“You have to just be honest with your music and what you’re talking about—that’s really most important to me.” Seventeen-year-old Pia Mia has been singing since the age of eight, starting with school theater and musicals until eventually performing at weddings and events back in her home country of Guam. “My parents let me come out to Los Angeles for a few months when I turned thirteen… and I’ve ended up being here for almost four years now.” Coming from Guam was no easy feat as Pia was more than a little unaccustomed to the fast-paced life of a big city. “It’s been hard, but as long as you’re doing your best, putting your all into what you do, and are surrounded by family and people with good vibes and try to stay positive then you’ll do well.”
Pia Mia captured the attention of everyone after Kim Kardashian leaked a video of her singing a dulcet rendition of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” at the Kardashian home for Kylie’s 16th birthday; both Drake and Kanye West were present. Since then, she has been busy recording her debut album with Interscope Records, which is set to come out this year.
Check out our Q&A with Pia and click here to pick up a copy of The Untitled Magazine‘s “Legendary” Issue 7 for behind the scenes video footage and exclusive photos or download the free “Legendary” Issue App on iTunes now!
Indira Cesarine: How did you get started in the music industry? I know that you started putting out videos at age 11 on YouTube…
Pia Mia: I got interested in music when I was about 8 but how I got started in the music industry is when I was about ten or eleven when I started posting my videos on YouTube, I started performing around Guam but when I was 8 I did theater and musicals at my school and then I branched out and started performing at Japanese weddings and at government events back home in Guam and then my parents let me come out to LA for a few months when I turned 13 and they said that I was going to be able to stay out here for three months and I ended up being here for almost four years now.
IC: Do you remember the first time that you performed in front of an audience?
PM: Yeah, it was actually really crazy. The first time that I performed in front of an audience was in Cinderella theater musical at St. Johns back in Guam and I was actually surprised because I was expecting to be nervous but when I got on stage I wasn’t nervous at all I felt super comfortable and it was actually a place where I felt the most comfortable with myself and that’s when I fell in love.
IC: I know that you were born in Guam and obviously when you first started out you were performing there… how was it different when you got to LA?
PM: Well Guam is an island and as everyone might imagine it’s very laid back… so the difference of being in Guam versus LA is that I didn’t realize that everything was so fast and that you have to be able to do everything – act, dance – you have to be open to trying new things and giving your all in everything and you have to try your best and that was the biggest difference for me was having LA being a lot more fast-paced.
IC: So you feel that you kept up with that?
PM: I think I did, I think I did a pretty good job of keeping up. It’s been hard but as long as you’re doing your best and putting your all into it and surrounded by family and people with good vibes and try to stay positive then you’ll do well.
IC: So how old are you now? You’re seventeen?
IC: Have you actually finished school yet?
PM: Well I’m in home school right now.
IC: That’s great. So tell me about your songwriting… what inspires your music?
PM: My songwriting… well… when I’m inspired by music, obviously I’m inspired by other people’s music but mostly I’m inspired by life and experiences and walking on the street and watching other people interact and watching things that my friends and family go through and just really looking at the world and see what’s going on and appreciating everything. A lot of people know now that my dad is the one who asked me to keep a journal when I moved out to LA. My dad and I were really close and we didn’t want to lose that and we wanted to be able to have me remember these memories that I made out here so I could tell him so I started keeping a journal when I moved out here and that’s what I use to pull from for my music. I always have my journal on me and when I go into the studio I bring it out and I use experiences from that and it’s a little awkward sometimes that everyone in the studio will read my journal and look at it but you do what you have to do and you have to just be honest with your music and what you’re talking about and that’s really important to me.
IC: So you use your journal writing for inspiration for a lot of your music, obviously…
PM: Yeah, definitely.
IC: That’s cool! And what do you feel is the best song that you’ve written so far?
PM: I think the best song that I’ve written so far and the song that I relate to the most is on my EP, which just went onto iTunes – ‘Red Love’ which was really emotional for me to record and it was at a time that I was really vulnerable and it was a time where I thought I’d found my first love and I was giving all of myself to a relationship and I just wanted to be the best that I could be in the relationship and then you realize that the other person isn’t doing the same or isn’t feeling the same way and that the relationship isn’t what you thought it was so that was a really hard time in my life and I’m just glad that I was able to get through it and that I was able to share that experience with everybody else who may be going through the same thing.
IC: And how would you describe, in your own words, your sound?
