Speaking with indie rock n’ soul artist Mia LJ, you might believe you’re swapping stories with a music scene veteran – someone who has seen decades of artists and fads come and go, demonstrating a wealth of experience over an ever-evolving landscape. And while Mia has some really good tales to tell…she’s only 19 years old. She started hitting the open mic circuit at 12 years of age, a self-taught vocalist and instrumentalist, playing the guitar, drums, piano, bass, ukulele, and cuatro. Impressive, eh? It all adds up to an eclectic hybrid sound, including influences of R&B, jazz, blues, pop, and rock, as heard on her debut EP, These Are The Years.
However, today we’re here to discuss LJ’s upcoming debut album, a collection titled This Livin. We couldn’t wait to ask about the new music – Mia told us, “As someone who loves all types of music from heavy metal to R&B, elements of each genre are present throughout the album. The writing process was very unorthodox. I’ve been organizing this project since the age of 13 years old, rounding out the track list with my personal favorites written between the ages of 14 – 19 years old. Growing up, my writing style evolved with experience. That’s very evident in the music from ‘This Livin’ — the title track written at 14 years old — to my upcoming single ‘Take Me to that Night’ written at 17 years old. When creating full length projects, consistency is so key. I’ve always been very determined to introduce a trademark sound — the second you hear my voice, guitar effects, piano chords, drum arrangements, etc you know it’s Mia LJ…I’m psyched to present this album to the world so they can better understand.” Click to https://twitter.com/mia_lj
XXQs: Mia LJ
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what makes you stand out from others in your genre?
Mia LJ (MLJ): My sound is best described as Soul Infused Indie Rock. The vibe combines R&B, jazz, blues, and indie rock guitar/piano driven arrangements along with punchy, live drums. I love adding elements of digital production to the music to diversify the realm. Being a self-taught multi-instrumentalist helps in standing apart from other artists. At the age of five years old, I dedicated my time to learning several instruments (guitar, drums, piano, bass, ukulele, cuatro), singing, and songwriting. To this day, dedicating my life to music has been the best decision I’ve ever made.
PEV: What kind of music were you into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
MLJ: Jimi Hendrix and Lenny Kravitz were of the first musicians to really captivate me. I honestly don’t remember my first concert. I have the worst memory when it comes to my childhood. I’m obsessed with live music — the energy, the re-creation of studio records, everything. It inspires these indescribable feelings. Personally, performing live just multiplies those emotions.
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene when you first started? What was your first show like?
MLJ: Initially, breaking into the music industry was far from easy. I was very naive to the possibility of certain endeavors not panning out. After gaining experience, I came to realize that everything truly does happen for a reason. My first live show was cringe-worthy (laughing). I played at a local open mic at 12 or 13 years old. My voice was incredibly shaky, but the crowd was very supportive and responsive. The energy was so fulfilling, a high. I was hooked after performing just two songs, so I kept playing. And to this day, I’ve never stopped.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Mia LJ show?
MLJ: My live shows are insane. I perform with a killer backing band, so the energy and music are always tight. I love to just have fun with the crowd. Whether it be fans who have been following for years or people who have never even heard the music, we always find a way to connect from song to song while having a blast. The vibe is always unforgettable between joking around and screaming on stage with the audience. By far, my favorite part of this job is performing live.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage to perform?
MLJ: Go crazy.
PEV: What is the best part about being on stage in front of an audience?
MLJ: Being on stage allows me to completely reveal myself on so many levels. You can talk about things that are not openly discussed when making a first impression. The best way to truly get to know me is by coming to a live show.
PEV: What is the underlying inspiration for your music?
MLJ: My music is inspired by this desire I have to manifest things from my head into reality.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
MLJ: I tend to get caught up in the moment, disregarding my past successes and how promising my future is. Times like those make me reflect on my earliest efforts. It’s hard to grasp how much my life has changed, but holding on to memories such as teaching myself how to play instruments, my first show, etc is humbling.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?
MLJ: I attended college at 16 years old; dropped out; and since then I’ve independently drafted, pitched, and closed major production and investment deals all before the age of 19 years old.
PEV: What happens when you hit a brick wall when writing? What are your methods to get over it?
