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Exclusive Interview: Donna Missal Talks ‘Out of Me,’ ‘Flicker,’ and Her Beginnings as a Musician

Exclusive Interview: Donna Missal Talks ‘Out of Me,’ ‘Flicker,’ and Her Beginnings as a Musician

Calling all honeybees! We have an artist that we have to tell you about. Donna Missal is a singer-songwriter from New Jersey with an intoxicating electro-pop-rock that has us at The Honey POP living. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Donna Missal and want to share it with you.

Donna Missal’s newest release, ‘Out of Me,’ is a beautiful club-ready track with brutally honest lyrics. The lyrics talk about being content and happy with where you are in life (which we think everyone needs to be reminded of). ‘Out of Me’ is the second track to be released off her upcoming album, Revel, which was announced today! We had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Donna Missal to discuss her singles, her upcoming album, and her beginnings as a musician.

Thank you for talking with us! We’re so excited about your newest single, ‘Out of Me.’ What was the writing and recording process like?
Thank you!! I think I was just really, really burned out when I went into the studio that day. It was my first time meeting the producer Marcus Andersson, and we just talked for a long time. About our times living in our cars, working weird jobs while playing in bands, just like, years of reaching, running at something as long as you can, and how sometimes you can’t keep that up. He started playing piano and found this drum sound, and I just sang. It was very simple and very easy with Marcus and he really understood where I was coming from. When the album started to come together, I sent the song to the producer Billboard, who I had been making songs with, and he took the production and did his thing. it was the three of us being really trusting with each other’s ideas.

The music video is beautiful – talk to us about the symbolism of the two dancers in the video.
I wanted to make an album of dance music and to use dance as a way to visually express the themes in the music, of working at what you want so hard, burning out and losing yourself in darkness, finding light again, all of the pain and the joy. Dance is so expressive and physical; it became the partner to the music in a way that felt really connected, so for me, I was honored to bring in dancers to physically interpret this song. The dancers, Alyssa Allen and Jordan Lang, appear almost to be moving in reverse throughout, that’s really how it can feel to be burned out on your pursuit of something.

Your father was a musician and your grandmother was a songwriter. What are some of your earliest memories of music?
I remember very vividly, recording songs for my grandparents as gifts. And how much they loved it. And I also remember how nervous I would get when they would listen, at family get-togethers. I think it’s my earliest memory of being aware of myself. I think I must have known that it was important to me, that I cared about music, and that I wanted to make it.

In what ways does your upbringing impact the music you make?
I think in every way it could. I was homeschooled, and we were pretty broke, my dad working as a teacher but having had collected instruments and recording equipment from a past life and keeping it for us, using them with us. Having a big family of siblings, harmonizing to songs in the car with them and making little musicals and concerts together as our play, growing up in New Jersey close enough to New York City that by the time I was a teenager I was taking myself in on the train, joining a band and playing shows in the city and that’s where my first manager found me, that’s how I got started in music I think it all factors in.

When did you start writing songs?
I was really young, I would sing to myself all the time. First song I remember showing my family saying “This is a song I wrote” – I think I was 14.

What artists got you into music?
My dad listened to a lot of powerful vocalists like Etta James and Aretha Franklin, I remember being really young trying to sing along. He would take me to the record store when I was a teenager to pick out my own CDs so I started collecting all the pop girls and studying the vocals. Destiny’s Child, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys.

How do you feel that growing up in a community theater for kids impacted you as a performer?
I think starting on stage made a big difference in how I approach music writing, and having a comfort on stage has given me a lot of perspective on why I love music, why music is important to me, and why I make it. It’s given me this stable thing to hang on to in an evolving digital world, something that feels very real and tangible.

‘Out of Me’ is a club track through and through, whereas ‘Flicker’ (which is one of our absolute favorites) is just as upbeat, but it has a darker edge to it – talk to us about the different styles you used in either song.
My process for making an album is like, discovering all the ways to interpret and express what I’m most thinking about, obsessing over and feeling, really determining what that is by a lot of discovery through play and imagination that starts with what’s really real to me at that time. So I improvise and try all kinds of things until what starts appearing is the main themes of my consciousness of that time in my life. All of the songs on this album, just like ‘Out of Me’ and ‘Flicker’ are lyrically coming from the same place of feeling this need to address my fears and at the same time to lean into determination and find my will to go on. All of the songs reflect on that from different angles, same with production. Finding different ways to interpret that in the music as well. ‘Out of Me’ is like the prequel to ‘Flicker’ in that way. That’s why I make albums, to tell long-form stories like that.

What was going on in your mind when you were writing ‘Flicker?’
I was feeling like I couldn’t give up on what I loved yet when I wrote Flicker. So that’s what I wrote about. That determination to endure, and be resilient, that was worked into the production as well.

We love the instrumentals of your songs – give us a deep dive into your process of creating the sonic side of things. Where do your ideas come from?
I’m really collaborative so when I work with producers, I come in really open and trusting and I’ve found that works for getting to something special and meaningful. I talk about where I’m coming from in my life and what my writing has been focused on lyrically, and I make sonic references that have been inspiring me, and we usually will start with a single instrument or sound. I like to begin with improvisation, finding that my body really takes over and can make choices before my mind can catch up, a lot of my improvised singing will have lyrics hidden in it, and I start right away by working from what I’m improvising. For ‘Out of Me,’ I had been doing a lot of reversing vocals as a writing exercise to see what was there, I wrote the lyrics in like 10 minutes by listening to a vocal improvisation I had done but in reverse. When the song writes itself in that way, I take it as a sign that I’ve tapped into something really real to me.

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As a newly independent artist, what can we look forward to in your future?
Being independent has been really amazing for me so far. As hard as it is, and as much work as there is, it’s such a better place for me to be in, and it has really given me a shift in perspective on what’s important to me. The hardest parts are finding the resources to share music, from releases to shows, and the world right now for people who write and perform is definitely challenging, everything takes a lot of time, and thoughtful energy. Right now I’m working on a plan for touring, and while that’s become a much different process since becoming independent, you can expect me to do everything I can and put everything I have into it. Something I’m really looking forward to.

Thank you so much to Donna Missal for sitting down and letting us pick her brain!

Did you enjoy our interview with Donna Missal? What did you think of our questions and her answers? What is your favorite Donna Missal song? Let us know in the comments below, or spam us on Twitter @TheHoneyPOP.

You can find more exclusive interviews here.


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