Music

Molly Mikhael Says Goodbye to Her Mom on Margy's 'Where Are You Now' (premiere + interview)

Photo: Miranda Hebert

New Orleans native Molly Mikhael continues to mourn the loss of her mother. Not afraid to show her pain, the dream pop artist decided to do what she does best — let her beautiful voice and words be heard.

"Where Are You Now"
Margy

21 June 2019

Other

It was a music video premiere that served as my introduction to Louisiana-based Blonde Roses and Molly Rose Portier, their dynamic lead singer, in 2016.

Molly and I traded emails for an interview that accompanied the premiere of "Bullet" at the Huffington Post, covering the 24-year-old's astonishing acting debut as a femme fatale, the band's alternative rock 'n' roll 'n' blues sound and the issues of a front woman "merely seen as a sex object" within a boys club.

Her warm, introspective responses and reaction to the article led to a nice Facebook friendship that not only involved the New Orleans native and her Blonde Roses drummer/future husband Anthony Mikhael, but also included her parents, Daryl Portier and Rhoda Meyer Portier.

Three years later, Molly Mikhael is married, living in Austin, Texas, dividing time between her job as a studio project manager at Liaison Creative Marketing and doing double duty as singer-songwriter of Blonde Roses and Margy, the duo she recently founded with bandmate Matthew McElveen.

Today (21 June), Molly and I connect under completely different circumstances. It's to honor Molly's mother Rhoda, whose death eight months ago was mourned not only by her devoted family but the many friends she made during 63 incredible years of a life that was cruelly cut short.

Described by her daughter as "a fighter, a warrior, a mother, a wife", Rhoda passed away on 21 October 2018, from stage four breast cancer that had spread rapidly. As a loving tribute, Molly Mikhael presents the premiere of Margy's music video for "Where Are You Now", which coincides with the song release.

"I know one day things will get easier, but right now I'm living in this, and I'm not ashamed of that," Molly wrote in an email interview for this article. "More often than not, people are made to feel like they should hide their pain simply because it makes other people uncomfortable. And why is that? Why should anyone feel like the only safe place they have to grieve is alone and hidden?"

Comprised of black-and-white home movies that include her sister Leslie but were shot before Molly was born, she said of her heartfelt homage to Rhoda, "I reached out to a few folks to make a music video, but decided to ultimately make something on my own. At the end of the day, I wanted it to represent her, and no one else could do that for her like I could."

Molly also wrote the song to get her feelings out in the open.

"I hate how taboo of a topic grief is, and it's something I want to desperately change," she said. "I realize this song won't strike a chord with everyone, but for the people that have been here, I hope they find some comfort in knowing they aren't alone."

Spend a few quiet moments taking in the touching video and Molly's absolutely beautiful voice, then read on to learn more about the song, the songwriter and her thoughts about Rhoda, whom she remembers as "one of the greatest women to ever live."

The Portiers returned from a two-week trip to Europe last September, and on October 4 helped their youngest daughter make her move to Austin, where she was starting a new job a month before her husband Anthony arrived.

Eleven days later, Molly's father called to share the shockingly sad news — her mother was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. Surrounded by her loved ones, Rhoda Meyer Portier died at home under hospice care six days after that and was buried on 26 October.

"In the blink of an eye, my entire world was flipped upside down," Molly shared. "After the funeral, I flew back to a new city and a new job and an empty house. I was out of my mind terrified. All I could do was sit on my air mattress and angrily strum my guitar, and scream and cry all at once. So many emotions were pouring out of me, I didn't know how to handle it. So, I wrote."

Two weeks after her mom was buried, Molly made a demo for "Where Are You Now", and the verses heard in the final recording were takes that went right into her laptop. Paul Broussard of Leap Studios — "so instrumental in the writing and recording process," Molly said — produced the track. It features Lafayette, Louisiana, violinist Nikia Sayre, who also plays on "Gypsy Drum", another song by the duo Margy (a shortened version of Margaret, Molly's real name).

Molly said the song was written not out of a moment of strength "but rather a moment of confusion and pain. Music has always been therapy for me, and the only real way for me to work through whatever I'm feeling at any given time. I desperately needed to write this song to keep my head on straight."

Molly (right) with her mother Rhoda Meyer Portier. / Photo courtesy of the artist

The song and video are intensely personal, but anybody who has lost somebody, understanding the pain Molly continues to feel today, will shed a few tears while listening to the final verse, yet appreciate the bond that Molly and her Mama Rho shared.

In death, in this dark place / I crave for the light to see your face / But I call out in the silence / And all I hear is my echo scream back at me.

Like anyone who has captured their family holidays or get-togethers on video and constantly hits rewind to keep experiencing the sights and sounds, those memories can be bittersweet. Putting those feelings into words will likely heighten that emotional trip back in time.

"Grief feels like this never-ending loop of nostalgia and memories rushing through your body, and when you reach the end of the tape, they shatter into a million pieces," Molly said. "It shatters so intensely, every single inch of your body feels it. …

"You feel the grief, the pain, the hurt, the confusion, the anger, the acceptance over and over again. It's a cycle that I'm still running through on repeat eight months later. That's what this video represents to me."

The final clip in the video shows Daryl and Rhoda Portier on their European trip, enjoying a train ride through the countryside.

"It's the last recording I have of her voice — I listen to it every single day," Molly said.

Crediting her mom and dad for helping her at a young age discover many legendary artists such as Joni Mitchell and Simon and Garfunkel, Molly went on to earn a bachelor's degree in music industry studies from Loyola University in New Orleans.

"My parents have always encouraged me to explore my passions and are my biggest cheerleaders," she said. "Heck, my mom used to put up with my first band, the Wooden Wings, loudly recording songs, with my dad in our living room, for hours on end — and she always did it with a smile. She paved a path for me that allowed me to freely express myself without judgment, and for that I am forever grateful."

Margy was formed while Molly was writing "a lot of material that I really loved and connected to that didn't really fit stylistically with Blonde Roses", she said, adding that both bands plan to get back into the recording studio soon. "Matthew (who plays keyboards) and I were not only already bandmates in Blonde Roses, but best friends that connect so deeply on music that it felt natural to write together."

MARGY / Photo: Miranda Hebert

Of course, Rhoda was a music lover, too.

"Her iconic phrases were 'Lawdy Bee' and 'Holy Moly'. She loved to sing, in her own 'Bob Dylan' kind of way, and dance like a free-spirited gypsy queen," Molly fondly recalled.

For anyone who never met her mother, Molly also wants them to know this:

"She was truly one of a kind. She was a friend and second mom to many. There wasn't a soul that met her that she didn't leave a permanent mark on — she never met a stranger. There was this indescribable bright light that radiated out of her that consumed everything and everyone in her presence. She always made you feel loved and heard, because you were with her.

"She would make you laugh harder than you ever had before until your cheeks felt sore. Her smile was infectious and her aura was warm, to the point where she was known for it."

If "Where Are You Now" seems like a rhetorical question without a question mark, it's probably because Molly already has her answer.

Just imagine one shining star, a free-spirited gypsy queen singing and swaying among the clouds, proudly smiling down on her blessed daughter, and that's all you need to know.

(The Breast Cancer Research Foundation welcomes donations.)

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