In the spring of 2021, Caeleigh Featherstone, who records and performs as Mukiss, attended the recording workshop in Chillicothe, Ohio. She slept in a cabin while attending the program, and one morning woke up with a tick embedded in her neck.
“I had to burn it with incense,” Featherstone said. “I grew up in the countryside, so I was used to it as a kid. I knew what to do.
Although the unwanted intrusion didn’t scare her, it did make her think. “There was someone [at the program] who had a special interest in me for some reason, and they wouldn’t leave me alone,” she said. “I started messing around on the guitar and started writing a song about that tic, and then my psyche kind of combined the two things. So it was half about this guy who wouldn’t leave me alone, but also about the real history of this tick.
“I took a shower, I found out you were still inside me/I lit some incense and touched it on your body/You didn’t like it, but you’re not gone/Why do you love me so much?” Featherstone sings on “Tick Into Me,” one of the few Mukiss singles she wrote and recorded in the last year.
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Initially, Featherstone started 2021 with the idea of recording and releasing a song every month. “I wanted to give myself a plan to feel comfortable doing things on my own,” she said. “I wanted to push myself to write more, produce and design stuff on my own and be more comfortable with the process of releasing stuff.”
Pandemic themes naturally made their way into songs, especially on “Fernweh,” which Featherstone wrote in 2020 shortly after the shutdowns. “I do my part, I stay in my shell,” she sings to the folk-rock tune.
“I was given this gift of being able to focus on improving this thing that I love, so I was just sitting on my porch writing songs everyday, and [‘Fernweh’] was one of them,” said Featherstone, who created a daily structure for her life after her schedule suddenly went blank. “I would wake up, write all morning, then me and my partner would go down to Franklin Park and watch the ducks for a little while, then come back and do P90X with my roommate at night, and then cook dinner. I had this really militant routine that I just created out of nothing. … It totally held me together.
Downtime also gave Featherstone the time and space to experiment with synthesizers and other electronic textures, which feature prominently on the singles “Great Rides” and “Coffee and….” “C That’s what first drew me to music, but it’s the things that have always intimidated me,” she said. “I’ve always had a lot of synthesizers, and I like to use them and play with them, but the jump between playing with sounds and then making them work in a song and in an arrangement has always been very complicated for me. … But I am braver now.
In the spring, other life commitments got in the way of the song-per-month goal, particularly the recording workshop schedule and periodic songwriting sessions with fellow Saintseneca bandmates. But Featherstone has more than achieved its original goal of becoming familiar with production and engineering; she now teaches at the recording studio.
Despite the challenges of the past two years, Featherstone has found plenty of artistic silver linings. “I’ve made up so many excuses all my life for why I just don’t have time to be creative, why I don’t have time to sit down and do this or improve myself. in that area. And all those excuses were gone,” she said. “I finally got that time, and it was really good. It was a truly meaningful experience.