In our interview with Pia Mia, the artist shares how “Princess” came to be, backstories behind new music, and other creative outlets for her.
Saying 23-year-old artist Pia Mia has done it all would be an understatement. After being in the music industry for several years and starting out on YouTube, her latest single “Princess” serves as a testament to her ability to create real party jams — with a deeper lyrical layer underneath.
On top of her musical releases, Pia Mia has expanded into other artistic forms. She took an acting part in 2019’s After as well as self-publishing her own book: The Princess Diaries: Sand, Glitter & Silicone which released on Wattpad this year.
In an interview with Atwood Magazine, Pia Mia discusses both her lyrical and literary inspirations, goals for the future, new music, and creative endeavors!
Stream: “Princess’ – Pia Mia
A CONVERSATION WITH PIA MIA
Atwood Magazine: Hey Pia! How are you doing?
Pia Mia: I’m chilling. How are you.
Good, about the same. Are you currently in LA?
Pia Mia: I’m in LA, in my condo, and I’ve been here for like over two months now.
Have you taken up any new activities to kind of pass the time?
Pia Mia: Actually, yeah! I started getting a little more into piano and guitar, which I have always dabbled around with, but I guess didn’t really have enough time to spend to really get into it and learn. Of course, I’m still new, but I’ve been having a lot of fun doing that. I’ve been reading books and watching movies that I always wanted to see. I started playing Animal Crossing on Nintendo Switch which is really fun. And then, you know, of course, doing the things that I always do, like, working on my voice or planning rollouts, just things like that.
So you've been pretty busy overall?
Pia Mia: Yeah, I’ve been trying to keep myself busy. I just know, in regular life, when I don’t have anything to do, it makes me really anxious. I always like to try to keep myself working or growing, whether that’s like for my career or just mentally, and as a person. I like to always have something to do. But of course, I have moments too where I just want to chill out and look on my phone or, you know, not do something that’s so productive.
More like Animal Crossing.
Pia Mia: Exactly.
Watch: “Princess” – Pia Mia
You mentioned you've been reading a few books. Any ones specifically?
Pia Mia: One book that really stood out to me during quarantine is called Many Lives, Many Masters. And I blew through this book so quickly. It’s not a fictional book. It’s based on this psychiatrist who had this patient come in and she was having all these like major issues. He actually started hypnotizing her to help her through her traumas and just things that she was going through to try to help her understand why she’s feeling this way or having these anxieties. I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone if they want to read it. But they have a really cool spiritual experience during this healing process. I don’t want to say too much cos I don’t want to ruin it, but it’s really easy to read and it keeps your interest and goes by really fast. That was one that I love.
Do you lean more, as a reader, towards nonfiction, compared to fiction?
Pia Mia: Not necessarily, I like to play. I like to read both to play around, you know? It just depends on the mood I’m in. My grandpa told me to start reading this book called “Playing For Pizza,” which is a fictional book, and it’s about this football player who messes up majorly in a serious game. So, he ends up going to Italy. I also don’t want to spoil this book, but it’s more of a fun book, where he starts playing sports in Italy and he bonds with his teammates over these delicious Italian meals with wine. They, you know, stay up all night talking and eating. And then, during the days, they train and play their games and stuff.
Yeah, I mean both books, in their own way, sound really relaxing?
Pia Mia: Yeah. I also love this book called The Couple Next Door. And it’s… I guess I’m not sure, I think it would be classified as a thriller. Like a drama/mystery. That was really fun too. That’s definitely not as relaxing, but still a super fun read.
You mentioned shows as well. Are there any things you've been watching specifically for?
Pia Mia: Oh, yeah girl. I got obsessed with Ozark, which I know had multiple seasons. But I had never watched any of them, so that was fun for me to binge-watch. And then I also binge-watched Money Heist. I just finished Never Have I Ever on Netflix, which was so hilarious. I found myself on an emotional roller coaster watching that show, like one minute I’d be dying laughing and the next minute I’d just be sobbing. So, it was pretty good.
