Miracle Mathis braces for better days on 'Reminiscent Vibes'

Andy Downing
adowning@columbusalive.com
Miracle Mathis

Miracle Mathis wrote the songs that make up her newly released EPReminiscent Vibes, Vol. 2 late in 2019 as she dealt with the fallout from a series of failed relationships. As a result, a number of the tracks linger on the idea of transition, the singer taking stock of past missteps as a means of better navigating the days to come.

“When I was writing songs like ‘Behind Me,’ I just wanted to leave the life I had at the time in the past relationships included,” Mathis said recently by phone. “I’d say 2019 was not a good year for me, mentally or emotionally, and I wrote this project as a way of leaving all of that behind, leaning more into myself and moving forward. And the music matches that idea. It’s kind of like a breakthrough.”

Initially intended for a spring 2020 release, the EP was delayed until last week by the still-raging pandemic a gap year that has given the songs an added weight and dimension, however unintentional. Now, once-personal tracks like “Behind Me” can similarly be read as commentaries on society at large, the singer putting a brutal year to bed and taking a more hopeful look at the future. “Waking up, the sun is shining on my skin,” she sing-raps atop a chiming beat that conjures images of a flowering electronic garden. “My new life has just begun.”

“Looking back, I’m glad [the EP] got delayed. I think it came out at the perfect time,” said Mathis, who will perform as part of Natalie’sCaravan of Misfits, a livestream scheduled to take place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11. “Coming out of 2020, that was such a crazy year, and now we have kind of a restart. … The songs have definitely gotten deeper for me, so I’m glad I didn’t freak out last year when nothing was going to plan.”

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Mathis, who was born in Gary, Indiana, and moved to the East Side of Columbus with her family in 2003, received her introduction to music via the church choir and her grandmother’s record collection, which tended toward soul classics like the Temptations, Marvin Gaye and the Jackson 5. From a young age, Mathis harbored dreams of recording, often toting around a karaoke machine that she used to capture the songs that would come to her spontaneously. “I was always singing, always making up music, always escaping through something,” she said.

Beginning around 2015, Mathis started to take the craft more seriously, with early songs tending toward character studies, the musician adopting the perspectives and emotions of a range of narrators that stood at a degree of remove from her everyday life. “I would say I’m an empath,” she said. “I can feel other people’s emotions and then put myself into their shoes.” 

Gradually, though, Mathis has started to allow more of herself into the recordings, which she described both as a form of therapy and a means of communication. “Sometimes when I’m talking, it feels like I’m rambling and not making sense,” she said. “But then I write a song and someone can understand me better in three minutes of singing versus 20 minutes of normal dialogue.”

Witness Vibes track “Better Dayz,” where, in a span of just three-and-a-half minutes, the singer effortlessly unpacks her hardscrabble past (“I came up old/I came up hard”), her desire to carve out a better future (“I feel it’s time to heal”) and the challenge inherent in bridging the two.

Of course, this more personal turn comes with its own pressures. “When I was first starting off, the music did serve as an escape, because no one knew I did it,” Mathis said.

In that sense, the nearly yearlong delay has provided some welcome additional comfort, placing the musician at even further remove from the personal events that shaped the EP's creation. “I have a pattern of internalizing things that happen to me, so [when I wrote these songs] I was in a low place mentally, emotionally,” Mathis said. “I never want to feel that low again. I just want to change for the better and be the best me I can be, which I know sounds cliche, but it’s true.”