“Arrest me! It’s criminal—what I did to your heart,” Miranda Inzunza sings while she accompanies herself with a guitar on stage at the Waltz-Astoria, a bijou coffee house in Queens, New York.
She’s dressed like she belongs on site at an archeological dig—with earthy tones all throughout: pale olive-colored high-waist pants, a neutral blouse that’s tucked in and worn brown leather boots, all of which is complimented by fair skin and caramel-toned hair.
Miranda, 20, recently took second place at the Waltz-Astoria’s local singer/songwriter competition, and has now returned to headline a night of music and relaxation during her spring break. The house is full of friends, family and passerby reveling in the entertainment and keeping warm from the bitter streets of New York—streets that are being covered in snow, which suggests that spring break season has actually come around a bit early.
She’ll soon return to Berklee College of Music in Boston where she studies songwriting and stage performance under professors such as Livingston Taylor—brother of American songwriter and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Taylor.
“This is my second time taking [him],” Miranda said, “and he just gives the best advice. He always says ‘the song should be the star of the show, not the singer.’ I really respect that point.”
Miranda’s time in Boston also landed her an opportunity to record an EP with Wax on Felt Records, Emerson College’s student-managed record label, after taking second place in their annual Battle of the Bands competition.
“I was signed to the label and so they’re basically putting up the money for it through the college,” she said, “so [whichever engineer] they give me is who I’m going to work with, but I’m using my friends as my accompanying musicians and such.”
This will be Miranda’s third studio EP (title to be announced). Between her self-titled debut EP (2011) and her follow up, Pisces with a Gemini Rising (2012), Miranda slipped considerably into a more concrete and unrestrained folk/roots sound, which bears the likeness of music from the Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit.
Miranda is constantly making bold transitional moves in a manner that suggests nothing less than growth both as an artist and as a professional—from picking up the viola in middle school, to her having been a student of acting at the Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan and her current status as a student at Berklee; Miranda is figuring it all out as she advances.
“So, what’s next?” she says as she bends at her knees to peek at the set list, which she keeps at her feet—it’s a page from a spiral-bound book that has been torn and crumpled with words and cross-outs and more words.
She has everyone’s attention.
“So this is a story that kind of just came to me. It’s not too happy. It’s not too sad. And when I was working on writing the ending, my sister was like, ‘He has to die!’ So, yeah. This is called ‘Half.’”
“I’ve never written an ‘everything is perfect’ song,” Miranda said regarding the driving forces behind her music. “It’s always just kind of, like, ‘I want so badly this, and we’re not there yet.’”
Miranda often turns to personal experience when she writes—modifying and embellishing a once-reality along the way into something tangible regardless of validity.
“I never let the truth get in the way of a good story,” she said.
She tunes her guitar to drop D for her next song. She twists the pegs with the tips of her fingers, which are decorated by patches of nail polish that have been chipping away as she strums her guitar.
“I’m a little obsessed with Kurt Cobain. We have the same birthday. It’s kind of a big deal,” she says. “This next song is a Nirvana cover.”
And over a wicked melody she begins, “She eyes me like a Pisces when I am weak. I’ve been locked inside your heart-shaped box for weeks…”
“I started out in musical theater, and then I got, like, really into rock. So I got into some tough bands,” Miranda explained as she recalled her days garage-jamming as the vocalist of Melting Fidelity—a coterie of aspiring musicians that came together studying at Tomato’s House of Rock, an outlet for ambitious students of music in New York City to gain a little extra professional experience.
During her time in Melting Fidelity, Miranda covered songs by artists such as Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down and collaboratively worked with her band mates on writing original contemporary rock music.
“We kind of sucked, but it was fun anyways. We played a couple shows and it was just difficult because my music really isn’t cut out for that heavy of a sound,” she continued.
Before Miranda picked up a guitar for herself, she had collaborated with her best friend and fellow musician Morgan Miller, 18, to form the teenage folk duo August Glory.
“We don’t live in the same state now,” she commented, “and the reason we started playing together was because he played the guitar and I didn’t, and so now that I’ve learned to accompany myself, it’s been me sort of doing my own thing.”
Miller, however, accompanied Miranda in-studio for the recording of Pisces with a Gemini Rising.
Miranda is edging toward her finale. So far, she has taken us all on an emotional rollercoaster ride packed with heart-quivering climbs, precipitous drops, twists, turns and periodic—albeit hasty—moments of relaxation.
“So this is my spring break,” she says, “and, like, it’s snowing! Is this a joke?”
She introduces the last song she’ll be performing this evening, “Back to Boston”—a title that is altogether fitting for the occasion. She has much to do as her semester wraps up, both professionally and academically. Whether she decides to use her break time to actually take a break is in question; beneath the physicality of her being sits an irrepressible force of natural talent that continues to evolve.
She sings her song.
“Back to Boston, here I go. Road signs scream to me, ‘turn around and head back home…’”
Going back is a reality that draws nearer to the present.
• • •
To check out Miranda performing her original song “Arrest Me” in the Culturelativity Lounge, click here.
To check out Miranda performing her original song “Superhero,” click here.
And to check out Miranda performing her cover of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box,” click here.
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