Every few years, one of those artists comes along that makes you completely stop in your tracks the moment you hear their music. Malia Civetz is one of those artist. Her single “Broke Boy” was one of the anthems of the summer, and her brand new single “Disrespectful” is going to keep Civetz on that trajectory of crafting instant pop anthems in both her lyrics and musical content. I sat down to chat with Civetz and she spoke with me about how her Hawaii/Las Vegas upbringing shaped her into the artist that she has become, what the single “Broke Boy” is truly about, and what it has been like being in the driver’s seat to watch her dreams start to take shape.
Michael Cook: Your single “Broke Boy” is becoming an anthem to the LGBT community this summer; how does it feel?
Malia Civetz: Thank you!! That means the literal world to me. That makes me so happy; when I wrote it, immediately after I said that it was one of the favorite things that I had ever made.
MC: When you decided to be come a recording artist, was it ever in your wildest dreams that you would be one of those artists that people like Taylor Swift and Ryan Seacrest would be buzzing about?
Malia C: I had hoped that it would be the case ever since I was a kid. Growing up, I just loved music and really wanted to pursue it to the furthest extent ever since I was literally five years old. I lived in Hawaii as a kid, and I would get to see live music all the time because live music was literally everywhere in Hawaii. My parents would take me to dinners with them, I was a chill little kid and I always wanted to see the music. I would ask them to pick me up and pull me out of my highchair so I could go and dance with the hula dancers. There was crew of a bunch of us, my parents clients kids. I would try to get them to come dance with me and they were always like “nope” and I would say “see you later” and I would go dance with the hula dancers by myself (laughs)!
MC: When did you know that music was going to be the passion that you would follow for your life?
Malia C: I lived in Hawaii up until I was five years old. Then my family and I moved to Vegas so my parents could be closer to their parents as they got older. We went to this church and my grandma put me in this children’s choir. Our choir director was “Mr. Bob” and he took my parents aside one day and suggested they put me in voice lessons and let me pursue the gift that he thought I had. I know how fortunate I am to have the parents that I do because they jumped at the chance and were like “cool”! Other than loving music themselves, they have no musical bones in their bodies. They had no idea that I had any kind of talent, but they pushed me to pursue my dreams while allowing me to be the one pushing.
MC: Las Vegas is definitely the kind of town that can give birth to musical dreams, right?
Malia C: Ever since I was little in Las Vegas, I really loved the neon lights and the glamour of it all. Sparkles were my everything and when we lived in Hawaii, my favorite movie as a kid was Viva Las Vegas, the Elvis Presley classic. When we moved to Vegas, I was like “this is the best day of my life”.
MC: What is the influence behind your single “Broke Boy”
Malia C: I was in a writing camp for my artist project and it was two weeks of being in the studio twelve hours a day. I would get there at ten or eleven am and leave at ten or eleven in the evening. There were multiple people in different rooms writing different songs, and multiple collaborators that I have worked before, and a bunch of collaborators that I had not worked with before. I was in one of the rooms and we had written a song that was really mediocre and we were really sad about it. We were like “you know what?-lets just try something else”. The producer started playing what you hear at the beginning of “Broke Boy”. He started playing that piano riff; I said “yeah that’s great, lets do that”! We started writing to that and we started coming up with melodies. I was writing with this songwriter and producer named J. Kash, who has been one of my musical gods and signed me to a development deal with Ross Golan in the beginning of my career; they are responsible for teaching me everything that I know.
We came up with the idea “Broke Boy” and it was based on a bunch of boys that I loved throughout my life. It is little pieces of all of them and it is really about how if I would have cared about the money that they made, I would have missed out on amazing experiences with them and an amazing person. I am not saying that I was dating anyone lazy, but if you have a dream and you’re working towards it and youre just not there yet, then let’s get there together.
MC: Your sound is distinct and wonderfully unique. It is pop music, but has a Joss Stone-esque vibe with some raw soul; pop music with pipes if you will. How would you describe your sound to new listeners?
Malia C: I have always said that I want to be “Lady Bruno Mars”, with a little sprinkle of Justin Timberlake. As far as idols, Chaka Khan is way up there. All of that soul and funk, I want it to trickle into the pop music that I make.
MC: Has it been challenging to for you to stay creatively infused during quarantine?
Malia C: To be honest, the beginning was very tough. I am a very social person and if you like hugs great, I am one of those hugging people. I think it was two weeks into quarantine and I was feeling so low; I hadn’t hugged any of the people that I love. I am so lucky to have such an incredible group of friends and when I see them, no matter how long it has been since I’ve seen them, we always have the most incredible time. Not being able to be with the people that you love in person is really hard because humans are social creatures as much as we do value our alone time. It is really needed, whether you are standing six feet away and talking to someone that you love, it really fills you up. It took me a minute to get over that hump, but I am really lucky to live with my roommate Tiggs, who I wrote my first single “Champagne Clouds” with, along with Phil Paul. I did the first two with him and we’ll have more songs coming up. We have a little studio at home, and it kind of took us a minute to feel right working. When you turn on the news and you see a death toll in the corner, it doesn’t feel inspiring to go write a happy song, We tried to really get over that hump, and I am come at it from this perspective; I want to create things to lift people out of their darkness. If I can make something that makes you happy and makes you forget about whatever problems you are dealing with in your life so you can come back into the world stronger and ready to fight those problems, then that is what I want to do.
MC: Five years ago, would you have ever thought that you would be where you are now?
Malia C: Honestly, I don’t think I could ever have imagined that I would be where I am at now. I have met some of the most incredible champions in my career. I have had so many speak up for me, like I said Ross and J. Kash have been everything. They have introduced me to my management company and I have been able, through them, to build such a solid group of people around me. I feel so protected; you hear so many stories of people in the music industry being totally screwed over. That is kind of what people tell you your whole life; I went to USC and was in the pop music program. We take music business classes, we take production and songwriting, and even though they give you so many tools there is still that underlying fear. Everyone growing up, when you say you want to be a singer, people always ask “what’s your backup plan”? They kind of put it in your head that you are going to fail from the beginning. I feel very lucky that my parents never let that be a thing. They never let that fear come into what I was doing. I think that confidence in myself and the music that I wanted to make helped me meet the incredible people who then championed for me. That got me a publishing deal with Warner Chappel and then signed me to a development deal, then got me working with an incredible management team, then all of those people put together got me to Warner Records which is just a dream come true.
MC: Do you remember the moment you could actually say that your dreams were coming true?
Malia C: I will never forget the meeting that I had when they offered me the deal at the iconic Warner Records building in Burbank. I am shaking still talking about it. They said “we would love to work together” and I walked out of the meeting all cool and said “great man”. I walked out to my car and started bawling; that is the moment that you wait for since you are a kid. I have goosebumps talking about it now; it was such a special moment and it was a major check on my list of goals that I was working on since I was five years old. It has been beautiful.
For all things Malia Civetz check out her website