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Locals to Know: Portland musician 🎤 Blair Borax

Interesting scientific fact. The average person has, roughly, 100 trillion neural connections in their brain that send signals from one area to another so we can do everything we need to do. And these pathways can be rewired. What this means is that if you’ve been thinking negatively, you can actually “fake it until you make it” just by thinking more positive thoughts. 

Back in time, forward all the way!

Now, if you’re ready to jump on this good-thoughts bandwagon, but don’t know where to begin, try this: listen to the music of Blair Borax. She writes songs that are meant to bring joy, laughter and healing, and she sings them with, surely, the new, best voice to come out of Portland. If you like Suzanne Vega, Charlotte Martin, Sam Phillips, Hayley Williams, Tori Amos, Georgia Buchanan (Call me Loup), Regina Spektor, and, yes, maybe even a little FKA twigs, you’ll want Blair Borax on your playlist.

Luckily, since you’re in Portland, you can hear Borax live at theAtlantis Lounge next Saturday, March 5th (she’ll be with Glitterfox). Until then, head to bandcamp on March 4th, to download the entire album.

In the meantime, have a listen to her video, here, and read our interview with Borax, who has adopted Portland as her home.

Bridgeliner: What has Portland meant to your music?

Blair Borax: Portland has meant everything to my music. Before I moved to Portland in 2015, I had never picked up a guitar in my life. In fact, my piano teacher actually quit on me as a kid! Hilarious, I know! I didn’t get much farther in my musical prowess until my very first housemate in Portland gifted me a cheap guitar. If he hadn’t offered me that guitar, I would not be where I am today. 

In 2018, two years into writing my own songs, I finally mustered the courage to share them. With many pep talks from my friend and Portland-native singer-songwriter Austin Farrell, I played my first open mic at East Burn and my first gig at the Waypost in 2018. 

Since then, I’ve played all over Portland: at Mississippi Pizza and Polaris Hall, Alberta Street Pub and Holocene, Produce Row Cafe and Stem Wine Bar, Al’s Den and the White Eagle, you name it! I’ve busked on busy street corners and played in many Portland parks, too. 

This city has welcomed me and my music with open arms! I feel forever indebted to the Portland music lovers and music players for making me feel so loved, seen, and heard every time I get on a stage. 

Bridgeliner: Talk a little more about that cheap guitar your friend gave you. Was this your very first guitar?

Blair Borax: It sure was! I am so grateful for that cheap guitar and the person who gave it to me. We’re not in touch anymore, but I do think about reaching out to him to tell him how much he changed my life. I wouldn’t be the same person if not for Ryan and that guitar.

Bridgeliner: Other than the obvious, how has COVID affected your music?

Blair Borax: Ooof! Where to begin? This may be “the obvious,” but when covid hit, we were in the midst of recording my first EP ‘everything is light work,’ and we had to press pause for several months. Although the timeline got pushed back, I was able to get back in the studio with James Villa and Lewis Childs, the incredible production team at Groundswell Studios, and release the 5-song collection in May 2021. Plus, like all musicians, many of my gigs got canceled, but they started coming back last Spring and they haven’t stopped since, so I am grateful for that. 

I have also written my fair share of covid-esque songs. They each seem to mark a moment in time during this pandemic that feels like never ends. The first one that I wrote, in March 2020, was very much a “we’re all in this together” type song; “stay home, stay inside today, you’ll save lives they say, and all you have to do is sleep the day away.” 

The second one that I wrote, in Summer 2020, was in the midst of protests and wildfires and working from home. I took bits and pieces of the collective madness and tried to swirl it around in one song. It’s called “Sit Here.” 

Here’s a taste:

“Shut down, mask up

Stay home, don’t touch
Point your fingers and place your blame
The enemy always goes by another name

Schools closed, stores shut
Black lives, white lies
Take to the streets, and f……”

Well you get the point. The chorus speaks to the feeling of wanting, but not being able, to run away from it all; “I don’t want to sit here anymore, turn my head, put my blinders on and ignore….”

The last pandemic song I wrote, in January 2021, while I was finally stuck at home with the virus is called Sickness Sentimental. Here’s how it starts:

When will it end, this voice inside my head, says this aint built to last, but the future is trapped, in an endless cycle, shut down, go viral, sickness sentimental, find another angle.” 

It’s been a wild ride, and I wish I could say it was over, but still I am so grateful that I am able to channel it all into song. 

Bridgeliner: Name some of the people who have made big influences on your music.

Blair Borax: Musically, I am inspired mostly by female singer songwriters and their bands like Hayley Heyderickx (a Portland native!), Maggie Rogers, Adrienne Lenker, Molly Burch, Cat Clyde, Sylvan Esso, Big Thief, and Atta Boy. Just to name a few.

But I must say that the people who have had the biggest influences on my music are people in my life who believed in me before I did. 

-Michael Wilbur, of Moon Hooch, who encouraged me to write my first song in 2016 before I thought that was even possible.

-Austin Farrell, who brought me, quaking in my boots, to first open mic at East Burn and let me open for him at his show at the Waypost in 2018.

-James Villa and Lewis Childs of Groundswell Studios who agreed to help me produce my music when I first came to them in 2020, and haven’t stopped since.

