Andrew Sisk Finds Catharsis and Healing on Mr. Miracle

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To make his most personal record to date, Sisk called upon a group of trusted collaborators to create something new, live off the floor, at a time when he needed it the most.

Matt Carter

Andrew Sisk’s new album Mr. Miracle was officially released a few days before Christmas. December 22 to be exact. Two years earlier, on Boxing Day 2018, he walked into Andy Magoffin’s House of Miracles recording studio in Cambridge, Ontario with just one new song. It had been a rough year. Maybe even his roughest. And for the first time in his musical career, he was ending a year with very little to show for it. He needed a rest, but he also had to keep busy. He needed this moment. He needed a miracle.

“I had to go back through old songbooks to find songs because I hadn’t written a new album,” said Sisk. “This time I had one new song and a whole bunch of old songs I never recorded because I found them too revealing, too vulnerable, too much like my diary.”

Looking back on the two days he spent recording the album with Magoffin, Tavo Diez de Bonilla (bass), Marshall Bureau (drums), and Pete Hall (guitar and lap steel), four musicians who have become some of his closest collaborators over the past six years, Sisk describes the process as being both serendipitous and miraculous. And as it turned out, forcing himself to revisit a batch of songs he previously deemed too personal to share was exactly the kind of catharsis he needed. 

“I made this album at one of the lowest points in my life, when genuinely so many things were falling apart,” he said. “This recording was an opportunity to be with friends doing what I love most, and those songs were all I had to work on.”

He got the miracle he was hoping for. With no previous rehearsal time and no arrangements to speak of, everyone involved in the recording session came into the project on equal ground. There were no pre-existing licks or loops in place to guide this optimistic group. They took their direction from the songs themselves and let the conversations play out between them.

“We did this album the way they used to do records, by putting a whole band in a room with new songs,” said Sisk. “We just kind of created the arrangements and left space for each other. It felt incredible. It came together miraculously in the House of Miracles at a time when I needed a miracle.”

Mr. Miracle fits perfectly within Sisk’s admirable discography. Resting atop earlier explorations in folk, indie rock and bosanova, Mr. Miracle is something altogether different, yet somehow surprisingly familiar. 

“I wanted to make an album that just finally embraced the fact that I grew up listening to The Eagles and Van Morrison,” said Sisk. “I think previously I had always tried to challenge myself to create something I had never heard before. This time I just went with the idea that these are songs I wrote, so let’s make them beautiful.”

Mr. Miracle also features notable contributions from Mike Brushey (drums), JJ Ipsen (piano), Michael Feuerstack (pedal steel), Tim Crabtree (sax) and guest vocalists Christina Martin, Jenn Grant and Camille Delean. 

“I’m lucky that I found songwriting. It has always been there for me to help me go inside myself and transform emotions into something productive.”

The sense of risk and vulnerability involved in Mr. Miracle’s creation undoubtedly plays a big part in distinguishing this project from anything he’s previously recorded. But for Sisk, this album is so much more. Getting these songs out into the open and bringing them to life helped him reconnect with the joy that comes from creating something new, a love he’d lost track of over the previous year.  

“I’m lucky that I found songwriting,” said Sisk. “It has always been there for me to help me go inside myself and transform emotions into something productive. It’s a sacred thing for me. I feel grateful to have it in my life. I only realized recently that this is something I need to do. It’s a process. It’s the reason I’m here, I guess.” 

To celebrate that album’s release, Sisk hosted a livestream from his home in Montreal. He played a few songs, told stories, spoke about the album’s creation and interacted with the audience. He also spoke about his healing journey and what he’s learned about himself since this album was made. 

“The biggest thing I have learned is to feel my feelings,” he said. “I feel like our culture, and the Maritime culture I grew up in in particular, does not approve of displays of emotions. It’s why we have a weird social license to express emotions only when we drink. How many times have you seen a Maritime man only cry, rage, express love or joy when they’re drunk? We suppress our emotions and I don’t know why, but now that I’ve learned to feel my emotions I see suppressed emotions everywhere. It’s not everyone, but it is a cultural norm. Taking time to just let myself feel my feelings is all new to me. I just let myself experience them, I don’t have to act on them, just feel them and that’s enough to transform them. Maybe this sounds simple or maybe everyone else already does this, but for me it’s pretty revolutionary.

“This album comes from a real sincere place, and I hope it reaches anyone who needs to hear it.”

andrewsisk.com

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