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Interview with Tori Nance and Michelle Bajalia Spaulding

On Saturday, February 4th, Nolan and Layla had the privilege of hosting Musaholic Magazine's first in-person interview and studio photoshoot. We discussed the complexities of being a woman in the music industry, Tori & Michelle's new music, and much more!

Michelle Spaulding & Tori Nance by Nolan Fisher

Layla: Would you guys like to give a little info about yourself?

Tori: We're a duo from Jacksonville, Florida. And we play sort of nineties grunge music. But it's got sort of like a different flare. And we're working on an album right now

Layla: Great. So what does your guys' creative process for writing music usually look like?

Tori: I usually write songs. I usually have the melody in my head first, and then the words, and then, I have to kind of figure out what to do on the guitar. I have to find something that matches it. But the words are first, and the ideas are first. The rest of it, we just build around it, and then I give it to Michelle and she transforms it into a piano song. And it kind of works like that.

Layla: Who would you guys say are your biggest musical inspirations?

Tori: I will let you answer that.

Michelle: I don't know. I mean, I'm a huge Nirvana fan, right? I love Nirvana. I grew up playing classical piano, so Debussy was one of my favorite composers. But really, I don't discriminate against any of it. A lot of nineties grunge influences me, and I think that's one of the reasons I was so drawn to Tori's music when I saw her play at that bar that night.

Tori: And Joan Jett. Now that I think about it, she was probably the biggest influence on me when I was a kid. Just, like... I don't know if I can say this, just that fuck it attitude. And that fucking, like, punk-rock thing. We don't care what we sound like or what you think of us, we just wanna play music. And it's, like, the all-girls thing. I realized girls can play music, girls can be badass, and girls can do all the same things (as boys) and be better at it. I think that's where it started for me.

Michelle & Tori by Nolan Fisher

Layla: Following that, how or when did music come into your life? You mentioned that you kind of grew up playing the piano.

Michelle: I did. I started on my grandmother's organ. She had this old organ in her back room when I was, like, three. So I was reading music before I was reading words, but I always envied musicians who could just feel it. Who could just play by ear. Who just, like, knew what to do. So I had myself in a box for most of my life with music until about a year and a half ago, two years ago. It started really young for me, but I had some time away from it. I have a baby grand piano, and there was a period when I didn't have the room for it in my house. And so, I didn't play a lot then. I'm glad I did, though.

Tori: I think I got my first drum set when I was 14, and I remember the guy (that sold me the set) just knew I wanted to play drums. I didn't know... I didn't think about the guitar yet. And the guy told my mom, like, "don't worry when she gets sick of these. You can return them, and we'll take them back. You can get a refund, don't worry, 'cuz she's gonna quit." And I still have those drums now. I've probably made, like, thousands of dollars using those drums. Played shows everywhere. All across North Florida. They've been everywhere. That's how it started with the drum kit.

Layla: Sisterhood of the traveling drums. You mentioned playing music. What was the most memorable performance of your own?

Michelle: Do you have one? I mean, last night was pretty monumental. Our show last night was pretty great.

Tori: I'm gonna have to agree. I'm glad you said that. Last night... We're relatively new with this project. I think we just started in December? Yeah, November, maybe the beginning of December of 2022. We've done so much in such a short period of time, and last night we played four songs that are not out yet. Two of them were out on Spotify, but people haven't really had a lot of time to listen to them. And everybody in the room was singing the songs with us. It was the coolest thing.

Layla: Which venue was that at?

Tori: It was at the Walrus.

Layla: We went there for-

Tori: Oh, it's a great spot.

Layla: Emo Karaoke. It was so fun.

Tori: It was the coolest thing I've ever seen. Everyone was singing, and they knew the words.

Layla: That was probably like cathartic for you, right?

Tori: Yeah. Experiencing it.

Layla: How would you guys describe your sound to somebody who's never listened to you?

Michelle: She's the queen of breakup songs. Like, I feel all of them. They just get you straight to your heart. You know, that's why that's the name of one of her songs.

Layla: Deep cuts.

