Updated: Jul 12, 2021
"I THINK IT'S WORKED OUT PRETTY WELL FOR ME, AND I THINK THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING.”
Mia Giovina is a dreamer. That’s what she told me, and after having her debut single “Sirens” on repeat for what seems to be an infinite number of times over the span of 3 weeks since I last spoke with her, I can actually feel the dream she’s going after.
“I DON’T HATE JERSEY, BUT IT’S NOT GOOD FOR ME. LOST A DREAM SO I COULD FIT IN…”
Mia somehow ended up in my inbox, but I am forever grateful that she did. The 20 year-old, singer-songwriter from New Jersey is a new force to be reckoned with in this industry as her debut is the perfect introduction of a new genre that I think has just emerged as a result of the post-pandemic, Gen-Z creatives: uplifting, melancholia pop. So much of this past year was closed-off, making us all face our own demons, question ourselves and our ethos, and wonder what’s next? With nothing but four walls surrounding most of us, we had nowhere else to turn to but our minds, and the introspection ultimately created a revolution of self-discovery. It led to less songs about love, and more music about mental health and clarity, and in return, we all received music that spoke to not only our hearts, but also our souls.
In her song “Sirens”, Mia takes us through the very real and raw emotions of a young woman growing up, but more importantly growing out, of her old childish mindsets and attitudes towards things, such as her home state. She realizes that the negative emotion she feels isn’t hate, but rather a bittersweet appreciation for what Jersey has represented and what it has offered her on her journey; however, she now knows that it is time to move on, see more, and flourish elsewhere.
The best way to describe Mia’s sound is if you could combine a mixture between Noah Cyrus, Charlotte Lawrence, and Chelsea Cutler. Her range seamless. Her melodies softly serenade you as heart-wrenching strings simultaneously compliment the vocals, and the overall instrumentation ties together the entirety of the package. There are hints of nostalgia, wistfulness, maturity, adolescence, and hope; with a year like this one, a time of solitude and uncertainty, Mia’s voice is the one that reminds you that you’re not alone in this journey and that new beginnings are to come. Each time I play the song, I can’t help but tear up. The tenderness in her sound vibrates through your body and reaches the root of your sadness, even if you hadn’t realized you were feeling down to begin with. In some respects, this song reminds me of the Little Mermaid wanting to know what it’s like up there with the humans, longing for adventure and a change of pace from the mundane routine of life.
A little more about the songstress? Mia has amassed a following of over 144k on TikTok, and this is truly where her platform grew. We were lucky enough to interview her for a SoundOn feature and really get to know more about this rising star. A few weeks ago, I hopped into our zoom and there she was smiling and surrounded by the very purple walls she alludes to in her song. She later explained to me how it was actually her mom’s childhood bedroom, which I found to be very sweet. We do a little back and forth, with excitement in both of our voices; it’s the day before the release of her single, and we are both feeling the energy.
Here is our interview:
Neelu Mohaghegh [NM]: Why don't you just start off by first introducing yourself and kind of telling me a little about your story. Mia Giovina [MG]: “Yeah, so my name is Mia Giovina. And I am a singer-songwriter from New Jersey. I've been doing music my entire life. I kind of grew up with music in my blood because my dad was in a band when he was a teenager, and my mom was a dancer. So, she was always in the school musicals, but she kind of, on the side, would write a lot of poetry. Then I think when she met my dad, she kind of realized she had been writing song lyrics her entire life, she just had never put music to them. So they actually write songs together now.” “There was one time where my mom and dad were recording one of their songs in this little mini home studio that my dad had at the time, and I think I walked in while my mom was recording vocals, and they had me get on the microphone and record some vocals. I think my dad still has the track somewhere of just seven year-old me. So, I definitely grew up surrounded by music.”
