New Orleans native Mia Borders is on her way to becoming the next big thing from the Big Easy. Her self described "funk-rock & soul" is gaining the attention of critics and industry tastemakers.
The April 2010 release of Borders' second full-length album, "Magnolia Blue," garnered her a nomination for Best Emerging Artist at the Big Easy Music Awards. Her performance that same year at the New Orleans JazzFest was broadcast coast to coast.
Nola.com called her "one of those rare young talents that can sing about life, love, and loss and make listeners feel it. With lyrics so personal, so mature, and so direct, she has established herself as an artist to watch."
Nooga.com (N): What should we expect Friday night at the concert in Chattanooga?
Mia Borders (MB): The show we're bringing on this trip has pretty much everything: rock, pop, soul, funk, blues. We're doing mostly originals, so people will be able to get to know me a little bit. We'll also be doing a few of my favorite songs from other artists, so people will get to know me that way, as well.
(N): You have just had to replace the band you have been playing with for the last 5 years. Who are you touring with now? How is it going with the new band? How did you find your musicians?
(MB): Losing the guys was pretty personally devastating. It was what needed to happen and what we all knew would eventually happen, but the way and when it happened, it still managed to take me by surprise and I ended up getting hurt. We all did. It's very much like a romantic relationship because of the personal nature of music, so to end it after 5 years was difficult to say the least. I'll always love those guys, but I'm really excited about my new boys. My managers are really great and helped me find most of the guys I play with now, so that was a tremendous relief for me. Playing with me this weekend will be Andrew Block on guitar, Peter Fuller on bass, and Michael Matthews on drums.
(N): You are now in week #10 of your "15 Week Challenge" where you are writing a song a week for fans to help pick what will be on your next CD, even though you already had written 15 songs that you were planning to record. It was your brother's idea, but why did you decide to make this a part of the process of putting together your next album? What do you give up conceptually by making a CD out of songs picked sort of at random -vs- putting together a collection of songs you wrote "as an album" and that you want/hear together as a full CD?
(MB): My brother is creative in a very different way than I am. He sees things in a more conceptual way and that's why we work well together. I was in a weird space after the band broke up and I was left with an album to do on my own and was feeling really overwhelmed. My brother has a way of shifting things around in my life to make it easier or more bearable for me and I think that the challenge was his way of helping me through that situation. It's been good for me to focus on working and I feel myself growing more and more each week, so that's pretty cool. The new songs will be pitted against the 15 songs I previously planned on recording, and the decision of which song will go against which is up to me, so I'm not completely giving up creative control. I won't do this for every album in the future, but since the fans helped me raise the money for the album by donating on Kickstarter, involving them in the whole process seemed natural. Usually, I choose songs on my own and trim the selection down with my brother and/or any musicians I'm working closely with at the time, and more than likely, that's what I'll go back to next time.
(N): How often do you usually write?
(MB): I usually write a song a week or every two weeks, so that's not really a big change. Recording it, however, is what takes up most of my time and that's what I've had to get used to throughout the challenge. I'm always writing and singing to myself, so it's nice to be able to force myself to turn those little tidbits that sometimes get left behind into full songs and see how they feel.
(N): You have had two sort of twists of fate in your life as an artist. The first was getting injured as a young athlete, which suddenly allowed you to focus on your artistic side of singing, composing and writing in high school. Then again, on your way to college to get into film making at Savannah College of Art and Design, Hurricane Katrina hit and you went home to help your family instead.
Do you ever think about those other two paths? Do you believe fate stepped in to guide you toward your current career and, are you are becoming who you are meant to be through music?
(MB): Music has always been such a huge part of my life; it was just a matter of prioritizing. Life got in the way in very convenient ways and sort of pushed music to the top of my list of priorities. I always struggled with the decision between being a professional athlete, filmmaker, or musician, and in retrospect, it seems as though I got some help with that decision from something bigger than myself. I'm grateful; I'm a very indecisive person.
(N:) On "Love Song", you sing about the difficulty of maintaining relationships that get in between you and your true love, music. Are you resigned to being cuddled up with your guitar and your music til the end? What does music provide you that nothing else, no one else, can? Do you want a family one day or do you even think about things like that?
(MB): Anyone who knows me knows that I've had baby fever for the past three years. Family is extremely important to me and when the time comes, I know I'll start one. I've heard over and over again from people in and out of the music industry that I have to make a choice between working and having a family, but I refuse to accept that. I know people that make it work, and I'm dedicated enough to both to do the same. More than likely, I'll adopt, which I'm excited about. I'm definitely not even near ready now, but it gives me something huge to look forward to. I'll cuddle up with my son and my guitar. No girls, though. The idea of having a teenage daughter like me at some point in my life is terrifying.
(N): Is the title track to your current CD, "Magnolia Blue", your song for New Orleans? Why do you say she is mean?
(MB): My song "Magnolia Blue" is my love song to New Orleans. I feel like I've had a long-term relationship with New Orleans since we've been through so many ups and down. I call the City "mean" because that's another way in which New Orleans is so tough. We're known for a lot of great stuff down here, but we're also known for not-so-great stuff like violence and corruption. Unfortunately, that's played out more and more in the national spotlight since Katrina, and I usually feel the need to be completely honest in my songs, so I addressed it. New Orleans isn't perfect, but it's perfect for me.
(N): You saw first hand the destruction after Katrina and have said your family lost a lot. You have experienced rebuilding your life as well as members of your family. How did that experience effect you as an artist? Have you written any songs in response to your experiences and what you witness, and continue to witness in New Orleans after the storm?
(MB): New Orleans is a tough town. I mean that in many ways. We're tough enough to survive not only one of the most horrific natural disasters in the world, but also the equally horrific man-made disaster that was the failure of the levees. We all lost a lot in terms of property and sentimental belongings, but obviously what effected us all the most was the loss of a huge part of our spirits. I wrote a lot after Katrina, but most songs I never even recorded. They all came from such a dark place; I was so angry and hurt and lost all at the same time. Some of those songs might come back someday, though. I'm in a more mature place now and the subject matter is still relevant enough that I could rework them.
(N): Is there anything you can say, knowing what it is like to have your world turn apart by mother nature, that might help someone reading this who is trying to keep it together in our area, after surviving the recent wave of tornadoes here? What helped you stay grounded?
(MB): In instances like this, it always feels like talking about the future is inappropriate. I know after Katrina, the last thing I wanted to hear was how we would all be okay later on down the road. Yes, we know it's true, and yes, we know the damage isn't irreparable, but it feels that way at the time. The only thing I can really say is that while living in the moment can be hard when all around you is so devastated, that moment will pass, and eventually, life rebuilds itself. It has a way of continuing whether you like it or not. For me, surrendering to that helped me move myself and my family forward. We're all back now and doing well.