MLJ: Hitting a brick wall when writing inspires frustration and hunger to do better. I tend to come up with very metaphorical phrases expressing that struggle to create. One of my new singles is actually based on that severe lack of inspiration when songwriting. I’m psyched about this tune as it’ll convey the emotions that come about much better than simply put words could.
PEV: How do you think the industry has changed since you first started out?
MLJ: When starting out in the industry at 13 years old, I vividly remember my first demo being printed/bounced onto a physical disk, a CD. Now when we bounce songs in the studio, they are immediately formatted to wav/mp3 files. Digital music, digital downloads/streams have changed everything. There are pros and cons — the music is much more accessible to people all around the world VS. most artists invest tens of thousands of dollars to create that music just for a majority of the songs to end up being made available for free.
PEV: What can fans expect from your upcoming debut album, This Livin? What was the writing process like for this work?
MLJ: My upcoming debut album carries a particularly raw and diverse vibe. As someone who loves all types of music from heavy metal to R&B, elements of each genre are present throughout the album. The writing process was very unorthodox. I’ve been organizing this project since the age of 13 years old, rounding out the track list with my personal favorites written between the ages of 14 – 19 years old. Growing up, my writing style evolved with experience. That’s very evident in the music from “This Livin” — the title track written at 14 years old — to my upcoming single “Take Me to that Night” written at 17 years old. When creating full length projects, consistency is so key. I’ve always been very determined to introduce a trademark sound — the second you hear my voice, guitar effects, piano chords, drum arrangements, etc you know it’s Mia LJ. However, I refuse to serve up the same chord progressions you normally hear, the same sound designs all meshed together in a different order. My lyricism, voice, and playing style convey that trademark sound while still providing something new every time. It’s hard to describe something that you know can’t be done with words, but sounds. I’m psyched to present this album to the world so they can better understand.
PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
MLJ: Europe. I’m obsessed with European culture. I’ve dreamt of playing the festival circuit for longer than I can remember — Glastonbury, T in the Park, Isle of Wight, PinkPop, Reading & Leeds, Radio 1’s Big Weekend — I could go on (laughing). With time and hard work, these dreams will transform into memories.
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career?
MLJ: Honestly, it’s much harder than one could ever expect to stay in touch with family and friends. I don’t necessarily mean sending a text, giving a ring, making plans to hang out, or things of that sort but staying in touch mentally with the world. The music industry immerses my mind in a very different environment. My success is heavily reliant on working from the moment my eyes open up until the moment they can no longer stay open. This non – stop grind consumes my focus. I get my day started around 11am and won’t stop until 5am the next day. When I’m with family and friends physically, my mind is grinding at an intensity that is hard to describe. On top of that, when at work (in studio, meetings, etc) I’m surrounded by behaviors that people would normally get fired for, even arrested. Meanwhile they’re considered completely normal in my work place/business. Touching on this side of the industry may come off negatively, but to clarify I LOVE IT. Working under conservative conditions where someone determines what you work on, how long you work, who you work with, etc kills me. It does take a toll on my relationships as my focus is impenetrable. However, turning dreams into reality takes sacrifice. You lose things you’d never imagine to gain things you’ve never dreamt of.
PEV: What do you do in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
MLJ: Sleep. Rest is key.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?
MLJ: A single dream collaboration is so hard to narrow. I’d definitely love to create with blackbear and Daniel Caesar in the future.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
MLJ: I’m a big fan of up and coming artist Xavier Omar’s new song “Afraid”. Suchhhhh a vibe.
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what would you do for a career?
MLJ: I would definitely work with children. In the past, I’ve had the honor of helping kids with developmental disorders such as Down syndrome, autism, and more. That experience gave me the opportunity to make unforgettable friends (mostly between the ages of 5 – 8 years old). At 17 years old, I worked alongside a little guy with Down syndrome named Finley. He was 6 years old at the time. He has this killer, strong willed personality and he loves music! He possessed so many traits that I saw within myself. We made each other better people, learning to be patient with ourselves and just have a good time. The relationship we share is one that can’t be put into words. Being able to understand what a person thinks and how they feel solely through body language is amazing. Ultimately, I find that kids are very relatable. It’s a blast to work with them any time the opportunity arises.
PEV: So, what is next for Mia LJ?
MLJ: What’s next is better. Better music. Better visuals. Better live shows. Growing to be a better person.
For more information, click to https://twitter.com/mia_lj.