Yeah, that show’s very different compared to Money Heist.
Pia Mia: I know right, like wildly different. but both still so good. I’ve also been writing a fictional book series on Wattpad, so I’ve been releasing chapters weekly. I dropped the first part of the book, the prologue. I dropped that with “Princess,” so that’s been taking up a lot of my time too.
Was that something you had already written? Or did you start the writing process for the book in quarantine?
Pia Mia: Well, I’ve always written. I’ve always wanted to write a book like this. I’d say I really got it fleshed out and more put together I guess during quarantine, so I’m still writing it as I’m going. It’s not officially done, but that’s what I love about it is, since I’m putting it on Wattpad, I have the freedom to make my edits as I go. I can also see the people that are reading it. They can comment, so it’s an interactive site. You can leave links. You can leave photos. So, it’s a really fun way to engage with them and just see how they’re taking the story and how they’re interpreting it and what they want to see or don’t want to see. It’s fiction though. That’s been fun for me too.
That was going to lead into a few of my other questions. I know you mentioned it was fiction, but parts of the book, especially based on the initial description, felt very autobiographical. Does it blend some personal experiences as well?
Pia Mia: I did kind of want to… Obviously, it’s inspired by things I’ve read or seen or whatever, in life. It is fictional, but I did want Princess to have little pieces of me — like we’re the same age, she’s also from Guam. I go by Princess Pia Mia; her name is Princess. So, there are little things, similarities between her and me, but they are fictional stories, like the things that are happening in the book.
It was also tied to the release of your song “Princess.” Did any aspects of the book inspire the songwriting process?
Pia Mia: I had the song done a while ago. The song inspiration for “Princess” was.. I’ll tell you the backstory of what happened and how I came up with the “Kiss Kiss” sample and everything, so this is how it happened. I had started working with Electric Feel, and I had not yet signed to Republic. I was kind of in this place of my life where I was figuring out what it was going to look like: what was my career gonna look like, who was going to be the major label. I was trying to figure out what’s the vision of my life right now.
I was trying to understand what was going on because I’ve had so many ups-and-downs and so many different experiences in my career, that this was a point where I could tell it was going to be a turning point for me. So, I was in this place where I was kind of feeling unsure, so that took me forever to say, so sorry. One of my girlfriends who I hadn’t talked to in a while, hit me up. She was like, “Come over, I want to hang out.” She lives like an hour or something away from me. So, I get in the car and I put on throwback songs and “Kiss Kiss” comes on the speakers. I instantly knew what I was going to do in the studio that night. I had already had a studio session booked for that night at Electric Feel, and I knew what I was going to do. I just had all this inspiration flowing from the car ride, listening to “Kiss Kiss,” just feeling those throwback vibes.
When I got to the studio, I just explained my idea that I wanted to do a sample. This is what I wanted it to say and this is how I want it to feel. The more that we started writing it, more playing it back, and the more I was cutting it and laying harmonies, the more that it came together and it felt special to me. It just felt like the vision that I had had in my head when I was driving the car had fully come to life. And you know I love Chris and I love T-Pain, so.
In regards to the song sampling, do you find in general a greater inspiration in songs from the early 2000s?
Pia Mia: I think I was definitely inspired by it. I don’t think all of my music is inspired by that. I like to make new fresh stuff, just in the studio from scratch. I like to write from my journal that I keep. My inspiration for the music really comes in so many different forms. It really depends day-to-day how I’m feeling and just what I’m going through. You know, I could watch a movie and that could influence the type of music that I want to make. It’s such a free-flowing process. Music is just, obviously such a creative thing, that I don’t really like to put any type of orders on it or put myself in a box at all.
But I definitely, if I get a spark of inspiration, I’ll go to the studio and get it out, whatever the vibe might be. Sometimes it’s something we love and sometimes it’s something that we might not feel fits right on the project or maybe it’s not right for this time, but you really never know. That’s why you gotta just get it out.
Was “Princess” more of a longer process in terms of building the song?