PM: That’s funny – everybody asks me that question. When I got into the studio and we started to make all these dope records and we were like what should we classify this as? Should we classify this as wolf pack? What should this be? So for a minute we classified it as wolf pack and everybody was like you have to be more specific in what your music is so we settled on calling it rhymithic-pop. Yeah, so some of the songs are a little more urban and some of the songs are more stripped down, ballads, piano and vocals, some are a bit more upbeat and fun so we like to mix it up… I don’t like to make any one type of music.
IC: What about an album… you’ve had a lot of songs out and YouTube for years… what’s next with regards to putting out a debut album?
PM: Well I’m definitely working on my album right now. We’re pretty much done, we’re just filling it in a bit – I’m really excited because I just got in with a lot of really dope producers… I can’t tell you guys who they are right now but we’ve been making some really amazing records and I’m super excited for it to come out. My album will be released sometime during the Fall and I’m super excited for everyone to hear that. But yeah, my album I think is going to be really good. I’ve gotten in with some historical people.
IC: Do you know what the title of the album is yet?
PM: No, we don’t have a title yet.
IC: Have you collaborated with other people on the album or are you keeping it pretty straight on your vocals and your thing as being the main focus?
PM: I definitely may have some collaborations – I think that’d be super dope. I’d love to get in with Drake, it’d be insane to get in with Rihanna… Beyoncé… there are a lot of people that I’d love to collaborate with.
IC: Have you collaborated with any of them so far?
PM: Not yet, not that I can say. But I will definitely keep you guys posted if anything happens like that.
IC: So how has your life changed once you started posting all of those videos on YouTube and getting millions of views? Did you find that you were taken more seriously as a musician?
PM: I was actually really surprised to see how people really liked my videos. My sister, Candice, was actually the one who started my YouTube channel and started uploading my videos and I always knew that I was going to take music seriously from when I was 8 I always knew, I could feel it. I really knew that’s what I wanted to do. So I never started taking it more seriously after I realized that people enjoyed my voice but I definitely was surprised to see that people were reacting to it the way that they did.
IC: So you didn’t really expect those reactions? It was kind of surprising?
PM: Yeah, I was super surprised. And I’m surprised that so many people jumped on and started following me and started supporting me and really have my back on everything. It’s really important to me to know that the fans are liking the music that I’m liking and I really try to communicate with them to let them know that we’re all going through the same things and it’s really nice to know that the fans appreciate and can relate to everything that I’m going through also so I just like to really stay connected with them.
IC: So you’re really focused on building your fan base as well which is good… I would imagine it’s probably going by leaps and bounds with all of the attention that you’re getting.
PM: Yeah, it’s just crazy because sometimes I will be walking down the street… one time I was with this other girl and I was sitting in my car and I was about to get out and these girls from Australia came over and started knocking on my window and were like ‘you’re Pia?’ I was like, ‘yeah’ so I stepped out of the car and they started playing ‘The Gift EP’ and were singing ‘Outta My Mind’ and It’s Complicated – they recognized me. It blew my mind.
IC: It’s very flattering…
PM: It’s crazy because they were from Australia and it was their first day in LA…
IC: You must have a ton of fans in Australia… you go there and they’d mob you and sing your songs.
PM: Yeah, I have a fan email account and it’s really cool to see the people who email me from different parts of the world, you know… I just never would’ve expected to share my music and to have it reach all of these people.
IC: What about you… do you have a favorite musician? Let’s say you saw somebody in the street… who would you be able to sing all of their songs?
PM: Well I’d definitely be able to sing all of Celine Dion’s songs, Bruno Mars, Drake… I could definitely rap a few of Kanye’s songs… Eminem for sure… Justin Bieber… yeah, I have a wide variety of people who’s songs that I sing.
IC: Would you consider your music to be inspired by their work at all?
PM: I definitely think that Michael Jackson is a huge inspiration for me for my music and the way that he could just relate to everybody and since I was younger, I would listen to Michael and try to copy everything that he would do with his voice and that’s how I kind of started training myself vocally and I would do that with Celine Dion, too. I definitely think those people are great inspirations for my music.
IC: What about your personal motto? Do you have a personal motto or words of wisdom that you live by?
PM: It would definitely be ‘wake up and plan to be a hero’ – I put that on my tracks a lot because I feel like we were put on this earth for a reason and there’s no point in living and not being the best that you can be and not inspiring the world and changing the world and trying to make it a better place… just to wake up and be a hero. Living isn’t helping people, and not making people happy and not spreading love.
