Why you should care
Did Kanye think you were the shit when you were 18? You go, girl.
This interview is brought to you by our friends at Vibe.
Emerging singer Pia Mia didn’t always think about doing music as a career. “I never sang before; I never thought about it,” she tells Vibe about her early childhood. “I was always really shy. So when I told my parents I wanted to start singing, everyone was a little shocked.”
Since then, the 18-year-old songstress has come a long way from her introverted ways and is beginning to take the music world by storm. Hailing from the small island of Guam, she moved to Los Angeles about four years ago, just before an extremely serendipitous encounter landed her a yearlong production deal with Babyface. You might have even spotted a video of Pia singing Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” at the dinner table to Drizzy Drake himself and Kanye West, sitting alongside the Kardashian-Jenner clan.
Fast-forward two years, and she now has a major single and music video with Chris Brown and Tyga called “Do It Again,” gaining spins on the radio. On a recent trip to Vibe HQ, Pia Mia dished on how she collaborated with Breezy and Tyga, her relationship with producer Nic Nac, and her musical inspirations.
Vibe: How did you first start getting interested in music?
Pia Mia: I started singing in school plays when I was 8 years old. Cinderella was really the musical that showed me how much I loved music, and gave me this sense of how much I love the stage. So I started traveling with my school, doing musicals, and raising money for humanitarian tours. We were raising money for kids with cleft palates. Then I started singing at government events and Japanese weddings. That was my first job back home in Guam.
You were also signed to Babyface before. How did you ink a deal with him?
I basically worked really hard every day of my life, after I realized that music was what I wanted to do. I ended up coming out to LA from Guam when I was about 13 or 14. I was meant to stay there for three months, because it was part of my educational experience. My parents were like, “You can go for the summer.” But when I was in LA, I ended up walking to this place called Urth Caffé, and one of Babyface’s producers’ wives came up to me and asked if I happened to be a singer. Honestly, it was really random and crazy, but I ended up signing to Babyface for a year in a production deal, and that’s where I learned how to record and write songs — everything that basically came with making music.
After that, Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal, found me on Instagram and she liked my music, but also my look, so she asked me to model for that. Following that campaign, I modeled for Neima, who owns Pink+Dolphin, and he manages Nic Nac, who is a huge producer. I’ve been working with Nic ever since. We’ve been working on the album for the last two years. It really all just kind of came together.
You have to stay positive, keep your head up, and stay focused. If you believe in yourself, then other people will believe in you.
Speaking of Nic Nac, how did you guys become a couple?
It was kind of just a surprise. It never was something that I expected, I guess. Nic and I were always best friends and we spent every day together, working in the studio. I think we just have a lot in common.
Switching gears, how did you get Chris Brown and Tyga on “Do It Again”?
Growing up in Guam, there are not a lot of artists that come to perform live, so I didn’t go to a concert until I was about 16. J Boog [of B2K] came to Guam to perform, and he really inspired me. I’ll never forget his concert. I always wanted to make a record called “Do It Again” from then on. I pitched the idea to Nic and to Marc Griffin, and we created the record. [We] had it for two years and always knew there was something special about it. Then one day, Nic was in a session with Chris and Tyga, and I know all three guys well. So I went by to say, “What’s up?” And “Do It Again” got played. Chris and Tyga loved it, and the rest is history.
Circling back to when you sang for Drake and Kanye West, how did that feel?
Singing for Drake definitely was a bit nerve-wracking because I totally changed his song. I basically just kept his lyrics. But it was a great experience getting to hear Kanye say that he likes my style, and thinks that I’m an amazing singer. It was crazy. And getting to hear Drake say those same things was very special. I love both those artists.
Who are some of your musical inspirations?
I would always study Michael Jackson, Celine Dion and Beyoncé on YouTube. I would just sit on the computer and watch them over and over again. Those three are huge inspirations for me. Also, Ludovico Einaudi is a classical pianist that I’m really obsessed with.
How does it feel gaining success when you come from a small island like Guam?
I feel like I’m very out of place, like I don’t really belong. My whole family is still back in Guam. They come back and forth to LA and I try to get back there with my mom as often as I can. A lot of times I feel lost, but I know that all the hard work that I’ve been putting in is worth it, and I’m finally starting to see it pay off. That just kind of motivates me to keep going, and my whole family is very supportive. They keep me going.
What do you do when you feel lost?
I really think journaling is a great way to handle that. I have a journal and that’s where a lot of my songs come from. Anytime I’m feeling some type of way, I just write it out. Then that way, you can see what you’re feeling and you’re able to make sense of it better. It helps me clear my mind and figure it out.
What advice do you have for young girls trying to break into the entertainment industry?
No. 1 rule: Be yourself. You have to fight for what you want and don’t let anyone take you down. When people see something good, they sometimes don’t know how to handle it and try to make that good thing not good anymore. So you have to stay positive, keep your head up, and stay focused. If you believe in yourself, then other people will believe in you. And just fight for your dreams.