Pia Mia: We wrote the song, I would say in, like, an hour. I just knew a little, like I knew the details that I wanted to put into the song that would make it really personal to me, like “He called me Honey Baby.” “Honey Baby” is an island song that I love. “You know I’m the princess.” You know, Princess Pia Mia, everyone’s really kind of called me Princess, my whole life. “6000 miles away chillin’ on an island.” I’m from the island of Guam and 6000 miles from Los Angeles. So, I had a lot of things that I wanted to say. Then, the overall concept of the song, I wanted it to be like: when you love someone, when I love someone, I like to take care of them. Whether that’s taking them for ice cream or taking them out to a movie or to dinner or hanging out at home or whatever that is.
However you want to show your love or take care of that person that you’re with, that’s kind of the vibe that I wanted to put into the song. Although the song lyrics, if you take them literally, are talking about spending money on someone. That’s cool, and that’s the vibe that I was in when I was in the studio and that was the mood, but it doesn’t have to be taken literally. You can express your love in a big way or in a small way, spend money or you don’t have to. I hope people can interpret that in their own way, and see where I’m coming from with that.
So it's able to have, you know, a song with a bunch of different meanings across so many different people and relationships.
Pia Mia: Yeah, totally, and I think that can go for any type of concept of the song. I think music is so creative. It is such a universal language for everyone. It really brings people together. The coolest thing is that anyone can interpret any song how they want and all that matters is that it relates to them however they want it to.
You also created an at-home visualizer to accompany the song. Was that a strange adjustment shifting from traditional past music videos or not as much?
Pia Mia: It was definitely different. I have never tried a visualizer before and I had definitely never done any type of visual like this. What was so cool about it is, we shot it over FaceTime. So Angelo, who was the director, he just literally called me on FaceTime. I had him on my computer and he just recorded whatever we were doing. We just put the camera in different places and we put those neon lights on. It was such a vibe. What was so cool is, I put together this how-to, to make a “Princess” visualizer, which I’m going to put on my stories and like across my socials because it was such a fun, creative outlet that I didn’t even realize was that easy to do. When we were shooting it, I was like, “Well, why don’t I do this all the time? This is so fun to make just for yourself or to make it for your friends or you can post it if you want or you don’t have to post it.” So, I’m gonna post the how-to probably in the next couple days and, hopefully, that can be like a light for people during this time when we’re all stuck at home, you know.
I read a previous interview that you teased a little bit about a new song “Hot”. Are you able to discuss anything about that yet?
Pia Mia: I can’t give you any of the juicy details on “Hot” yet, but it’s definitely coming. I’m so excited to be partnered with Electric Feel and Republic and Troy Carter. I just feel very excited to finally be dropping music consistently and to be partnered with these people who understand me and see me for the artist that I am and the person that I am and understand my vision and my creativity.
Yeah, because you've also been around the music business for a couple of years. You started posting covers on YouTube. Is there any advice you would give to your younger self or others just starting out?
Pia Mia: Let me think. I would say… There are a few important things I think people should keep in mind or do or whatever. So I would say, you should always be kind. You should always be authentic to yourself. You should always be honest. You should stick to your creative, stick to who you feel you are, stick to what you want to say, and what you want to do and what you want to sound like and how you want to use your voice. Really just try to find people that understand and see you for who you are without you having to overly explain yourself. I feel like when you find the right team, they’re going to get you off the bat. You might want to explain where you’re at with it, and they should be able to be on the same energy level as you and understand where you’re coming from and see your vision.
And, you know, understand that, whatever career path you’re taking, it’s never going to be just a straight, “Okay, this is what I want to do and now I’m having major success and I’m the best at what I’m doing and I’m reaching all these goals that I’ve set for myself.” it’s always a work in progress, there’s always work to do. There’s always going to be ups-and-downs. You just have to remember if this is your dream and this is your passion, try to be present in the moment and enjoy the journey and appreciate the people that are around you and supporting you.
