Mia Dyson, Liz Stringer and Jen Cloher spend most of their lives thousands of miles from one another – Mia in Los Angeles, Liz in Toronto and Jen in Melbourne. They’ve just made their first album together, at Wilco’s studio ‘The Loft’ in Chicago, with Jeff Tweedy’s guitars, as you do, with Wilco’s Glenn Kotche on drums and Tom Schick the Grammy Award winning engineer. As you do. As they do. Because Dyson, Stringer, Cloher are, together, a bit special.
Liz Stringer recently wrote about the experience of making the record on her blog. The post was about the album’s incredible single Falling Clouds, in which the transformative nature of rock music played by women (Falling Joys and The Clouds) is heard by a young woman, Jen, whose life changes: “…..you kicked the door wide open so I could walk onto that stage.” But it’s not women pioneers who are lauded: “….if you want to be remembered then you better have a dick.”
Liz writes about the women’s hopes that they and their peers can be seen as trailblazers too, that they can “light the way” for younger women or non-binary musicians. “The fact that we ourselves are now visible and consistent contributors to the Australian and wider musical landscape as three women over 35,” she writes, “is a flag that we fly with extreme pride and a role that we take incredibly seriously.”
The album is so great. It rocks hard (Falling Clouds, Believer, With My Hands, Be Alone) but it also expresses quieter, more reflective ideas (Can’t Take It Back, The Other Side, Running For The Feeling) and rootsy sounds (Too Seriously, Young Girls, Can I Borrow Your Eyes) with simplicity and natural beauty.
It feels like the ultimate triumph of three songwriters who are, together and alone, incredible musicians. There’s little polemic because it doesn’t need it; they’re doing it. They are it. The first rule of narrative is show, don’t tell, and the story arc is pretty clear here.
Dyson, Stringer, Cloher formed on a whim and released an EP in 2013 which they then took on the road, playing over 40 shows around the country. Each then pursued their individual careers to great acclaim and respect. Between them they made a further six solo albums, won multiple awards and toured EVERYWHERE.
Their trio became what they now call “a fond memory and a series of tantalising unanswered questions.” Specifically – what would a full album sound like? If we – well – made one?
Dyson, Stringer, Cloher was recorded and mixed in eight days at The Loft, Chicago in April, 2019. It’s affirming to hear. Music made in the moment. Many of the takes and vocals are live. Can I Borrow Your Eyes is one to mention. It’s essentially acapella – although not quite – with these three voices singing of ways to get over, or reinvent. It’s utterly hopeful and plaintive. Who even needs guitars? It might remind a listener of the first time they heard Alison Krauss sing unburdened by instruments. In the band’s eyes it is “a lullaby, a prayer, a reminder that you don’t have to be lost if you want to be found.”
Each of these three remarkable artists are a story on their own. Each has embarked on many journeys, faced challenges and stared down all the hopes & dreams. But together they bring something forward that only exists in the best collaborations. Something greater than the sum of their parts. They’re a kind of magic.