From time to time you find yourself in the orbit of someone who is not only insanely talented and destined to be a star but that embodies some other worldly element that instantly entrances you. Such is the case with Masha, who’s amazing voice captured the imagination of legions of dedicated fans. She has a country heart, a rock soul, an independent mind, and an untamed voice that can enchant or shock you. She can purr, but she’d rather growl and tell you the truth you’ve always known, but tried to hide from yourself. Masha’s power and passion attracted the attention of songwriter Claude Kelly (Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston, Christine Aguilera) and producer Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift, Shania Twain) and now this 23-year-old vocal powerhouse is gearing up for the October 22nd release of her EP, ‘Stupid, Stupid Dreams.” The EP serves as the latest impressive chapter in what is sure to be a remarkable musical jouney. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this inspiring artist to discuss her musical roots, the making of the EP, her ongoing musical evolution and what the future holds for her in the months to come.
We wanted to start off by giving everyone a little background on you. When did your musical journey begin and who were some of your influences?
I started singing when I was around eleven, so it started there. When I was younger, I was influenced by big female vocalists like Beyoncé. Now, I am just a fan of music in general. Anything that gives me goose bumps definitely influences me! I am a huge fan of Janis Joplin, Smashing Pumpkins, The Dixie Chicks and Bonnie Raitt. I am just a fan of music in general.
Was there a catalyst that made you take a shot at your career in the music industry?
Honestly, there was never another option! Seriously! I have known since I was eleven years old that this is what I wanted to do and nothing is going to stop me. Nothing has changed since then!
In reading your bio, I found it interesting that you kept your musical side a secret from your friends for many years. Can you tell us a little about that choice?
I didn’t tell any of my friends about it when I was in high school. I lived in New Jersey and I always took the bus into the city of Manhattan to take vocal lessons and work in the studio. I don’t know why, really. I just didn’t want to tell anybody because I hated explaining it to them. Even now, you get “Oh you are a singer? Where do you sing? On Broadway?” It is a tough question to answer. It was only after high school that I finally made the two lives come together. I just didn’t want the extra attention and for some reason didn’t want to share it with my high school fiends.
The cat is definitely out of the bag now![laughs] Yeah! Definitely!
You have been hard at work on your EP for quite some time. The title is “Stupid, Stupid Dreams.” What were your expectations as you started the process?
You know, I had absolutely no expectations. I have just learned to live my life without expectations because it makes it a little easier. I have been working on it for about three years now. I am just excited to finally have it out there! I am excited to be able to perform the songs in front of people, which I have been doing here locally in New York for the past couple of months. I am excited to have it out there and to be able to buy it for myself!
What does the title, “Stupid, Stupid Dreams,” mean to you personally?
That has been my favorite quote since I started singing! I don’t know where I first heard it but it really meant something to me. The full quote is “Never give up on your stupid, stupid dreams.” It is true. If you think you want to become an astronaut, basketball player or a singer, other people might think it sounds stupid and say “Yeah, you should probably get a real job!” That is where “Stupid, Stupid Dreams” came from!
For people who haven’t heard the EP yet, what can they expect from it sonically?
There are a lot of angry songs and a lot of not so angry songs. They are all very personal and have stories behind them. It was very therapeutic writing them and getting over certain situations. For me, I hope when people finish listening to the EP, they will leave feeling uplifted or happy or maybe wanting to want to slash some tires of something! [laughs]
You have been working with Claude Kelly and Nathan Chapman on this release. What are your recollections of first meeting them?
When I met Claude, I was working with a production company when I was 14. He had written a song and I had recorded it. He heard it and then we started working together for weeks at a time. This was before Claude had any songs placed at all. We have become great, great friends since then! Nathan, I met for the first time the day we wrote “Ugly.” We were writing in his home studio. He is one of the nicest and most genuine people I have ever met. He is incredibly talented and I love his entire family! Both of the guys are a dream to work with, as well as be friends with!
What has it been like working with Claude and Nathan? I imagine you can learn a lot from such talented people.
Yeah! It is amazing. I have been really happy working with them. It is not like work! It is so much fun and endless jokes. I have known Claude for so many years, since I was fourteen, and he is a genius. I start hearing the same melodies or harmonies he hears. It has been great!
What can you tell us about your songwriting process and how you bring them to life?
Usually when I write, especially when I am working with Claude and Nathan, we just sit down, pick up the guitar and start singing melodies. I will talk about how I am feeling that day or something that happened to me recently. I will tell the story of it and it will just turn into a song. I can go out to a bar on night and have something crazy happen or meet someone and it could turn into a song. Inspiration can come from anywhere.
