On October 19th, I went to Arlene’s Grocery which was holding the Big Picture Media showcase. Within the myriad of performances, there was one singer by the name of Malia Grace hailing from Austin, Texas (It was a little cold that night, so I’m sure she would have liked the Texas weather more). She performed a great set ahead of releasing her first EP due a couple of weeks after.
I caught up with Malia for an interview to talk a bit about her background, about her self-titled EP, and where she sees her career going in the future.
MEB: So the first time I saw you perform was at Arlene’s Grocery at CMJ. Great performance, I wrote about how much I loved it. Especially because it was just you and the keyboard. Everybody was just fixated on just you and your voice. Do you like that style of show better?
Thank you! That was a really fun show. I enjoy full band shows as well, but there is something truly special about performing solo for a crowd that is closely paying attention. They get to see where the music comes from. I write everything myself, so what the audience hears when I play solo is exactly how it was before I went into the studio with producers. It’s raw, which makes for a pretty neat experience.
There was a beautiful cover of Emeli Sande’s “Next To Me” that you did that night. Do you plan to do anymore covers? Would love to hear your take on other songs.
So many compliments! Thank you, again! I love playing “Next to Me.” A fellow songwriter in Austin for whom I have a lot of respect recently texted me, “I heard Emeli Sande’s ‘Next to Me’ on the radio. I think your version is mo’ betta.” It made my day! I have quite a few songs I cover, and I’m planning on doing one for my show at Rockwood 1/22/16, but that’s a surprise! Hopefully, you can make it and check it out. Would love to hear your thoughts!
Now, you’re from Austin, Texas, but you do visit and perform in New York a lot. Speaking of New York, “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool” was featured on the Jimmy Fallon Tonight Show Tumblr. How did life change after that? Describe the moments where you first heard it would get that look. It’s funny because I picture this song being the Malia Grace “anthem”.
I describe it as my anthem all the time! You get me. When I first found out that “Mama” was getting coverage from the Jimmy Fallon Tonight Show, I didn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke. I didn’t actually believe it was a reality until it was posted. I shook from excitement all day. I felt as though my work had finally been validated and it made me more confident in my path. It also made other venues and outlets more interested in my music, which has been a really great perk. I can’t thank the Tonight Show enough for their feature.
Within your journey of becoming a musician, you went through school for Opera first, but then music business and foundations. After graduation, you committed to music and now we are here. Just for up and coming musicians, can you briefly describe your journey and some advice you may have? (I hope you didn’t give up on being a singing astronaut)
Haha! I would totally still be a singing astronaut if I ever get the chance ;) When I was looking at colleges, I knew I wanted to study music business. I had a fair bit of trepidation about studying performance, because I felt that didn’t give me a backup plan. I actually went to UT to study music business, but opera was part of the deal, as it was what they recruited me for. I wound up convincing the jazz department to let me sing in a combo, and as soon as I could finish opera lessons, I was done.
Then, I decided I wanted even more business education, so I studied business foundations. That was the best thing I ever did. I would encourage anyone who wants to be a professional musician or work in the arts to get some sort of business training. What we do is basically run our own startup with ourselves as the product. You have to learn how to grow your brand and market yourself. Talent is important, but, honestly, it’s a very small piece of the pie when it comes to success.
On the EP, you have a live version of “Hush, Hush?” What made you choose the live version?
We were out of studio time! We wanted to throw an extra song on there, but didn’t have the time or budget for a full production, so we just decided to record a live version of “Hush, Hush.” I was nervous about it, but the song has received a lot of great response in its stripped-down form. I’m really glad we chose to include it.
With your EP, it’s very personal. There are a lot of themes of getting your heartbroken, but also fighting to get back up from that heartbreak. Especially now than ever, heartbreak kinda jades people a little. Can you go into the writing of the EP and how it helped you?
Writing is so cathartic for me. It lets me get out what I’m feeling without talking someone’s ear off while crying over a margarita at happy hour. When I feel down or hurt, I want to heal myself as quickly as possible, which is partially why I write. The other reason is that I know everyone else has those moments and needs an outlet for it, so I write for them. I want people to be able to cry to my music.
So let’s go 20-30 years into the future because I see you having a long and prosperous career. When it’s all said and done, what is the legacy that you want to leave behind?
I really hope you’re right. Thank you for all the support and encouragement! I want to leave behind songs that make an impact and I want to make some sort of difference in the world. I really want to be writing in old age for other artists who still have the energy to tour and live that life. At some point, I’ll get involved with some sort of community outreach or start a program to encourage young women or men. I want to make a difference. I don’t know how I’ll do that, but it’ll happen somehow. Otherwise, I won’t have fulfilled my purpose.
Find out more about Malia and get her first EP over on her website.