Queer dark-pop singer-songwriter Micki Maverick joins us for delicious coffee courtesy of Pasadena’s Zona Rosa Caffe to discuss her debut EP Intrusive Exclusive, the experiences she’s had with being a female LGBTQIA artist, and not being afraid to be your true self to the world around you.
You’re riding the highs of your EP Intrusive Exclusive. For those who have yet to discover it’s awesomeness, would you like to share with us the lyrical themes and instrumental elements that the listener will experience?
Micki Maverick: First off, thank you for calling my baby ‘awesome,’ we are all so proud of her! Intrusive Exclusive, AKA my first born, dives deep into my struggles with mental health. This EP for me was more therapy than anything, and a big goal of mine was to contribute to the normalization of mental illness through each song. I want to give listeners a window into my mind, and I feel like Intrusive Exclusive really doesn’t hold back.
I think it’s amazing that. You have a focus on mental illness. It’s something that everybody wishes that we can figure out, but unfortunately, we’re never going to figure out. But like what you were saying, the more that we talk about it, the more normalized it will be.
Micki: Exactly. And that’s why it was my main goal. Honestly, I feel like my whole life I was taught that mental illness was a ‘problem’ and that seeking help was a ‘problem.’ I’ve spent a lot of my life being really afraid to even talk about my own mental struggles,but luckily, through being with my girlfriend and the people in my life as of now, I was able to actually able to seek help. This EP is just straight from my heart, and I want to be able to give that same help that I received to everybody else who’s listening.
And it’s so important and it’s so amazing that you felt comfortable and brave enough to express these kinds of thoughts and emotions. Everyone needs that.
Micki: Thank you. It’s the truth that everybody needs to hear.
And which song would you say was your favorite to write and then record?
Micki: My two favorites would have to be “FINE” and “HE/ART,” which ironically are two polar opposite songs as far as the lyrical themes go. “FINE” was so much fun because it was a total breath of fresh air to record, and it focused more on happiness and love than anything else. Plus, it’s about my girlfriend, whom I love more than anything, and while recording I got to share little bits and pieces with her and get her feedback. It’s because of her that this song even exists, and it was just such a blast to create. “HE/ART” was my second favorite for opposite reasons. Through “HE/ART,” I was able to come face to face with some demons I had been shoving to the bottom of my consciousness, and It was genuinely therapeutic. It was extremely painful to write and record, but I feel like I needed that. I seriously needed to face some things and “HE/ART” was like the product of all that pain.
So if you could choose three artists to go on a world tour with, who would you choose and what would you name your tour?
Micki: Definitely Kehlani, like, she’s the number one pick for obvious reasons. I love her! She came into my life at a time when I really needed a figure to look up to, like, an openly LGBTQIA figure, and that was her. So definitely Kehlani. Choice number two would be Frank Ocean. I love me some Frank! *both laugh* But really, he’s just so full of soul, and I honestly aspire to be like him in a lot of ways. So definitely Frank. And then, you know, just to keep it in the family, I’d probably have Tyler The Creator on there too. And I think the tour would be called ‘Exclusively Us.’
Awesome! It’s a great lineup!
Micki: Thank you! *laughs*
So in regards to the way that modern music listening tends to be geared more towards streaming and smaller singles and EP style releases as opposed to full-length albums, why do you think that’s the trend nowadays with consumers?
Micki: I honestly think that with social media, people’s attention spans are so much smaller than they used to be. And I’m guilty of it too! You know, when Vine was a thing, you would see a five second clip and then you’re like, ‘Alright, on to the next.’ I think that’s why people really love singles so much, but I think there’s something so beautiful when you create a body of art that’s cohesive and together, like an EP or a mixtape. I feel like people can enjoy both, and there’s a time and place for each.
Oh definitely. And I mean, sometimes certain thoughts only last for like one song or three songs.
Micki: Yeah. And then when you finally get it out there, you’re on to the next as well. I feel like shorter releases is really more of an opportunity for us to get some shit out of our system. *both laugh*
So speaking of social media, it’s pretty much taken over as the main form of marketing whether we like to accept it or not. Do you think that it’s made it easier or harder for artists to make names for themselves?
Micki: You know, I think it’s easier because independent artists can have their own platform that can be so easily broadcast. I mean, with the promotions button on Instagram, like, you can pretty much turn any post into an ad, which I think is pretty cool for small artists, but at the same time it’s super hard. I really struggle with social media in general because people want to see you, and it’s kind of an interesting thing to be like, ‘Ok, now I need to show people that I’m doing ‘this’ and show people that I’m doing ‘that.’ It’s just not really something that I’m comfortable with. I mean, I grew up before cell phones really became a thing, so it’s something that I just need to get used to. But also, I think there’s something really special about being able to have that connection with your fans and being able to be like, ‘Hey everybody! I’m here with you. You know me, and I kind of know you as well.’ It’s awesome!