You recorded the EP at Blackbird Studios in Nashville.
Yes, I did all of the recording there at Martina McBride and her husband’s studio.
I have spoken to a few musicians who have recorded there. What impact did the studio and the Nashville scene have on you and your music?
Blackbird and Nashville are probably the best places I have ever been to in my life! I love Nashville! Pretty much everyone there can sing and play instruments. Everyone is so ridiculously talented — even the assistants at the studio or the people opening the front door! Everyone is so genuinely nice and wishes the best for you! All of the musicians we used for creating this EP are all so extremely excited about it when they are working. It was an amazing experience to be able to record there!
Was it difficult to choose the songs for this EP or where they obvious choices?
It was pretty difficult. There are a bunch of songs I wish could have made it on the EP. I have songs ranging from hard rock songs to a really slow ballad where I am singing in falsetto the whole time. It was definitely hard to choose because all of the songs are so different. We have maybe twenty to thirty songs that Claude, Nathan and I wrote that are all incredible, so it really sucked to have to pick just five!
Looking back on the process of putting this EP, what do you consider the biggest challenge?
Getting it out there, honestly. Making it exactly how I envisioned it sonically and then getting the EP cover to coincide with that was a challenge. “Ugly,” which is the lead single, is a song I actually wrote three years ago. It was the first song that Claude, Nathan and I wrote together and is now going to be the first single. That song went through so many different production phases. That was really difficult; making it the best song we could possibly make!
What do you feel you learned about yourself through the process of creating this EP?
I have definitely grown a lot. I have become much more patient since we started this thing! I am a very antsy person who wants things done now! So, I definitely have become more patient along the way.
Is there a moment from the studio that still drives you crazy or that brings a smile to your face?
My favorite part of recording is from one of the songs on the EP called “Amen.” When we were tracking it at Blackbird, Nathan actually brought in a 36 person gospel choir to sing on it! That was incredible to see these 36 people singing along to one of my songs! They were phenomenal and it was amazing to watch!
I first came across your work, it was through a lot of the amazing cover songs you have done and posted online. There is so much variety there and they are a great showcase of your talent!
Thank you! I am glad you like them!
For you, what makes a great cover song?
I tend to just pick any song I am a fan of. Sometimes it will be a Top 40 song like Miley Cryrus’ “Wrecking Ball” which I recently posted. I just feel in love with the song because it was so perfectly written! I was excited to be able to sing that and emote the way I wanted to! I also like doing old songs which I am a huge fan of like Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know” or Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz.” It is really about songs I want to her myself sing!
What do you have in mind for video releases in support of this awesome EP?
I just posted a lyric video that I illustrated myself and had someone animate it. It is a stick figure story to “Ugly.” Tonight, I am planning on recording a live version of “Ugly,” as well.
Playing live is a huge part of what you do. What are your touring plans looking like at the moment?
I have been playing locally and I have a few college dates in the near future. I would love to get on a tour! I hope that is in the cards for the near future!
What do you hope people walk away with after seeing your live performances?
I always like to see people leave with a smile on their face and a glimmer of hope on their eye!
Your career is obviously still blossoming. What do you consider your biggest milestones thus far?
I think releasing this EP is a huge one because it has taken about three years to complete. Actually having that out is going to be a huge milestone. Every time I am down in Nashville with Claude and Nathan perfecting it, it is always really memorable for me!
You have been able to use social media to your advantage as a developing artist. What type of impact has it had on you?
That has been really great because if I have a bad day or dealing with some type of rejection, I can always go on my Twitter, Facebook or YouTube channel and read all of the nice things people say about me! That is awesome! That has always been a blessing for me!
What are some of the musical bucket list items you might have as an artist?
There are a ton! I want to work with so many people. I would love to write with Linda Perry, which has always been a big dream of mine. Another one is to play at Madison Square Garden or the O2. I would love to sing at The Grammys and I could go on and on from there!
You serve as a terrific inspiration to many aspiring musicians out there. What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to those looking to make their career in music?
Never accept no for an answer. You will get a lot of rejections along the way but you can never let that get you down. That is where my favorite quote comes in again — “Never give up on your stupid, stupid dreams.”
Is there anything you want to pass along to your fans before we let you go?
I just want to say that I love them to death and thank you for bearing with me for so long! Some of them have been fans for years and have been so patient in waiting for this project to finally come out! I thank them so much for that!
Thank you so much for your time today, Masha! We are excited to spread the word!
Thank you so much! I really appreciate it!