Tight Fit: Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful worked their way through a car crash and a pandemic to navigate the "Narrows"
It’s been a while since local acoustic music fans have heard from Misty Lyn Bergeron, the accomplished singer, songwriter, and leader of the standout roots band Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful.
A serious car crash, a global pandemic, and other issues created some challenges and delays, but at last there’s a new album out, Narrows, and it’s more than worth the wait. It features Bergeron’s warm, expressive voice; her first-rate band, and a fresh batch of well-crafted songs about some big themes like love, friendship, and perseverance.
To celebrate Narrows, Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful are having a record-release show at The Ark in Ann Arbor on February 17.
"Jim Roll will be our special guest, and it’s also how I’m celebrating my birthday," Bergeron said. "The Ark is my absolute favorite venue, and it has been years since my whole band has been on that stage. I am so excited to share this music alongside these amazing artists. It’s going to be a special night for us!"
Bergeron is also a talented photographer, but we focused on her music in this email interview.
Q: It’s been more than 10 years since the last Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful album, and you’ve said that the start of this project dates back to before the pandemic. When did you decide that it was time for a new album, and what prompted that decision?
A: It’s always time for a new record! What prompts the decision is access to resources, and by that I mean money. Mental health status also plays a huge part in being able to do all the things required to finish a project. This record in particular had its own ideas about when it wanted to be out in the world. My original plan was to make a record as quickly as possible. And due to many, many things, including a global pandemic, quite the opposite happened. Deep down I believe that it came out when it was meant to!
Q: What is the significance of the title of the new album, Narrows?
A: There is a line in the song “Call On Me” that says, “You are not alone / even in the darkest places, you are not alone / even in the sharpest narrows.” For reasons I’m not sure of, desert imagery always feels very close to me, and I was comparing being mentally squeezed and in the dark to one of those photos you see of, like, Antelope Canyon or The Narrows in Zion. The whole record is sort of an examination of that place and the hope of coming out the other side a more loving, open, humble human.
Q: Your website mentions that you were in a serious car crash in 2015. How did that impact your songwriting?
A: It opened me up to writing about hope and light and love. Before the accident my songwriting was a way to process my darkness in a lyrically dense way that helped me move through it. That is still the case sometimes, but now I have access to this new place to write from if I choose to. I value both very much, but this record definitely leans toward the light.
Q: A number of the songs on the new album touch on religious themes. Is faith an important part of your life?
A: Faith is a huge part of my life, but I am not religious. I am a seeker, and I like to dive into the mystery. I believe in something greater than myself, and I explore that on this record. I do use the word “god” on the record, but it’s not a heavy thing to me. God can mean anything from “Love” to “The Universe” to “the flow of life” to “not my ego.”
Q: All the songs on the album are strong, but “You Wouldn’t Know Me Now” is a particular standout. Is there a story behind that one?
A: Thank you! That’s an older song that came from a time when I was changing in a way that surprised me. I felt strange and in between versions of myself. The circus imagery is meant to conjure up that bizarre feeling of not being the same person anymore, along with a total surrender to the impulses of my new self. All of this alongside the fact that folks from my past would not understand me now.
Q: One of the themes on the album is perseverance, particularly in the closer, “All It Takes,” where you’re sort of giving yourself a pep talk that inspires the listener as well. Is that what you set out to do?
A: I honestly don’t set out to do anything when I write. I surrender to the process, and I let whatever wants to come out, come out. But in retrospect it does seem that I was writing to my future self. The last few years have been very dark and it’s like I somehow knew it was coming and wrote myself a reminder of how to get through it.
Q: Your website mentions that there’s another MIsty Lyn & the Big Beautiful album, Alms for Sots, that was actually recorded before Narrows but never completed. What are your plans for that album?
A: The rough tracks for Alms were offered as a reward for the Kickstarter I did in December. It’s being mixed and mastered by Greg McIntosh right now to make it sound great for the backers of the project. I’m still deciding whether I’ll make it available to the public. I love the songs, and it would be amazing to be able to actually finish them instead of just releasing the rough tracks! We’ll see!
Q: Is there anything else you’d like folks to know?
A: I would love for folks to know about my amazing bandmates! Matt Jones is my drummer, but he is also an amazing, unique songwriter. He is working on a new record right now, and I can’t wait for it to come out. Timothy Monger is our new bass player and playing with him for the last year has been an absolute joy. He is also a wonderful songwriter with several albums you can check out!
Carol Catherine Gray plays fiddle and sings backup and is in so many other bands it is impossible to list them all. She is also an amazing actor and has been doing Shakespeare in the Arb for many years! Ryan Gimpert is on electric guitar. He is also a DJ, reggae aficionado, and plays in the well-known Detroit band Will Sessions.
Mary Fraser is on the keys and sings backup. She is a multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire and a songwriter, and you should check out her bands Child Sleep and Virga! Jim Roll will be opening the show at The Ark. He played bass with us for over a decade, but he is also a celebrated songwriter and the music engineer responsible for so many great Michigan albums.
Bob Needham is a freelance writer and the former arts & entertainment editor of The Ann Arbor News and AnnArbor.com.