Do you feel that sometimes social media kind of adds on a pressure to, like what you were mentioning, constantly be doing something or even just portraying yourself in a certain way as your audience?
Micki: Totally, 100 percent. I mean, if you scroll back in my feed, you can see that I don’t delete anything. I’m like a pack rat when it comes to Instagram, so you can almost see the different eras in my life where I was trying to be ‘this’ way and then I was trying to be ‘that’ way. Like, ‘Oh, I’m trying to be a beach gal, so I’m going to post all pictures of the beach and make people think that I’m like this Malibu babe chick.’ And then there’s the next phase where I’m like, ‘I’m a Downtown L.A. street kid. Look at me, I’m so edgy!’ Now it’s more like, ‘This is me. This is what I do.’ For instance, I posted about a coffee shop and how much I loved it, and I feel like that’s just more normal, or I guess more me.
And that’s what audiences really want,to be able to see the real you.
Micki: Yeah, at the end of the day we want to see your heart on a platter and we want to know what goes on inside your head.
Exactly! We want someone that we can relate to, not just another social media generated person.
Micki: Yeah, it’s like, ‘I don’t really know. You really exist like this, but it’s fun to see still.’
Of totally. There’s been articles written about how people want to portray themselves online, and the amount of work that they put into trying to create this fantasy lifestyle in photos is just insane!
Micki: I feel like it could honestly drive you crazy trying to live a double life. Just be yourself, at least try to. I mean, it’s hard, but you’ve got to do it or else you’ll lose your mind.
And the people that really care about you are the ones that see the real you!
Micki: Exactly. They don’t care what’s on your Insta.
They do just to make sure that you’re alive. *both laugh*
Micki: Oh yeah, just to make sure that you’re not dead. *laughs*
So you’re not afraid to be open about being a queer female musician, and unfortunately, there are small-minded people in the world that try to generate a specific image of how you’re supposed to quote unquote be.
Micki: Unfortunately yes.
Do you feel that stereotypical queer traits and behaviors with LGBTQIA artists and performers actually exist?
Micki: I definitely think that there is a general sense of what an LGBTQIA artist should be and definitely stereotypes that people hold, but I think that the only way that we can break that is by revealing our authentic selves. We’re really only at the beginning of being able to express ourselves fully. Like, back when I was in high school, literally Kehlani was the only openly gay woman who I knew about. There just weren’t that many people. And so I feel like through us being like, ‘Hey look! This is who I am. Today I’m feeling feminine so I’m dressing pretty. Other days I don’t feel feminine or I feel more masculine so I’m gonna dress a little more butch.’ There doesn’t need to be a stereotype, but the only way we can get through that is if we show people what we really are.
I think we’re slowly getting to that more open way of acceptance.
Micki: Yeah. Slowly but surely.
We’ve all got weird quirks to be proud of!
Micki: Yeah! Everyone’s got to show them off!
Have you had any specific experiences, whether positive or negative, that were directly in relation to your sexual orientation, or even just like being a woman in general trying to make music?
Micki: I’ve definitely had both, honestly. Before I started working with my current producer, I had a lot of encounters with other male producers who would ask me inappropriate sexual questions about my relationship, and like what I do, and really just things that were not OK to ask someone.
It’s none of their business.
Micki: Exactly! It’s none of your business. I’m an artist, not this sexual play thing for you to question and probe. So I’ve definitely had some of those experiences, but for the most part, I would say it has been really freeing, especially working with my producer now, we’re like Phineas and Ferb. *Heather laughs* He’s just really awesome, and he has done nothing but celebrate my sexuality. He’s never made me feel uncomfortable about who I am or that I should hide who I am in any way. He’s been really awesome about me being open and encouraging me to be open with who I am, because it’s so important to be authentic. It really is.
As a female singer-songwriter, do you feel that women in the music industry need to portray themselves in certain ways in order to be successful?
Micki: I think to a certain extent, that it’s true, but I mean, that standard is slowly being broken. I think that some female artists fall into that trap because you want something with all your heart, and then someone tells you, mainly it’s men telling you, like, the higher ups, ‘Hey, dress like this, do your hair like this, do you makeup like this, and we’ll make you a star.’ And I mean, how could you pass that up? It’s a Catch-22. It’s just hard, but I feel like as we, as a society, continue to progress, it’s getting less and less like that. More female artists are stepping into the game with their authentic selves, instead of having to step in being someone else and then growing into their authentic selves. We’re getting there, it’s not perfect yet, but little by little, we make progress.
