[EXCLUSIVE] Mya: Smoove Talkin'
We’ve literally watched R&B songstress Mya grow before our very eyes. We saw her come into this industry as a new artist, and she has since become a major force in the independent world. We all know how fickle the music world can be at times, and unfortunately, that can correlate to lower sales figures when in actuality, your core audience is definitely rockin’ with you 100%. As a trickle effect, the major labels may not be as supportive as they once were, and as an artist, it can leave you in a state of shock and ultimately become more difficult to release your projects. Mya has become that example of what can be done when you simply want more as an artist, and you believe in yourself and your product. In a few short years, she has taken the reigns of her career and is reaching amazing heights like never before.
Following a series of independent releases on her own label, Planet 9, Mya has dropped an extraordinary project titled Smoove Jones. Not only is she flexing her growth as an artist, but she’s showing the world that she is high-powered businesswoman. Taking from all she’s learned throughout her journey from others along the way, she’s now handling the marketing, advertising, promotion, overall vision, and so much more. We see so many artists who don’t make it after their time with the majors, but she’s showing that it can be done when the hard work it put in. Obviously representing how much Mya has grown musically throughout the years, Smoove Jones also represents her true independence in this music business.
In our exclusive with Mya, she talks about the process of putting this album together, the difficult, yet exciting parts of being an independent artist, and whether we could see her with another major label in the future. She also leaves us with some amazing advice for all the artists out there considering an independent route. So as Mya would say, sit back, recline, and sip some wine, because it’s time for a little Smoove Talk!
UG Digital Mag: It’s such an honor to be able to connect with you finally. Many of our loyal subscribers have been asking and requesting that we run a feature with you, and we, too, have always wanted to do this, so we’re tremendously grateful to you for your time.
Mya: Thanks so much for having me.
UG Digital Mag: So, getting right into Smoove Jones. I feel like this is some of your best work to date. Every artist wants to feel in their heart that they are not just progressing with the times, but progressing within themselves and their craft. What are your feelings on this body of work, in respect to progression?
Mya: I’m very proud of this body of work. It was birthed from a very pure, free place with no pressure, no interference, no deadlines, just simply the love of music. So to create from that space is progression itself. I have musical influences from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s throughout the project, with some complimentary hints of now with joints like “Team You” & “Spoil Me”.
UG Digital Mag: Talk about the progression of your work in general. You’ve always brought your A-Game in terms of being sexy, sensual, and the overall theme of love with your work, even beginning with your single “All About Me”. I remember you doing “My Love Is Like Wo” and thinking damn, she is really taking us there. Of course, you did your thing in Chicago with the musical numbers there, and moving forward over the years, you seem to elevate. So now we’re at Smoove Jones, which is a Valentine’s Day release, and you seem to be at an even higher level. How did you plan for this project in terms of what you wanted to bring forward?
Mya: For this project, I just wanted all positivity, uplifting feel-good vibes, drama-free, elevation music, whether on the dance floor, in the car, at the club, in the living room, at work or behind closed doors. Smoove Jones is a radio personality & show who serves her listeners based on their special requests. They have consistently said they don’t listen to the radio anymore and asked me for some “Real R&B.” So they inspired me to create my own fantasy world and radio station. Somethin’ for the fans that have grown up with me over these last 18 years, you know? We grown folk now. (laugh)
UG Digital Mag: You worked with some pretty amazing people for Smoove Jones in terms of writing. Obviously Terry Lewis had his hand in things, Kalenna Harper worked with you on “Hold On”, a track which I especially love. How did you, and do you, determine who you want to work with for your projects? What were your plans, or expectations, in respect to Smoove Jones and what you wanted fans to get for the final outcome?
Mya: I am always writing, recording, experimenting and practically live in the studio. Being an independent artist allows me a limitless playground to create. Over time, I’ve worked with so many different people. There’s really no one particular process to getting in the studio with folks. We chop it up on the phone or email, set up a time, and take it from there creatively or they’ll send me something to download, I vibe to it in a completely different city, state or country… and we build from there. For this project, I wanted to give more of an experience with musicality & R&B roots.
UG Digital Mag: What was timing in putting this together? How long did you work on this project?
Mya: There was no particular in timing in putting the project together. With the exception of the intro, the outro & Coolin’, I’d recorded the other songs over the course of the last 3 and a half years which were just sitting amongst an archive of unreleased music. I handpicked what I thought would work best together for another grown & sexy themed project to complete the EP of the Planet 9 EP Series. The Smoove Jones title came to me around October 2015, when I started going through pictures to assemble the 2016 Calendar… I said “That’s it…that’s the cover right there! That’s Smoove Jones. That is HER & that’s going to be the title of the next EP.” Now, the crafting of the calendar, the digital booklet, all of the paperwork, mixing, mastering, design, packaging, metadata organization & manufacturing of the physical CD was all done in-house through my label, Planet 9… I’d say it was at least a 2 1/2 month process.
