at some of our favorite artists. Below, you can check out a preview for Louisville’s own Cheyenne Mize.

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Album: We Don’t Need
For Fans Of: Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Fiona Apple, Abigail Washburn

Cheyenne Mize didn’t necessarily dream of becoming a songwriter in the spotlight, but it’s difficult to see her doing anything else when you consider her upbringing. From a young age, she was surrounded by music; Her parents were ‘70s rock DJs, spinning Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley not only to Kentucky FM radio listeners, but to their young daughter.

“My parents weren’t directly musical, but had a lot of music around always,” Mize says. “I remember driving around in the car with my dad, and him saying ‘Okay, honey. This is Pink Floyd.’”

But although her parents weren’t musicians, the young Mize had talent all around her. Her grandmother and uncle played guitar; her aunt played piano. She was constantly exposed to traditional music—be it bluegrass, country or gospel—through her grandma. So it was from these things that Mize discovered her favorite thing: Playing music with other people.

It started in school, where she picked up piano at eight, and one by one she expanded her musical palette with guitar, violin, dulcimer, banjo, the list goes on. “I just really love that shared experience, having 60 people in one room working on the same piece and working toward the same thing,” Mize says. “It’s a pretty amazing feeling. That’s what I knew I loved about music.”

If we fast-forward that idea to the present, Mize is still a firm believer in music as a form of collaboration or community. So that’s why it’s a surprise that she’s stepped out into the spotlight to release two great solo offerings: Last year’s We Don’t Need EP and 2010’s Before Lately. For Mize, the idea of being a musical center of attention wasn’t necessarily attractive. Yes, she’d written and demoed plenty of her own songs, but her true love of music was still rooted in this feeling of a shared experience with others.

“I write from personal experiences, and I try to go a little farther outside of those things this time, even when I write about personal experiences, I feel like I draw on everything I see around me and other peoples’ experiences around me. I don’t know if there’s one thing, but I think anyone could relate to at least one part of the album.”

With a new album Among the Grey on the way, it’s a great time to discover this talented songwriter.

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