In honour of 25 years in the music industry and the release of her debut album, Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, and producer Mýa sat down and reminisced about the last 25 years. Her self-titled debut album Mýa released in 1998, went double platinum. She produced hit singles such as "It's All About Me" with Sisqo, and "Movin On," and "Case of the Ex (Whatcha Gonna Do)," which reached #2 on billboard top 100.
In 2001, Mýa collaborated with Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, P!nk, and Missy Elliott on a cover of LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade." It was featured in Baz Luhrman's "Moulin Rouge." The song won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration. What do you believe is the key to maintain longevity in a career that is constantly evolving?
Mýa: I do know that artists are individuals, and everyone is different. When you determine that longevity is what you want when you decide that is something you’d like to do for the rest of your life, you find a way. There are many different paths to take, but I believe in first of all, following your joy, showing up to do the work. There are no shortcuts in any industry. I believe the pure love and investment of your craft and into your craft allows you to wake up every day with enthusiasm. Put your best foot forward, doing the work which I believe, and I’ve been a witness to it, leads to opportunity, which leads to opportunity and more opportunity and is something very addictive when you actually follow your joy. Some magical things happen in that space. I would say whatever it is that anyone would love to pursue to follow that joy because if you can do it for free and you will be doing it for free for quite a long time before you see the return on investment or finances coming in that enables you to go for lengths and years. I believe Hussle saying, Nipsey himself saying, “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” and that applies to life itself.
What would you say is the biggest life lesson you’ve learned in your career so far? What is the biggest advice you’d like to pass on to new artists today? M: I have definitely learned my lessons along the way, and I’ve learned to take the wheel on many occasions, taking the reins of empowerment. If you want anything to happen while waiting on others. Time is something we can never get back. There is so many different resources nowadays that you can use to make things happen for yourself. Whether it’s the power of social media or meeting people online to build your team virtually and just researching information on what positions exists in the entertainment business. AI technology is amazing just to do simple research at the click of a button to find out what it’s all about. That applies to any industry once again. I’d say some of the advice pertaining to specifically to the Entertainment or Music Business is to still educate yourself regarding contacts and ask questions. Donald Passman is an author and an expert in the Music Business. Those are books of his that my mother has read, “Everything you need to know about the Music Industry,” and of course, the industry is everchanging. Those are very helpful they explain what managers do, what publicists do, what agents are supposed to do, what the standard rates are, what royalties are, and what publishing is. Sort of wrap your brain around a lot of constant existing factors regarding your art being released into the world, which is the business of music. We can make music all day long, but as it pertains to getting it to the masses or even as an independent artist on Spotify copyright is very important, publishing is very important and tracking sales and royalties and mechanicals. It can be nerve-racking as an artist, but it is also very nice and empowering to be well-informed and at least have a team of insulation that is well-versed and educated in those areas to protect your joy which is your art. Art can get tampered with if you’re not protected or insulated in any business. If you could speak to 20-year-old Mýa, what advice would you give her?
M: 20-year-old Mýa, let’s think about where I was. I was very busy, and I would definitely say lean on your faith, hold on, you will not be throwing in the towel anytime soon, that joy is a very important key word for me as a young adult coming into her own self, in front of the world. Return to joy in moments of uncertainty, and take your time. You do not have to be in a race. When you’re stepping into a business there’s a lot of pressure and sort of digesting you are a brand, and you are a product, and there needs to be a degree of separation to understand not to take things personally. Criticism is very key because you have a team working for you, you have so many different components to make one situation work. Once again to understand everyone’s position and the aspect of them being a key player and essential to your success is asking questions and not being afraid to ask questions. Which leads me to another gem, remaining a student for the rest of your life but of course when I’m 20 years old, as a baby and very young and still learning, just the basics about business, or interview edict. You’re learning so many different things in so many different arenas that you must show up in front of 100% not having a clue what you’re doing but enjoying the moment is very key. Another piece of advice is no pain, no gain, but if it’s not joyful it’s not worth it. Put in the work and embrace the grind. It can get very taxing on anyone, physically, but it’s all a blessing. Gratitude is key. As well, it’s a game of juggling mentally and physically, creating balance in how you process things when you’re very green stepping into new territory, and I believe in taking my time. I’ve watched a lot of young artists go through the stain of adulthood and the respect of an adult but not necessarily well versed in their craft or understanding the mechanics of a team or machine, and I’m glad I’ve taken my time, but young people I would definitely advise a lot of those things.
