As artists as varied as filmmaker Richard Linklater and novelist Jane Austen have explored each in their own unique way, the longest journey you will often take in this lifetime is that of bridging the distance between two people.
And for pianist, singer, and songwriter Kora Nixon, the deeply confessional tracks that she renders on her debut musical release 1220 resonate with an austere and breathtaking beauty that sets upon a journey to explore and untangle the deepest mysteries pulsating within the recess of her wounded, yet open and inviting heart, as she invites us to accompany her along for the ride.
Going by the stage & professional name of MIZNXN, Kora hails from the sleepy bucolic town of Au Gres Michigan, which as she aptly notes “is such a small community that even the McDonald’s left town.” Currently based out of Detroit to broaden her roots in the statewide musical community, she recorded 1220 with Andy Reed at Reed Recording Company in the midst of the Pandemic, and has performed only a handful of shows in Saginaw and Bay City.
But one thing is for certain: she has a lot to say.
When I first caught her at White’s Bar in Saginaw a few months ago, she seemed visibly nervous at first, but this anxiety quickly dissolved as she began the beautiful intro to her song Pillow Fort, her fingers working upon the piano keys as if she were setting a combination to open the safety deposit box containing her heart, as her nervousness miraculously subsided once she let the audience inside.
From that point on I was smitten…not only by the music that was delicately unfolding, but by the caliber of creativity her musical constructions contained. As serious and sad as many of these songs were, there was something empowering about watching them unfold in the flesh. And as the nervousness subsided what emerged was a breath of levity, seasoned by the spice of irony, delivered with a demeanor that commanded one’s attention, leaving me to wonder why the greatest rays of hope always seem to shine from the hearts of the afflicted. Needless to say, this is not the music nor the type of performance one sees every day. It’s a rare quality possessed by only a few artists. Right now Judy Garland, Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, and Joni Mitchell come to mind.
Having said this, there is a decidedly upbeat and communal facet to the artistry of MIZNXN.
If you check out the website of this storytelling musician, you’ll discover that in addition to singing and playing the piano and trumpet, she likes to eat green bean casserole, dance to Elvis Presley, wear matching outfits with her loved ones on purpose, and have good ole-fashioned fun.
In fact, she even lays out ground rules for joining the party, so pay close attention:
• We are here for a good time not a long time. If you don't like me or my music, then there are a gadzillion other musicians you can go bother with your rude-dude-attitude. I'm just here to party.
• We are all family. Regardless of who you are and how you identify, if you show up for me, I'll show up for you. "Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten."
• We pay it forward. Tips & gig money go towards sponsoring our community. Check out the "$UPPORT ME" button and help me raise $1,500 for young musicians.
• Let's get weird. Rum ham? CHECK. Cut-off denim shorts? YES, PLEASE. Capes? DUH. Themed concerts? OF COURSE, I'M A SUCKER 4 A THEME.
What’s not to love about such a communal approach to marketing? Recently I had the pleasure of playing ‘7 Questions’ with this courtesan of creativity and dig deeper into the dynamics of her remarkable debut musical endeavor.
Please join me for the ride. The more the merrier!
REVIEW: When I caught your performance at White’s Bar it was truly a refreshing experience. Your material is so simple yet remarkably mature. How did you get interested in music and evolve to the point where you could start writing these songs?
MIZNXN: I grew up in a small town and would sing in church and local plays. I sang in the Youth Choir in Tawas and got into music at an early age. I took piano lessons from local musicians and things like that, but then when I went to high school I realized the opportunities were pretty slim, so I entered the Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy and that’s where I met Noel Howland and Michael Brush, who were both teaching there at the time. I was so fortunate to work with both of them. They both taught me a lot and are both the best.
REVIEW: I’ve got to ask you about your songwriting and how you got into it. There are elements reminiscent of the confessional singer-songwriting of Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro, yet I also hear the wit of Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson in there.
MIZNYN: I grew up listening to singer songwriters like Adele and Regina Spektor’s stuff, so those are two of my influences. But for this particular album, I was out of music for quite a while with COVID and everything. So that isolation inspired me to continue to write these songs as an outlet. Because I was out of music for a while I was regretting that I didn’t do anything with it, so I could have settled with writing and recording one song, but decided to just do an entire album instead.
REVIEW: What do you feel distinguishes your material from other songs that are out there and what goals, if any, have you set for your music?
MIZNXN: A connection to human emotion. This particular album I wanted to be cohesive, beautiful, and austere. That’s what I want to portray. I want to make a goal of a beautiful poetic human connection to experience.
REVIEW: You recorded with Andy Reed at his studio. Did you do all the musical parts yourself, or did you bring other people in to work with you?
MIZNXN: I had a couple songs completely done when I went to Andy, and was hoping he could work with them. That soon evolved into weekly sessions we did and this gave me the motivation to have the material done. I started working with Andy because I was starting at a point where I had no idea what I was doing, so to work with him in the process and share ideas made everything run so much quicker and smoother.
REVIEW: You have such a good stage demeanor and a unique rapport with the way you present your material to an audience. Are you naturally at ease when talking about your songs or presenting them; and also, I have to ask you about your stage name. Where did the MIZNXN come from?
MIZNXN: That’s funny. When I started writing songs and searching for names to copyright or register, the name Kora was already taken by a New Zealand Alien Pop-Punk band, so I decided to digitally make it in a way that was like Roman Numerals, and that was taken! So that’s why I did it this way.
REVIEW: Have you been performing out much and are you working on new material? If so is the direction similar to what you created on 1220?
MIZNXN: Well, the album came out a year ago in 2021 in the summertime and since then I haven’t played out too much. I coordinated some album release parties and private backyard concerts that you can see on youtube; and I’ve played up in Bay City and at White’s and was going to play at The Temple, but that got cancelled, so we shall see. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over stage fright. COVID kind of inhibited it, but I’ll take it as it comes.
The new material I’m working on is not similar to what I’m currently writing. I don’t want to get into the habit of writing sad girl songs, so am trying to go more upbeat. One song I’m working on will be like a sexy smoky jazz album, which is kind of my focus for now.
REVIEW: When you write do you start with lyrics or melody lines. What’s your process?
MIZNXN: I use two different approaches. With 2021 I let the album evolve and started all those songs first as poem, kind of like Shel Silverstein would - I’m really into him. That’s one way to do it. Then I think of how I want the melody of the song to flow. The other approach is sometimes I’ll be driving or shopping and I’ll whip out my phone and record a little voice memo, so I can go back and revisit it. I’ll start with the natural melody and figure out the rest of the song from there and build up the lyrics around the song.
Do yourself a favor and check out MIZNXN’s website at https://miznxn.com/ and also her facebook page. She will also be one of the guest performers at our 36th Annual REVIEW Music Awards Celebration happening on Sunday, May 15th.
You can also check out the video she released to her song 'Pillow Fort' here.
16th November, 2023
7th November, 2023