Interview with Miranda Stone
Bushnell, IL
Saturday July 4, 1998
By Titi Ala'ilima
Photographs by James Wengrenovich

Hailing from Ontario, Miranda Stone swooped into Cornerstone with a merry little band and as many CDs as she could get past the border guards. What she found was a very eager audience, young and old alike, soaking in her sometimes smoking, sometimes soothing sounds, and snapping up her CD's so swiftly that most of her newfound fans would have to leave without so much as seeing one. The Phantom Tollbooth was finally able to pry her away from the multitudes after her second set and hide out behind the Gallery Tent to chat for a few minutes.

Tollbooth: Miranda, you've just completed your second rocking set here at your very first Cornerstone and sold out all your CDs before even finishing the set.

Stone: Oh, really, I didn't know that.

Tollbooth: So how you do feel? What do you want to do now?

Stone: I want to sleep, like all week, because I haven't had any sleep in the last week. I want to shower. That's what I want to do. I want to go home and have a shower. But you know, there's going to be a lot of work when I get home catching up on all the mailing addresses I got from people.

I've been hanging out at the hardcore stages, and checking out the skate ramps and stuff like that. I'm kind of sad that it's all over now. I don't feel like I've documented enough. I've been going around with a camera. I'm fascinated by the subcultures. We don't have this type of thing displayed in the festivals in Canada anywhere--not where all the different types of people get together like this.

Tollbooth: I've heard your music described as funkygrungefolkalternagoth

Stone: That's cool, I like that. I've been describing it as gentle punk/folk. I like Goth things. I could probably dress the Goth part and that would bring the Goth element into play.

Tollbooth: Paint your fingernails black.

Stone: Yeah, I could do that, that would be kind of neat.

Tollbooth: On stage, you look like you're aching to break out into punk.

Stone: I am.

Tollbooth: What are your influences/inspirations?

Stone: Everything from Gregorian chants to...I really, man alive, anything! I like the Cure; Over the Rhine, I've really been listening to a lot of them; Innocence Mission, a really neat band. There's a lot of stuff that people haven't heard about that I listen to. Cuban music is incredible, Afro-Cuban, anything that has a very rhythm-oriented sound.

Tollbooth: Your band is very tight.

Stone: They're really good, they're great guys to work with. Today we went off on this disco tangent. We've allowed for a little bit of disco in there but somehow it started going into more craziness. [When that happens,] you just have to say, "Okay, let's go with this, let's ride it." This is where it gets really scary, kind of exhilarating, and fun, because you have no idea where you're going to come out. It's like you're a mole underground.

You're going digdigdigdigdigdig and it's really frantic and you pop out and [say,] "Whoa, this is where I am." You just don't know what you're dealing with. But the guys are able to follow me and I'm able to give them the right signals and they know from just the body language that I give them what's going on, where I'm going to stop. Sometimes it doesn't work and sometimes it does. My lead player just shocked the pants off of me today; I didn't realize he was such a monster player. He came out ofnowhere and just started jumping up and down. I've never seen him do that before. The energy on stage was really special, the kids, the folk, and everybody.

Tollbooth: What is your mission or goal in making your music?

Stone: When I first started, I was writing as somewhat of a therapy, but it evolved into writing good music for good music's sake. I didn't enjoy what was being put out on the radio in the Christian market--a lot of cheesy, cotton candy pop.

Tollbooth: As Bill Mallonee would say, "The songs on the radio still suck, I'm afraid."

Stone: That's right. I started out with the goal to just create good music. It was about when I was twenty, I got out of art school, I realized that it was evolving again. It had more of a God emphasis to it than it had before. Now I'm trying to make it so the art and the music are united. I get very scared to say, "Oh this is my ministry," because this is also my business. This is also my livelihood. This is also my artistic vision.

Tollbooth: Did you always have that sort of God emphasis in your life and it just eventually got into your music, or...?

Stone: I write exactly what is going on with myself. I write from the experience factor and I try to write as honestly as possible about what has happened to other people, and what I'm going through dealing with stuff. So if there is a God emphasis in the music, it means that something is happening in me to create that. The last couple of years have been pretty important ones as far as struggling very much with my views on God and trying to understand an adult faith in God. You have to know that you believe something not because your parents told you, or because they believe it, or because you have to believe it or they'll be upset with you, or you'll disappoint them. When I was about 18, 19, I had to re-look at the thing because I grew up in a Christian home. I had to [ask], "Okay why am I believing this?" It's been a couple of really interesting years.

I don't come out all the time with "This is my big gospel message" in the music that I'm writing, but I want the Spirit of God to be very, very present in the music that I'm doing. Maybe I'm doing this artistic music or whatever you want to call it, but even off-stage I want to be able to communicate and have it shine out my eyes. I get scared because it's a high thing for people to have high expectations and I just want to continue to be real with people.

I don't want to fall--there's so many traps. I'm scared about that. I want to have a heart that is God-honoring when I'm doing my music, [yet] be careful about getting too jaded or too cynical about the business aspect.

Tollbooth: What are your prospects in terms of label or staying indie?

Stone: I don't know. I'm not against a major label. It would have to be the right one. I'm not completely convinced that I'd want to go with a Christian label, I'm not completely convinced I'd want to go with a secular. Both of them have their crazy, crazy stuff associated with them and I'm really enjoying being independent right now. I would have to be able to believe in the company, see how they've worked with other artists in the past and know that they were going to respect my artistic vision and what I would like to do. [That they won't] take it for a spin and "Sorry, your boobs aren't big enough, so out the revolving door you go."

I just know that I'm happy being independent, but I'm not able to keep up with the workload right now so things are going a little bit mental. I'm nervous about that, but people have been helping me. It's at a festival like this where you're really blown away by people's responses. You're hoping that you can communicate to people, but then when it happens, you're like, "Whoa! Thank you God!"

Tollbooth: What are you looking at for the future?

Stone: I want to put out a new album. Full-length this time and not a five-song, but it'll be independently produced again. I may have my bass player [Marty Gast] help me on the production of this one because he's worked with bands like Emit Ridge. He's got a really good heart and good ideas and I'm very comfortable working with him. After hanging out with me for a number of years, he knows where I'm coming from. But I wouldn't be against working with, (laughing) I dunno, Daniel Lanois, or a guy like Pierre Marchand. There are some good producers out there, but I want themto understand my artistic vision, and I haven't seen a lot of people out there that I can trust.

Plans for a next album? I'm trying to collect the material already, and the money. It's going to be a lot more money than just a small five-song CD. This one's been out for about 8-1/2 months now, so I'm still trying to let this one have a little bit of a run.

(To see reviews of her EP Brave, see http://www.tollbooth.org/reviewm/mstone.html)