Exploring the Music of Philadelphia’s Michal Pearl Waldfogel

A few weeks ago I had the chance to meet with Michal Pearl Waldfogel, a Philadelphia raised musician. As a woman with an extremely inspirational outlook on traveling, music, and life, Michal’s music speaks of self-love and body mind connectedness. Although Michal is moving to Seattle this upcoming year, her music will continue to make an impact in the great city of Philadelphia. It is clear that with a spirit a genuine as Michal’s, no matter where she is, she will continue inspiring people with whatever she is doing. It was a pleasure meeting with her and getting a glimpse into her mind.


Q: How long have you been playing/ singing/ writing?

A: Those things are separate. I took my first guitar lesson when I was 11 years old- I would play and sing just for fun, around campfires with friends. I started by writing parodies for fun. Only in November 2011 did I start writing my own songs for real, so it is really new.


Q: Did your friends play music too?

A: Yes, a lot of my friends played music also so that was a point of learning for me. At one point in High School all of my friends were such good musicians and I was just playing for fun. If we were sitting around all playing, I would stop because they were so much better than me. Then one day I came to a realization. It was on my 18th birthday, March 18th 2003… the same day we started bombing Iraq, and I was so sad and frustrated and didn’t know what to do. I came home from school and took out my old hippie song book and turned to a section and started playing and singing and crying and realized that guitar playing wasn’t just to be good at it, it was really important to me to express my emotions, at that point it was through playing other people songs and now it is through my own songs.


Q. What are your influences?

A. People-wise, I play a lot of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan… more of the Folk scene… Phil Ochs and James Taylor. So those are kind of what got me going. Another big influence has been my yoga practice. Just learning how to use my breath and that it is okay to pause and breath and it is okay to have silences. My traveling has also influenced me. All the things I’ve learned while traveling have influenced this album.


Q: How did you come up with the idea for Crossing Imaginary Lines?

A: The year leading into that, I had been doing a lot of traveling from Philadelphia to Montreal, where I used to live and went to undergrad. I was doing my yoga therapeutic training there. I was also traveling to Mexico a couple times, it just became so clear to me that these boarders are so arbitrary. I love Montréal but I cant really live there and work there as an American citizen and my friends from Mexico couldn’t really come visit me because of the laws of that border. A lot of the themes I was exploring in my yoga training were about how these tensions in our bodies are caused by tensions in our minds.  They are imaginary things but they can manifest into illness and tensions in bodies. I was putting these things together and seeing what was limiting me as a person.


Q What does song writing look like for you?

A: Song writing for me looks like… experiencing a lot of things and then staying still for a bit, taking care of my self and then it just comes out. I make space for it.  When I started writing I had just moved back to Philly after traveling a bit, and I rented this gorgeous apartment in West Philly by myself, I didn’t have internet, TV, or the radio. I had this space and all I had to entertain myself was my guitar. I had this clear, empty space to process and reflect on all of my experiences.


 Q: How does traveling impact your time in Philadelphia?

A: When I came back to Philly I decided I was not going to travel for a year.  I wanted to learn how to travel wherever I am. It was that year, 2012, that was about staying put and seeing the beauty of Philadelphia and learning how to be a traveler here, giving time to exploring and walking around Philadelphia, doing the things I do while I am traveling. Sitting in cafes writing, not looking at my watch, and experiencing the magic of this city.


Q: Since you are not one to make plans, do you see yourself having a set plan or place you want to be in 10 years? Where does your music play into the future?

A: The song I wrote, “only a path”, any path to the heart is a good one. The reason I am going to Seattle is to go back to school. Through a lot of journeying and exploration I have decided I am going to study naturopathic medicine.  That in itself is scary, for making a plan and putting my energy and time into something can be scary. This decision is very important for me to explore a lot of things. Trusting that if I feel like I need to take more time, or travel or anything, I need to follow that.


Q: How do you see your music unfolding in Seattle?

A: The truth is I am not sure how much time I will have with my music. I feel anxious to finish my album before I get out there. I have a little more recording to do, and some mixing and mashing… but part of me thinks also the reason I have not finished it is because I need to meet people in Seattle and find people to record with! The situation is that I am about to enter a full time medical school program, but through this process I have realized that music has became such an important part of my life. I love performing and sharing my music, I will need to create the space to connect to the Seattle community. Here in Philly I have been so lucky and so blessed to work with such amazing musicians.


Q: What do you want listeners to take away from your music?

A: The main thing to me is feeling empowered in one’s life. I think the saddest and most frustrating thing is to see people feeling disempowered or people who have had their power taken away from them by a government. In Guatemala I saw this a lot, the government takes the power away from women and minorities. Even in the states I see this. People internalize it, they feel as if they do not have worth and they cannot explore and do the things they want to do in life. I say the body and life and mind are all connected. The world really needs people to really find and be and do what they love, it adds such a benefit to everyone.


Q: How does romantic love fit into your story?

A: I think a lot of my music is about self love rather than heartbreak and that sort of thing. Two of my songs that are not included in this album are about romantic love, but my journey with this album has been about self-love.



Michal’s music video of her song, “We’re Getting There” is a sort of “goodbye love letter to Philadelphia”, as she would explain it. Philadelphia will miss you too, Michal. Make sure to watch the video below and take a look at her music on Bandcamp, where you can pre-order her album, due out this November.


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