The emotional intimacy teased on Casey MQ’s debut album, babycasey, doubles down with the queer musician's next endeavor: an EP recorded live at the piano from Los Angeles’ Gold Diggers Studio. On studio songs like “What About Us,” Casey MQ's gentle falsetto and personal storytelling began to establish themselves as foundational for his artist project; now those elements, once wrapped in bedroom-pop production, are on full display without any distraction.
“I Got a Bike” is the project’s first release, premiering today on PAPER, featuring fellow artist (and Casey MQ’s Los Angeles roommate) Cecile Believe. Co-written by the pair alongside Brad Loughead, the track celebrates the simple, constant freedom of riding your bike in a life of endless uncertainty and questioning. “If it tastes sweet, it’s meant to be/ No need to solve it,” they sing together, softly. “I don’t have all the answers, but I got a bike.”
“That lyric, ‘I don't have all the answers, but I got a bike,’ has a particular impact for me,” Casey MQ says. “I've spent years in Toronto on my bicycle and there really is nothing quite like being in the city on your bike. With each push of the pedal you enter this weightless coasting that supersedes any previous thought for that time. The song carries that feeling for me and it feels so good to sing about something like that.”
PAPER caught up with Casey MQ to talk about about “discovering unexpected sides” of himself and all things "I Got a Bike," which you can watch in full, below.
What does the collaborative process look like between you and Cecile Believe?
Cecile and I met in early 2021, and did a few writing residencies in our respective cities (Montreal and Toronto), which is actually where we wrote "I Got a Bike." We both were moving to Los Angeles that year and decided to be roommates. Ever since, we've been on a path of wonderful friendship that has shifted my life. Cecile has the love of a million moons and suns, and you can feel it when she's writing a lyric, melody or in a chat on our little patio. Our process has varied in so many ways and we often support each other in all corners of what music can be. We've written and produced songs from start to finish together, helped each other on lyric changes, discussed arrangements, worked together on a frequency of a kick drum. It's really endless and I'm elated to see how it continues.
After releasing a studio album, why did you want to record this EP entirely live?
I have been working on my next studio album for a few years, but also wanted to do something that brought the piano and voice into focus at its essential form. I have been playing piano since I was a child and that form of musicianship, being a pianist before a producer, really informs any recorded music I work on. I thought it would be exciting to be with friends on a live EP that focuses on being players and hearing the songs cut through.
What is the process like for making a live EP? Do you rehearse? Is there room for spontaneity in-studio?
When Cecile, Brad and I initially wrote "I Got A Bike," I spent so much time trying to make various produced versions of the song afterward that I was unsatisfied with. I felt like each time it lost the heart of what made the song so special when we wrote it. The decision to record it live off the floor had a more touching sentiment to it. We had a few rehearsals where we ended up adjusting the song a bit, slight lyric changes, seeing what it felt like to embrace the simplicity of the piano and acoustic guitar. Once we were in the studio, we recorded the songs in single takes a few times and at some point felt like everyone was synced up to have what would be our final version. Any inflections or decisions made that were spontaneous lives on in the final take we chose.
How did the idea for “I Got a Bike,” as an emotional hook, come about?
Cecile and I had been writing a few songs that same day, and when Brad arrived we started on "I Got A Bike." We shifted our focus to write a song that can feel vast and simple at the same time. I think it was Cecile who initially brought up the simplicity of having a bike to round out that sensation we were wanting to describe.
That lyric, "I don't have all the answers, but I got a bike," has a particular impact for me. I've spent years in Toronto on my bicycle and there really is nothing quite like being in the city on your bike. With each push of the pedal you enter this weightless coasting that supersedes any previous thought for that time. The song carries that feeling for me and it feels so good to sing about something like that.
Do songs typically begin with you at the piano, like this?
I cherish harmony in music making so having a piano, midi controller, something to bring focus into harmony is definitely a reliable starting place for me. I hear the piano in ways I don't hear other instruments when I listen to music. I'm sensitive to the touch, dynamism and voicing.
How has your relationship with music and music-making changed since moving to LA?
I think moving to Los Angeles has been a deepening in understanding how I relate to music, and relate to others. I've come to understand and discover new parts of myself as I have been more enveloped in a city that has an extreme focus on entertainment. I play soccer regularly, which is something I never thought I would do, but perhaps it's just a natural reaction to living in a new city. Discovering unexpected sides to yourself. Understanding where I belong internally is an ongoing activity that I suspect will carry through my life.
Is this release indicative of what’s to come from you
I think this is a sign on what excites me currently in music. My relationship with the piano and words continues to grow, and I feel this pull to expand on that and find out how that can be satisfied. I'm not sure if satisfaction is possible though and perhaps it's just the ride of life I'm on.
Photography: Lindsay Ellary
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