K-Pop Crossover: Korean-American Singer Mayda Miller Discusses Working With Prince's Rhythm Section [EXCLUSIVE]

Mayda Miller wants to break your stereo.

The Korean adoptee, who was born in Minnesota, and goes by the professional name Mayda, mixes beats and styles with furious abandon. She moves between intimate acoustic singer-songwriter paeans to full on funk thumpers and hard rock blasts.

When it comes to a musical connection with her country of origin, the multi-instrumentalist enjoys some of the old school, lesser-known Korean pop artists but says she shares the K-pop artists' sense of "perfection and polishedness."

"Even the kimchibilliy, there is a cleaner feel than the rockabilly punk scene in the US," Mayda said in an exclusive interview with KpopStarz.

"I definitely am not perfect or close to it. However, my music and aesthetic is a bit more rough than Korean pop."

"I really enjoy Junsu Xia, Dear Cloud, The Rock Tigers and Leopon," she added.

Mayda described her songs as being "very universal."

"Even though, the influence of the music is personal to me, I sing about topics that everyone can relate to or at least dance," she said.

Yet, she has been unsure about whether all of South Korea is ready to accept her admittedly edgy sound.

"I feel that Koreans are more reserved [than Americans]," Mayda said. "Not in a bad way, but maybe some are trying to be comfortable and break out of some sort of barrier. I definitely defy many rules of ethnicity, gender and identity. To those who struggle with those things, will more than likely understand what I am doing."

But ready or not, here she comes.

Mayda just signed with South Korean Indie Label, Musicaroma/Feel Good Inc. She admits she doesn't follow K-pop as much as she would like, but keeps her ear to the ground.

"I always keep my eyes and hears open," Mayda said. "There are some really awesome groups out there."

She's got Prince's old drummer Michael Bland at the mixing board and a tight ensemble that can groove like Sly and The Family Stone or bend genres like Bjork or David Bowie. Mayda dropped the music video for the song "Verite" from her upcoming third album, "Busy Signals pt 1. Part 2" a few weeks ago.

The singer-songwriter broke out in 2007 with the funk rock hybrid song "Stereotype."  Since then Mayda's tracks have played on "The Rachael Ray show," "Good Morning America," and "Jersey Shore," as well as in ads for KFC, YouTube and Reebok Seoul.

Mayda herself has trouble classifying her stew of rock, pop, electronica and funk.

A soulful sound that starts at the bottom. Mayda's rhythm section, drummer Michael Bland and bassist Yohannes Tona, used to provide the bottom for another Minneapolis musician, Prince

"Those two guys are my core rhythm section," she enthused.

"They have tons of stories that could be novels especially Michael. We don't ever jam. I usually write the song and then bring it to them with ideas. We collaborate to make a whole tune. It is really awesome because they have a such a great understanding of music in general."

Besides Prince, Mayda takes her cues, visually and sonically, from sources outside modern R&B.

"I absolutely adore Bjork and Bowie! They push boundaries musically, artistically and visually and are not afraid nor sorry about it. I love that fierceness," she gushed.

But even Mayda has trouble defining her broadly diverse body of work in simple terms.

"Each song has a different feel," she said. "One could break down the different genres and aspects, but in general, I think I make soulful electropop." 

The song "Focus" changes gear several times opening with a honky tonk piano setting and a vocal line reminiscent of the Beatles.

"I love theater, drama and playing around," Mayda said. "It adds a cheeky element because I don't like singing one note songs. I want to take you all around if I have to. Especially with a song like 'Focus,' where I am telling you to obviously concentrate. In contrast, the song is cluttered."

Is there a bigger message at work?

"There are always themes," she said. "I am very much into concepts. In every song there is a message, so for music videos and performances for those tunes, I like to convey the meaning appropriately."

One of those themes is alienation. Part of that starts as a vamp on how the ever-changing world of technology isn't all fun and games.

"The video game aspect just came with the inspiration," she said.

"You get so many lives to try to get to a certain world in addition to battling different conflicts that can flash on the screen, kind of like life. You never know what to expect in this world. My songs are extremely personal but very open to people."

Mayda's latest song cycle delves into how, even though social media brought people closer, we each live in some kind of isolation.

"The feeling of disconnect is a part of the theme of the whole album, 'Busy Signals' meaning miscommunication, trying to talk with someone or something but having trouble," Mayda explained.

The funk singer recently experienced her own kind of difficult connection recently. Last year it was reported that she planned to meet her birth parents while on tour in Korea.

"I did find my birth parents while I was on tour," Mayda said. "The search is still a confusing process. I am trying to get a DNA test, but they are refusing. It is hard to communicate with them because of language barrier, age and lack of communication. [Yet] I feel a deep connection and love for the country and need to be there as much as I can."

Listen to Mayda's "Busy Signals pt. 1" here: http://mayda-neviator.bandcamp.com/releases 

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