“Then when I was in fifth grade, I was nine years-old, and I auditioned to be in this show called ‘The King and I’ at this local high school that I actually ended up going to, because they needed little kids to be the king's children. So, I auditioned and I got in, and I thought I was on Broadway. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this my big break’, and then I ended up loving it. So, I started theater once I got to middle school, and I did it all throughout middle school and high school, and for a while, I kind of thought that that was what I wanted to do with my life. Then my freshman year of high school, I think was kind of when everything kind of shifted, because my two best friends in the world both moved away, right before high school started. One of them had been my best friend since kindergarten, and she moved all the way to California, so completely across the country, and so I kind of went into high school just on my own.”
"I think transitioning into high school is hard enough for any kid, but to kind of do it on your own was very difficult for me. So, I kind of turned to music to lean on. I taught myself piano and guitar, and I tried writing songs, but they were not good. I started my first Instagram account where I would post a bunch of singing covers just constantly started performing out at local coffee shops every single week and doing all of that, and I think that that was when I kind of realized like, ‘Oh, I don't just like music, and I don't just like singing, I actually want to pursue this as my career and do this for the rest of my life’. So from then on, all of my focus was on music. I would do gigs and performances and everything out at bars and restaurants every Friday and Saturday night, and then my senior year of high school everyone was like, ‘Hey, where are you going to college’, and I was like, ‘I'm not goin.’ Haha. I ended up not going just because I wanted to put all of my focus on music. I was just so scared that I would look back on my life and regret not chasing my wildest dreams when I really really wanted to. So yeah, I didn't go to school, and I've just been doing music full time. I think it's worked out pretty well for me, and I think this is only the beginning.”
[NM]: How old are you right now?
[MG]: “I just turned 20.”
[NM]: I think that's so incredible. It's such an empowering story to hear this—you know, you get kind of peer pressured to go to college, and you think I've got to follow the A-B-C route, but I love that you didn't let that deter you from following your passions and your dreams. I also love that you have the musical family background. That must have been so fun growing up in that kind of environment.
[MG]: “Yes, I think I'm very lucky that my family is so musical, because you know there was a little bit of pushback from my parents when i didn't want to go to college, but I think they're just so amazing and they just understand how much I love music and how much I wanted it, that they could understand that this is what I wanted, and this was kind of the route that I needed to take. My parents love country music, so I grew up listening to just country music in my house. Actually, the reason that I started theater was because my oldest brother, Ryan, he did a musical at the high school, and I was like ‘oh, that's cool, I didn't know you could do that’, and then it kind of was just like a domino effect and my other brother, Robert, was like ‘oh, wait I want to do theater’. Haha. My other brother Robert, we're pretty close in age, he's 21, and so we kind of ended up doing musicals together all throughout middle school and high school and he really loved it. We both were huge theater nerds for all of our childhood—that’s all we would listen to and blast that music. I can remember I would go into his room at night and we would put on karaoke tracks of different musical theater songs and we would just practice.”
“I WAS JUST SO SCARED THAT I WOULD LOOK BACK ON MY LIFE AND REGRET NOT CHASING MY WILDEST DREAMS WHEN I REALLY REALLY WANTED TO.”
[NM]: It’s interesting that you said you grew up around a lot of country music and that you also listened to lots of broadway musical soundtracks. Your music came out to be this kind of indie-pop, left-of-center, bedroom-pop type music—so what drew you to that kind of music?
[MG]: “Yeah, I don't know, I feel like I never really listened to that kind of music until pretty recently. Last year or something I was very much strictly listening to pop or musical theater. I was either listening to Justin Bieber or I was listening to like Shrek and Dear Evan Hanson. Those were my two worlds, but I don't know. I can't remember the first song or artists that I discovered in that genre, but I just remember that when I did it became my favorite kind of music. Like now one of my favorite artists is Phoebe Bridgers, and I think she's very much that style. I think it just feels right. When I’ve been writing music seriously since probably around this time last year, I didn't really know my style yet I was still in the world of pop like Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande and everything, when I would try to write songs and it would be in that genre, it just didn't feel right—I didn't feel connected to my songs. Then when I discovered people like Phoebe Bridgers and Lizzie Mcalpine, they kind of had this conversational, like you said, kind of like “bedroom pop” sound to them. That is when I was like “oh, wait this feels so me”. I think that's when my original music not only started to resonate with me, but also my audience.”
