Maternity, Meditation, Mysticism and Music

“Sometimes you have to walk away from something to come back to it and experience it for the first time,” said Brie Stoner, an independent singer and songwriter from Grand Rapids. Review last month, 12 years after first appearing on the cover of our annual musical number. “There’s a line from a poem by TS Eliot where he says, ‘Old men should be explorers. At the end of all our exploration, we go back to the beginning and know it for the first time.

That sentiment sums up how she feels about the unorthodox music career she’s had, on and off, for two decades now, which has had its fair share of serious ups and downs.

In the early 2000s, shortly after Stoner graduated from Northview High School, where she wrote the class song, she got the chance to record in Chicago with the late Jay Bennett of Wilco. Bennett became an early mentor to Stoner and his longtime musical collaborator David VanderVelde (who later worked with father John Misty), and his sudden passing from an accidental overdose in 2009 was devastating.

“There was a series of tragedies that happened in my life around this time,” Stoner said. “My brother got really sick, the label went bankrupt, and in the middle of it all, I think I was at that very tender age in my early twenties where I felt like I was on a train , that I didn’t remember getting on board, like things were going well and I was getting attention, but I didn’t really feel like I knew myself yet.

She then ventured to what she calls the ‘Neverland’ of Los Angeles, where she played Wendy to the Lost Boys musicians around her for just over a year, before deciding to sign a contract. publishing in Nashville. Along the way, she stopped in Grand Rapids and met her ex-husband, quickly deciding to return to West Michigan and settle into the domestic life of marriage and raising children here.

“I never stopped making music,” she said. “At the core of my being, I had this incredible joy and contentment in my children’s ears, being the only ears that would hear me sing for a while. That I was singing just for them and just for me, and that was enough. .

As her children grew older, Stoner began doing voice work for television and film placement and licensing with Detroit friend Daniel Johnson. Citing the zeitgeist, she had her music featured in a Victoria’s Secret campaign, Netflix’s ‘Orange Is The New Black’, and even had her song, ‘Don’t Fence Me In’, featured in a Nokia commercial. aired during the Grammy in 2011.

“I wasn’t the 21-year-old version of me who was just caught up in this idea that to be a music artist you have to be successful, whatever that means,” Stoner said.

With these musical placements as a mirror to her, Stoner saw herself and her path in music differently. Around this time, she released her EP ‘Delicate Hour’, before once again stepping away from music on what she describes as a spiritual journey.

“I was very interested in mysticism and studied mystics from different religious traditions,” Stoner said. “And through that came into my own embodied sense of who I was, and my own sense of meaning and purpose and clarity. I just found myself in the throes of my own becoming free.

About five years ago, she went through a major transition. She divorced and in 2016 earned a master’s degree in theological studies from Chicago Theological Seminary. She then served as a program designer at the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before working more recently as a spiritual leader at UNITE.

“I found myself in quarantine, in the middle of the pandemic, working for a very successful organization in Washington, DC, using all of the left side of my brain, the very academic and mystical part of me, but none of the artistic side,” she says.

So she quit her job, started working on her upcoming new album with VanderVelde — and later Josh Kaufman at Local Legend Recording — and started her own podcast, “Unknowing,” where she has conversations with artists, teachers, activists and others about exploring the edges of our own ignorance, and using it as a basis for “living in our infinite potential”.

“I remember the first time I experienced meditation,” Stoner said. “The way I describe it is that I took a journey from the monkey mind of my brain and the judgments of my thoughts to this space that was even below my heart. Like, I feel like it was at the solar plexus in my body that I landed in that place of non-contingent individuality, of ease, of rest, of radical openness. And what I realized is that I’ve been going to this place since I picked up a guitar. Like, in a way, when you’re writing music, you ignore your own expectations, your own thoughts.

The process has become something of a loophole moment for Stoner, as his new album, titled Me Veolooks back on her unusual childhood as an American citizen growing up in Madrid, Spain, where she lived until she was nearly 12, and where she first learned the guitar.

“It means I see myself in Spanish,” Stoner said of the title. “And it’s one of my favorite songs (on the album), just in terms of what it triumphantly declares about my own journey, and also about the freedom I’m experiencing right now as a woman, as an artist, as a lover, as a human being.

Stoner plans to release the first part of Me Veo this fall, with the second half set to arrive in early 2023, followed by a vinyl release that will bring the two parts together.

“Just letting this out into the world is my end point,” Stoner said of her fresh start with this new record. “Anything beyond that is a gift, and I’m grateful for that, but leaving people in these songs that I’ve been living in for two years feels like it’s the offering on the altar of my life. It feels good.”

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