-Countless Portland artists who I have had the pleasure of watching, and sometimes even sharing the stage with: Laryssa Birdseye, Hayley Lynn, Cassandra Lewis, Flyover States, Christopher Worth, Glitterfox, Eric Stalker, Hanna Haas, Corinne Sharlet, Chris Couch, and so many more! 

-Plus all the friends, family, and fans who have cheered me on, bought merch, shared my music, reminded me why I do what I do, and encouraged me to keep doing it!

Bridgeliner: You’ve linked making music and practicing yoga as one wouldn’t have happened without the other. Why?

Blair Borax: Yoga has given me tools for self awareness and self expression that I didn’t have before. It has helped me learn how to listen to my body, trust my voice, and share myself on stage with confidence. Singing is a very physical practice. It involves breath control, body awareness, and a calm and confident sense of self. On a physical, mental, and emotional level, yoga has helped me embody the role of singer-songwriter, performer, artist, and healer.

Bridgeliner: And now you’ve left the yoga world behind?

Blair Borax: I have left the yoga studio world behind, yes. But yoga continues to be a part of my life. This practice is all about embracing change and that is exactly what I am doing. I still teach yoga and mindfulness to children, hold it near and dear to my heart, and utilize its many powerful tools for my own physical, mental, and emotional health.

Bridgeliner: Do you think artists have a responsibility to address social issues?

Blair Borax: I do. Good music opens the heart. When the heart is open, a person is more likely to consider a social issue from another perspective. They are more likely to find someone else’s experience relatable. They are more likely to find compassion and understanding. Music is a way in; a way that you can’t find through shouting statistics or shaming someone else for their opinions.  

But I also don’t think artists, or anyone for that matter, should feel obligated to address every single social issue on the planet. Feeling that sense of responsibility can become incredibly debilitating. We all have to hold up our little piece of the sky, but we can’t do it all ourselves. 

Bridgeliner: What’s the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?

Blair Borax: Make music for you. As soon as you try to write songs that you think other people will like, it feels disconnected and sparkless. When you make music for you, people who resonate with you will find it. And the rest will find what they need elsewhere. You can’t make music for everyone else, so keep making music for you.

Bridgeliner: What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career in music?

Blair Borax: Believe in yourself. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. You will have moments where you don’t believe in yourself (I still do… all the time) and during those moments, it’s okay to ask people who believe in you to remind you why you can (and should) believe in yourself too. 

But, working to cultivate a deep sense of confidence in yourself and what you are offering to the world is so important. If you believe in yourself, other people will believe in you too. And when other people believe in you, doors will open. And when doors open, don’t just walk through them; jump, skip, and dance right through them! 

Bridgeliner: Do you follow a process or ritual before a performance to get rid of nerves or performance anxiety?

Blair Borax: You can always find me drinking a giant jar full of tea before a performance – I swear by throat coat tea, with honey and lemon – good for the voice and the nerves. Beyond the tea, I like to stretch, dance, breathe, do vocal warm ups, and find a fun outfit to wear! Before I get on stage, I always offer myself affirmations in the mirror;  “I am brave. I am confident. I am ready. I am offering something beautiful to the world” or whatever else I might need to hear that day. 

Bridgeliner: If you could play with another Portland band you haven’t yet played with, what band would it be and why?

Blair Borax: Hayley Heyderickx, hands down. She is a huge inspiration for me. I love everything she does. 

Bridgeliner: Let’s bring it back to Portland a little bit, where’s your favorite restaurant and what do you order?

Blair Borax: Although I was vegetarian and vegan for most of my years in Portland, now I must say my favorite meal in Portland is the Northern Thai-style Fried Chicken Combo at Hat Yai. It comes with curry, roti, rice, and pickled veggies. It is an objectively perfect meal. Sorry vegans!

Bridgeliner: What’s something you just want people to know?

Blair Borax: I want people to know that I am so excited to release my first full length album in June 2022 and going on a West Coast tour along with Portland-native Hayley Lynn this summer. 

I began writing these nine songs last fall, from the comfort of my bedroom, to help me move through an unhealthy relationship that was falling apart in the midst of a global pandemic and the impending doom of another Portland winter (you know what I mean).

This album will take you on an emotional journey through fear, grief, anger, sadness and eventually, a sliver of hope. “Keep Walking” is about moving forward. It is about trusting my intuition, listening to my body, and taking my power back. These are the most vulnerable, honest, and personal songs I’ve ever written, and I hope they will help you keep walking too. If you’d like to support the making of this album, you can donate to the kickstarter campaign here!

The first single “Never Mine, Never Mind” off of the upcoming album will be out next Friday, March 4th. You can download it on bandcamp. Buying music directly from artists on bandcamp is the best way to support them, but you can also stream it wherever you listen to music. 

It’s a song about looking back and realizing that your relationship was not what you thought it was and that person was never who you thought they were either. It’s a sad and joyful, catchy folk-pop anthem about breaking up and moving forward.

If you want to hear me live, join me for the single release show at Atlantis Lounge next Saturday, March 5th with Glitterfox! 8pm. $15.

If you want to help me fund this album, you can donate to my kickstarter campaign this month and receive all sorts of goodies in return. Making music is expensive, but it’s what I love, more than anything, to do. Anything you are willing to contribute to this fundraising effort will help me keep doing it!