[NM]: Definitely, I think that's probably the best way to define that genre—it’s a “feeling” really. It's kind of something you can't explain, but it is something that when you're listening to it you know. So, you’re from New Jersey, and it’s definitely a kind of inspiration in the song. Since you say “it's not good for me” what was your life growing up in Jersey and how was it for you in terms of your music experience?
[MG]: “Yeah I think that where I grew up is and was a very crucial part of my music because like we have a really amazing theater program here and I owe a lot of my love and my passion for performing and everything from theater—Where I grew up and my surroundings and the schools and everything I owe for my love for music. But as far as Jersey goes with ‘Sirens’ it completely inspired the song because the song is basically about loving your hometown, but kind of feeling like you need to get away, and I think that all throughout quarantine I was really trying to write a song about hating my hometown and I just never could do it. I just kept hitting a wall and I was like ‘god, I'm feeling this so strongly, why can I not get this out into words?’ And then I think that when I kind of took a step back and realized that my mindset changed from ‘oh, I hate my hometown and I need to get away’ to 'I love my hometown and I'm so appreciative of the person that it's made me, but I just would like to see the person that I could be outside of it’ then I was able to write the song.”
“THOUGHT I FOUND MYSELF AT 18, THEN I SPENT A YEAR ALONE, THESE PURPLE WALLS GET SUFFOCATING, ‘CUZ THEY’VE WATCHED ME HEAL AND BREAK AND BROUGHT ME HOME.”
[MG]: “I think that's really the core of the song. Jersey made me who I am. Someday I could come back because I love it here…but I should get away to grow a little bit.”
[NM]: Definitely. I think that is a very “our generation” thing. I think we all, especially, given the pandemic, either went back home or we were home trapped inside, and at some point you hit a wall literally, and you just think “wow, I need to get out of this. How am I going to grow and move on if I don't get to explore the world?” When you're young all you want to do is grow up faster. Now, if you had to describe yourself in one word what would that one word be?
[MG]: “I would have to describe myself as a ‘dreamer’. I feel like my whole life I've just been a really big dreamer. One of my favorite quotes is like “always believe something wonderful is about to happen and that's kind of just what I like to live my life by. I just kind of like to think and expect the unexpected and believe anything is possible. I think that's one thing that I really admire about myself is that I really, truly believe in my wildest dreams, and I feel like they could all come true. So probably a dreamer I would say.”
[NM]: Since you said you love broadway, what would be your favorite broadway show?
[MG]: “My favorite is a toss up between Godspell or Dear Evan Hanson. When it first came on broadway with Ben Platt, I didn't even know what it was. I only went because one of my best friends had an extra ticket and I want to spend the day in New York, so I went to see it and I ended up bawling the entire show. To this day, I cannot listen to the soundtrack without crying. So Dear Evan Hanson might be my favorite.”
[NM]: Where do you see yourself in a couple of years? You said you're a dreamer; where do you dream for it to be in the next couple of years?
[MG]: “In my wildest dreams, I want to be like Taylor Swift touring the world and making albums and everything. It sounds cliché, but I think my biggest dream is to just make music that I really love and that I'm really proud of. I kind of tried to ground myself in the in the idea if all of that success and everything comes then that's just like icing on the cake, but what I really care about is the music. So if in five years I have you know an EP out and an album out and everything that if I can like perform little shows for some of my fans and stuff, then I'll be very happy with that.”
[NM]: Yes, let's make that dream happen! Now, since your parents are also artists themselves, would they ever feature on your music?
