Q+A: Five Minutes With MØNA


Exciting American artist MØNA returns with a new single in ‘Fairy Tale’, released on August 18th, 2023. Utilizing otherworldly synth textures and an array of non-musical elements, MØNA takes a new approach to music that leaves listeners yearning for more. A recent graduate from the prestigious Berklee College of Music with a degree in Songwriting, MØNA is now on the way to relocate to London where she will work in artist development for a passionate record label. We took some time out to talk to the exciting up-and-coming artist on all things music, life and creativity.


Set the tone for us. Why the arts?


Oh my, well to be honest, I’ve always loved the art world. When I was really young, I had dreams of being a fashion designer… As I grew up and music became more important to me, I wanted to pursue it but I convinced myself it wasn’t realistic or tangible. So I turned to fine art, photography, film, graphic design, illustration, everything in the vein of what the average person imagines when you say “I make art”. I went to a vocational high school, and I was working on traditional art for 30 hours a week, every other week, for four years. Doing so much for so long left me burned out so I don’t do much fine art anymore, but I still do photography, and I make/design all my own album artwork. At a certain point I decided that I wanted to do music, and I didn’t care how unrealistic it would be. So now we’re here, I’m speaking to Playy Magazine about my music, things work out if you’re passionate enough.


Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?


Yes! I distinctly remember being a sophomore in high school, around 15 or 16 years old, and having a friend at the time who was the same age as me, actively pursuing music. She was doing it, why couldn’t I? Despite loving music and singing, I had always thought there would be no way I’d be able to have a successful career in music. My friend at the time, who I’m no longer friends with, changed my whole prospective on it, and I just decided to go for it.


We also hear you studied at Berklee College of Music. What was that like?


Studying at Berklee was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was never classically trained in music growing up, I taught myself piano and I enjoyed singing and writing, but I never got a chance to have any real lessons, at least not until my junior year of high school. Berklee offered me an educational insight to music that was sorely lacking from my repertoire. Aside from that, I made lifelong connections with so many of my closest friends and peers, all of whom are now pursuing careers in the music industry.


We love your vivid storytelling in ‘Fairy Tale’. Can you walk us through the lyrics and message?


100%! In fairy tale, the track started out far different than it ended. When I first had the concept it wasn’t so revenge-y, it actually was playing into the damsel in distress narrative, an outside narrator asking why the metaphorical cinderella thought the situation would’ve turned out any differently than it did, with her in a tattered dress and stuck. In fact I think the only line that really stayed from that first version was “the clock strikes twelve and time’s run out…” After writing and hitting a wall, I found myself rethinking the idea, maybe I’m the villain? Maybe it should be about not needing to be saved and not waiting around for help.


The production on ‘Fairy Tale’ is enchanting. We hear you work closely with Maya Wagner. What’s the production process like?


Yes! Maya Wagner is not just my producer but also my best friend. We met in our first semesters at Berklee College of Music, even lived in the same dorm building for our first semesters, but didn’t become proper friends until 2021, about two years later. She was the first person I went to when I decided I wanted to release my very first single, and prior to that, we hadn’t spoken much, just hi’s in passing around campus. I reached out one day, I was looking for a producer and I asked Maya if she would be interested in producing for me, after that, the rest was history. When she was still here, in Boston, we would have pretty regular meetings and do vocal recordings in her apartment at her at-home studio. She’s since moved back to be near her family so now we’re doing everything remotely. I think before you start working on art remotely with someone you always think it’ll be such a difficult hurdle to get over, but once you start it, it really isn’t. She sends me a file, I record vocals with at least 5 takes per phrase, zip the project, send it back and within a few days I receive a rough demo. Then we go back and forth for quite some time with ever changing renditions, both big and small, until the tracks feel full and complete. I’m really involved with every little sound that is heard, as are many artists who work with a producer. The best part of working with Maya is having such a close relationship that I can tell her the truth about how I feel about a track she’s sent me, if I don’t like it, I can tell her, and it doesn’t end in hurt feelings or a fight, just a “what if we did this instead?” Having a really open and honest communicative relationship with ANY producer you work with is so integral to any artist.


