Local singer-songwriter Becca Leigh said she thinks music genres can be more nebulous than some think | Photo by Rūta Smith

Local singer-songwriter Becca Leigh Nicholson wrote down a meditation about a year ago: “Work within your means, think/dream outside your means, slowly expand the circle of possibility.”

Recently, she came across it again.   

“I feel like that’s my mantra that I apply to all aspects of my life at this time,” Nicholson said.

There was a time when she put a lot of pressure on herself to do things a certain way with her songs, whether that was recording a certain amount of time after writing or releasing a certain amount of time after recording. 

“I’ve come to realize that any version of the music that I’m making in whatever form it is in is valuable,” she said. “I don’t have to follow this formulaic approach or schedule in order to create something that reflects my artistry and who I am as an artist and what I’m wanting to put out in the world.”

Under the moniker Becca Leigh, Nicholson’s cerebral, folksy compositions on the 2015 EP, Doxologies, will bring you into a state of introspection if you are listening closely. And with another five-song EP in the works, she will open for local rock band High Divers Sept. 25 at the Pour House—just her and her electric guitar. 

Songwriting is how she steps outside of her own head for a little bit, channelling her thoughts into a creative outlet. Melody, flow and emotional tone are the things that come together for her to make a song. 

“I think our genre titles need to be updated. I tell people most of the time I’m a folk singer, which is totally not even true — it’s just the closest translation of what I do.”

Her new home-recorded project is one long piece of music broken up into five parts, she said, each one representative of the transformational phases in Chinese medicine theory: wood, fire, earth, metal and water.

“I didn’t do anything to it. It’s very raw,” she said. “I wanted to do it in one take, but it was too hard, so I did it in two separate takes.”

She first realized music didn’t have to have a particular definition when she started listening to Sufjan Stevens around the time of his 2005 album, Illinois

“I had never heard anything like that in my life. That was the door opening for me,” telling herself, “‘OK, music can sound like whatever you want it to sound like, it doesn’t have to be a genre.’ I started writing songs shortly after that.” 

Nicholson said she was hard on herself after her first failed attempt at an album a few years back, but these days, her approach at the moment is to keep doing what she’s doing. An album will come when the time is right.

“Try not to put a timeline on your healing or anyone else’s healing,” she said.