Local Current Blog

Miya Folick on sounding notes of hope with debut album ‘Premonitions’

Miya Folick creates optimistic and personal pop on her debut album "Premonitions." (Photo: Maxime Imbert)

Los Angeles singer-songwriter Miya Folick is finding joy in the ordinary with her debut album, Premonitions. The collection of songs, which Folick has described as “domestic pop,” celebrates everyday experiences, documents close relationships, and revels in the moment.

Folick released Premonitions last October. While her 2015 Strange Darling EP and 2017 EP, Give It To Me, rest on a classic indie-rock backbone of guitar, bass, and drums, Folick, along with producers Justin Raisen (Angel Olsen, Charli XCX, Sky Ferreira) and Yves Rotham introduce a wide array of sounds on Premonitions. The album ranges from the swelling string section on “Thingamajig” to the brassy horns of “Leave the Party,” resulting in a more pop-flavored album that still centers on Folick’s dynamic, even acrobatic voice. In addition to opening up sonically, Folick pulls inspiration from overcoming internal struggles, reflecting on rewarding friendships and championing self-assurance.

I connected with Folick for a phone conversation ahead of her Feb. 22 show at the Turf Club to talk about writing her first full-length album, finding solace in connectivity, and using songs to create a more positive and truthful future.

What inspired you to include so many instruments on this album?

Initially when we were talking about the album, me and Justin [Raisen], the producer, we were like, “Let’s keep it super simple, we don’t really need much; just bass, guitar, drums, vocals — that’s all we really need, the bare minimum.” I think part of it was just getting carried away with resources and opportunities. I think one of the major differences between this album and my last EP is that I have more resources now. I think it was kind of like, “Okay, we have the resources, we have access to this, let’s just go for it. Let’s get some great players, and let’s build a world around these songs.”

I think I am drawn to kind of an orchestral sound, so I think that’s why we have some of the strings, and the horns I think are just fun. Justin’s brother, Jeremiah, worked on “Leave the Party,” and he added the horns. I just like them, because they’re fun — they’re fun to dance to. It’s fun live; people are always excited to see a horn onstage.

Do you translate these elements to the live performance?

We try to as best as possible. It’s one thing to have the resources to have a cello player in the studio for one day, but I don’t have enough money to bring a cello player on the road. If we had every single instrument that was on the record onstage, I’d be severely in debt. It would be extremely expensive.

Yeah, that sounds like a big project.

We try to as best as possible. And I think recorded music and live music are two different experiences, and I definitely think of it that way; what do I want to give a listener in a live experience, and what do I want to give them in a recorded experience? It’s not always the same.

Had you worked with Justin Raisen before? How do you think working with him on Premonitions changed your approach, or the way that you went about producing this album?

I hadn’t worked with him before we had written together. I think every time you work with anyone, you learn new things about somebody else’s process, and you can choose to implement that in yours or not. I’m always learning from the people I encounter and from seeing how different people work in the studio.

One thing that struck me about this album is that a lot of the themes address self-confidence or learning to trust your intuition. Do you feel like writing and releasing your debut album has made you more confident as a musician?

I think the good answer would be yes. I think for me, confidence is never going to come from accomplishments, or what I have done or haven’t done. It’s always going to come from my internal life, and how I am at the present moment with myself — so, no. I feel confident or not confident based on my perspective. I think I feel the least confident on the days when I don’t have a good perspective. It doesn’t matter if I’ve put out an album, or if I’ve put out two, or zero. I wish it were otherwise, but it’s not.

I still feel insecure sometimes about this record and about the future, and about a lot of things. I was just talking about this with one of my friends recently; taking the time to look back at where you’ve come from and what you’ve done and where you stand now, and sit in that for a minute, and take the time to feel proud, or feel grateful, or feel relief or whatever it is. I think a lot of times I’m just forward thinking, and I don’t take the time to realize, “Okay, I am actually proud of this.” It has brought me some joy.

I think playing live is a great opportunity to do this, because you really get to see up close the people whose lives the music is touching. Sometimes when you’re separated from that it’s hard to remember. We’re leaving for tour — it starts next Wednesday. I’m excited for that, because it will be an opportunity to be like, “Okay, I made this record and people have listened to it. That’s exciting.”

