ON THE RISE: 21 Questions with Myra
Myra is a twenty-one-year-old American-born South Asian R&B artist from Ontario, Canada. Taking substantial inspiration from her own experiences and feelings, she carefully crafts a sound that focuses on reflection, self-discovery, healing, and growth. While her songs remain personal to her, she aims that all her listeners can resonate with her lyrics and make the song their own. On February 27th, 2021, Harmony World had the pleasure of interviewing Myra to discuss her writing process, the connection between her music and her culture, and more!
HWM: Who are you? Give us three words to describe yourself. What do you do for fun besides making music?
Myra: Three words to describe myself… this is like the hardest question! I’d probably say I’m a dreamer cause I dream pretty big. I’d say I’m outgoing. And I’m super kind, I’m generally a nice person, and I’m very personable, basically. I’m friendly! For fun I game! So I’m on Fortnite a lot. And I love to travel, of course, but obviously, because of COVID, I haven’t been able to in a while. And this is really random but I glove! I don’t know if you know what gloving is, but it’s a flow art where you can move with your hands. It’s really popular in raves! You wear gloves and they have lights in the tips of their fingers. It’s basically a light show. I think it’s super nerdy but I love it.
HWM: How did you first get into music?
Myra: So my family was always musically inclined. I picked up the guitar when I was like twelve, and I’ve always been playing instruments, always been singing covers and stuff. At the same time I was always writing poetry growing up, but I never really knew how to mix the two together until I started college. When I started college, I started playing around with YouTube beats and stuff, and I realized how easy it was. I made one SoundCloud song and I had some friends send me beats and stuff. Then I actually started getting serious and releasing music. It was hard in the beginning too. I was really scared and at first, I was kind of hiding my music from my family because I didn’t know what the response would be like. As a brown person, it’s like a culture. You don’t want to be seen in that kind of light. So I was kind of keeping it under wraps at first and after a while, I was like, you know, this is really what I want to do. I’m working hard and I want to put stuff out. So eventually I started having those conversations with my family members and at first, the response was kind of iffy. My mom writes poetry too, and so when she saw when I was writing and really put it together, she fell in love with my music. She’s one of my biggest fans. She listens to all my songs, and she puts everyone onto my music now. But at first, it was definitely challenging.
HWM: If you had the chance to collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Myra: There are so many artists I would die to collab with. There’s actually one who’s more of an underground artist. His name is emawk. He is so frickin’ cool. His music is so cool, and I’m pretty sure he produces everything himself. I don’t know, I just find that he’s so creative. I wish I could spend a day in his brain. He’d definitely be a dream collab for me just because I just love his creativity. Everything in his music, I’m always listening to it and paying such close attention to everything that he does. I just think he’s a creative mastermind.
HWM: If you could open a show for another artist, who would it be?
Myra: I’d probably say Ali Gatie because he’s just so cool. I feel like we also make similar music too, and I’ve been a fan of his for so long that I think it’ll almost be like a dream come true to open for him. So I think that would be like a dream collab. Also, I met him at his first concert, so I think it would be super cool if I was able to be on stage, watch him on stage. He believes in me a lot, which, coming from someone you look up to, is very helpful when you’re in an industry that is so saturated and hard to make it in. So yeah, he’s super cool.
HWM: What songs do you have on repeat right now?
Myra: “Good Days” by SZA has been on repeat. It’s such a vibe, always! I’ve also gone back to old albums I used to listen to back in the day, so I’m going through a phase of my old favorites. I don’t know if you know Free 6lack by 6LACK, but I’ve been listening to that on repeat too, cause I miss it.
HWM: If there was one singular song on earth that was absolutely perfect in every way, shape, and form, what would it be?
Myra: That’s a tough one too! I’d probably say “Ivy” by Frank Ocean. That one’s perfect. I have nothing to say about it.
HWM: If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you’d be doing?
Myra: Well, I am in nursing school at the same time, so I would probably be doing the same thing, just focusing on my studies. But right now I’m kind of juggling the two. It’s a lot of work.
HWM: How would you describe the music you typically create?
Myra: I would say it’s very reflective music because the things that I write about are reflections of my experiences or my growth. It’s relatable too. I make music based off of feelings that I feel like everyone goes through. So yeah, I’d probably say relatable and reflective.