UG Digital Mag: I’m not one who watches the charts constantly, but from what I can see in terms of your fans, the album is doing great.
Mya: That’s great, because I certain don’t pay attention either. I’m just happy that my music is in the universe having folks feel some type of way (laughs) and is being received well.
UG Digital Mag: So let’s talk a little about the independent world. You’ve been independent for a number of years now. You’ve released a number of projects, which in my eyes have been quite successful, and you’re now on your latest which is doing phenomenally. What difficulties have you had along the way? How have those things gotten better over the years?
Mya: Well being independent and managing to pay for your projects & put them out into the universe yourself is quite a success. But coming from the major label world, my independent projects might be looked at as a failure from some. Some of the difficulties have been not having enough time in the day to wear every hat. I enjoy the process and making sure the product is right, but damn it is a struggle trying to be 20 different people in one day (laughs). And I often laugh at & even question myself… “like damn… you are either super passionate or you are just insane.” I guess the two go hand in hand. Difficulties… Well because I am not supported by a major budget which pays for marketing, promo, advertising, radio & TV time, the perception has been that I quit singing. But it’s actually been the complete opposite. I’ve never traveled, performed, recorded so much, pushed out this many projects or actually recouped & profited this much in my life… the way I have in my independent journey. There are many things that could be better, but many things that could be worse. But one thing that’s gotten better is my art, self love & knowledge of business that only doing time in the trenches can teach you.
UG Digital Mag: I have the debate with artists often in regard to being independent, and I’ve always felt like it was so much better being independent, in terms of freedom, marketing and promotion abilities, and so on. I’ve always felt that nobody can sell or promote you better than YOU. Having been independent for a good deal of time now, would you go back to a major label deal?
Mya: I will not entertain any traditional new artist deals. Been there, done that. I am however open to entertaining the proper partnership deal.
UG Digital Mag: So back to Smoove Jones. What are your plans in terms of promo, touring, etc? Have you even had time to think of shows yet?
Mya: I’ve already done some spot dates prior to and during the release. I’m in rehearsals & live band rehearsals right now for a Smoove Jones promo tour. All dates can be found on myamya.com/events
UG Digital Mag: “Welcome to My World” and “Team You” have done amazing. Have you looked at additional singles at all?
Mya: I’m letting the fans decide what they want on radio and/or video. Now that they have it in their hands and they can live with it a little bit, whatever they say goes & will be. I’ve been listening.
UG Digital Mag: I applaud you for the work you have done with your career, transitioning from the majors to being independent. You’ve managed to stay afloat, taking full control of your artistry and product, and the results have been nothing short of amazing. What are you most proud of with your transition in music?
Mya: Thank you so much. Well I’m most proud of my faith, strength & resilience. I’ve discovered first hand that there are great lessons to be learned about self and life in every devastation, loss, change, etc. The greatest gift in my life has been the gift of music and all of the wonderful possibilities it possesses. I’m also proud to say I’ve finally arrived at the beginning of true artistry, craftsmanship & knowing what I’m made of which is a beautiful place to be, create & share from.
UG Digital Mag: I always ask artists what type of encouraging comments they like to offer to fans who are looking to pursue and do similar things in music, but I open this question up to you in regard to other artists. Given the experiences you have had in music, beginning with the major labels, and ultimately becoming this major force in the independent world, what advice do you offer to other artists who are considering an independent route, or are in a situation where independent may be their only option?
Mya: Faith first. Stick with it. Love it by breathing it. Treat it like school. Do the work and calculate every year as a grade that you’ve passed. Graduation takes time. It may take years, it may not. But usually great preparation for long term goals will & most certainly do. Live smart & simply so that you may invest in YOU, the quality of your product, brand & presentation. The pay off is not now. The pay off comes later after you’ve delivered several great meals whether operating as a small restaurant or a large one. Go out and meet as many creative, artsy & business folks that you can benefit from and be a benefit to. Ask for help. Build your team & create from a place of freedom. Remember.. it ain’t just about you. It’s about how you can serve people & raise them up. And remember to help or repay those who have helped you reach your goals for free.
UG Digital Mag: Finally, what final comments do you have to your fans?
Mya: Thank you, thank you, thank you for the opportunity to serve you at Mya’s (vegan) Chi’kin & Waffles. I’m sure y’all are so ti’ed of these daggone sides & appetizers. But we are currently developing what I believe will be our most popular main course. So for now, lay back, recline, sip some wine and enjoy these taste testers on Planet 9. The grind is for realz! Appreciate your patience.