Holly Miranda Teams with Ani DiFranco, Sasheer Zamata and More on Standing Rock Benefit Single, 'Midnight Oil'
Holly Miranda teamed with Ani DiFranco, SNL's Sasheer Zamata, Natalie Morales and more for a cover of a Cris Williamson song to benefit Standing Rock
Holly Miranda is adding her voice to the the Standing Rock supporters — and she’s brought a whole chorus with her.
The Detroit-born singer-songwriter has just released a cover version of Cris Williamson’s “Midnight Oil” to benefit the embattled Souix Nation reservation, and PEOPLE has an exclusive first listen.
In a nod to the united spirits banding together to protest the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, the song features a soaring 28-person New Asylum Choir—a host of artists and familiar faces including Ani DiFranco, Jaime King, Saturday Night Live‘sSasheer Zamata, Kyp Malone of TVOTR, and actress Natalie Morales of Parks and Rec and The Grinder. Together they chant the song’s galvanizing chorus: Don’t let the midnight oil burn low, no don’t let it burn out. Let’s see how things turn out in the end.
“From Israel to Mexico and all over friends sent their voices to me,” Miranda says. “It was a magical thing to watch this song build and to hear the stories of this mantra getting stuck in everyone’s head. Super stuck. Stuck for weeks!”
Williamson, who also lends her voice to the chorus, originally released the song on her 1978 album, Lumiere. The song remained relatively unknown until Miranda happened upon the record at a vintage shop in upstate New York on June 14th, 2016—two days after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. Moved by what she heard, she recorded a version of the “sci-fi fable” over the course of three days on an old out-of-tune piano in a rural studio.
“It was so healing singing that mantra at the end: Don’t let the midnight oil burn low, no don’t let it burn out, let’s see how things turn out in the end. I wanted to share it with everyone and immediately.”
As Miranda worked on the song, she began to learn more about Williamson; a onetime teacher turned underground folk legend who emerged onto the scene with her 1975 debut, The Changer and the Changed. She founded Olivia Records, the first woman-owned woman-focused record company, and became a dominant voice in what would become known as “women’s music”: music created, performed, and marketed specifically for and by women—particularly in the lesbian community.
“The more I began to research her, it seemed crazy that I had never heard of her—an out musician and activist who has made 33 records,” Miranda says. “I’m filled with admiration.”
After the song and the choir came together, Miranda set her sights on finding a cause to dedicate her anthem. “Despite there being so many worthy causes in dire need of help, when we looked at where the biggest fire was, Standing Rock seemed the only choice,” Miranda explains. “The fight to stop the Dakota pipeline is far from over. Water is life. We’ve got to help each other, take care of each other.”