One thing, too, that struck me when I was listening to this record was that some of the songs deal with heavy topics, but I feel like throughout Premonitions there is this sense of joy; a lot of the songs are upbeat. Is there anything in particular that inspired you to make such a happy album, especially in 2019 dealing with sometimes conflicting or heavy topics — what inspires you to make happy music?

I’m glad you think it’s happy, because I think people mostly focus on how it’s about internal struggle, and it is, but I think I purposely made it hopeful. It’s nice to hear that that came across for you. I was just happy — when we were making this record, I was feeling good and hopeful and connected to the people around me and in my community. I think it’s especially important during difficult times collectively that we take the time to make things that are hopeful and places where people can seek solace.

I think there’s a lot of music that’s really negative and depressing happening, and I don’t want to spread negativity. I just don’t. I understand that that’s cathartic for some people. Sometimes I consume music that’s a bit negative or depressing or aggressive, but I don’t feel like it’s authentic to me to make things like that. And I wanted selfishly to have an album that I could play live that felt positive and happy and loving, and I didn’t have to be in a sad place to perform it. I went into the record with the intention of trying to make something hopeful. I think in certain places I didn’t succeed, and in certain places I did, but it was an intention from the beginning.

I think my first EP is very lonely and kind of sad sounding, and I think that’s because that’s where I was at the time. The second EP is loud and kind of raucous, because that’s where I was at that time. I think this album, it encapsulates more when I was when I was making that album; I was feeling more hopeful, more connected to the people around me. I think it’s an album that’s a bit more outward focused; even though it is about internal struggles, to me that album is a bit more outward focused. It talks about relationships and friendships, and my relationship with the world, and not just with myself or with romantic partners. That’s how I think of the record, but I’m also the kind of person who thinks, whatever people want to take from the record, it’s theirs. I have my opinions about it, but they’re just mine.

Is the album cover a photo of you and your parents?

It is indeed, yes.

Have they been supportive of your music, and what do they think about being on the cover of this album?

My parents are incredibly supportive. When I asked my parents to be part of the album cover, their response was, “Why? Why would you want us? Nobody wants to look at us.” But I think my parents are super interesting, and interesting looking, and beautiful people, and they’re so much a part of my life, and everything that went into the record. They’ve been incredibly nurturing to my creativity since I was a kid, so I think it makes sense for them to be on the record. I also think they’re both pretty compelling people visually; they have a lot of depth to them, and I think you can see that in their faces, which is something that you can’t design — and they were free, I didn’t have to hire them.

One song that I wanted to ask you about specifically was “Stop Talking.” At the end of the song you repeat the phrase, “We will become the words we say.” Could you talk about what that line means to you, and the power that words and writing have in creating identity?

That song is about one of my closest friends. It is a bit of a tough love song, it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, at least in the verses and choruses. But I wanted to make sure that the message got across that it’s a serious song. The reason that I tell someone to stop talking about that boy is because I care about them and I think the language they’re using, and the words that are occupying their mind are hurting them — words matter, and words can be poisonous.

It was one of the first songs for the album that I wrote, and I believe it was during the [2016 presidential] election. I was thinking a lot about the generation of language in America and in the world, and about how people aren’t careful with the words they say; they’re not specific. There’s this disregard for being specific in your expression. I think this song is about friendship and tough love, but it’s also about the importance of words, and the importance of nourishing our minds with the language that we want to have reflected in the world, because I do think negativity spreads through language first.

I was reading the description that you wrote for the album Premonitions. One of the things you write in that description is, “When we are honest in the present, we create a more honest future.” What does being honest in the present look like to you? That seems like maybe a difficult task to accomplish; do you have any advice on staying honest in the present or staying honest with yourself?

I think part of the reason I called it Premonitions is it was my vision of the future for myself, too. So I’m still learning how to do that. Lately I’ve been trying to be truthful in my reactions to things, and be honest in my desires to leave relationships I’m not happy in, whether it’s a friendship or a work relationship or romantic relationship, and to foster the ones that I am happy with.

I think in the past there have been times when I don’t act on my truth, and then I end up fostering resentment toward people, and I had no need to — I could have just changed the situation by being honest instead of letting it fester. You can just start being honest with yourself now, and you don’t have to worry about yesterday, and you can keep moving forward in an honest way. The past will figure itself out, and the future will figure itself out, but all you have to worry about is now. I think this is very difficult for me, but it’s what I’m trying to focus on as I move forward.

Colleen Cowie runs the blog Pass The Mic.