HWM: Where do you think you get inspiration for your songs from?
Myra: So when I start writing a song, I usually start off with a feeling. I find that if I try to start by telling a story or talking about an experience, it’s harder, but if I start from a feeling, the words just kind of flow out of me. It could be pain, jealousy, grief… so yeah!
HWM: We know that you write your own songs, what’s that process like?
Myra: I kind of just explained that in the last question, but usually it’s different for every song. Generally, I start with a feeling. Usually, if I’m writing a song, it’s because I feel like I need to at the moment. I might be overwhelmed with emotion to the point where I feel like I need to get it out. Right now I’m working on learning how to produce myself, so I'll find sounds or samples, or I’ll even start playing chords that match the feeling I'm trying to portray. And then I just take that feeling and try to describe it, basically, and just keep going about how I feel, or how that moment made me feel, or how that feeling made me feel.
HWM: What’s your favorite song that you’ve released so far?
Myra: “Fauji”. That’s definitely my favorite song that I’ve released. I feel like it’s a song that a lot of people can relate to. The response from it has made it all worth it. People telling me, “Oh, I felt this” or “It got me through a tough time”... that’s what made it worth it. That’s what also makes it my favorite song, that so many people can connect to it.
HWM: What is your production process like?
Myra: So my first song… it was actually my friend who made the beat for it. I had written the first couple lines of “Fauji” in my notes, as a poem, but I didn’t have any tune in my head or anything. He sent me these random beats and I was sitting in my car and I was just going through them, listening to them with the bass and everything. And then when I heard that beat--cause the first time I listened to it was on my phone, so I didn’t really understand the depth of that beat--I listened to it in the car and I was like, oh, this kinda goes hard, I actually really like this! So I pulled up my notes because I knew I had stuff written, and then I tried singing it with it and just kept going with that basically. Then we worked together and kind of fixed the beat up so it would match the song perfectly. That was really cool because I feel like it's like our baby now, that song. The second one was actually a YouTube beat, and the third one was also a YouTube beat. I was just running around finding beats that I liked and then writing to them and then releasing the beat. Right now I have a couple songs in the works, and I’m trying to have more control over the production process. I want to have as much creative control as I can, so I’m slowly learning how to do everything. Currently I’ve been trying to record all the instrumentals and I’ve also been using samples and stuff too, so for the next projects hopefully it’ll be more me.
HWM: How has quarantine affected your approach to your music?
Myra: Honestly it hasn't affected it too much because even in my last couple of songs, I did most of the work myself and did it virtually. My first song, “Fauji,”I recorded in a studio, but “It’s Okay To Grieve,” I actually recorded that here in my apartment, and then I sent it to an engineer to mix and master for me. I realize that I prefer doing my own vocals in my own space because if I go to the studio there’s usually a limited amount of time and I can’t ensure that the vocals are gonna be exactly how I want them. To have more control, I started doing them myself, basically making an at-home studio. I remember the other day I was recording in my closet, and I just had a bunch of clothes around me to try and silence the sound or echo. So yeah, it hasn’t affected me too much because I’ve been doing a lot of the stuff myself at home.
HWM: How has TikTok affected your approach to your music? How did you feel when Ali Gatie duetted your video and noticed you on TikTok?
Myra: TikTok has definitely influenced my music, not the music that I create but definitely my approach to music. My music popped off the second I started posting about it on TikTok. I one-hundred-percent believe that this is the app for musicians and artists right now because everyone has the opportunity to find people who will look at it. You have a couple of seconds to get people hooked to your song and if they like it they’ll go check it out. It has definitely caused a huge spike in my streams. I remember December of 2019, “Fauji” only had 5,000 streams and that’s around the time I started posting on TikTok. Within the next couple of months it started jumping from thousands, and it was a shock to me. It was crazy. TikTok really blew me up. The next question was about Ali, right? That was actually insane because I met him at his first concert. We were just kind of looking around to see what would happen. They weren’t kicking us out so we were like, maybe he will come meet us, and he’s always so big on his fans too, so I was like, there’s no way he’s not going to meet us. He ended up coming downstairs and I remember I was thinking, maybe I should write my song on a note or something and give it to him, but that’s so not genuine. I can get way more from him by asking for advice. I had been following him for a really long time, I saw him rise up and basically watched him grow. He’s also an inspiration to me, growing up around the same area and being an immigrant and everything. So, I asked him for advice, and one of his points was to use TikTok and I was like, yeah I should use TikTok more. I posted a video about that interaction and I think he saw it very quickly. After I posted, people started tagging him like crazy, and when he duetted it, I was literally shaking. I was so happy and on the moon that my favorite person just noticed me and shouted me 0ut. I was just so grateful for him, it made me love him so much more.
