Interviewed by Rosalyn Spencer
Rosalyn Spencer: We at Rigorous are happy to have you as our first featured musician. I had the privilege of hearing you live at the Blue Nile and was taken away by your voice. The first that came to my mind was Erykah Badu due to your nuance in delivery and singer/songwriter vibe but who are some of your influences?
Mykia Jovan: Nina Simone, Bjork, Marvin Gaye, Minnie Riperton, Jeff Buckley, Angelo Moore, Belita Woods, Betty Davis, Lena Horne Michael & Janet Jackson, Sade, D'angelo. The folks that pull you inside their realities and change your heart's climate. E. Badu is my fairy godmother without her I wouldn't have had the courage to do this. Billie Holiday is my greatest most private influence, there's a kindred spirit that I'm still sorting out. The sadness we share is not completely from my personal living experiences but from a place my soul remembers and I'm humbled by the connection.
RS: Congratulations on the release of your album Elliyahu. What is the inspiration behind the name and how long did it take to bring the album together?
MJ: Elliyahu. It’s pretty layered. I added an L so the name wouldn't lose it's origin but stripped it of its weight. It is an attempt to deliver myself from the other. The other lover. The misrepresentation of my self. Showing how one can rely solely on the other's resources or ideals/ideas (and actually believe this is inescapable). Asking who is the authority here. Am I going to lose myself in Elliyahu or am I going to be brave enough to discover the godliness in my self. It's a collection of love songs that I've written and performed over 8 years. Some are newer than others, but they're all about tug of war. There is no concrete resolution. In the end, we don't know if we've gotten off the roller coaster or not. Matters of the ego are ever challenging, anytime we look outside ourselves for anything.
Releasing the album was a breeze, firstly because the musicians I work with are stellar. Secondly, we've played the songs for years and had no expectations. The audiences wanted something tangible, I honestly thought of it as a token of appreciation. I'm really grateful you're asking questions about it.
RS: Throughout the album are some very personal pieces that resonate. Some of my personal favorites are “Orange Pill”, “How Did you Like It,” and “16 shots.” Your album explores police brutality, heartbreak and growth. What are some other themes covered in the album and what themes do you hope to explore in the future?
MJ: Romance is one theme that gets overshadowed because I'm so dramatic. But "Feast on the Flower", is all about seizing the most magical moments in love while you can. Being present is a lovely coping mechanism. Also, "Creep" is an invitation to come out of hiding and build your happily ever after. Healing is something I hope to explore more of. I touched on it a bit with "Idle Mind", but it was a prayer more than a practice and now it's time to put it into practice.
RS: How does New Orleans play a part in your sound?
MJ: New Orleans is my sound. It's all I know. I didn't come here to get inspired or because I heard the scene was cool and welcoming. I'm here because I couldn't get out, because a home like this one always finds you and calls you back, because the jazz, gospel, blues, and bounce is in my blood. It informs everything I write and how I approach music. I'm able to expand and explore because I have such a solid foundation. Not as a "musician" or a "vocalist" but as a child of this great city.
RS: Congratulations on the revival of That Painted Horse Press! What is your vision for the trajectory of the press, and its goals and mission?
CD: Congratulations on your nomination for Emerging Artist in Best of the Beat! What do you hope to accomplish in the following year?
MJ: Thank you much. It's nice to be on Offbeat's radar. I certainly did a happy dance when I got the news. New music is underway. Visuals as well. Festivals and a bit of touring. Just plan to keep the musical dialogue going with listeners open to being on this journey together.
Mykia Jovan is a vocalist and songwriter from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her unique voice has drawn natural comparisons to the great Billie Holiday and Erykah Badu, while her original compositions and live performances have established her as a singular voice in the modern progressive soul scene.
Her debut record is entitled Elliyahu and features eight original compositions, all of which she has performed live for several years prior to heading into the studio. Released September 1, 2017, in just two months the lead single, "16 Shots," received over 65,000 streams on Spotify and was included on the platform’s official "State of Jazz" Playlist alongside artists Christian Scott and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Kamasi Washington, among others.