INTERVIEW: The R&B sweetheart dishes about life and love through a balanced perspective.
Mýa came up in a particular era in R&B when mainstream culture was shifting towards pop artists like Britney Spears and NSync. Only the top of the R&B lot overcame the challenge and Mýa was the sweetheart of this faction. Fans of the genre engaged with the soulful finesse found on her self-titled debut album and follow-up releases. The songstress even tapped into the Hip Hop crowd with classic collaborations like the Jadakiss-featured “All Of Me,” which was also crafted into a remix with Jay-Z.
Her career shifted into the independent lane with her fourth studio album entitled Sugar & Spice, allowing Mýa’s talents to extend past songwriting and performance. Her most recent release T.K.O. is the third record released under her very own label, Planet 9. She describes her latest offering as “a mature version of Mýa” that still carries the appeal her following had fallen in love with over the years.
We had a lengthy chop up about her creative process, collaborations, and insights into the human experience that allows her to deliver potent lyricism consistently.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
I’m wondering what your creative process looks like now that you wear so many different hats.
Well, there’s really no creative process. It can happen in so many different ways whether that with be chords being played or singing acapella with no engineer, no music. Or just a melody that I lay down on my laptop with garage band when I’m on the road. It can be a lyrical concept that I made up with a producer or it could be a written song where I’ll change lyrics around to create a concept of my own.
I’ve done prewritten songs in my career before where a male was singing it and it had to be changed. The best for me is when I'm collaborating with musicians so the song can be tailored to the key that I sing in, altered and built upon in composition and dynamics. A bridge may have to be added to something that doesn’t have any chord progression. That’s where the magic comes from.
One thing that ties into all your albums together is the vulnerability, actually being able to get real on certain subjects. How do you enter that space?
I’m often alone when I’m writing personal stuff that’s not turn up music so I do lock myself in a room and go deep. Sometimes I start writing in a journal first before I even visit the creation of a song, and be real with myself and how I really feel. Then I start on format and compositions and writing words, and give it a stab a couple of different times before it’s fully done. I often share my work before I release it and see how other people feel about it and how they react. And if it’s not a reaction that I want, I fix it to, you know, keep people listening.
I wanna ask you about your last video single for "GMO" with Tink. How was it working with her?
It was great working with Tink. We were not in the studio when we worked together but she heard the song. The producer that did the track sent it to her. I told him I definitely wanted a female and he asked me what I thought about Tink. She liked it and put a verse on it within a week’s time and I loved it when I heard it. A few months later I flew her out to LA to do the visuals for it and I’ve been holding onto the record for over a year and a half. I wanted to serve the fans with an R&B album first before I got into the turn-up music.
Your work with Tink reminds me of how we talk about collaborations between women. For some reason, there’s always assumptions about drama, catfights, stereotypes that female artists have to deal with. What are your thoughts on how women navigate the industry?
Being a woman in the industry is an advantage in my eyes cause we do so many things and we can make it happen from ground zero and bounce back from verbal abuse and assault and accusations and double standards because that’s the world we live in already. I am an observer and I watch a lot of things fall through the cracks with the opposite species. No disrespect to my brothers out there but women have their sh*t together. I witness it over and over and over again from the people that I hire, the women that I choose to work with that I’m a fan of, and they just deliver.
We speak to each other with respect and understand each other without even speaking. We just want to convey the message that represents us. It’s about representation and that is many different things. So, I look at being a woman in the world as an advantage if you just tap into those natural born gifts and not focus on all of the discrediting or underestimation and other challenges from the world that’s been shaped by, I would say, enemies. I’m not using the word man but using the word enemy, those who control people and their mindset. Women are blessed, women are beautiful, women are very capable, and women are superior. And I said it.
I’m guessing it still takes some sort of balance in terms of harnessing your feminine and masculine energy.
The beauty of music is that I can jump into the business and be a boss and be a pitbull behind the scenes but have a vulnerable space to be the other side of me. And a women possesses both, just as a male possesses both feminine and masculine energy. Being an artist and being a creator taps into the feminine energy and the problem with the world is that we have kind of shut that energy off and taken the arts out of schools. We cut off children from being able to explore and become independent thinkers through that energy. I’m able to embrace both based on the business that I’m in, based on the workload. And then working with people, reaching out and touching people, meeting people, traveling the world and constantly being in awe of just how many blessings the universe has to offer. The great people the universe has and how polite people can be despite the tough times and the obstacles that will continue.
Is there a particular city or country that you like visiting, that you really vibe with?
I always vibe higher when I’m closer to the equator because the equator receives the most sunlight which is the most energy. Fruits grow all year round. Everything is just more electric there, from the food that I can pick fresh off the trees to the people and their energy. So wherever the equator is, that’s where I wanna be.
Speaking of fruits, you’re into the wine business right now. Can you tell me about that?
Yes, I developed an organic non-GMO wine, sulfite-free by the way. It’s called Planet 9 Fine Wine, a red cabernet with plum infusion and it’s distributed by Frey winery, which is a reputable winery that specializes in all of the things that I just mentioned, and it’s vegan.
That’s cool because alcohol can sometimes be considered a vice. Then again, just based on your lifestyle and how you look, I think it’s safe to say that it could be a good thing too.