What was your main objective with this release? 


For fairy tale it was simple, I wanted to challenge the idea of a damsel in distress waiting to be saved. Sometimes you get yourself into some shitty situations, and while you might need help at times, you might also feel and be strong enough to get out of the situation all on your own. Aside from that, in the first verse I say “I told you I didn’t need to be saved, stop telling me I need to behave” because as a woman in society, we’re supposed to be poised and proper and “ladylike” and anything outside of that is considered bad. Sometimes I’m acting how I want to act because I want to, or I’m in a situation that I’m in because I want to. Not everyone wants to be saved, or needs to be. Lastly, this release was really aiming to get some buzz going for my sophomore EP that is coming out by the end of this year.


Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?


Personally, I always, always, always start with lyrics. I have a very long, very important note in my phone titled “song seeds” with hundreds of song lyrics or song ideas. Once I complete the lyrics for a song, I’ll start figuring out a vocal melody acappella and then take it to piano or to my producer. This part of the process is really important to me primarily because I find that if I write on the piano where I start with chords, then I feel a bit stifled by what I can do with the melody. From there, Maya, my producer, and I go back and forth on renditions after I lay down the vocals. I provide her with some reference tracks of general vibe I was thinking for the song and things just take off.


What’s on your current playlist?


Right now, it’s a lot of GIRLI, Declan McKenna, Thomston, Dove Cameron, Troye Sivan, Allie X, Emeline, and BROODS. All incredible human beings who I look up to both with what they are doing in their careers and within their music, storytelling, and sound. It would be absolutely unreal if I got the chance to write with them one day.


Any emerging artists on your radar?


Oh absolutely. For one, my own producer, Maya Wagner, releases her own music and her stuff is incredible. Other than that I’m a big fan of Sophie TruaxJay AlanJohanna Wacker, and Leila Lamb. All amazing artists that I know personally and are creating fantastic music that just needs to reach more people.


What gets your creative juices flowing?


The list is actually endless. I get inspiration from everyday life, people I pass on the street, friends, family, tv shows and movies. As unfortunate as it is, an upsetting moment also really gets the creative juices flowing, sometimes even more so than a wonderful moment. So in my personal life, I get a lot of my inspiration from things that I go through, events in my own life. Other than that, sometimes I discover a new song, or a new artist and it sets me off to start writing immediately. I get so inspired just by other artists making cool shit. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, I just want to make cool shit, music that I want to listen to, and I know if I have that mindset instead of trying to make a “viral” song then my audience will be genuine.


How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?


For me, I think there is a definite difference between my first EP, written in the stars, and my two latest singles, unsent letters and fairy tale, just in sound alone. Especially since written in the stars was crafted halfway through my education at Berklee College of Music, whereas both singles, and the EP they will be a part of have been crafted post Berklee graduation. I feel like I have a firmer grasp on incorporating more advanced music theory concepts, like modal interchange and poly chords, into my music.


Other than music, what’s a day in the life of MØNA like?


As it is like for most smaller artists, a day in the life is going to a job in a field that I don’t want to be in, in order to make money to support myself until my music career takes off enough for me to support myself via my music. So at the moment, my day to day is working at a bakery/cafe as a shift lead, dealing with customers, making coffees, taking catering orders, and the like. It’s not very glamorous nor is it ideal for me. It leaves me bone tired each day both physically and mentally. It means I’m working two full time jobs, both that, and music, and I do it because of my undying love for music and my want to have enough funds to really only be working on music.


Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?


Many things if everything goes according to plan! I have a few tracks left for my sophomore EP, and once those are finished, it’ll be released into the world, and hopefully that will happen by the end of the year. I’m currently in the process of trying to obtain a work visa for the UK so I can move to London in January of 2024, as it’s where I see myself living and thriving, not only professionally but also personally.


Follow MØNA:

Spotify –  Instagram