Welcome to my new interview part of my website called “The State Of Things”
The” state of things” is an interview series conducted by industry veteran Jenifa Mayanja, label owner, producer, singer, songwriter, and dj to showcase a wide range of diverse viewpoints of working as a woman in the music business .
Whether our views converge or diverge this series aims to get to the heart of many burning mysteries and inspire, enlighten many more while create an interesting conversation between as many people who love, listen and work in the music industry as possible.
The State of Things Interview Singer/Songwriter Malena Perez
Where we talk about the state of things from women in the music business. We welcome all viewpoints about the pros and cons of being a woman working in a male dominated industry. We seek truth, expose myths, inspire change, educate up and coming talent, motivate human beings, and most of all share personal and professional experiences that have shaped the careers of each creative person that appears in these series..
It is with great pleasure we welcome Malena Perez
I have never personally met Ms. Perez and know only through her incredible instrument, the voice… and our interactions on facebook but it seems we share a kinship as singers and also as singers with a choral background. It is from this starting point that i begin my interview with Malena Perez
Q.Its great to get you in this series, so you have a very interesting personal background, you are originally from Atlanta, Georgia but you spent most of your school years growing up in a small town near Auburn, Alabama. You began singing at an early age and along with your own musical talents, your parents were both involved in music so you were versed to begin a professional career as a singer/songwriter..What would you say was a defining moment or person that helped transition you to being a professional singer/songwriter
A. I feel it was the guidance and support of various people in the Atlanta music community that helped me make this transition. Leading up to beginning my career as a recording artist, I was encouraged in my songwriting by the first producers I worked with in Atlanta, Michael Johnson and J. Stroke (Jay Ivcevich), about 11 years ago. They both gave me a chance and encouraged me to record my songs. The first song I recorded was a demo with Jay called “Oriente”, a sort of free-form song I wrote to a jazzy track that he had given me. We started circulating it around, and around the same time I met producer Michael Johnson. We collaborated on my first 12″ vinyl single, “Free To Fly”, which was released on DJ Kemit’s Divine Recordings label in 2004. We also wrote and produced my first album, which was a limited edition CDR called Free To Fly. Michael put a wonderful band together and we did shows with five and sometimes up to eight pieces including cello and violin and backing vocalists. I will always be grateful for the loving support of the Atlanta community around the time when I first began releasing music, especially independent music store Moods Music and DJ Jamal Ahmad of WCLK’s “Sounds Of Universal Love” & “The S.O.U.L. of Jazz”. Around that time Groove Distribution reached out offering to press and distribute a full album/CD along with vinyl singles. So I started working on the next album “Stars” and things went from there.
Q.I dont know about you but as a young girl as i fell more into singing and the sound of my voice i had visions in my mind of what kind of singing i wanted to do when i grew up and where i would perform it and with who lol.. what visions did you have for yourself as a singer coming up?
A. Ha. I think I had different ideas at different times. Growing up I loved pop and R&B and looked up to singers like Whitney Houston and groups like En Vogue and SWV. I think I wanted to do stuff like that. In high school I started doing musical theater and dreamt of doing Broadway shows.
Q. So what was your introduction to house music and the scene in New York, you mentioned about going to Cielo..how did that come about for you getting into club music?
A.I lived in New York around 2006-08 and was working with NYC house producers at that time. Cielo is a big part of the house community and I often went to Roots and Deep Space parties to dance and connect with folks. I miss that and the sound system there
Q.I hear a lot of singers over the years in club music have been offered crappy deals and taken advantage of in business. Is it important for you to feel on top of what is going on the business end of things when you are contributing your writer/singing energy to a project?
A.Yes it’s always nice to feel respected and kept in the loop. As artists often we would rather focus on the art as ultimately money isn’t the driving force behind what we do, but if compensation is involved, I feel it’s good to ask questions and get clear from the start about how things are going to go.
Q.What qualities are most important to you when making a decision to get down with a particular producer to make a record together?
A. A feeling of mutual respect and creating from the heart, a common vision for what’s being created while remaining open to new ideas and experimentation. Each person brings a unique contribution to the table and it’s wonderful when people can welcome each other’s creative process and work together versus trying to fit into a fixed concept.
Q.If you have worked or collaborated with other women in your profession on music projects have you found some differences in how creative and business matters are handled or not? if so was the experience a learning one or maybe a downer..
A.I’ve had beautiful and positive experiences working with women, collaborative camaraderie and business matters handled with ease.
Q.In the music industry i think in particular in electronic music one of the most persistent myths i have found is that the majority of women in the industry are primarily songwriters and or singers. In my experience for example i am also a producer yet it seems in my career most people that express interest in collaborating with me to, just want me to sing over their stuff instead of maybe collaborating from a producer standpoint in some cases many men have wondered aloud to me if my husband produces my music for me..i am curious for you as a singer/songwriter if collaborating with a producer(s) over the years has put you in situations in the studio where you’re trying to express ideas from a production standpoint and ignored simply of your status as just the singer? and if you thought it might be from a sexist viewpoint or maybe for other reasons..
A.There have been a few situations in which I’ve felt not heard or taken seriously. I don’t know that it was intentionally sexist. But those experiences inspire me to keep moving toward what I do want, i.e. to work with people with a shared mutual respect and who will welcome ideas in a collaborative way.
Q.You have traveled and lived in quite a few places in the world New York, Portugal, LA, Berlin, in particular you mentioned that living in Berlin really stripped you down, how did your travels come about, and what was it about Berlin in particular that transformed you?
A.I felt such freedom in leaving a corporate job several years ago and have just wanted to experience as much of life as possible. I’ve always loved being in new places, experiencing culture and observing the nuances of different places, absorbing language. Each place has brought new insight and inspiration and different themes musically and lyrically and has helped me grow on a deeper level. Berlin is dear to my heart as it is such a beautiful city to unfold with so much artistic richness. I experienced a quiet sense of calm in Berlin that I hadn’t really felt living in the United States. The relatively lower cost of living allowed for more time to explore and develop other interests, and overall I began to experience a more peaceful, mindful way of life. I think when we’re in an environment that is free from a lot of the programming we grew up with and the expectations and norms we’ve believed we were supposed to adhere to or attain, we are more free to tap into who we are, what we are passionate about, what we have to offer.
Q.So what direction is your music going for the next projects you are involved in, i know you are busy working on a new album?
A. It’s going in a couple directions… my solo project is a mix of soul, electronica, live instrumentation and heavier, grittier beats, mostly midtempo to downtempo. I’m also working on a collaborative electronic project with some interesting international producers, it has sort of a mellow emo vibe.
Q.Do you have any words of wisdom to aspiring singers/songwriters?
A.If you are just getting started, ask to meet with someone who is on the path you wish to be on and accessible enough to talk with you about their journey. I did this with a couple of singer/songwriters that I looked up to and it was so motivating and left me feeling encouraged and inspired.
Let your natural creative process guide you and try not to judge what you’re creating, remembering that everyone is here with a unique gift and contribution. And don’t worry if you don’t see yourself represented in the current musical landscape. You will fill the space that is meant just for you.
thank you so much for sharing your time with us
Current and Upcoming Releases
Love Is (Black Jazz Consortium, Codes and Metaphors 3, Soul People Music)
Offering (Album) – tbd
Naia (EP) – Noisy Meditation, 11/2013