Photo Credit: Tonje Thileson
Everyone is born with creativity. It’s just a matter of who is taught to explore it and who is pushed toward dimming their light. For Pearla, a singer-songwriter and educator, there’s true beauty in not limiting anyone’s creative shine. That’s where we started this conversation as we discussed the importance of coloring outside of the lines. As things continued we got into kombucha, living in the present, her directorial debut, and so much more like her February 10th release, ‘Oh Glistening Onion, The Nighttime Is Coming.’
Kendra: On your 2023 debut, ‘Oh Glistening Onion, The Nighttime Is Coming,’ you’re diving into so many things, but the idea of coloring books and how we’re taught to stay inside the lines reminded me of the years I spent proctoring standardized tests. I often sat there watching students stress about this test that felt like it was training them for the mundane: be on time, fill in the bubbles with no stray marks, etc. Do you think that idea of staying within the lines we push on children hinders creativity as they grow older?
Pearla: This is a very apt question because outside of music, I also teach at a preschool. I wouldn’t dare print out a coloring sheet for my students!!! Everyone experiences the world in such a unique way…especially children. I would never want to limit a child’s ability to express what they see, or feel. There is just so much more possibility than that. I definitely appreciate anything that helps facilitate/encourage creativity, but get those lines out of here!
Kendra: With that, when would you say you realized that it was okay to break the rules and color outside the lines in life?
Pearla: That’s a great question. I have always been so averse to being told what to do or how to do things. I still am; when someone suggests something to me, I will immediately want to do the opposite. I think I always felt like when I tried to “color inside the lines” in life, something always felt slightly off; like I was being untrue, or like I just wasn’t good enough.
But whenever I get the opportunity to make my own lines, and I’m able to really do things and express myself in exactly the way that feels right to me, I never question if it’s “good enough” because it just feels true. That’s so much of what this project is to me; the opportunity and the space to draw my own lines. I definitely still have to remind myself once in a while to tune back in and trust my own process.
Kendra: For me, I think many people felt that during the last few years with the time spent stuck at home. We were given this free time, despite it being stressful and sad, to explore new avenues. I saw that you did some kombucha brewing. So if you had to serve ‘Oh Glistening Onion, The Nighttime Is Coming’ with a glass of kombucha, what flavor do you think would pair well with the album and why?
Pearla: Ha! I did indeed do some kombucha brewing. At one point there were about 20 scobies living in my apartment.
I know that you don’t want to have an onion-flavored kombucha so I’m going to go with a blueberry ginger kombucha. Sweet and spicy. Will aid your nausea. And blueberries always make me feel a little high.
Kendra: Also, during the past few years, I think we all looked inward at the concept of time and for many – worried. I feel like you captured that with the line “We are bridled by the weight of the future and the past” in “The Place with No Weather.” Did writing that song help ease you into the idea of living in the present?
Pearla: It’s hard, I wrote that song at a time when I was always trying to wriggle out of the present. I was feeling trapped and frustrated by the idea of even being a human. But since then I have realized that I’ve got to make do with my current form and so I am getting better at it! My New Year’s resolution was something around…simplicity…one foot in front of the other…feet on the ground! Don’t fly away!
Kendra: It’s interesting sometimes how these interviews come together because I was just in touch with the band Marbles about their song “World Inside Me;” this yin and yang of solitude. Then I came to you and here you are with this ode to the same subject in “With.” While some people can’t stand to be alone, I do think there is beauty in being by yourself. However, when it comes to your creative drive, are you better as a lone wolf or in a pack?
Pearla: It depends on which part of the creative process. I really treasure my alone time. It’s when I feel most in touch with myself and the infinite possibilities…
When I’m writing a song, I do need to be totally alone. I need to pace and talk out loud and have conversations with myself and move in weird ways and sing loud and be free and just let it all happen! If I am aware of anyone near me…my ideas just don’t come up in the same way. The songs really are my dances with solitude. My little secret hideaways!
But after that, I love love, love to share the work. My friend said to me once, “I know sharing your songs is your love language.” It is. It’s like bringing someone to your secret hideaway.
Once the song or the idea is there, I love to bring other people into it, and expand it and see what it could grow into. Much of this album, and everything I’ve done, is the result of musicians I love and admire taking these ideas and songs and bringing themselves to it. That’s when it becomes more than you ever could have imagined. Sparks meeting each other! That’s magic.
Kendra: Speaking of “With” you made your directorial debut with the video. What did you learn from your first time behind that camera in that sense?
Pearla: I had so much fun making that music video! That was a powerful process for me because I really had no idea what I was doing but at the same time I knew exactly what I wanted. So it was just a good reminder to trust myself and honor my ideas.
We were also limited by a few things, like time, and nature (we were shooting in a canoe). So I definitely had to learn to not be so precious about certain shots or ideas that I had. I couldn’t dwell on anything for too long. It was a good exercise in letting go.
Kendra: What I loved most about “With” is that it sounded like a song you’d hear in a movie when the main character was stuck in a memory. If this track did wind up on the big screen, what actor would you hope would be in the scene with your song?
Pearla: Greta Gerwig but specifically as Frances Ha.
Kendra: So time for a side note – with love in the air, I’d love to know what is the #1 song you’d put on a mixtape as part of a Valentine’s Day gift?
Pearla: “I’m On Your Team” by Babehoven. That song captures what real love feels like to me.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Oh Glistening Onion, The Nighttime Is Coming’ out on February 10th, what else is in the works as we head towards the spring?
Pearla: I’m playing an album release show at Public Records on February 25th! Then I’ll be headed to SXSW. After that, I hope to be playing more shows in more places. Making more secret hideaways.