When Viaa took the stage at the women centered event, The Box, in Beverly Hills, the chatter of the audience was immediately hushed as Viaa along with her two backup singers lured us in with a gorgeous blend of harmonies. As the set progressed, I found myself doing a little two step and body roll to the reminder her beautiful song “Blind Love” brought... she sang “if you look into the light minds start to open”.
I looked around the room and realized I was not alone in being captivated by the balance of confidence and vulnerability she held onstage. To close out the short set, she invited the audience to sing along to the chorus of her new single, “Crash” to which we happily obliged.
Needless to say, by the end of the set I was excited to get to sit down with Viaa, and learn more about who she is and what she has in store for us!
TGM: How long have you been making music?
V: Since I was little. I sang for a long time and then I started making music when I was in high school. I was making stuff I didn’t really like or connect with. I was more making stuff I thought people would want to hear out of me. So I took a little bit of a break, tried some other career paths, but it never felt the same as music. When I decided I wanted to get back into music, it happened super naturally and organically. I started singing back up and met people through that— that helped me start making my own music again.
TGM: When did the music shift from unauthentic to truly you?
V: The shift came when I decided that if I ever made music again it was going to be music that I could stand behind and really be proud of. If I wasn’t making that then I wasn’t going to do it at all. If I am going to work with a musician or a producer it has to feel right, it has to feel real and genuine. That’s the bottom line. That’s the difference, I'm bringing my full self now.
TGM: Now that you have all this experience, if you could go back to your high school self that just started making music, what would you tell her?
V: I would tell me to be patient with myself, to continue to learn more about music. Also to keep in mind that the only way you could really feel good and empowered is first, be your authentic self and secondly, when you create a foundation of good people and good energy around you. At the time I didn’t really understand that that was important but now I realize it is extremely necessary. It’s one of the things that keep me going in hard times with my career now.
TGM: You talk a little bit about that with your song, “Blind Love”, when you were speaking about focusing and letting go of the negative, that resonated with me. Can you speak more about your inspiration for that song?
V: At the time when I wrote “Blind Love” I was in this relationship where I felt that I had to prove myself as a person and artist, which is totally not what you should feel when you’re in a relationship... but that’s what I was feeling. I equated that to how it is in the music industry. You get so many “No's”. That can totally wear you down and I wanted to make a song that reminded me to feel empowered within myself. Being a musician is already totally masochistic. You’re entering into this world where so many people aren’t going to be into you, there are going to be haters, they’re going to try to tear you down, especially when you start building yourself up. I just wanted to remind myself that none of that matters. It’s about how you feel and your belief in yourself. That also plays into womanhood. Take a look at the political climate right now. We’re our only allies. We have to focus on how we can make our lives better as women, cause we might be the only people looking out for us.
TGM: How is it being a woman in a field that is still dominated by men?
V: I started off back-up singing for bands that were all male. I toured with them and it was an amazing experience but it definitely opened my eyes to what it was like to be in a man’s world. Even though I’m talented and a professional person, some men just don’t see me that way. They just see me as someone to get with instead of as an artist. That has been fuel for what I write & what I’ve aligned myself with.
TGM: How does being a woman of color influence your music and your business?
V: What it means to be a woman of color has come to me later in life. When I was younger I was extremely flexible with how I navigated spaces. I’m biracial, White and Black, so sometimes I was too White for the Black kids and too Black for the White kids, so I definitely had to become this chameleon. Sometimes in a room, I have privilege because of my light skin. Other times, I don’t have those privileges because I am a seen as a woman of color. I take all of this into consideration as I work in this industry. There are some aspects that work in my favor and other things I have to fight for, which is fine cause we will always rise and make it to the top.
TGM: As an artist, authenticity seems to be really important to you. So how would you describe your style & what sets you apart from other artists?
V: One of the biggest influences on me growing up was FeFe Dobson. She was a mixed girl that was doing Emo-Punk-Pop. It was really cool cause here was a woman of color doing something that wasn’t the norm of R&B and Hip-Hop. I took that, along with the R&B and Hip-Hop influences I had and realized I could do whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to fit in one box just because it was expected of me. I could represent all different genres and aspects of music. I took that to heart and decided to make the music I like and I want to hear. And that doesn’t have to mean just one genre, it means blending different genres together.
TGM: As you’re making music, where do you draw inspiration?
V: I draw inspiration from daily life. I’ll end up writing in notes on my phone on something I heard or experienced during the day. It's small moments that can also be so profound if you stop & look. Musically I take cues from Sade, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Ocean, Dev Hynes, and a lot of 80’s artists.
TGM: What are you listening to right now?
V: Amber Mark! I love her. She just put out a new EP which is great. I always listen to Sade, I always listen to Kendrick Lamar. Those have been my staples over the last year.
TGM: Who are some of your dream collaborators?
V: Dev Hynes! I think we would fuck some shit up together. I would love to work with Kanye despite his problematic stuff right now, he’s been a huge inspiration for me. I would love to work with him in a studio. Also Stevie Nicks or Jonnie Mitchell, just to understand how they write songs and to see their process.
TGM: Why did you choose music as the format to express yourself?
V: I have a hard time connecting with people on a day to day basis. Music is an outlet I can use to express how I’m feeling, be cathartic with something I'm experiencing, show who I am. I’m an awkward person. Music is an alter ego for me to connect with people & be vulnerable in a way I don’t feel on a regular basis. It gives me that power & I hope people appreciate it and connect with it.
TGM: Where do you see yourself going musically in the next few years?
V: I would love to work with some new producers to keep building my sound. I would love to have more partnerships with TV networks, films, other artists & brands that promote the same things that I really believe in. I want to make music that helps people and inspires them, not just something superficial. I want to make something deeper that connects me to my audience.