Windmills: “Sierra Nevada hits close to home”

True artists who create music that makes you feel something are rare these days, but if you pay a close attention, you’ll find such talents producing music that will leave a mark on your soul, send chills down your spine and leave you longing for more. Windmills has always had such effect on me. Back in 2012, I spoke to the man behind this project, Cory Myraas, about his unique musical ways and creating a sound that takes you to a special place. Windmills, based in The Okanagan, BC, have kept moving ever since, evolving graciously through Cory who has been pouring his life experiences and challenges into his writing and music. His latest single, Sierra Nevada, about which Cory talks in our following interview, is a track loaded with beautiful melancholy, and him expressing each heartfelt emotion through the soul-stirring vocals that flawlessly compliment the magnificent soundscapes.

I spoke to Cory not only about his new single and the continuous growth of Windmills, but also about his travels, favourite shows and plans for next year.

Eva: Back in 2012, we spoke about your debut Keep Moving and at the time you were also working on Tilting. A lot happened since then! How do you think you evolved as an artist over the years musically and writing wise?

Cory: Oh man, the nostalgia! A lot has happened over the last four years and a lot of it unplanned but most of it set to the master plan I had for myself from day one. To always keep moving forward and to always challenge myself. I think as an artist I’ve evolved musically in a variety of ways, I’ve got a better understanding of my instrument and I’ve constantly pushed my sound forward and in new directions. I take a bit of pride in the fact that you can hear the evolution between my releases. It was always the plan to get these full sounds, I just had to find my way here. As a writer, simply put, I have more life experiences to pull from now. A lot has happened and most of it has found its way into my writing. I’ve been fortunate to spend time with a lot of songwriters I look up to in my peer group as well and I think that’s really pushed my drive to constantly better myself.

Totally get that about moving forward and challenging yourself. Now how about live shows, you’ve always had a unique style of performing. Has that changed in any way?

It’s progressed as well! When I started I had my looper and a floor tom with two mics, and looped everything live. My songs and sounds originally were much for folk orientated and organic, so that worked perfectly. As my sound progressed to have more dynamics and instruments, I knew I needed to change-up the way I created the songs live. So I run ableton live with a few tracks backing me up, sounds I can’t duplicate like a drum track, bass lines, synths, and still loop the majority of the guitar work and all vocals. I also have an Akai Mini that I use as a sampler to trigger other sounds, and throw in samples to change the variety of the live sound vs the studio sound.

Sounds like you put on a pretty special show! And you’ve just released a new single, Sierra Nevada. So what’s the story and inspiration behind this track?

I have! I was fortunate enough to go travelling for four months at the beginning of the year all through Central America, sailed into Colombia, and spent about a month in that beautiful country. The title refers to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range in the north of Colombia where I spent most of my time. Even more specific, my time spent above the hidden mountain town of Minca, sleeping in an open-air treehouse amidst the howler monkeys and coffee plantations. There was something remarkably beautiful about the geography, the Caribbean ocean in the distance, the hills, the greenery, the gorgeous sunsets, and the people. It was also a time in my life that signalled a shift in thresholds and certain aspects of my life I identified with, some that were out of my control. I won’t get too into detail about it to respect the experience. I wanted to frame this gorgeous natural experience with a less than gorgeous personal one. It hits close to home, more so than songs I’ve written in the past.

Wow, sounds like quite the experience! It is a truly amazing track. I was going to ask you about your travels and it seems that it naturally inspired you as an artist and a human being.

Travelling changes you, for better or worse. That’s the beauty of it. I’ve been drawn to travelling since birth, my parents both travelled extensively and I’ve followed suit. Each time it affects me as a human first, and an artist later. Taking those experiences and sounds and sights, and trying to express them creatively. My song “Maps” is a song I wrote after backpacking through Europe and coming to terms with that trip. I can’t help it, it seems it’s a way to just let my travel pour out into different forms.

