Student Spotlight: Mimi and Me

Courtesy of Aaron Leiva

By Jon-Paul Kreatsoulas – Staff Writer

When one thinks of a musical duo, the instrument choice and the arrangements that follow are considered by the standard each musician sets. Their interests and perceptions shine through the music in a more dynamic manner. What will the duo sound like if one individual blows on a kazoo while the other tings joyfully on a dangling triangle? Or, in the case of Mimi and Me, a duo comprised of N.E.I.U.’s own Michelle Cross and Aaron Leiva, what would  Cross’ theatrically brooding vocals and piano work sound like when layered with Leiva’s acoustic guitar chord progressions and folky southern twanged articulations? Imagine Bob Dylan as the Phantom of the opera.

After a meet and greet with both Mimi and Aaron and a sensational, yet not so minimalistic approached cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together” later, an attempt to cut into the meat of what it means to be a local performing musician was made. Cross’ interest in music was identified while living in her motherland of Japan with a recognition with classical piano and the philosophy that in order for one to play music passionately, the individual must observe and absorb their instrument with the physicality of a lover. Leiva started out with the piano too at a young age, but in spite of parents’ typical reservation of their children jumping from one “fad” or “phase” to another, he suggested the guitar instead so he could “rock out” a little harder at the young and budding age of a high school freshman.

Through the years and gaining the bearings that a musician seeks, Cross has traversed away from her home and traveled between the east and west coasts in order to find the right fit of people in her professional music life. She says that the “music [business] has its own high school.” This leads one to believe that in order for a passionate musician to make any kind of recognizable contribution or dent in the biz, they’re bound to start by scraping along some reptilian-like scales of the music world’s underbelly, an experience that is wise to avoid repeating a second time. Cross has recorded an E.P. (extended play) and a full length album in her time of performing and has gigged in several Chicago venues like The Beat Kitchen and Elbo Room.

From a more local vantage point, Leiva has addressed his love for music by teaming up with the occasional metal band from his high school days and by reasserting his influences in the patches of dirt and grass that is folk music. Leiva has recorded and gigged on his own in nearby Chicago suburbs as well as the city itself in such joints as Silvie’ Lounge, Underground Lounge and Penny Road Pub.

But it took an off chance arrangement for Mimi Cross and Aaron Leiva to form what is now known as Mimi and Me. A seed was planted early in the summer of 2012 when N.E.I.U.’s English department was showcasing an event and was looking for a musical appearance. A happy accident joined the piano keys of Cross and the acoustic guitar strings of Leiva and the rest and rising ambitions are soon to come as Leiva states with sly remark and a vague smirk, “something’s a’ brewin’.