Mya: Marmalade to Rock

As the hit song Lady Marmalade plays everywhere this summer, singer Mya is focusing on her upcoming album. A lot has changed since 2000 when Mya released Fear of Flying. She's a big star now, appearing on talk shows, singing at high profile events, both as a solo act and with her superstar pals Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Lil' Kim.

Mya landed deftly upon our ears in 1998 with her debut Mya, an album that garnered both commercial and critical applause. Then came Fear of Flying in 2000 and the Washington D.C. resident was becoming known throughout the country. Now Mya is writing and co-producing songs for her third album.

Mya called recently, eager to chat about music. I asked her if there was a title for her upcoming album?

"No, it's too early in the game right now," says Mya. "We expect to release it in the first quarter but there's no title yet."

This started an interesting conversation about recording and songwriting as Mya gave us insight into her third collection of songs.

"The new album will be a little bit more rock," she says. "It's all in the category or R&B or pop but there's also a little bit of rapping and rock influences. I'm going in this direction because it feels good and it just kind of happened in the recording studio. And I've been working with live musicians which influences things."

Rock? Rapping? It's always interesting to watch a music artist move in new directions. Actually, we're lucky to be able to hear and watch Mya perform for us at all. As a young girl Mya was often shy and her music career was a long way from opening night. Mya related that her biggest problem was singing.

"I've been singing to myself since I was a little girl," she explains. "My dad was the singer of the family and I kind of held back because I was involved in so many activities after school that I didn't want my parents to find out. If they found out they would make me take vocal lessons. So they didn't know until I was 14."

But if singing was a problem, dancing was an anchor, and it allowed Mya the career she enjoys today.

"I really wanted to be on Broadway, that was when I was about 12 or 13 and I had seen my first Broadway play. That was one of my goals, so when I was 15 I took a day off school, went to New York City, and auditioned for a play called Black and Blue."

Mya danced in Black and Blue to great success, and she sang as well. It was a boost of confidence for Mya and singing began to define a blossoming career.

"My father wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer," Mya continues. "As far as singing, he knew what the life was like (Mya's father is also an entertainer) and I don't think he wanted me involved in it. However, he did want me to take vocal lessons."

Those vocal lessons came but only after Mya had recorded her first album. But buoyed by her dancing ability, Mya was soon creating a buzz in R&B. Fear of Flying came next. It came with strong vocals and a wizened Mya privy to the values of the music industry.

"I realize now that this is entertainment and sometimes it's not even based on talent," says Mya. "Sometimes it's more of an image or what a person has to say, a persona that's attractive to the public. And confidence, it you can convince yourself then you can convince anyone."

Mya is convincing us all this year as Lady Marmalade has spent most of the summer at the top of the pop charts. The increased media exposure has coincided well with Mya's other purpose to life, helping teen girls cope with self-esteem problems.

"I'm in the public eye and I'm considered a celebrity so I have influence over what young girls do," Mya says. "I have an impact that I sometimes question because I can affect the minds and actions of young girls. Teen girls have identity issues, feeling comfortable with who they are, especially physically, and that's where entertainment comes into play, movies, television, and especially recording artists. I'm one of those people."

Mya's attitude regarding her role model status is refreshing and genuine; the singer says she suffered from self-esteem problems when she was younger too.

"Things weren't always great for Mya," she says referring to herself in the third person. "I didn't have a healthy sense of self-esteem when I was 13 years old so if I can give back now then I feel more justified doing this. It's good for teens to see a successful person who has flaws and has gone through the same things as them."

Now Mya's life is recording and performing with the Lady Marmalade girls at special events like the Soul Train Music Awards. Isn't it interesting to note then, that Lady Marmalade was a project Mya had second doubts about being part of at all?

Mya explains, "My manager brought the idea for Moulin Rouge to me and I thought that it sounded like a weird idea. I had no idea what song we'd be singing, I just knew it was for the movie Moulin Rouge. It sounded a little awkward and I wasn't sure if I should do it but when I heard the song for the first time I said, 'Yes, of course.'"

When asked about the risqué costumes worn for the song, Mya confesses that this is what made her most nervous about the project. But as the concept become defined, Mya became more excited.

But regardless of the boost it has given to her career, Mya still had to wear the racy outfits at video shoots and concerts. The most embarrassing experience came when her mother visited the video shoot for Lady Marmalade. "The choreographer hands me a whip with my mom there on set and they're telling me to 'Give the camera all you have!'" she says.

Mya's career is in high gear. Her third album is highly anticipated, she's added "Record Producer" to her list of credits, and is also considering completing a college degree over the next few years.

"I'll be trying to get some college education on the road," she says. I'll probably major in business management and maybe minor in psychology. That's my future."

Mya's third album will be released in early 2002 on Universal Records.

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