Interview: Pia Mia Talks “Princess” & New Music
After testing the waters as an independent artist, Pia Mia returns to the major label fold with “Princess.” An empowering banger built around a clever sample of Chris Brown’s “Kiss Kiss,” the 23-year-old’s latest single is an antidote for the doom and gloom of 2020. It’s catchy, upbeat and just a little outrageous. Guam’s greatest pop export already has the followup in the bag (a song called “Hot”) and is chipping away at her debut album. Oh, and she’s also writing a book that for Wattpad.
I recently spoke with Pia about “Princess,” her soaring After ballad “Bitter Love” and the direction of her new music. While she plans to mix things up with songs that showcase her vocals, the multi-hyphenate is focussing on rhythmic bops that make you feel good. We also talked about her book, The Princess Diaries: Sand, Glitter & Silicone, which is being rolled out chapter by chapter, and keeping sane during lockdown. Find out more about Pia’s multitude of activities in our Q&A below.
How is quarantine treating you?
I’m grateful to be healthy and safe and my family is too, but it’s been a lot, because I’ve been fully alone for over two months now. It’s a little difficult, but I’m trying to focus on the positive.
Have you been working or relaxing?
I’ve been trying to appreciate having so much time on my hands. I’ve started taking up the piano more, and I’ve tried messing around on the guitar and reading more books. I started drawing and watching movies I’ve always wanted to see. Of course, working on my vocals and finalizing the release of “Princess” and our next singles that are coming. I’ve been keeping myself busy, trying to be productive.
I’ve just been watching TV. It’s terrible.
I definitely have my days where I just feel like I don’t want to do anything. I let myself have those days, because it’s a hard time for everyone, so we don’t want to put that extra pressure on ourselves for those moments where we’re feeling extra down, you know?
Absolutely. The last time we spoke you were promoting “Touch.” A lot has happened since then.
Oh, my God, that’s so long ago. Basically what happened was I signed my first major label deal when I was 17. I just think the music industry changed a lot during that time. I grew a lot as a person, as an artist, as a woman. There were just some things that delayed the release of music and delayed the release of my album, so I decided to leave that partnership. I went independent for a while. I really wanted to just get some music out there and feed my fans. I know that they have been starving for more content and music.
I dropped “Bitter Love,” which was a really special song to me and I had wanted to drop that for a long time. When I saw how well “Bitter Love” did, that made me think, “Okay, I need to consider going back to a major label. Because that song deserves such a bigger platform.” Although it did really well independently, and I’m so grateful for the success that it did have, that just showed me that it could only be so big independently. I want this music that I make to be able to have the push that it deserves.
I’ll get back to “Bitter Love” because I love that song, but I need to ask you about “Princess.” It’s such a bop. How did you get the idea for the Chris Brown sample?
Thank you. I wrote then when I didn’t exactly know what was happening with my music. What was I going to do? I just wasn’t sure. I was unclear on where my career was going. I was just in this unsure moment in my life. One of my girlfriends who I hadn’t talked to in forever, hit me up and was like, “Hey, come over. I want to hang out.” She lived far away. I was driving the car for an hour and a half and I put on throwback songs. Chris Brown’s “Kiss Kiss” was one of the songs that came on.
I already had a studio session booked for that night, we were going to make something from scratch. When that song came on the car, I immediately knew what I was going to do when I got to the studio that night. When I got there, I just told the guys my idea. We started writing the song. It just felt really special to me. It just seemed like a very confident, sexy, powerful record. I made that record because that’s where I wanted to be in my life at that time. I was using the song to manifest those feelings to be real for me. Does that make sense?
It makes total sense.
So that’s how “Princess” came to be. I remember I was just so hyped that night in the studio. I was calling my family members. It felt really special.
What is it about “Kiss Kiss” that really resonates with you?
It just gave me this weird sense of relief. I don’t know, it gave me this energy where I just felt so good and happy. Even if things were unclear in my life at that time, that song just gave me the feeling that everything’s going to be okay. You’re a badass, everything that’s meant to be is going to fall into place. I just needed to relax and let things go naturally. I want people to feel that when they hear “Princess.” I want them to feel confident, and I want them to feel sexy. I want them to feel some sense of relief.
Is “Princess” reflective of your other new songs?
I think the songs that are coming are definitely in that same confident vibe. When you listen to the lyrics of “Princess,” I’m always down for people to interpret the song however they want, in whatever way. That’s what music is for. But for me, “Princess” isn’t literally about spending money on someone or having to prove your love by showing off your money. That’s not it at all. Someone could take me to get ice cream and I would be like, “Okay, that means so much to me.”
It’s just about loving that person and expressing your love however it is that you want to, however big or small. The songs that are coming definitely still have a confident, feel-good, sexy vibe to them.
Are you working on an EP or an album? I know you recorded a lot of songs over the years that didn’t come out.
It has been pretty crazy. I’ve made so many projects over the years. Yes, we’re almost done with the album. “Hot” is coming next. We’re very excited for that. I think people are going to be really happy with the way that we’re going to roll out the music, because it’s not going to be a once a year type of thing that they’re used to from me.