Wine is actually definitely healthy if used in moderation. It’s not a liquor, it’s not a hard alcohol but it does contribute to decreasing the risk of cancer. It’s a destresser, it’s a muscle relaxant, it’s also an antioxidant, great for the blood, great for the heart and overall health and well-being. A glass a day is a cultural thing in native countries, but you don’t wanna abuse anything. It is known to have it’s health benefits so I wouldn’t promote anything that’s not healthy.
How do you perceive weed as a substance?
I perceive anything that’s made by God and the Creator and the Universe itself to be natural and not a drug. Now, when you’re lacing things, well, that’s another story. It’s a business but it’s also a threat to the pharmaceutical industry because it has health benefits and can reverse many different illnesses including cancer. I understand why it’s been deemed a drug and many black men have been locked up in prison for it, the prison practice and business.
Marijuana is a beautiful thing regarding pain, arthritis. You don’t necessarily have to be a smoker to use the plant. It decreases seizures in children by 80-90%. Mothers get locked up for it if they’re not in a state where it’s legal just yet but we’re on the verge of changing that in different states. They’re just setting up the business appropriately so that they can profit off of it first.
I believe in nature being the solution for curing any illness and I support the plant. I don’t stand for any kind of abuse of the body but I do stand behind the plant and its medicinal, psychological, physical benefits, even spiritual benefits.
You’re mentioning spirituality again. What does it represent for you in your life?
Spirituality, to me, means being centered, as well as being connected to a global consciousness. The universe and the vibration of the planet means that it starts within as an individual stripping away your layers, deprogramming, reprogramming, training the mind, thinking of the world in a positive way, combating the negative, understanding the laws of the universe, from laws of attraction to laws of clarity, the laws of karma. The list goes on and on. Seeing the bigger picture and how you can play a part in shaping the word to be a better place.
Spirituality does not necessarily mean happy-go-lucky, high vibration all of the time, it means that you’re going to have to walk through fire. You’re going to get upset and frustrated at the reality of the world. Spirituality is about getting to a place of centering yourself and mastering yourself, getting to that place so that you can navigate properly and you can help others navigate properly and then shape the world into a less dangerous place, or a more peaceful state.
What are some tools that you employ to achieve that self-mastery?
Mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, it’s all one body with different components, and working on all four is very important. Mental health is what you’re thinking, what you’re allowing into your mind, what you’re combating the negative thoughts with. Spiritual is what I just mentioned, understanding the insignificance of self but also the power and significance of self at the same time. A humble spirit balancing those two things. Artists can be very egotistical so you must take yourself out. Physical health is training and doing healthy things and not suppressing your feelings or trying to cure things with the bandage of a substance.
What works for me, and it may sound a little weird, is starting with spirituality because I had to retrain my mind. Then the physical challenges began and then the mental challenges. So first, I got my spirit right by removing myself from the world as I knew it, shaping and creating my own world in my fairytale mind called Planet 9, studying the universe and astronomy and seeing how vast the universe is to take me away from my smaller mind, my lower vibrations, my old way of thinking, to check me and my ego. So I really had to dig deep and go further from what I’ve always known, on earth, and create my own timeline, my own days, my own hours, and work within that realm versus everyone else's timeline of when I should be married, have kids, sell a trillion albums by being number one on the charts made by man. That is not your template, those are not your rules, and those are not your validations.
Wow, that’s amazing.
Also, in this world, like you can come back down to earth to play and navigate knowing that you have the strength to get through the next obstacle because you’ve already put yourself through hell, which actually, isn’t hell at all. It becomes a habit because it has its benefits. You get better, you get stronger, and you’re more prepared for the next challenge. You know, it’s conditioning. Mental, emotional, physical, spiritual conditioning. So that you can survive and thrive.
What you’re saying definitely puts your song “Simple Things” into context here because that song says, ‘Ok, I don’t need all of this superficial material BS.’ So if you were to look for a romantic partner, what would be two characteristics that are essential for you?
It would be to help the world become a better place. You know, the global consciousness aspect and awareness aspect are very important to me, being on the same vibration and wavelength and frequency. A sense of selflessness but also selfishness. So that person has already done the work on self to attract what aligns with that person’s purpose. So a very selfish person that’s invested their time in all of the aspects and conditioning that I mentioned but also a selfless person in the same light whose end goal is to assist the world are the two qualities that I find very attractive.
Anything else, I mean, I don’t have any particularity on that. You know being humorous or funny those are just great qualities. I don’t think that I’m really picky but I am attracted to a man of compassion and awareness that is not just out for self. The selfishness only comes in when a man is trying to build himself so that he can ultimately be selfless. That means few distractions, very few pieces of drama in that person’s life, you know, that they’ve gotten involved in out of boredom or out of physical satisfaction. I’m just saying a very clear-minded person with a clear vision of what they want in life but the end goal is to assist the world. That’s attractive to me.
Before we go, is there something that you’d like to tell your fans from the Hip Hop community?
Well, yeah! Hip Hop is worldwide. It’s cultural, it’s fashion, it’s music, it’s a way of life, it’s building from ground zero to everything. It’s taking suppression and oppression and making magic and surviving and thriving and winning regardless of what comes our way. I’m happy to be a part of it. I’m happy to have witnessed the birth of Hip Hop and how influential it has been all over the world and inspiring to so many other cultures so it’s a blessing. I just encourage everybody to stay lifted, keep going and to let your voice be heard.