Sixteen years ago, Mya made her sexy introduction to the world with her debut single “It’s All About Me” featuring Dru Hill’s lead vocalist Sisqo. The sassy yet sensual tune helped catapult Mya’s music career in the right direction as the song peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Over the years, Mya has blossomed into a seasoned artist and performer with unforgettable hits such as “Lady Marmalade,” “My Love Is Like…Wo” and “Case of the Ex,” to name a few.. Nonetheless, Mya can proudly be called an R&B veteran. She has given us music that still resonates with fans — even years after its release.
Mya was born in Baltimore but was raised in Washington, D.C. and proudly calls it home. Growing up in the nation’s capital has had some influence on her music. “D.C. being a go-go cultured city has definitely played a part in me being a percussion driven person and knowing how to dance and just knowing rhythm,” she says. For those who aren’t familiar with go-go music, it’s blend of funk, R&B and hip-hop with an emphasis on percussion instruments. One Mya song that has some elements of go-go/funk is “Sophisticated Lady” off her “Moodring” album. In fact, Mya says “Moodring” is her favorite album she has released to date. Released in 2003, the album spawned singles like “My Love Is Like…Wo” and “Fallen,” peaking at No.3 on the Billboard 200.
“I remember being in the studio with Don Vito and Tricky Stewart recording a lot of that album in Atlanta,” recalls Mya on what she remembered most about creating the album. “I was always fascinated with Rick James and there’s something I get to do as a performer that I usually don’t get to do in the studio for a producer, so I started dancing in a way that people didn’t really see me. I said ‘I have to take it back to the 70’s funk’ era.’ I actually had performed in the studio for them to make a track with the same vibe — so Rick James comes to mind for ‘Sophisticated Lady’ on the ‘Moodring’ album, which basically is a cover of [Rick James’] ‘Cold Blooded.’ I was so happy to play that 70’s funk sound because that’s the sound I grew up on and that’s a lot of what my dad used to do in my living room. That was the fun part of making ‘Moodring’ (laughs).”
“Moodring” would soon become Mya’s last album officially released via a major label. After Mya’s fourth album, “Liberation,” was accidentally leaked by her label Universal Motown Records, she eventually went the independent route. As an artist who was used to a major label handling much of the grunt work behind the creation and marketing of her albums, Mya quickly experienced first hand what people behind-the-scenes do to make an artist look great. “There was a huge transition and a learning curve from being an artist signed to a major label with staff to being thrown into independent waters after my fourth album got leaked via Universal Motown,” says Mya.
As she got acquainted with being independent, the “Best of Me” songstress reveals she learned how to produce an album from start to finish. Although the process wasn’t easy, she found a greater appreciation for labels and its employees who all are a part of creating an album. “I have a greater respect for what companies go through and everyone’s positions and what they handle,” says Mya. “I didn’t necessarily understand the background of what it consisted of, but now I do. So now I’m a versatile woman bringing a little bit more to the artistry. It comes in handy because you do have to make it happen for yourself whether you’re on a major [label] or independent at all times.”
The “Best of Me” singer has released two albums via her indie label — “Sugar & Spice” (2008) and “K.I.S.S.” (2011). While
fans are awaiting another album from Mya, the R&B veteran has released two EPs this year, “With Love” and “Sweet XVI.” The latter EP commemorates the 16th anniversary of her eponymous debut album, which released in 1998. “‘With Love’ is a release that is grown and sexy — very R&B, soul and smooth,” explains Mya. “‘Sweet XVI’ is more spring-time oriented, up-tempo yet still a little chill,” she says. “You can definitely groove to some of the tracks on there and it resides on the genre of R&B and pop — as well as a little hip-hop too.”
For Mya’s next album, she plans to combine her EPs and add bonus tracks to make a physical CD. “This will just be considered a fan CD, though it will classify as the eighth album,” she says. She also confirms she has already begun working on her ninth album. “I already have the title for the ninth album,” she reveals.”I’m taking my time on that because that will be classified as ‘the album.’ The EPs are just a compilation of stuff that’s been in my archives for a while that makes sense and blend well together. This next album is going to be what I believe my fans have been waiting for. These EPs are just appetizers leading up to the main course.”
It’s still up in the air whether she will release her ninth album via a major record label or an indie label. Nonetheless, she’s open to the possibilities of anything. “It could be anything, but there will definitely be a ninth album if I am blessed to deliver that.”
While we wait for Mya’s next album, she plans to hit the road to perform some of her new and old material. After all these years, one thing is for sure, Mya still knows how to command a stage with her confidence and flawless performances. She is among the handful of artists who can dance and sing live at the same time. She says doing cardio and breathing exercises is her secret.
“I constantly do cardio 16-minutes a day minimum as well as weight training,” Mya reveals. “I also practice two different forms of breathing and intertwining the two because it can get a little different in certain altitudes and environments. Dancing requires one form of breathing and then singing requires a completely different type of breathing from the diaphragm. Your body gets used to it — sort of like a muscle memory — and it’s just redundant practice, but the preparation starts in the gym or outside with cardio.”
Speaking of performing, Mya has her list of favorite songs to perform live. “One of my favorite dance songs to perform is ‘Whatever Bitch’ from the ‘Moodring’ album and ‘Earthquake’ from the ‘K.I.S.S.’ album,” states Mya. “Those are high energy songs where a different side of Mya is displayed (laughs). On the sexier side, I would definitely have to say [I like to perform] ‘It’s All About Me.’“ When the song first came out when she was a teenager, it didn’t really resonate with her. “I didn’t really connect to the truth of the lyrics as I do now,” Mya reveals.
From running her independent record label to doing shows, one can imagine how busy Mya can be on any given day. When she has a little down time, she likes to do simple things. “I enjoy spending time with my niece, my animals and my family — visiting grandma and my cousin, hanging out with friends from high school — saying hi to kids at certain schools. It’s just really simple things.”
When Mya is in her hometown of Washington, D.C. she likes to hit up the hookah lounge and eat at the finest restaurants. “I like Chi-Cha Lounge. It’s a hookah lounge with great music and a cool atmosphere.”
In this day and age, it’s not easy for an artist to sustain and remain relevant in the music industry. Mya, 34, shows no signs of leaving the industry anytime soon. Although she has a lot to be proud of such as her Grammy award, multiple brand endorsements and hit singles, she sets her eyes on continuing to create music that is authentic and relatable to her fan base. It’s her drive and ambition is what has kept her in the industry for so long.