Michelle: They are for real. They're so raw. I was blown away the first time I saw her. I was going to leave the bar, and she started playing drums with her feet and playing guitar and singing, and I just immediately sat right back down and pulled my phone out, and just started filming her. I was blown away by her. I think people really relate to her music. I know I did. And it's clear every show we play together, it's crazy. But I don't know how I would describe it. I would just say you gotta see this girl. That's all I would say. I would just be like: "You gotta."

Layla: What song of your own is your personal favorite?

Tori: That's so hard. I think, right now, my favorite song is probably "Make Me Hate Me." It's just this song that I wrote after a really toxic relationship. Everyone has had one of those where you realize, like, you lost yourself, and you don't even like yourself anymore 'cuz you're not you. And you're, like: "Who is this? Who am I? What the hell happened to me?" That's kind of what it's about.

Layla: Advice you would give to people starting out their own music?

Tori: Chime in on this if you want to. I think I would say just do it. There are so many people that, like, sit at home and they watch other people, and they're like: "Oh, I wish I could do that. I want to do that." Or they come to open mic, and they don't sing. They just sit and watch and they're like: "I'll do it when I'm better," or "when I feel like I'm good enough" and then, they never do it. You're good enough today. Just do it.

Tori & Michelle by Nolan Fisher

Layla: It's like, don't sit around and wait. Right. Where do you guys see yourself in five years?

Tori: I think we talked about (what) we want. We want to do more recordings, and we want to do different versions of the songs. And we want to be able to do more for ourselves. Yeah, we wanna put sort of some of the power back in our hands, especially being females and not having to go to all of these different guys. They're great guys, but having to go to all these different guys for video and photography, recording, and booking... Like, we want to be able to empower ourselves to do some of that so that we're more in control. We just wanna play bigger venues and play more shows.

Layla: Of course. You mentioned being a female in the industry. Do you guys feel like you face any extra problems being women in the music industry?

Tori: Absolutely.

Layla: Loaded question.

Michelle: Yeah, that's a loaded question. So far, my personal experience has been okay, but it's just so hard. You just never really know anyone, so you really gotta be careful. Know that extra judgment and stuff, I feel like.

Layla: Yeah.

Michelle: Oh, yeah. People just automatically assume you have no idea what you're doing because you're just... You have boobs.

Tori: Yeah. I went to a gig during One Spark where I was playing drums, and the guy would not let me in the door. He didn't think I was in the band because I'm a girl. The singer had already come in, and I think he assumed that the singer was the only member of the band that could be a female. It took me 30 minutes to get into my own gig because I had to convince him.

Layla: That happened with me. I forget what venue it was exactly, but I showed up with all my photography gear, and they had changed when doors opened, and then, they were giving me problems and everything. So kind of the same situation.

Michelle: That's tough.

Layla: It's so annoying, but since you mentioned making "Make Me Hate Me," is there any deeper meaning to it?

Tori: I'm trying to think about the lyrics. The bridge is like, you know, "you can't trust that girl as far as you can reach her." "Hands where I can see them, you're not getting back in." So it's also a message to myself. Like, don't do this again. Don't put yourself in a situation where you've been made to feel like you're less than others. That you're not good enough. You've been listening to so much gaslighting for so long, so I think it's kind of a message to myself, like, "remember this?"

Layla: Yeah, of course. What would be your guys' dream venue to play?

Michelle: I've been thinking about it: Red Rocks in Colorado.

Layla: I literally was about to mention that.

Michelle: That would probably be my dream. But for this project, if we played Red Rocks, I could die happy. 110%. Or like The Caverns? There's this place in Nashville. It's like a cave. It's insane. I think it's in Nashville or Tennessee, but I know it's called The Caverns. One of those would be cool. Just 1904 would be fine. So we're doing that in April.

Tori: We're gonna do 1904 in April.

Layla: Sick! All right. So thank you, guys, so much for meeting with us. Thank you.


Listen and watch Layla's full interview with the lovely Tori Nance and Michelle Spaulding below on Spotify or Youtube!

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