IC: Where do you get your style inspiration? You have a very unique style… what’s your influence with that?
PM: Thank you! So this may sound a little weird but my style is actually inspired a lot by the homeless. I feel like I have a connection with the homeless and the elderly. I stop and think of them on the streets and it’s just crazy… I always look to the homeless just because I like to see what they do. Coming from Guam, fashion isn’t something that’s easy to get out there so what I would do was go into my mom’s closet and take her clothes and try to make them my own clothes. I would cut them up and I’d have to get creative with my style so I’ve always been into fashion – fashion is a huge part of my music also so if I’m not wearing something that I’m comfortable in or that I like I feel like I’m not performing to my best ability.
IC: Do you have any favorite clothing designers?
PM: Personally, I shop at a lot of thrift stores – I don’t go to many high-end designers to shop but I definitely love Givenchy, Tom Ford… I think Giuseppe shoes are insane. I like Lanvin, Balenciaga… there are so many.
IC: Those are pretty high-end designers…
PM: I know! I like looking… I like looking at them and getting inspired but I don’t often wear them… I often wear Hanes tshirts from Target and wife beaters from Target. A lot of people get sick of what I wear but I love wearing wife beaters, they’re so comfortable and they go with everything. Mostly I wear G-Star jeans… maybe some cute little strappy sandals. I dress what I feel comfortable in and what I think is cool – you don’t need to go spend a lot of money, you know? Just be true to yourself. You can find the dopest stuff in thrift stores.
IC: So, if you weren’t in music and you hadn’t gone down this path with all of your work that you’re doing currently, what do you think you’d be doing?
PM: I’ve always had a back up plan to be a dentist. I’ve always been interested in teeth – that’s a big thing when I meet people, the first thing that I notice is teeth. I definitely would be a pediatric dentist… I think that would be super fun. It’s always been interesting to me… my uncle is a dentist so maybe that’s why.
IC: You’d have to go to school for a while… I think you have to go to med school to be a dentist, don’t you?
PM: Yeah. It’s a long process but it’d definitely be worth it – it’d be fun I think.
IC: You’d be the prettiest dentist that ever existed.
PM: Oh my goodness… I would be a singing dentist. I’d sing the children lullaby’s as I check out their teeth.
IC: So this is our legendary issue… when you hear the word legendary what do you think? What is your personal definition of the word?
PM: I think being legendary is being a good leader and being someone that inspires people and being someone that isn’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in and someone that can just be true to themselves and really stand proud with who they are and what they want to do with their lives.
IC: Who would you consider to be a living legend that inspires you?
PM: Let me think… maybe not living… does it have to be a living legend?
IC: They can not be living anymore…
PM: Okay then I definitely think Michael Jackson would be my legend. He shared his life and he really put every part of his being into what he did and you could just see it and you could feel it. Michael was definitely someone that was hated and still shared his love as much as he could and he always, I feel, put out good vibes into the universe and he was always inspiring people and making people happy. He was always working his ass off and he’s someone that I really, really look up to. He’s definitely my greatest legend.
IC: So tell me about some of your projects… I know you have your album coming out and you’ve been releasing a lot of singles… what else are you working on at the moment?
PM: I’m really excited about the Divergent movie… it’s this movie coming out and I was a fan of the book series and my song ‘Fight For You’ is going to be on the soundtrack featuring Chance the rapper – which it just came out today – we’re going to be shooting the music video next week and I’m really stoked for that I think Chance is amazing… I’m excited to collaborate with him for the soundtrack. I’m just grinding… trying to do my best.
IC: And when do you think the album is going to come out?
PM: I think sometime maybe in a few months… this year, definitely this year.
IC: Are you planning on touring or doing any festivals?
PM: We’re setting up performances now. Performing is really what I love to do so hopefully I can get out there and start performing for you guys. So we’ll see.
Make sure to pick up a copy of The Untitled Magazine‘s “Legendary” Issue 7 here now for more of our exclusive interview with Pia Mia.
Interview, Photography and Styling by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Hair by Caile Noble @ Jed Root
Make-up by Roberto Morelli
Photographed on location at James Goldstein Residence
Pia Mia wears a top and skirt by Mathieu Mirano, bangles and ring by Pushmataaha and a necklace by Kuumba.
Pia Mia wears a top by Jeremy Laing, shorts by Anna Sui, python sandals by Donna Karan, earrings by Delphine Charlotte Parmentier and bracelet Erickson Beamon.
Be sure to check out our exclusive behind the scenes video with Pia Mia!