HWM: How do you see your South-Asian and Pakistani roots heritages influencing your sound?
Myra: When I was releasing “Fauji” I remember I kept trying to think of a title and nothing fit right. My sister was trying to help me brainstorm song ideas and I was like, I don’t know. I couldn’t think of anything. Then I remember I was like, maybe I should use an Urdu word because it just felt more personal to me. I remember I asked my grandmother what she thought would be good. I speak Urdu but it’s kind of bad, so I actually didn’t know what “soldier” was in Urdu. I remember she told me and I was like, I actually like that, “Fauji,” that’s a cool word! It just felt like it fit right. It was kind of like a piece of my heritage in my music. In the future, I definitely would love to incorporate more of my culture into my music, I just don’t know how currently. That’s definitely something I would love to explore.
HWM: What did it feel like when “Fauji” and “It’s Okay to Grieve” hit 100k streams on Spotify?
Myra: That was... honestly insane. Like crazy insane. I can’t even explain the gratitude. I’m not a crier but it makes me want to cry. I remember even “Picture Perfect” got on some playlists and seeing my song next to other artists that I listen to and on playlists that I also listen to was such a shock to me. I could not believe that I was up there with other artists that I like. I really felt like an artist in that moment when I hit 100K. I truly felt like I was an up-and-coming artist cause people are listening to me, you know. It was crazy. Amazing. I can't even explain.
HWM: If you could go back in time, is there anything that you would have done differently?
Myra: Honestly I don’t think that I would because I’ve had a lot of failures even within music. I’ve written so many songs that I’ve gone to the studio, recorded, mixed, and mastered, and then I was like, no, I can’t post this. This is not good enough. I’m not going to release this. I have put so much money and hard work into songs that just didn’t go anywhere. But they were all so important to my growth as an artist that I don’t regret it at all. Even though I went through all of that, I don’t see it as a waste or a failure. I honestly think that everything needed to happen in order to be where I am now. So honestly, I wouldn’t take anything back because I think that every failure got me closer to where I wanted to be.
HWM: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given about music?
Myra: I was on the app Clubhouse, which is an app where there are different rooms for people to talk about stuff. There was some room for R&B artists and I was just listening in, and I actually even wrote it in my notes because it was insane to me. It says, “Give them what they want until they believe in you enough to give them what they need.” That one really stuck with me because sometimes when you’re writing, there’s a balance between what people want to hear and what you want to put out there, what you want to create. And it’s hard, especially as a new artist, to know where to be in that balance. When I heard that, it kind of clicked in my head for a second that there are some songs that I feel like I can’t release right now because, like that quote says, I need people to believe in me before I release something like that. I don’t want to release songs that are more abstract and different until I know that people have good faith in me. So that really helped me figure out what kind of balance I need to have in the beginning of my career.
HWM: If an aspiring musician came to you for advice, what would you say?
Myra: I would definitely say believe in yourself. That’s really corny, I know, but seriously. You won’t go anywhere until you believe in yourself. You really have to. Even if no one believes in you, you have to believe in yourself.
HWM: What’s next for your music? Do you have anything coming up soon?
Myra: Yes, I do. I have a couple songs in the works. I had a bunch of little projects started and I didn’t really know which song I wanted to complete but now I’ve narrowed down which song I want to keep going with. Hopefully, I’ll have that finished within the next couple of months. I’m also trying to maybe record acoustic versions of my songs. So I might have a set of that coming. That’s a very new idea though, so I’m not positive, but I think that would be really cool if I went through with that too.
HWM: Is there anything you want to say that we haven’t mentioned yet?
Myra: This is such an open-ended one. I’d probably say, I love my cat. He’s just like a black cat. I piss him off a lot, but yeah, that’s the one thing I’d say.