[MG]: “My dad kind of helped me produce ‘Sirens’ a little bit because in the beginning it was just very stripped. I thought I wanted to be very acoustic with just the guitar and my vocals, and then I found this girl Tiger Darrow, who's a really talented cellist, and so I had her lay out some strings on the song, and then that kind of completely changed the sound of the song. I was sitting in my little home studio with my dad and I think I added drums first and then he was like how about you add some more guitar, and I was like ‘oh, what about some piano’. We just kept adding stuff on top of each other and I think that really kind of completed the whole project. I think he definitely will be helping me with the production in the future. My mom, a lot of times, if I can't think of the right lyric or I'm stuck on something, then I'll go to her and she'll help me with the writing. I don't know if they would actually get on the track and you know, like, sing— my dad might play some piano. I don't know if they're bold enough to do that, but they definitely are huge helpers behind the scenes for my music.”
“I REALLY, TRULY BELIEVE IN MY WILDEST DREAMS, AND I FEEL LIKE THEY COULD ALL COME TRUE.”
[NM]: The outro of the song is probably my favorite part, how did you come up with that?
[MG]: “Yeah, so that outro took a while for me to come up with, because I was just overthinking it. Because I'm such a huge fan of Taylor Swift, she has all of these iconic bridges and everything to her songs, and so I think I was kind of like, in that mindset. I was writing too many lyrics. And I was thinking about it too hard. And then I think I was just like sitting in my studio, and I was like, ‘Oh my god…’ I just kind of like started humming that, and I was like, ‘Wait, that's perfect. It's so simple that it like works’. But yeah, I think that once I had the strings down, and it was just strings and guitar, I kind of was like, Okay, this is like the final version like this is the strings were like the finishing touch. And then that night that I was sitting in the studio with my dad, and we started like just messing around with other little things.”
[NM]: What would you say is something you do outside of music that is a big part of who you are and something that people may not know about you already? [MG]: “I have a really big passion for filming and video editing. I've been watching like YouTube since I got my hands on a computer, since I was 10 years old. Every second that I'm not doing music, I’m on YouTube just wasting time, just watching a million videos. I took TV media classes and everything in high school, and that's always kind of been my backup plan. If music for some reason didn't work out.”
[NM]: How has TikTok been for you and your music? [MG]: “Oh yeah, TickTock! I say it in every single interview that I wouldn't be sitting here doing this with you if it weren't for TikTok. Because I've been posting covers on my Instagram since I was like 14 or 15 years old and I did that for years and it just kind of never really went anywhere. Then in May or June of 2020 I posted my first TikTok that was a duet with Harry Styles. I put my vocals in with his vocals, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is what it would sound like if I was singing with Harry’ and it kind of blew up. That was the first time I realized the power of TikTok. I don't think there's ever been a platform like it. I think it's just so in our favor. I feel everyone has the opportunity to blow up on there. I could literally talk about TikTok for hours. I think it it's starting to run the music industry.”
[NM]: What is one nugget of advice you'd give to people like your age who are also big dreamers and want to do the music thing?” [MG]: “Yeah, It sounds cliché, but I think it's really just about being authentic to yourself really. I have a really hard time with it. But I'm working on just kind of trying to block out the outside noise, and really focus on what I want to write about what I want my music to sound like, stuff like that. I think, especially nowadays, with social media, as like a young musician, or just like a young person in general you can really get like clouded by other people's lives or the lives that they put on social media. And so I think it's just really important to trust yourself and trust your abilities. It's easier said than done. but it's definitely my main priority right now. It's focusing on what I wanted to do.”
[NM]: “I'm so excited that this is the first song that everyone gets to hear, because I really think it's a powerful one.”
Thank you so much, Mia, for taking the time to chat. We can honestly say you’re going to go so many places, and we are so excited to support you throughout your journey! Be sure to follow Mia on TikTok, Instagram, and Spotify.