R&B Singer Mya Talks ‘Smoove Jones,’ Love, Life And Musical Liberty
Mýa’s back like she never left…because, well, she never left the music scene. In 1998, the singer exploded on the music scene with her debut single “It’s All About Me” (featuring Sisqo) in the midst of a teen music wave. Singers like Brandy and fellow newcomers Destiny’s Child were churning out hits, but teenage Mýa held her own with edgier material, killer dance moves, a distinctive voice, and an all-star collaboration squad including Missy Elliott and Babyface on her eponymous first album.
But, it was her next two albums (Fear of Flying, Moodring) and a 2002 Grammy win (for her part in the “Lady Marmalade” remake) that gained her a solid place amongst music divas. Mýa found her unique artistic flow with an experimental, eclectic sound combined with her sultry yet sweet persona. She had nowhere to go except up…until it all fell apart.
Management and label changes, a leaked album, and overall frustration led to her leaving the mainstream world to take the reins on her career. Since then, she has consistently released music for her die-hard fans as an independent artist. I caught up with Mýa to chat about life, love, and her latest music project, Smoove Jones!
The Frisky: Let’s take a trip back for a moment. Around 2008, you decided to leave the mainstream world after releasing material in Japan and started your own label, Planet 9. What led you to that decision?
Well, after my 4th album “Liberation” was accidentally released in Japan, it leaked online and was shelved. It was pretty devastating after working on a great project for 2 years. I didn’t want to spend a year in court. I just wanted to fix the situation and escape the pain. Shortly after the album leaked, I got approached by a small label in Japan by the name of Manhattan and they offered me a partnership. So I released my first album with them just a few months later, engineering [most of] the whole thing in my own studio and scouting producers and a few writers. That’s what birthed the independent journey.
How did you build your tribe at Planet 9?
Time, patience, auditions, relationships built over time, [and] online connectivity. It’s amazing that one of my fans that created some fan art has designed 2 project covers and lots of promo banners for events and tour banners and gets paid as a Planet 9 independent contractor.
That’s incredible! Let’s talk about new music. Since 2014, you have released two EPs (With Love and Love Elevation Suite) on February 14th to commemorate the release of your first single. Now, you have released music on Valentine’s Day once again with Smoove Jones. What made you decide to release this album?
Well, I don’t consider this a full-length album. It is the final EP to complete the Planet 9 EP Series I started. I listened to the fans. They said the EPs were too short, so I am giving them a bigger appetizer this time. It’s a concept project and an appreciation to them for riding with me for 18 years. Consider it the final appetizer before the main course!
Got it. How did you come up with the name Smoove Jones?
I am given many nicknames in the studio. My brother Cliff Lewis who wrote on “Elevator,” “Spoil Me” and “One Man Woman” nicknamed me Smoove Jones based on my laid back, ol’ school vibe and smooth personality. I’ve been giving a lot of grown & sexy music lately, so with the 70’s vibes, I thought it’d be the perfect name for a project. The female version of Billy Dee Williams meets Supafly meets Pam Grier.
What can fans expect on this album?
Good music, substance, empowerment, sensuality and celebration.
When you were creating the material for Smoove Jones, where did you go for inspiration?
Where I always go – inside first then outside. On records like “Hold On,” I see so many in pain with a bottle, a substance or a needle in their hand, a student that wants to drop out of school to sell dope instead, someone dealing with bullying that wants to take their own life, the strippers I talk to that almost didn’t make it out of an abusive relationship because they were afraid to leave, [even] myself and those trying times I could’ve chosen the other side. I also see where anyone of us can end up if we don’t fight and keep going. On songs like “Phya,” I go to my living room when my parents would play Isaac Hayes and Earth, Wind & Fire vinyl [records] and I was dancing in my mom’s high heels. On “One Man Woman,” I got to travel back in time to my bedroom in high school to when I was listening to Mint Condition on my hot pink boom box [laughs]. On the outro, I go to my fans and all of their messages about their favorite slow jams and mash ‘em up together for some grown & sexy gumbo.
If you could choose one song to “sell” the album to someone, which song would you choose?
I’d have to say “One Man Woman” is a true musical composition with live music. It comes from the deepest part of the heart. I want to hear it all of the time. I want to perform it live with a band. I’d want to hear and see any artist perform it live. I’d want to attend that concert! It’s just real, genuine music based in truth and that’s what moved me to do music in the first place. I’m so thankful to still feel and “One Man Woman” makes you feel.
What’s your favorite song on the album? Why?
It depends on the mood I’m in. I think with the way my life and business is set up- trying to do so many things as one individual, it’s always gonna be “Hold On.” I need to hear my own damn songs for inspiration and reminders sometimes [laughs]. But my current favorite is “Elevator.” We always have to deal with certain people trying to block us from succeeding, putting us down, lying [on us] or just hating for whatever reason. “Elevator” is not only a jam, but it’s on a higher frequency – encouraging folks to stay above the BS and keep going, celebrate you, let ‘em keep talking while you keep walkin’ and eventually fly. I’m proud of my 16 bar flow I spit on the track too!
You are incredibly close to your fans. I think it’s wonderful that fans are able to purchase autographed copies of Smoove Jones on your website with a personalized message from you.
Yes! I just got a ton of boxes in yesterday! This is the part I love – the personal part.
Physical CDs, 2016 Calendars can be ordered on myamya.com. I have vegan heart shaped boxes of chocolates & Planet 9 Fine Wine (also vegan) coming to the myamya.com shop as well. Orders can be standard, autographed or personalized. And shipping is worldwide.
Will you do a 2016 tour? If so, who would you like to bring on the road?
My ass stays on the road! That’s how I fund all of my projects. It might not be on the level of a Madonna. But I’m always somewhere on the globe [laughs]. I prefer to be on the road with other females. India Arie, Erykah Badu, [and] Marsha Ambrosius are so dope to me.
You seem to feel little pressure to compete against other women in music. How have you remained confident and true to yourself?
Well I don’t compete, just like flowers don’t compete with each other in nature. I am comfortable with my existence as is. I compete with myself by trying to reach my highest self every year. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I were focused on what everyone else is doing. The public creates the competition.
What is your mantra about love?
We are love, but were taught so many deterrents. Love comes in all forms. To exist is love. Waking up is love. To love is to live and give without expectation. The universe always returns to us what we’ve put in – on its own time. Do your part, give your best, receive and always know that you are enough as you are. That is love.
Do you believe in soulmates and destiny?
Yes. I believe a soul mate can be an animal, a friend of the same gender, non-sexual or the one you want to share the rest of your life with. It’s simply someone your soul connects with, understands, and yearns to exchange your core truth with. Destiny? I do believe that is what is meant will eventually be – maybe not on our time, but on the Universe’s time. I also understand that we can play a significant part in our destiny by free will and choice.
Are you in love?