I agree, it does change you and you learn so much about yourself. But going back to the single, I love the video teasers you put up for it. Stunning scenery! Where and by whom was that made, and are these just teasers or is there a full video?

Good! I love the little teasers we put out. They were filmed by Lee Watkins of LMW Photos here in Vernon, BC. We’ve worked together a lot over the last 5 years and he’s always met anything I’ve thrown at him in stride. He works with some amazing artists and I’m happy to have him in my corner. We filmed it here in Vernon in one of our gorgeous parks, late fall before the snow starting flying. I had the idea for the two videos, two themes to visually represent the songs shifting dynamic. At first I wanted people to wonder if the song was mine or just a track I picked for the visuals, and the second would reveal my vocals and kind of give people an “aha” moment. But everyone figured it out instantly! Those two were teasers, but there is a plan and a goal set in place for a full length filmed in Colombia.

That’s a great plan! Yeah, his work is really beautiful and unique. Now, back in June your gear got stolen and that must’ve been truly terrible for you. I know your friends set up a gofundmepage to help you out, but how did you manage to get back on track?

Oh man, what a chaotic time that was. Thankfully I have amazing friends and an unbelievable support group around me! My friend Brett Crowe started the gofundme, kind of like a backup plan. But in three days the community raised $3,100 dollars and showed such overwhelming support! I was able to replace the computer and some programs and software I’d lost, my producer was able to send me all my songs and stems, I got my artwork back, my masters; pretty much everything musically I was able to get back. I really only lost personal things. 5 years of poetry and creative writing, old university papers, some travel pictures… But all things I can replace with 5 years of new and exciting memories and experiences!

That’s true! Now I remember that last month you performed at a special event called Head, Heart and Hustle which was about maintaining your mental health in a creative field. It sounds like an interesting event and a topic that I think is very important to address and talk about, right?

It was a special night. Mental health is something that for some reason is still almost taboo to address, and so many people deal with it in their lives. I was so grateful to be able to be a part of it, play my songs and chat a bit about where they came from and my own experiences with mental health. There were also several speakers who addressed it and gave really insightful talks. It’s something that should just be common and normal to talk about and I think this was a good step to starting the conversation and opening up.

I couldn’t agree more Cory. People should not feel afraid or ashamed to talk about it, and inspire others to do the same. So besides this event, what was the most special or memorable gig you have played this year?

I’ve been really fortunate to have been able to play some amazing shows after getting going again (after replacing my gear). I toured quite a bit from the end of August through till October, and I played some awesome shows. I had a showcase at Rifflandia music festival in Victoria which is one of the best festivals in BC, followed up by this amazing intimate house concert where I played to about 40-50 people in a living room. I’ve played that house 4 times now and each time it just refills my heart. Then when the tour came through Vernon I played a oversold hometown gig (about 130-140) on a Wednesday night, which is unheard of here. Was able to share the stage with a local powerhouse band called Amistad. Watch out for them!

I will do! Well, it seems that 2016 has been quite the year for you with all the ups and downs. What will you take into 2017 and what will you leave behind?

It’s been quite turbulent that is for sure, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think these things always happen for a reason, and it shook me up at a time I needed to shake up. You can get settled, you start to take things for granted. Moving forward, I find I’m that much more grateful for every stage I’m able to play, because it can be taken away in an instant. As always I’ll challenge myself to keep moving, create, and release work that I’m proud to have my name on. Duality and keeping yourself in check are so important in this business. I’ll always take the bad with me just as a reminder.

That’s an excellent way of thinking Cory. I’m with you on that one. So what are your main plans and hopes for 2017?

Main plans and hopes in no particular order:

  • release a 7″ vinyl split with “Sierra Nevada” and 1 unreleased song to be recorded soon
  • tour more
  • put things in motion to get to the UK (to tour or just visit)
  • become best friends with Michael Fassbender
  • stop drinking beer
  • spend as much time in the ocean as possible
  • play more festivals
  • meet more fans
  • travel more

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