What is the one thing that makes you proudest from your debut album? M: Just being so young and maintaining my composure through uncertainty. Being very green in a brand-new environment with so many different people all the time, under pressure, holding on and putting my best foot forward knowing I have some work to do in some areas but also not beating myself up. I’m very proud of the slow journey, taking my time, and considering family. There was so much going on in my personal life, but I love music, and I held on to the joy and the core of music for my entire career. Any changes can be difficult for young people, but I’m just proud of nothing ever coming between myself and my love for music. Many different devastations can happen that cause people to quit, so never throwing the towel whether things are overwhelming or too much for you to process. Keeping it going, holding onto faith, and always tapping into what made you fall in love with the art form in the first place and grasping and holding onto that. That’s what I’m most proud of and the journey. Through that very first album, where I walked into new territory and knew absolutely nothing outside of the stage, a very awkward stage for me as a teenager. Going for it and falling on your face a few times and embarrassing yourself a couple of times, I’m most proud of those moments too. Having so many successful collaborations what has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned throughout those experiences? M: I’ve learned from the viewers and the listeners to never box anyone in. We’re all multi-dimensional, multifaceted, and not to box myself in or other artists. I love the fusion of genres and energy; it is the synergy that is captured on wax. Once upon a time, it used to be called wax, in my day we had cassettes, vinyl and CDs, and now it’s all digital and streaming for the most part. It’s a lesson when artists come together from two different parts of the world or even two different genres. It takes me back to that unity, community, and universal language. It speaks volumes that people feel emotion, harmony, melody, and rhythm all over the world and never underestimate the listener. I listen to rock, rap, country, rap, R&B, jazz, classical, and so many different genres, a melting pot influentially of so many things that I’ve been exposed to or that I’m tuning into. I think we’re all the same, never limit yourself and never limit others and your audience. How does your background with dance been interwoven with your musical career? M: When I first started, I was actually a dance teacher. I was teaching rhythm tap and hip-hop as well as a dance team with pom poms. That was a part of my goal initially before I even knew what a recording artist was, to go to Broadway after college and peruse theatre in New York City. I was inspired by some of the greats like Sammy Davis Jr., Gregory Hines, and Eartha Kitt, the triple threats of the world. The acting, composing, singing, and the dancing. I was fascinated as a child, some of the movies, films and plays that my mother exposed me to or the arts itself has been interwoven of course in music videos or live performance as another medium of expression. We have some magic that I actually surprised myself on coming very soon for you in the dance space, which is a big thing on social media these days with the younger and older generation. Dance is cultural, all over the world, we get together in dance, music and the arts and celebrate each other. Those are the constants I see in my travels, and they look so different in so many different territories. There’s always joy and happiness attached to that, and I think it's beautiful. I plan to keep dancing as long as I can and stay in shape as best as I can, but I love it, and the crowds love it. recently I was reminded that I don’t do enough of it on social media, it’s time for me to turn it up a notch in that arena because I still got it. I never stop dancing, it brings me so much wellness and Joy. A debut album is an artist introduction to an audience, do you think Mýa album encompassed fully who you were as an artist at that time? M: I think within 13 or 14 sounds absolutely not. Artists are all over the place. It was a smart move to compartmentalize what Mýa was as a teenager. We need things that are very simple, digestible, and marketable as far as mainstream is concerned. I had a mainstream machine behind me, and I understood what that was. I also understood I was paying dues, and I couldn’t get everything out I wanted to do on this one introduction. Artists are all over the place in our minds. We have so many ideas. It was an introduction, and there was so much more. My entire catalogue of I don’t know how many projects, I think 12, 13 or possibly 14, doesn’t even encompass who I am as a complete artist or person. There have to be several projects that include components of me to get there, and of course, we’re always evolving as individuals. I don’t think any albums cover the full individual, so you get a nice peak, and that sits for 5 years until you strategize. The world receives it when you’re already 5 years or light years ahead by the time they receive it and onto the next two projects in creation mode. It’s wild to experience that, but I think there’s so many different types of mediums of entertainment outside of just music. That allows you to cross-pollinate or complement a project where people can step into your personal world and receive the music at the same time. Events that you can hold to interact with fans on a personal level and go into the making of the song and experience you actually had in real life or maybe you that you were witness to. To expand on where it came from lyrically or conceptually. I love things like that, it’s just more of a personal connection outside of just the music component. It is a powerful component, but I don’t think any individual can sort of be understood within one album or one book for that matter completely. In 25 years how do you think the Music Industry has changed for the better? M: A lot of people demonize the internet, I don’t. I think it has birthed so much