Anya Mia was an aspiring singer-songwriter and guitarist in her teens, and she earned her RCM (Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto) grade 10 in flute studies. However, after getting married to a musician, she stopped making music for about three decades.
She was prepared to return to music, bringing all the influences from her upbringing and the music she had listened to as an adult to her own craft as a songwriter, musician, and singer. A few divorces later, she had established a career as a freelance writer with a strong specialty in arts and music writing.
A love song from AI (artificial intelligence) to the human race—that BF we insist we don’t want but can’t get rid of—her newest single, “Watching you,” is a tribute to the species. It has a retro vibe and is set to a traditional low-tech groove. She performs in a trio with bassist Geoff Burns and drummer Nick Burson, playing keyboard, flute, and singing. Check out this song and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
ANYA MIA: I’ve lived most of my life in Southern Ontario, Canada (west of Toronto). I actually got started in my teens, playing guitar and writing songs. But…I got no support from my family, and I went and married a musician – as a result, I dropped music for about three decades. During that time, I developed a career as a writer, largely on arts and culture, and of course music. I was involved in a community choir project about a decade ago, and it reintroduced me to music. Since then, I’ve developed my vocal skills and gone back to songwriting.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
ANYA MIA: I studied the flute (also in my teens) and took private lessons. I got as far as the Royal Conservatory of Music (the standard in most of Canada), Grade 10, which is the highest grade before a degree. For that exam, I also had to learn harmony and theory on a keyboard.
When it comes to vocals, I’ve taken a few different workshops, and got some private coaching via an online app called Singdaptive.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘ANYA MIA’?
ANYA MIA: Anya Mia is the name my family called me as a child. I wanted to differentiate from my writing, which is all over the web under Anya Wassenberg. (Mia is short for Maria, which is my middle name 🙂
My first musical influences have to be Western classical music. In our house, my parents argued over Beethoven and Bach, lol. I’d also say the music that was on the radio when I was a kid – including Grammar Rock on TV! Lol – which was largely flavoured by things like folk along with RnB and classic soul.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
ANYA MIA: I think my sound is eclectic, in that every single is a little different in tone. But, I think you could file most of it under the retro pop or chill or singer-songwriter genres.
I like to think that listeners will follow the words, because they always tell a story of some kind, along with music that usually has a laidback kind of groove. In my vocals, I really strive to give those words meaning, so they connect with whoever’s listening.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
Everything is political, so it’s a question of how you want to address it. As I get older, I find I’m moving away from love and relationship songs, and more towards what you would call issues or politically oriented lyrics, but I also try to talk about them in a personal and emotional way. ‘Watching You’ is a kind of love song from AI (artificial intelligence) to the human race. So – it’s a bit of a cautionary tale about Big Brother surveillance, but with a sense of humour.
I wrote another song about horrible corporate jobs, from the point of view of the individual and what it feels like. So – yes poltical, but not in terms of party politics per se.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfilment as the amount of work you are putting into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
I’m happy just to be able to pursue it at all! If a few thousand people across the world are listening to my music in various ways, then I’m perfectly happy with that. I know the music industry doesn’t think 5,000 streams is a big deal, but I do.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
I usually start with a bit of a song – a melody or rhythm – that sticks in my head. I then flesh it out with chords, and start to think of the first line. That first line usually points me in the direction the lyrics will take. From that point, it’s about polishing the arrangement.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your music career so far?
ANYA MIA: In music, I’d say ageism. I’m in my 50s now, and that takes some people aback, especially since I don’t have a long track record in the business.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
ANYA MIA: In my life, it was having a kid and seeing them grow up to be a great human being. In music, I’d say it was persuading anyone to listen to my music at all, haha.
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Photo credits: Scott Gardner