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Conversations with Mia Morris Nashville Voyager

Hi Mia, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today? I was into music from the very beginning probably because listening and talking about music was just something we did often in my house growing up. By the time I was ten years old, I had taken some piano lessons, had a ukulele, sang in some school plays, made up some silly songs and recorded a bunch of ridiculous videos with my big brother. One day I found a drum set in my neighbor’s garage. From then on, I spent most days playing drums and collecting other instruments to experiment with to make noise in YouTube videos. By the time I was 13, I had begun making full recordings and videos of songs where I would play every instrument. They were mostly covers of old songs that I just loved or songs with great drum parts where I would play along with the song. A few of the videos went viral and I began to get calls from bands and instructors about shows and other opportunities. A couple of those things brought me from Indianapolis to Nashville. First, I met Jeffery Clemens when I played with G Love & Special Sauce at a club and then Chester Thompson who was an adjunct professor at Belmont began to give me some lessons. My parents had been considering a move and we ended up in Nashville. I was going into 7th grade and by the time I started high school, I had met a ton of musicians and picked up lots of gigs including a house position on cajon playing for the Song Suffragettes at the Listening Room downtown every Monday night. In 2019, I played as a sideman for over 120 artists on various instruments and bgv’s. Some were well-established legacy acts with #1 songs but many were newer artists just trying to break through playing around Nashville. In the last two years, I focused most of my time and efforts on writing, recording and releasing my own music. I still play for other artists but don’t book shows so often that I can’t get my projects released. I’ve released around 40 singles and even more videos in the last two years. Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way? It goes without saying that everything changed in 2020 when live shows disappeared but I took all that extra time to write and record. I’m very lucky as multi-instrumentalist and writer to be able to create a song from idea to release and never have to leave my basement. It’s also no small factor that because I’m only 17, I still live in my parents’ house and my expenses are minimal. The real struggle is a much bigger question and longer answer and mostly revolves around the fact that music is now free. I feel very grateful that I live in a town where I’ve been able to get so much work making noises on musical instruments but it’s a very difficult business to be in for making money. I get to see that in many forms playing for so many different artists in different stages of their careers. Artists on labels have almost no chance of ever paying off the debt they get into and if they are among the few percent that eventually do, they will be lucky to get 20 cents of every dollar that’s made. Artists that had hits and careers back in the 90’s are now trying to operate in a totally different music business that is more about social media than songwriting. There are no records, tapes or CD’s and radio airplay is now only a small part of reaching fans. All of the artists that are independent are competing with 60,000 other songs that are uploaded every day to the streaming services. Studios, studio musicians, recording equipment, publishing deals and just about everything except playing live shows is a tiny version of what it was when people still bought their music. I talk a lot about the music business on my TikTok which is sort of a strange way to use TT but I could talk about the subject for hours. I think what really fascinates me about the business is how different the reality is to what it pretends to be. The people that create the actual product (an original song) make only a tiny portion of any money that is made. Streaming has begun to bring some money back into music-making but the vast majority of those gains still go to 3 very large companies. I’m glad the music business is constantly changing and I’m excited to see new ways for creators to find consumers without as many gatekeepers in between. It’s both a very exciting and challenging time to be making art of any kind and that’s all I want to do. Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work? One thing that has been unique about my music career has always been my age. I’m actually grateful that with every birthday it’s less of the story however. I stopped posting my age on video uploads around 13 because I no longer wanted to be just “good for my age”. When I came to Nashville, I wanted to be hired and collaborated with because I made the music better when I was a part of it. Some would say being a multi-instrumentalist is unique but it really isn’t in a music town like Nashville. One thing that sets me apart is the style of music I write and release. I make rock or alternative pop music and while you can find a little bit of everything in this town, country music is still what is getting made and played more than anything else in Nashville. As far as something I’m proud of, I would say I’m proud of how prepared I usually am when people hire me and I’m proud of how my writing has grown over the last year. What does success mean to you? Wow, for me that’s a complicated question when it comes to music. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I finish writing, recording and mixing an original song. However, I also immediately want to get those songs out into the world and hope a bunch of people hear them. The fact that I get to spend most of my time playing music feels successful but I’m not going to lie, I want to be a rockstar, playing my music to huge crowds and hearing them sing the songs I wrote back to me Every artist that isn’t independently wealthy is either spending someone else’s money or works other jobs to fund their music career. It just so happens that my day job is also playing music.


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