Interview: Mysie on Experimenting with the Unknown

Thursday, November 28, 2019
Photo by Ayman Chaudry

South London artist Mysie is fearless when it comes to creating music — she isn't afraid of diving into the unknown and creating music outside of her comfort zone. Through her music, Mysie aims to breakdown the stereotypes and rules usually associated with genre and instead make music based on whatever she's feeling inside. 2019 has been a busy year for her, having shared her stunning EP Chapter 11, as well as singles such as 'Sweet Relief' and her most recent track 'Heartbeat'. We spoke with Mysie about visuals, experimentation and her approach to making music.

You've had quite a crazy year — you shared an EP earlier this year, a few singles, you've played shows, how important is it for you to make sure you’re always keeping busy?

I love it. You only live this life once and I like to make use of all twenty-four hours in the day when I'm not sleeping. I just love creating, and then I love sharing that creation. I just love being busy. I love creating and developing new things.

Out of all the things you do, do you have a favourite? 

That's really hard, I absolutely love it all (laughs). So, I love to create and the creation process when it comes to writing a song, is probably my favourite, to be honest. Because that's my time to really hone in on the things that I've been going through and to talk about that. Even when I'm composing, because I always compose on the piano, that's always the foundation of how I write. I love experimenting. It's my favourite thing about writing and collaborating with people and producers. I also really love the video process and creating visual ideas and coming up with choreography, movement direction and stuff like that. I absolutely love all of it.

The visual element is so important to your music and art, and with ‘Heartbeat’ and your previous singles, you’ve shared the accompanying visuals side-by-side. Why do you decide to release them together? 

I’ve always said from the beginning when I started making music as Mysie that I wanted to have a visual element to share with all of my music.  I trained in acting, and I used to be a krumper, a mover, so everything I've ever done has always been visual. When I listen or work on my own music, I always see something visual. I think visuals can be so powerful. When you watch music videos and when I've watched my music videos as well, it's like you really do hear the song in a very different light. It's very special to me to be able to release my videos alongside my music.

For you personally, does spending time on the visual element of your music give you another outlet for self-expression?

Absolutely. It's so fun to do as well. It’s also interesting to see what the brain can come up with and what other brains can contribute to what they’re hearing. I love it.

How involved do you like to get behind-the-scenes? 

I'm very, very, very involved. I’ve pretty much been extremely involved in all of them so far. I've worked very closely with the directors, and very closely with the movement directors as well. I think it's really important to come up with something that really represents me and that wholly represents my music and my background as well. So yeah, I think it’s important to work very closely with everyone involved in the videos. Especially with referencing too and bringing that forward, saying no to things as well. Overall, I'm a mad one (laughs).

When you're working on your music, do you ever picture the visual and what that could potentially look like?

I do. So for ‘Sweet Relief’, I knew for a fact that the video was going to have three ladies dancing, including myself. I just saw it all. I knew it was going to be colourful. I knew it was going to include a dance style called Shway-Style, which my movement director [Duran Abdullah] is trained in. I knew it was going to be that. I really do visually see a lot of what I make. Some bits can be a bit crazy. Some ideas I come up with can be really crazy when I am speaking about them with my directors and stuff like that. But other than that, it's so good to just collaborate with people and see what they have to say as well and combining those ideas, and combining those visuals. Because I think people listen to things and see things differently. so everybody's contribution is really important to the visuals we create.

Outside of listening to music, do you enjoy soaking in other artforms?

I absolutely love theatre. I love watching TV too and through training in acting, I appreciate acting so much. I've learnt so much from doing training in acting. Theatre is very thought-provoking, I think. I really do take a lot away from that artform. I learn a lot from watching and observing, so I'm super inspired by that as well.

You mentioned earlier that you love to experiment, and what I think is so special about your music is that it transcends the rules and restrictions of genre, and instead, you emphasise on the narrative or portraying a particular feeling. What does experimentation mean to you?

Experimentation for me is about not putting limits on yourself, it's about being limitless. When you’re experimenting, you can do whatever you like. Essentially you're seeing what works, what you think may not work. It doesn’t have to make sense. The unknown of what you can do is very powerful. Experimenting is just going wherever you want to go, going where you feel makes sense, and where you feel at home or you feel like it's something maybe that you wouldn't normally do. Doing something that's uncomfortable as well, going outside of that comfort zone. It’s a big part of my music process, to be honest. It’s important for me that each song I release is different from the last. Even on something like an EP, I want my songs to have something individual about them, they don’t have to all sound the same.

Does having an open and experimental approach put less pressure on you? 

Absolutely. I think some people within the industry have an opinion of what a hit is, but who knows what that is? It's one of those things where you just need to go with what you feel in that particular moment and stick with it and be confident with that choice, and if you go elsewhere, that's fine too.

Growing up, when you were beginning to experiment with making music and explore what you wanted to do, what did you find yourself inspired by?

I grew up around a lot of music, whether that was around the house or at school, I listened to Magic 105.4, which is a lot of old school tunes. So you have Duran Duran, you've got Keane. You've also got all these mad, amazing 70s, 80s, 90s bands. Honestly, I was so inspired by that. I was really inspired by Jamiroquai and that scene. Jamiroquai just really made me want to go wild and really experiment with my music. Then after that, I got into the dance scene, I got into krump, then I was inspired by a very different world. There was also J Dilla too, as well as Flying Lotus and Thundercat. That's going to a whole other different world of hip-hop experimentation. Also my background from going into dance then into acting, then music, all of these things that have come into my life and all of the people that have come into my life have inspired me deeply. Even the people I hung around growing up, my friends, my best friends, their situations as well as my situation, my family situations, all of it. Everything that holds weight and has encouraged a change or a diversion in either my life or their lives is what I like to write about. It's a healing process.

In what ways would you say that you've evolved as an artist as you’ve taken in these different influences and experimented with your own craft?

I've definitely evolved as an artist, one-hundred percent. When I was making music as Lizbet Sempa before Mysie, I made music that I liked, but I feel like I was being put into a box. I’ve changed a lot since then, especially in my mind and the way that I approach things. My mentality has evolved from going from being someone who was comfortable with not going further and who didn’t want to experiment with music, and stuck with the traditional way of making a song, to being much more fearless with my music. Now I like to go with the flow and really try and weave the influences that I love into the music, while also still making it current and my own. My foundation has always been the same, and that’s always been me playing classical piano.

To finish up, what have you got coming up next year that you’re allowed to share with us?

Next year I'm playing The Great Escape festival, which I'm very, very excited about. I've always wanted to play there, so I can’t wait for that. I've got a few other things, but can't reveal too much just yet. I should also have an EP out next year as well.

Written by Amy Smolcic 

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