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Friday, May 24, 2024

Misner & Smith: the musical duo with a creative process fueled by gardening

Sam and Megan discuss their new album and inspiration from the Davis gardening community


By GRETA FOEHR — features@theaggie.org 


Local musical duo Misner & Smith brings the Davis community together through their passions for music and gardening, which they often express simultaneously. 

The duo is made up of Sam Misner, the guitarist and vocalist, and Megan Smith, the upright bassist and other vocalist. While the two share responsibilities on vocals, Misner writes most of the songs, bringing both lyrics and chord progressions to a piece. Smith, who has more of a classical background in music, enjoys writing vocal harmonies and bass lines. 

They are also involved with the Davis community in numerous ways that go beyond their music, notably through gardening. For example, Smith has been closely involved with the Master Gardeners program in Yolo County since 2017. The Master Gardeners are an extension of UC Davis and take science-based information about gardening coming out of the UC system, specifically UC Davis, and use that to teach the public about best gardening practices.

Both musicians are passionate about gardening and find joy, comfort and grounding through time spent in the garden. This passion for gardening is deeply intertwined with their understanding of music and their songwriting process. 

Smith sees a lot of similarities between her creative processes in the garden and in writing music. 

“The garden really anchors me in the present moment in a way that no other thing in my life does, which then goes back and influences my musical ear and the way I approach arranging and creating music,” Smith said. “Being in the present moment is really important when you’re trying to create something new. It’s often difficult to create something and edit it at the same time. You have to shut the editor part of yourself outside and just let yourself be creative, and I think the garden is like that. I let myself go and I go crazy with what I plant and I try things and then I edit later.” 

Misner had a complimentary take on the ways in which music and gardening intertwine. 

“The creative process is so enigmatic in a lot of ways. Sometimes you feel inspired to write, sometimes it feels like you haven’t written anything in a long time. It’s about trying to retain the idea that you have to give everything time. A plant isn’t just going to suddenly be in bloom when you plant it the day before,” Misner said.

They don’t consider themselves genre-specific, allowing them to take more creative freedom in songwriting. 

“Our music is definitely something that isn’t classified by one genre, it’s hard to put in a box. The same thing is true of the experience of the outdoors and nature and gardening,” Smith said.

Their new album, “All is Song,” will be released on April 12 on all platforms. They were planning to record this album in March 2020 but were delayed by the pandemic. Instead of recording their songs, they held live stream shows from their living room. This allowed them to workshop their songs while bringing joy and hope to their listeners. 

“Once we got back into the studio in 2022, we both felt that the songs were kind of revealed to us in a way that might not have happened if we had gone right into the studio,” Misner said,  

When the pandemic hit, Smith wanted to stay involved with the Davis gardening community, so she and Misner started hosting neighborhood plant sales. Smith explained that gardening was a way for people to get through hard times and support mental health. 

“I had all these extra plants, and I decided that it was important for me to try to support [something] that was happening in the community.” Smith said. “It was so much fun because I got to meet a lot of people in my community that I had never met before.” 

She kept the plants affordable and found that it was similar to the work she does through the Master Gardener program. 

“Educating the public and helping them start their own gardens, and empowering people to grow their own food was just really cool,” Smith said.

Throughout COVID-19, Misner & Smith provided a space to enjoy the present through their music and plant sales.

 “We need those experiences with nature and with each other, and with music and with art — things that can express and hold our emotions in a way that nothing else can,” Smith said. 

“All is Song” makes them feel like they are a part of “something bigger” and hopes it will further inspire them to become a part of something bigger than themselves, according to Smith. 

“I hope that it allows people to see life and music as deeper than what meets the eye at first glance and that there’s so many layers to our experiences,” Misner said.  

Their music has had an invaluable impact on many of their listeners. Gail Kennedy, a Davis resident and long-time Misner & Smith listener, is one of them.

“Sam [Misner’s] lyrics are poetic; he’s a great storyteller and his stories conjure up many emotions in my heart. I often find myself joyful and tearful listening to their songs,” Kennedy said. “Megan [Smith’s] voice and their harmonies are evocative and mesmerizing.”

Misner & Smith are a beacon of light in the Davis community thanks to their colorful music and the work they do to encourage others to garden. 

“[We’re all about] bringing people together around something that gives people hope,” Smith said. “We just believe so much in the good that you do. Keep doing it. It makes a difference. Nothing good that you do is too small, there are ripple effects that far extend beyond what you can see.”

Listen to their music on any streaming platform under “Misner & Smith” and learn more about them at misnerandsmith.com. Their new album, “All is Song,” comes out on April 12. They will also be playing live at Davis Music Fest on June 16.


Written by: Greta Foehr — features@theaggie.org 


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