Yeah! Step by step into a better world!
Micki: Yes! I love that!
So how do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
Micki: I don’t. *laughs* I don’t know. I feel like I can’t because I just it bleeds into my personal life. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because my music is something that gives me so much joy, so I kind of like it to bleed into my everyday life. I love being able to write lyrics at the dinner table and be like, ‘Hey, Alexis,’ Alexis is my girlfriend, ‘I have some new lyrics. Do you want me to sing them to you?’ and she’ll be like, ‘Go for it!’
Aww! That’s so great!
Micki: It really is! I’m just constantly singing new lyrics and showing her what I’ve been creating, so it’s kind of nice that my personal life and business life are one. At the end of the day, it’s not really business for me because it’s just kind of part of me all the time.
And Alexis is a lucky girl who gets to be serenaded everyday! *both laugh*
Micki: Oh yeah. I serenade her daily! Hint hint for all the ladies and gentlemen out there. *both laugh*
If you could give your younger self some advice in regards to what you’ve experienced so far in music, or in life in general, what advice would you give her?
Micki: One big thing that I always say I would tell my younger self is that the people who truly love you are gonna stay no matter what. They’re gonna see your authentic self and love it, and the people who end up leaving your life, they were there for a reason and they left for a reason and you’re better for it. As far as music, I would just tell my younger self, ‘Don’t be afraid of it.’ For a long time I doubted myself and would pretty much tell myself, ‘You’re not good. You shouldn’t do this.’ If I would have just gone with my gut and moved forward with what I love, I would have been doing this a long time ago.
What do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Micki: I feel like a lot of my music is very, not necessarily ‘dark,’ but comes from dark places inside of me, but I don’t want to spread that darkness. I’m hoping, and believe, that by pouring my pain into this EP, that it can be turned into something beautiful. So instead, I can be spreading positivity and shared experience because I’m 100 percent sure that I am not the only one who has gone through the things that I’ve been through. And if just one person hears my song and is like, ‘You know what? This is me too, and I feel so much better now knowing that I’m not the only one.’ then I think I definitely succeeded. That’s what I want people to take away – love, joy for their life, and knowing that a lot of people go through the same things.
I feel like a lot of music listeners in general look for that in the music that they’re listening to. Like, yeah it’s easy to turn on the radio and listen to this pumped up pop song, but in the end, we, like you said, want to have those shared experiences and feel that we’re not alone.
Micki: Yeah. And I feel like nobody really is completely alone, you know? I feel like way too many people feel that way, like me for instance, for a long period of my life, I thought I was alone and thought that there was nobody I could talk to.That wasn’t the case, and that’s something that needs to be broadcasted like, ‘Hey everybody, you are not alone!’ You can open up to anybody. You can open up to me through my music, I can open up to you through my music, and we can all go through this together.
Absolutely! And apart from riding the highs of the release of your debut, what other big, exciting things should we be expecting from you in the near future?
Micki: My producer Braddokk, AKA C.M.Scott, and I have been super busy cooking up some new music and we are so excited to share. As of right now, we have two release dates that are pretty locked in. We’ll have a track released on November 1st, and another EP I’m super pumped about to be released on February 14th. We’ll also be releasing a live session of two songs from Intrusive Exclusive before the year is out. All in all, we are so pumped to share all of this with you guys, and can’t even begin to express how grateful we are for such an amazing response to Intrusive Exclusive.
About Zona Rosa Caffe:
Fans of Disney/Pixar‘ Coco and those familiar with the traditions of Dia De Los Muertos will find themselves in love with Pasadena’s charming coffeeshop Zona Rosa Caffe. Fun integrations on the Mexican holiday (and the overall culture) are showcased in its decor, rotating local artwork, specialty recipes, and its overall atmosphere. Bright colors, sugar skulls, serapes, and paper banners are primarily used for the visual aspect apart from the variety of artwork styles provided by local artists, and it’s clear that once you step into the shop that you will be immediately enveloped by its unique sense of community.
In terms of the menu, Zona Rosa has been specializing in Latin Organic Coffee since 1993, so you pretty much know that whatever you plan to order is going to me amazing. The Carmelo Royale was my drink of choice for this visit, but I will tell you that the final decision was hard for me since there were at least five drink options that I was going back and forth on. If you’re looking for a great coffee bucket list menu, I would have to say Zona Rosa is absolutely at the top of the list.