opportunity all over the world for those that don’t necessarily live in major cities, have access to financing, putting demo tapes together, mixing, and mastering, and the whole professional aspect of presenting a package to a major record label. It's allowed opportunity. I also think television programming, which is also part of the technological age of cable. All of the competition shows that are music based have allowed so many rural areas of talent to shine. It’s just such a beautiful time for people to have more opportunity everywhere and in every industry, and I love that. The internet is great. Obviously, it has hurt the old model of the record industry when there were once upon a time in my day, record stores and blockbusters and even the film industry is suffering, in a way. When a door closes, there’s another one being birthed and opening. We have had to get with the times and catch up and restructure models of business, marketing, and creativity, and it’s everchanging and evolving. I don’t know if I can keep up, and even for those that specialize in marketing or publicity, there is something new around the corner that’s very intriguing and fascinating. Even the whole AI thing can be alarming for some people, and probably copyright issues, publishing issues, name, image, and breaches happening. We’re living in new innovative times, and contracts are changing and all kinds of new clauses are being implemented. Just steaming not too long ago had to be taken into consideration, and the qualification of the number of streams and what that would equate to regarding tiers of gold, platinum, and diamond. What that looks like on a streaming platform, we just sort of crossed that bridge and gone over that hump from the old business model of record labels. I think it’s a very cool time, it’s just a very fast time that the old models struggle to keep up with. What has been one of your favorite memories from your debut album? M: I would say the first thing was as a 16-year-old going on 17 taking the train to Philadelphia from Maryland or Union Station in Washington DC sometimes Carrollton MD station NCR by myself with my notebook. Journaling all of these ideas and journaling the experience of you know doing what I love, being excited to just have access to harmonies and the ability to lay them. I was literally in my bedroom for years flipping cassette tapes on a karaoke machine to play harmonies because I didn't have any piece of equipment that allowed me to record myself professionally or even makeshift preproduction-wise. So, to go to an actual recording studio and record my own music and my own songs and ideas and then also collaborate with songwriters and be produced professionally was so exciting to me. I would document those first experiences of the creation of that very first project. While I was in college fresh out of high school, and those were some of the very first experiences that were so exciting. Of course, then after those Philly demos were recorded which are actually, by the way, probably four songs on the first album. “Don't Be Afraid,” “If You Were Mine” -which is my favourite song from that album- “Anytime You Want Me,” and “Baby It's Yours.” Those were some other first demos from that project. Then going to Atlanta with Darrell Pearson and Drew Hill, I felt very insulated and protected like, oh, we have a camp going on, and we're coming out with all these ideas and experimenting with sounds. I felt like I have big brothers around me to protect me, I was no longer travelling alone, and it was just a sense of family, so those are my two favourite memories from the creation of that album. What has been your favorite part of your legacy? What do you want your legacy to be? M: You all haven't received that yet, but it's recorded, mixed, mastered and paid for, and I own the masters, and I can't wait for you to receive it. That's what I've been working toward to get to that place, and when I say I can't wait for you to receive it. It's like the all-encompassing individual of life experience with musicality of smart songwriting, of clever songwriting, of timeless music, of timeless message, and that's what I'm so excited for the world to receive because here I am I've arrived 25 years later into myself. A lot of artists that have been rehearsing behind the scenes for 25 years arrived when they first come out of the box, but I was a kid with nothing under my belt other than all these creative ideas. It's been very educational, musically, on the production side, on the technological side, in my artistry, and on stage like it's night and day now. To be an adult, to be a woman, to now be seasoned, I look back at the 16, 17, 18-year-old me in a very cringy way like, Oh my God, that is so embarrassing, Oh my God, how could I sing it that way can I please go back in time and rerecord that. You know, I'm very critical of myself, but I have arrived, truly arrived to the place of being a true artist now, 25 years later, and that's the most exciting part that is legacy. Hopefully an example to younger people that, oh, you don't have to rush, you don't have to focus on fame, but you can truly just focus on your art. Of course, there's teams and components along the way and many different people that go into dishing out, promoting, and marketing your music etcetera, along the way, but the product has to be there too. I'm excited about that which will be my legacy, hopefully while I'm alive to experience the joy of sharing the magic because I know when I've tapped in and I've truly tapped in. That's what I'm looking forward to, and keeping that going. That made me fall in love with music in the first place, minus recording artists, and minus industry. It's the joy of what I felt when I was listening to my parents’ vinyl collection or being a kid and watching plays or going to New York City when I was 10, and seeing Gregory Hines live on stage and Jelly/Jam those magical places what I want to share with the world and it just all goes back to connecting with the spirit and the soul of others.
Listen to the Mýa (Deluxe) HERE
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