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Going Focus: Miya Folick

Raised in California in a Buddhist family, Miya Folick is one of the most promising singer/songwriter to have emerged this year so far. Her poignant stripped-down ballads have soundtracked much of our annual music journey, which has not been so full of pure songwriters. Miya is a classically trained musician, but her sound turns out to be rooted in the present, halfway between Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten. In short, she has what it takes to be on our new cover story.

Hi Miya! We stumbled across you earlier this year, when you released Talking With Strangers. We recognized immediately your talent and now, four songs later, we can just confirm that first impression. How long have you been playing music?

I’ve been singing most of my life.  Guitar came into my life about 5 years ago.

Talking With Strangers draws comparisons with Joni Mitchell and Sharon Van Etten, two of the greatest female songwriters ever. What inspires you to write songs?

When I hear a tone that draws me in — whether that be my own guitar or a beat or even the hum of an old light bulb — my impulse is to sing a melody to it.  Songs are a reorganization of the melodies I make, which is fun because it’s somewhat of a puzzle.  So, the process appeals to me emotionally and intellectually.

I Got Drunk is your most uptempo song. What kind of process took you to write it? How was the hangover in that case?

I came up with that guitar line first.  It pretty much just stays on the E string throughout the song.  Then the backing vocals came and then the verse melody.  The chorus was a bit difficult to figure out but the bridge seemed like the natural place for the song to land.  I wanted to write a song that was really tense and never quite resolved until the bridge.  I don’t get hungover 😉

Staying on I Got Drunk… we’re wondering if have you ever been in a band? Because the song has a thicker sound than your other efforts.

I play these songs with a band live now and think of it increasingly as a group effort as we get to know each other and feed of each other more.  But, no, I have never been in a band other than this one.

Speaking of other projects, digging through Soundcloud we found your alter-ego starmaker machinery, a sort of lo-fi electronic deviation from your usual stuff. You called it “loner-pop” and the description says that is a “place for things that don’t fit.” First, we’d like to know if you think to take this project forward, because we have a thing for this kind of music (which reminded us a couple of artists from Orchid Tapes).

I love making songs alone in my apartment.  The instrumentation on those don’t translate to my current live set-up, so I think of them as a separate entity.  I’d love to either move forward with the Starmaker Machinery stuff or incorporate some of those elements into the Miya Folick stuff.  All in time.

And here’s the tough question: in what way do you think your music fits in this world? I mean.. for you, your relatives, for the casual listener who catches you on Soundcloud or playing in a club around LA.

I make music because it brings me great pleasure and playing with other musicians makes me feel like part of a community. I try to make music that allows others to feel less alone.

About Strange Darling, you stated that “it was exactly how I was feeling at the time—very in love with someone I didn’t understand at all, hoping this person loved me too”. Is it painful now to sing a song like this? Or it is a kind of relief?

We hardly perform that song actually.  But, no, it wouldn’t make me feel sad as the story didn’t have a tragic ending.

Songs are a reorganization of the melodies I make, which is fun because it’s somewhat of a puzzle.
So, the process appeals to me emotionally and intellectually.
Miya

Judging by what we heard so far, it seems that your life is your primary source of inspiration for the lyrics. Is it true? Is music a therapy of any kind for you?

My life is the primary source for most of my lyrics, but now I’m more interested in drawing from a broader context.  I don’t like to think of it as therapy, as thinking of enjoyment and self-expression as some kind of treatment for an issue is, I think, a kind of backwards idea.  I think the pain or frustration or whatever emotion it helps me work through isn’t wrong or bad, but just part of life.  That said, yes, writing music is sometimes fruitful emotionally and sometimes it is the source of my anguish.  Ha.  But playing live is always good.

What’s next for Miya? Are you working on something?

Yes.  There will be more 🙂

Thank you very much for your time Miya. Last question, but probably the most important of all: what’s your favorite Star Wars character?

I don’t have one.  Everyone can hate me now, I guess.

My life is the primary source for most of my lyrics, but now I’m more interested in drawing from a broader context.
Writing music is sometimes fruitful emotionally and sometimes it is the source of my anguish.
Miya