In 2008, Americana and jazz artist M Bird, known to her family as Megan Birdsall, underwent a risky surgery to correct a disease that was fusing her jaw onto her skull.
The surgery, which saved Bird's life, was a success. And she began her long road to recovery.
During that process, she wrote the songs that would become her new CD, "Over the Bones."
"There was a lot of love involved in this record," Bird said during a telephone interview from Philadelphia. "I was coming off the surgery, in which I almost died. I was told they didn't know whether or not I was going to sing again. I was very scared."
Still, with all the positive reinforcement and emotional support from her family and friends, Bird decided to write songs.
"The first song I wrote was a week after the surgery," she said. "It needed to come out. Even though the process seemed like it was bleak, it wasn't. But there were so may people who loved me through it, and the love I found for myself (helped develop) a sense that I could make it.
"I was still in wires when I wrote the songs," she said.
Then she and co-writer Michael Smith picked and organized the songs for the CD.
"We tried to keep it as spontaneous as we could and really invite the listener in for surprises," said Bird, who cited her mom, dad, Count Basie, Nanci Griffith, Loretta Lynn and the Judds as some of her musical influences.
"The rhythm section on the album are jazz players, and the all the specialty players — like the pedal steel and mandolin players — are from Nashville."
Bird said she was also the co-producer with Jack Sundrud, who has worked with Poco and Great Plains.
"I was scared to (produce it) because I was still a little swollen from the surgery," Bird said. "But Jack was into it and said I could do it."
When the album was finished, she played it for her friend, artist Angelique Davilia, who eventually created the album's artwork.
"Angelique said, 'I usually listen to a lot of emo music, and your album has a lot of dark qualities,' " said Bird. "She told me it has that shrouded feeling, but the difference is at the end of every song and, in particular, at the end of this record, the sun rises.
"And she said. 'That's why I like this record. And that's why I want to do the graphic work.' "
Bird said she wanted the record to have a certain dry feeling.
"There is no reverb," she said. "I wanted it to sound the way it sounds — how I sound when you walk into a club and hear me with my band.
"There are no studio tricks, although we did have to punch some people in. The fiddle player would come in, and I would show him how to do it, and then he'd do it better."
Bird said she has received a lot of input from her country and jazz friends concerning the CD.
"In the jazz and rhythm & blues community I run around in, they all think it's country," she said with a laugh. And in the country crew I run around in, they all are like, 'Man there is so much jazz in this.'
"So I guess it's just independent. It is what it is, and it really falls into that indie category of just being songwriting."
Bird loves music and the effect it has on people. That's why she decided to be a musician in the first place.
"Music has always been a person-to-person experience, even when it comes across the airwaves," she said. "It's supposed to be something from one person's mouth or one person's horn or one person's guitar to another person's ear. And there's supposed to be a communion to that."
If you go...
What: M Bird
Where: Alchemy Cafe, 390 E. 1700 South
When: May 9, 8 p.m.
How much: Free
e-mail: [email protected]