How has the COVID-19 crisis affected the rollout?
We were actually planning to drop “Princess” before the coronavirus pandemic happened. When it happened, we were like, “Okay, let’s pause. How do we want to release it now?” Because obviously when you’re dropping a single you want to shoot a music video and do radio promo. We would be doing this interview face-to-face and things like that. We’re definitely trying to get creative. We shot the “Princess” visualizer over FaceTime with Angelo Kritikos. When we came up with that idea, I was like, “Okay, I’m down for it.” I didn’t know how it would turn out, but Angelo is a genius.
A couple of these these quarantine videos are really great. They’re so personal and fun.
I was so happy with the way the “Princess” visualizer came out. When we made it, I was like, “Damn, why haven’t I been making videos like this just for myself, just for fun.” It’s such a great way to be creative and put fashion looks together, and makeup looks. It’s so easy to do. I don’t know why I never did it before. At the same time, you know I love to do real music videos.
When things get back to normal, will there be an official “Princess” video?
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Let’s talk about “Bitter Love,” which was from the movie After. Did you enjoy acting?
Yes, that was a really fun project for me to be on and I’m so happy that that was my first movie. It was so amazing to be able to tie “Bitter Love” into that platform, and have it be supported and so accepted by the After fans. I was really grateful for that. I’m open to acting, I would love to do more of it. I guess we’ll have to wait and see once quarantine is over.
Being on the soundtrack really helped people discover “Bitter Love.”
It was so perfect, because that was the first song that I wanted to put out independently. I knew I needed to put the song somewhere, I needed to give it some type of platform. I had been looking for the right place, and then I was shooting After and I brought it up to them. I was like, “This song could really tie in with the story line and make sense for Hardin and Tessa,” who are the two main characters of After. It was perfect.
A lot of your independent songs had a rap feature. Is that something that you’re going to continue with?
I’m always down. First of all, when I go into the studio you never know what you’re going to get. It’s always a vibe. I try to not put a label on it when we’re going to create something, because that’s meant to just be a free, flowing experience. I think that if we make a song and I hear someone on it, then we can try to figure that out. If not, we don’t have to have a feature every time. I think it just really is a case by case thing.
What about more ballads? “Bitter Love” was such a nice showcase for your voice.
Thank you. I grew up singing Celine Dion and Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Really singing vocal songs that are challenging. I love to have music like “Bitter Love.” I love to incorporate that into my sound, because that’s such a big part of who I am as an artist and a person. I love to use my voice in that way. I’ll definitely always have music like that. Of course, down the line when I get older, I want to probably go more towards that direction. For now, I’ll definitely always have a mix of that cool rhythmic vibe and then also those more classic ballad type of songs.
Who have you been working with on new music?
Wallis Lane produced “Princess.” I wrote it with Billy Walsh and J Lauryn.” Hot,” which is coming next was produced by Ben Billions. I’m trying to think. I’ve been in the studio with a lot of people that I love like The Futuristics, Scott Storch and Madison Love. This was all before quarantine happened. Which I’m so happy about, we got so many songs recorded. Now I’m able to focus on rolling things out.
What have you been listening to throughout quarantine?
Let’s see, I’ve been listening to a mixture of things. When The Weeknd’s album dropped, I was playing that back-to-back, but I’ve also been listening to Lukas Graham’s “Love Someone.” I love that song. “Love Ain’t Easy” by Prettyboyfredo is so good. I love Summer Walker, I love Doja Cat. “Say So” is amazing. Megan The Stallion’s “Savage” is amazing and the Beyoncé remix is crazy. I loved Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber’s “Stuck With You.” Then I’ll listen to old school stuff like Elvis Presley or classical piano. It’s a crazy mix.
I hear you also have a book coming out via Wattpad. Can you tell me more about it?
I’ve always written ever since I was a little girl. I’ve always kept journals and written poetry. Writing has been such a big creative outlet for me, for my whole life. I just dropped the prologue for my first fictional book series. It’s called The Princess Diaries: Sand, Glitter & Silicone. In quarantine, I found myself asking, “What’s going to happen in fashion and in music? Are things ever going to go back to normal?” Those are really hard questions to answer, so I found myself just turning back to things that I was always passionate about like writing.
I started writing and I really wanted to put it up on Wattpad because I love the engagement aspect of it. I love to be able to see the comments that people are making as I’m releasing the book. We’re releasing the prologue and then we’ll be going chapter by chapter. I just wanted to share some stories inside my heart, and just some flashes of my life maybe and some of my deepest fantasies. I just wanted to be able to reach out and get to know my fans better and give them a little glimpse into the life of Princess, who is the main character of the book.
You’re a mogul, you’re doing a little bit of everything.
Thank you. I just hope that people like it, and the response so far has been really positive. I’m excited to keep going with it.
Good luck with everything. I can’t wait to read the book.
Thank you so much.