Mayda Miller Q&A

November 23, 2020
Mayda Miller is here to rip.

“People who I grew up around assumed I was Asian based on my looks. They had no idea I had no knowledge of any Korean culture or tendencies. I had to show them I was not internally Korean; I was just as American as they were.”

My favorite song of yours is “The Han” off MRDR PxP. You’ve spoken about Han in your life as connecting to stubbornness. Is that accurate?

Yes, I think it does play a role but not the main source. I can maybe push too much, too far, or be over the top with some ideas no matter who tells me differently even my own head. There is just this drive in me, which can have its positives and negatives.

You have such confident stage presence. Has performing always felt comfortable to you?

Performing has been the place where I feel most comfortable when I want to interact and communicate with people. Although, I have not always felt comfortable, which is partly why I love it and keep doing it.

Your work with drummer Michael Bland has received a lot of attention. Are you still working together?

We don’t work together in the studio anymore, but we do talk fairly often. Not only are we music companions — he is still a musical mentor and support system — but we are also really tight friends. Our conversations usually go way beyond music. We talk about the deepest most spiritual and/or personal issues to what our favorite generic cereal is better on which day of the week. I believe we share the understanding of intention, the passion and the need for music. That is life to both of us.

You branched over from rock venues to the Guthrie with your one-woman show “De’Mayda’d.” Did you pattern your show after other one-woman shows?

I would say that I was inspired by other one-woman shows, but I knew I did not want to do a show like any ones I saw. That is kind of how I am. When I am inspired by something, I know I do not want to do it like that source. I would say that I am more inspired by the layout of books. I don’t usually like to do linear straight forward story telling. I would love to keep on doing shows. I want to be a part of more theater in general.

You’ve mentioned influences as varied as Nine Inch Nails to Beck to Skip James. I can hear all of them in your work. Who are you listening to now?

Since the pandemic, I have really gone back to my comfort music and inspirations as you have listed, along with Jimi Hendrix, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Erykah Badu, 90s rock, much like when you need that comfort food sometimes. Now that it has been some time since the pandemic started, I have been trying to find newer music. I still really like listening to old Stevie Wonder, Childish Gambino, Miguel, Brittany Howard, and independent instrumentals. Aside from music, I like listening to certain politicians put others in their place and comedians.

How have you been coping creatively during the pandemic? 

At first, I did not feel creative at all. As fall hit, I started writing a lot and even waking up to verses in my head. Lately, it feels like rush hour in my musical creativity. It’s a double edged sword.

You gave an interview to Andrea Swensson in 2015 where you discussed returning to Korea to not only tour but visit your birth parents. How did that experience inform your music? 

The experience forced me to look at a few dualisms: who I could have been vs. who I was; who I am vs. who I should be; and who I could vs. I should be. Being a musician, so many questions came up. Trying to figure out how to channel that traffic was like trying to manage 35W, which seems like is never ever not being worked on.

I love your EP “Stereotype” and the title song. Have you been able to use people’s stereotypes of you as motivation in your career?

Yes, most definitely. Let’s just say, “Stereotype” is pretty much the way I had to navigate my whole life in all aspects, not just music. People who I grew up around assumed I was Asian based on my looks. They had no idea I had no knowledge of any Korean culture or tendencies, so I always had something to explain or prove (buffer: the Han). I had to show them I was not internally Korean; I was just as American as they were.

“The Perfect Mess” is a glorious song, with the bitter lyrics of Alanis and majestic hooks of Prince. What does it feel like when you hit on an idea? Is it euphoria or relief or both?

Funny, I get a lot of people seeming to be drawn to that song. It does feel euphoric, relief and accomplishing. Sometimes it feels as amazing as earning your doctorate. Sometimes it feels like you won a race. Sometimes it feels like you just turned in your final exam paper of the semester.

What’s next for you?

I have almost two albums done that I need to get out of my system. I am writing new songs. I’m not sure I can leak the name of this project yet, but I was just hired as a musical/foley director of a podcast by a local entertainer/celebrity. In August 2020, I was going to be a part of a Mu Theater Production called Cambodian Rock Band at the Jungle Theater. Obviously that did not happen. I am just crossing my all my fingers whenever we are able to get on stages again, I will be able to do that.