Singer-songwriter Micaiah Sawyer of Olympia, one of a dozen young artists chosen to compete in MoPOP’s Sound Off battle of the bands in Seattle, got started young.
“My parents would say that I started singing when I was about 18 months, in the back of their car,” Sawyer told The Olympian. “I really started writing songs when I was 12 years old. … When I was 13, I got a guitar, and I wrote my first well-put-together song.”
Sawyer, now 21, whose first name is pronounced “Mih-KIE-uh,” grew up in Wisconsin and Arizona. She moved to Olympia three years ago with her parents, Greg and Tonya Sawyer.
She performs regularly at the Pig Bar’s 9 p.m. Wednesday open mic and also has played at Obsidian, Le Voyeur and Alderbrook Resort and Spa. Her first EP, “Rest,” is for sale on her website, micaiahsawyer.com.
She’s both nervous and excited about her big chance. If she wins the semi-final on Friday, she’ll compete in the finals, which are broadcast on Seattle’s KEXP. Finalists also get to record a song with professionals.
Also among the prizes for the winner is the opportunity to perform at Seattle’s Bumbershoot festival. “When I found that out, I was way more stoked,” she said.
Her original songs are a mix of folk, rock and blues. “I listen to so much music, and whatever I’m listening to at the time will bleed into my music,” she said. “So the genre’s kind of all over the place.”
Sawyer is one of a dozen Sound Off semi-finalists chosen from among more than 100 applicants, said MoPOP communications manager Anita Woo. The MoPOP website lauds her “exuberant, powerful vocals” and “intricate finger-picked acoustic guitar.”
“If you want to see the future of folk music, look no further than Micaiah Sawyer,” MoPOP copywriter Adrienne Clark wrote.
A devoted Christian, Sawyer writes songs about her life, her struggles and her faith in God. She doesn’t characterize her music as Christian, but says that even her sad songs carry a broad message of hope.
“I like to put as much hope as I can into my songs,” she said. “I want people who listen to the songs to hear that I can relate to them and what they’re going through but I also want them to know that there is something to look forward to and that’s there someone watching over them.”
Her parents moved to Olympia to found a Christian church they call Illuminate. The church, which has Southern Baptist roots, currently meets at the Sawyers’ west Olympia home.
Sawyer often sings with her mother and sisters at Illuminate services but hasn’t written any music specifically for worship.
Her devotion, she said, runs through all of her music.
“My faith is a huge part of who I am,” she said. “If I were to leave God out of my music, I wouldn’t be honest. I wouldn’t be writing from my heart.
“There’s no possible way that I can leave out where my hope comes from.”
Sound Off Semi Final
Micaiah Sawyer of Olympia is one of a dozen artists competing in MoPOP’s 21-and-younger battle of the bands. She’s one of four performing in the second semi-final show.
When: 8 p.m. Friday (Feb. 16); doors open at 7 p.m.
Where: MoPOP Museum of Pop Culture (formerly EMP), 325 Fifth Ave. N., Seattle
Also: If Sawyer wins Friday’s semi-final round, she’ll advance to the finals, set for 7 p.m. March 3 at MoPOP.
Can’t go to Seattle? Check out Sawyer’s next hometown show.
When: 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Oly Underground, 109 Legion Way SE, Olympia
Tickets: No cover; the venue is open only to those 21 and older.
More information: micaiahsawyer.com