Watch: “Princess (lyric video)” – Pia Mia
Was that something that you experienced? You know, not connecting creatively, or like presenting your vision, before Electric Feel and Republic?
Pia Mia: I would say that I think definitely I’ve had experiences in all the years I’ve been here in LA. You know, I’ve taken meetings with people or people have wanted to work on the project. We haven’t seen eye to eye on the creative and on the vision and I think that’s totally normal. You have to go through that kind of stuff to find your right people.
Do you ever go back and watch your old covers on YouTube at all?
Pia Mia: Um, I do. Yeah, I like to go back and look at them, especially ones from when I was little. There’s this one that I remember I posted. I think I posted it for New Year’s. I think I was 11 or 12 and I was performing for this Cinderella scholarship pageant which was happening on Guam. I think the reason that this cover sticks out to me is because number one: I didn’t grow up doing pageants. I had never done pageants before and the only reason I did that one because there was a talent portion of it. And at that time, I was living on Guam and I was singing anywhere I could sing, because I knew that this was my dream.
I just wanted to do it anywhere and everywhere I could. So, that was one of the places I could do it. I ended up winning that pageant and then I went to Dallas. It was an international Cinderella scholarship pageant. Sorry if this story is going on way too long. I just wanted to tell it to you because I think you’ll think it’s interesting or maybe you won’t but I’ll just tell it to you anyway. So we go to Dallas, it’s international. Everyone from all over the place is there performing. I just remember I sang a song from Les Miserables, and my costume was a ragged dirty costume. I made it look like there was dirt on my face and I was singing a Les Miserables song.
Everyone else around me was wearing these beautiful tutus and like their hair was done and their makeup was on, their eyelashes and their everything. It was so sparkly and glamorous and I had just come to this pageant in a totally different vibe. I lowkey felt so out of place, but I didn’t care because I just wanted to perform. That was what made me happy and I ended up winning overall talent internationally in this pageant, which was such a big deal to me at that time. I think that that was one of the reasons that I kept pushing forward and wanting to explore pursuing music as a real career. I mean, at this time I was like 11 or 12, I was so young, but I knew that was what I wanted to do. I was doing it anywhere and everywhere that I could. And I was trying to follow the signs.
No, it's all good. I love hearing longer anecdotes from different people and their past memories. Were you a big theater kid growing up?
Pia Mia: Yeah, I was a theater kid. That’s how I started singing. I started singing when I was eight years old in a school play for Cinderella. And I was such a shy kid. Growing up, I got carried into school, literally, until third grade. In third grade, I started singing and I had gone to audition for this play at school. I auditioned for it because all the other girls were going to audition and I just, you know, I wanted to have friends and I wanted to fit in and be cool. And so I went to audition for this play, and I ended up getting the main role of Cinderella. That’s really when it clicked for me that I felt like music was what I should do. That was kind of the start of it. I always did the school musical theater program. I started singing in choir, adult choirs. I started singing for government events all over the island. Yeah, Cinderella is really what sparked that.
When you moved to LA initially, did you move with your entire family? Was that transition I guess from one place to another daunting at all?
Pia Mia: So when I came to LA I was 13, I never was meant to officially move here. I had basically maxed out everywhere I could perform on the island, and I really was telling my parents I wanted to just explore the music industry to see what it’s about. I had never been in a recording studio. I had never seen how songs were written. I didn’t know anything. So, my parents were like, “Okay, you have to maintain straight A’s and you can go to LA for three months as a learning experience.
I came with my mom, and almost immediately I got signed by Babyface. That happened because I was eating at Urth Cafe, which is this little cafe on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. I remember I was wearing a really cool outfit that day. I think it was one of Babyface’s producer’s wives that came up to me and she was like, “Oh would you happen to be a singer?” I was like, “Yeah,” and so we exchanged information. I ended up meeting with them and signing to them. That was my first time ever working in a studio seeing how songs were written. And that was a production deal that I was in for like a year. From there, things just kind of kept falling into place. Like I said earlier, I was just always trying to follow the signs and you know see is this something that I’m good at, is this something I can really do? Is this realistic for me?
