MN music duo Hot Date have released their third EP Spaces with the lead single being the luminous track “MN Goddess”. The nearly spiritual vocals of Nora O’Brien and the full sweeping instrumentation by Eric Carranza are just the aural supplement to get one through the dregs of winter.
Does it matter that O’Brien who penned “MN Goddess” and who also has acting and producing credits to her name is not a Minnesota native? Maybe someone who landed here from another place is just the right person to observe just what makes Minnesota women so captivating? I asked her about it.
Rift: How was the idea for “MN Goddess” conceived?
O’Brien: MN Goddess came from a moment I had hiking alone. The melody and lyrics just kind of flowed out from a place of gratitude. I was in this beautiful solitude but feeling so connected at the same time.
Rift: Nora you aren’t originally from these parts–does that give you a unique insight into what makes women from Minnesota so special?
O’Brien: I grew up in a matriarchal house in Southern New Jersey. My mom really wanted to raise my sisters and I in the Mid-West. As a result, I think I’ve always idealized this vision of the Mid-Western woman as strong leaders who can claim their own place in the world while holding you up as well. In my mind, there is a balance to the Midwest women.
Rift: The women of Minnesota aren’t necessarily the type to brag about just what makes them so great, are there particular qualities that make them “Goddess-like”?
O’Brien: You’re right, it’s not typical to brag about Minnesota women. Part of the reason for that may be because Minnesota women are not braggarts. They do not tell you, they show you. They are family oriented without losing their identity. The women I know here work from the inside out in a time where social norms make it difficult to stay balanced. Specific inspirations were friends like Deb Huke of Huke Guitars a Luthier and Engineer (in the 70’s no less) or Cassandra Moe, the taxidermist (Trophy Room Taxidermy) who in her 20’s, started her own business in a male dominated field. These women know their shit and do it well. They are subtle visionaries. (Plus, when have women ever gotten too much credit?)
Rift: The video for “MN Goddess” is a like a joyous love note–a real breath of fresh air against the difficult aspects of daily life, was that purposeful?
O’Brien: The first MN Goddess I ever knew was my Great Aunt Jean, she supported my single Mom in a lot of ways growing up and was an important figure to me. She had her own sense of style and was radiant and warm. She and her sisters were a great example of how to hold up the other women in your life. I wanted the video to be a reflection of how it feels to be with the kind of down to earth beauty you find out here. It’s grounding and inspiring at once. Right now we really need to band together to support each-other.
Rift: Both “Manic” and “Nightlife” address the issue of mental health, seemingly from both views-the outside in and the inside out. In the “liner notes” of the EP you reflect on the “ebb and flow of mental health.” That is something that a lot of artists and the general public deal with on a daily basis, is there a personal connection to that topic, or are you challenging the stigmas that have caused so much suffering?
O’Brien: I’m glad that mental health is becoming a less taboo subject. I wanted to write an honest take on some of my own struggles. In the past, I’ve written from an overly romanticized point of view and I felt pressure, as a front woman, to put on this persona, but I’m just kind of over that. Alfred Adler talks about the ability to be imperfect and as an artist it’s more compelling and adventurous to write about my vulnerabilities right now. It’s also important to talk about how your own mental health effects those who love you and I wanted to hit both sides of that experience.
Rift: In general your lyrics are emotionally sophisticated and this EP tackles some very challenging aspects of who we are as people. Spaces has some very topical notions on it as well that lie very closely to the state of our current politics. In particular the track “Coal Town” which has a very haunted feel, like a sad goodbye to a time and place that is disappearing. It seems like you prefer to address the emotional toll of the situation, rather than the politics themselves which can be so intertwined. Do you intentionally prefer to comment on the human condition rather than the political headline?
O’Brien: Initially, with Coal Town, I just needed to contend with my idyllic version of the past verses reality. After visiting spaces from my childhood and seeing the conditions from an adult perspective, I found myself shocked, even though not much had changed. That song was a coping mechanism while taking a mirror to something that I hadn’t looked at straight on before. In some ways, I’m talking about a literal space, in other ways it’s about facing the things that aren’t serving me anymore and trying to find a way out of that pattern. Which is a very relatable struggle at this moment and one that will lead to solutions faster than any political headline.
Rift: I have always enjoyed the positivism that Hot Date exudes, onstage and off the two of you inhabit the world with such grace and dare I say–LOVE? If you had a message for the people of this earth what would it be?
O’Brien: Right now my mantra is: Run towards the things I’ve run from, if only to save myself from going in circles. (Plus, I’m a really poor runner.)
O’Brien: The show is going to be pretty special! I love that we have all female lead groups on the bill. We even have some friends who are getting married that day and heading out to the show afterwards. So, if you see Preston or Mel that night, buy them a drink.
~Rebecca Marx, Photo Credit Cobey Rouse