Miya Folick on Los Angeles, Music, and Living in Flux
"I like to see what people are doing and build a community that I’m involved in. I’m not making anything in isolation. I’m always learning from other people."
Pitchfork called singer/songwriter Miya Folick’s 2018 debut full-length studio album Premonitions “an eclectic, emotional sprawl” — much like the city of Los Angeles itself, where Miya lives and works. Miya celebrates that same fluidity in many forms: in her song “Deadbody,” she challenges toxic masculinity, and confidently asserts “My strength lies within my gentleness.”
With Premonitions, Miya calls out sexual abusers and offers up her own self-scrutiny — the listener is along for a ride of reflection, resistance, and resilience. Her deep, rich voice, refreshing emotional force, and much-needed empowerment anthems make her an artist to keep your eye on. PERFECT NUMBER Mag talked with Miya about her music, relationship with Los Angeles, and fluid approach to life.
PERFECT NUMBER: You’ve said you didn’t start really creating music until you were in college, around when you transferred to USC. Was there something about Los Angeles or your initial experiences here that prompted you to start writing and composing music?
MIYA FOLICK: Initially, it [creating music] was because I was socially isolated; I was in a new city (LA) where I didn’t know anybody. I picked up the guitar my mom had gifted me several years before because I needed a friend. And it kind of hit a sweet spot, a mix of nerdy and cool. But it also makes sense that I’m doing this seriously now because I’ve always been interested in words and how they make you feel… communicating accurately is important to me.
I’ve gone through phases with LA — I’ve been through a lot with LA. I hated it when I moved here, but now I love walking around the city. I run and jog a lot, so I’ve seen much of the city on foot. I like to see places that you would never see because you’d never get out of your car — like a freeway underpass. Sometimes there’s a bubble vibe to Los Angeles, but you can still run into so many people. My girlfriend and I met this guy named Alex who has a van that he parks at Echo Park Lake and sells different wares out of it. He also has two chairs on top of the van so you can lounge around on top. We bought a rug from him and then sat on top of his van. I love living here! You get to experience these magical, simple moments, just because someone thought it would be cool to sit on top of a van. What it comes down to is the sense of possibility. LA is this weird, crazy city that’s just finding its legs.
PN: Do moments like that make their way into your music?
MF: I’m writing my second record and it’s coming together as a very site-specific record. I talk about LA: Echo Park, Highland Park… I love that this city is so young, and there’s still so much room for growth and expansion. New scenes are popping up all the time. Of course, I have issues with this city — the segregation, the poverty — but I think what I like about LA is that it’s kind of identity-less. Some people think of that as vapid or empty, but in LA, you can be super intense or super relaxed. All of that contains multitudes. Then there’s the topography, the history of places like Laurel Canyon. Being able to look at hills, mountains, the ocean — there are things we have access to in LA that dwarf us as massive parts of nature and having that so close to a major city offers some perspective.
PN: Your most recent single, “Malibu Barbie,” obviously references Los Angeles and Malibu, as well as the commodification of femininity. What prompted this particular song right now?
MF: Along with the different phases of my relationship with LA came different ways of expressing myself through clothing, hair, and makeup. Before I moved here, I had a very purist approach to beauty. I did not dye my hair or wear makeup, and I never painted my nails. And then when I started getting into this music scene, I saw people being more playful with all that. I had been judgmental about these things that I thought were girly and frivolous, so I was confronting my own internalized sexism. This song is exploring the process of me going too far to try to look a certain way, and then realizing in the end that I’m still human. Nothing is going to change this body and this brain. I can never become someone else. It’s about finding the balance.
PN: Related to specific ideas of the feminine, how have you come to understand or express your femininity? Are there aspects that have always stayed the same? Or any that change constantly?
MF: Even though I’ve been through all these different phases. My mom always taught me to buy things that looked good on my particular shape and not what’s trendy. I’ve always dressed myself to feel good in my clothes. I’ve always disliked wearing makeup. In terms of understanding my femininity, I’ve always been “on the cusp.” One day I want to wear a suit, one day basketball shorts, and the next day a dress. It’s always a flow.
PN: So, something in flux? Not so much about deciding on one thing, but deciding that things can rotate?
MF: Exactly. It’s a decision to not decide. And that’s kind of the way I approach my music. People ask if I want to make this or if I want to make that, and my response is, “Well, over the course of my life, I’ll probably want to make both. But right now, I want to do this.”
PN: It leaves you open to possibility.
PN: What place would you like to have in the current Los Angeles music scene or other artistic avenues?
MF: I like where I sit in the scene now, and I’d like to continue in this way: I know a lot of people and I’ve worked with a lot of people. I enjoy going out to see what other people are doing and talk with them about what they’re making. I like to see everything — visual art, comedy, jazz…I like to see what people are doing and build a community that I’m involved in. I’m not making anything in isolation. I’m always learning from other people.
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