I just kept going and so I really never left. My whole family is still on Guam and my parents are still together. My mom and I, we go back and forth three or four times a year. My dad and my siblings come back and forth and my grandpa and my aunties and uncles and it’s a whole thing. We all make it work. I’m so grateful that my siblings and my family have all supported me in my dream, and encouraged me to fight for it.
Was it strange and surreal, at the same time, I guess being around all those big names suddenly at such a young age?
Pia Mia: I was never really like a starstruck person, I like, I don’t remember ever feeling, and even now I don’t ever feel like, “Oh my god, like so and so’s here.” I just, that’s never really been my vibe. I think maybe because I’ve always had such a strong work ethic. That’s what makes me happy and that’s what makes me excited, not really big names if that makes sense.
Do you have a favorite city that you've played or a place you hope to visit on tour eventually?
Pia Mia: I’ve had so much fun. Well, see, this is hard to pick one favorite place because I’ve performed so many places around the world, but I will say I always have a great time performing in Australia and I love performing around the UK. You know, it’s so hard though, because I remember I did a New Year’s performance in Japan one year and that was incredible. I don’t know. I think every place brings something different, so I hope I can travel the world and perform more and just have more great experiences like that.
Do you have a favorite specific memory from any of those places that you've toured?
Pia Mia: I think the coolest thing about touring and performing is being able to do meet and greets and see the fans before the show and then get to go out there and see all their faces in the audience. I used to throw out these bandanas. I was really into bandanas at one point in my career and I would throw them out into the crowd and it would be so cool to see the fans send or tweet me pictures with them wearing the bandana from the show. I just love to see them. I love to hug them and talk to them in the meet and greets and see their faces during the live part of the show. You know, just being up there, I love the live aspect of the music industry. It’s I think my favorite part.
I want to talk a little bit about the experience of seeing past singles particularly, “Do It Again” starting to trend on Tik Tok. What has that experience been like for you?
Pia Mia: That was super exciting to me because before quarantine happened, we were gonna put “Princess” out. We were getting ready to shoot the music video and figuring out how we’re gonna roll it out and then quarantine happens. So, we were like, “Okay, let’s pause and redecide how we want to do everything.” And then “Do It Again” organically started going viral on Tik Tok which was wild. I saw Noah Schnapp created the dance, which he’s so dope and I love him and shout out to him for picking the song. I have said this so many times, like, I would love to know the backstory on why he picked that song.
Then I saw Charli and Addison doing it. I love those girls and they’re also super cool and talented. I love to see all of these guys’ videos on Tik Tok. When I saw “Do It Again” having its own moment and kind of having a resurgence, I was super excited and I was surprised and I was grateful. I think that that was the perfect moment to happen right before “Princess” came out. It was cool to see people’s reactions too, because some people already knew the song and they were like, “Wow, we’re so happy that this is happening again.” And then some people, it was new for them, they’re like, “Wow, I never heard this before, but it still feels super relevant, even though it’s a five or six-year-old song.
Literally like two nights ago, J-Lo and Jimmy Fallon were doing the dance, doing the “Do It Again” Tik Tok challenge and they did it five times. When I saw J-Lo on Jimmy Fallon, I was like, “What is happening? They are living their best lives doing this thing.” I’m happy that the song went viral. I’m happy that it had a moment again. It has always been one of my favorite songs. It’s bringing people happiness and a little bit of an escape and I hope that “Princess” is doing the same thing.
So, you're a musician, an actor, a writer, and have even been featured basically throughout fashion. Are there any other possible creative outlets you consider expanding them to one day?
Pia Mia: Oh girl, I do. I love beauty. I’ve always loved beauty. I mean, I don’t even know. I think I could list you a laundry list of things that I want to do. Of course, music is always my priority and my number one — my baby, my heart, and my soul, so that will always be my number one. But this is just the beginning and I’m still growing. I’m still learning. I think that there’s definitely more cool creative stuff in the works.
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