You may not believe this biog, but every word is true.
In a PR-driven business, 24 year old Mishka needs no hype or explanation – his talent is self-evident, his life story extraordinary.
Born in Bermuda, he lived with his parents on a sailboat from the age of three onwards. His early musical memories included listening to Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, hearing snatches of pop and reggae on the radio on trips to Caribbean islands. No doubt there was some blues and soul in the mix too. All those musical elements are, in various degrees, part of Mishka’s identity, but what impresses most is that graceful, extraordinary, assured voice.
Lyrically, Mishka’s favourite similes are of the sea – he has a bulging notebook of “ocean songs”. In conversation, he looks back, without evident nostalgia or myth-making, on an early life growing up at sea. While other children were glued to the television and video games, Mishka was offered endless hours in which to reflect, to draw, to read and to write. Occasionally, dolphins or whales would swim alongside the boat, offering companionship. It sounds idyllic, but there was also loneliness and danger.
“When I was 7 years old, I remember there was a storm and the seas were 30-40 feet high. We took all the sails down and rode the waves because there’s nothing else you can do in that wind. I looked out and the waves were so big that I just went down below and cried, I was so scared.”
Educated entirely on the boat, the boy’s only sustained spell at school occurred at the age of 15 when his parents briefly returned to Canada. Suddenly, Mishka was a High School kid, a mystic misfit surrounded by jocks. Having never played a team sport in his life, he found it tough to adjust, but eventually discovered friends through his music. In 1990, he and some friends formed a high school band, then he took up songwriting seriously. An independent spirit, he was never likely to tread the traditional rock ‘n’ roll route of debilitating road-slogging gigs, backed by aggressive self-marketing, in order to impress record companies. Within a year of leaving school the ocean drew him back to the Caribbean for new adventures.
By the age of 18, Mishka’s lifestyle was a fascinating mixture of the exotic and artistic. Improbably, he was chosen to represent Bermuda in both the 1991 and 1992 windsurfing world championships. “I could windsurf good, but I didn’t really know about racing tactics” he admits. He nevertheless managed to hold his own at world level. Meanwhile, he continued to write songs and record rough tapes, while steering clear of the music biz. “I didn’t want to make a record,” he stresses. “Everyone was saying, ‘You can’t just play it for yourself,’ where, as far as I am concerned, I can.”
In December 1996, Alan McGee was celebrating his wedding when he met Mishka in the Caribbean. Not for the first time, McGee realised that he was hearing something special. Later, Heather Nova, Mishka’s sister, played the Creation boss an old tape of “Give You All The Love” and everyone present was floored. Re-recorded, it sounds like the work of a young Sam Cook, mixed with shades of Bob Marley and that indefinable something that heralds a great pop record. Attempting to analyse that X factor only adds to the mystery. As Mishka reminds us: “People always check out your influences, but you don’t really know what your influences are. It might be a bird singing while you’re walking down the street or a breeze going past you. That could be what makes you want to write a song. Life is bigger that just records and stuff.”