‘Stupid, Stupid Dreams’: Masha Makes Her Mark on the Music World
As 2013 coaxes into multilayered memories and thoughts of 2014 slip into our minds, fans of soulful pop (with a country-folk and heavy metal edge) are rejoicing about a new wunderkind, Masha.
The 23-year-old songbird, hailing from New York by way of Nashville, TN has brought her impassioned and engaging voice to the music world. Packaged into electrifying, organic-sounding songs and anthems, the singer can just as easily croon from her heart as she can belt out with palpable prowess. Masha’s ability to seamlessly fuse unassuming vocals with throaty rawness began taking form in her childhood. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing,” Masha said. “When I was little, I sang along with the radio. People like Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera attracted me, strong women who could really belt it out.”
With prolific muses, the songwriter and chanteuse came to know the landscape of dynamic female singers. But Masha is in a class all her own, amalgamating multiple genres for a rather unique, nuanced sound (one in which the singer is in her element, whether in the studio or on stage). With candid lyrics speaking to everything from heartbreak to violence, Masha has enough of an evocative spark that gives her staying power. Already, the budding talent added her Midas touch to covers such as Nirvana’s “Come as You Are,” which earned her a commercial television spot on the Lifetime network’s new drama, Witches of East End.
The rising star just released her first EP, Stupid, Stupid Dreams, in late October on iTunes, having fine-tuned the record for more than three years. Masha opened up to GALO about the new EP (culminating with a full-length debut in 2014), and performing in Brooklyn, New York’s musical melting pot. And with a modest and refreshing honesty, the fiery blonde dissected her rich, textured sound.
GALO: As a child, playing the piano and singing were regular activities for you. Your energies shifted a bit, with a growing affinity for the guitar and writing songs as a teenager. Please explain your trajectory as a musical artist? What influenced your growth, and any early muses?
Masha: I’ve been recording and writing since I was 11. Surrounded by such incredible talents and songwriters at such a young age to now, it has given me a great sense of myself as an artist, and the music business in general. They have been my muses. Now, at [age] 23, I’m completely immersed in the Brooklyn underground scene. Seeing my peers, who are all so talented and are doing what I want to be doing, is inspiring. [They are creating, doing] music. The hunger that I felt at 11-years-old hasn’t subsided one bit. I just want to be better.
GALO: Your voice is very mature and peculiar. It seems like nothing for you to vacillate from a mellifluous sound, to one that is refined, turning quickly to raw and palpable in an almost seamless fashion. You handle the ebbs and flow of the songs with ease, adapting at every turn while flooding our ears with impassioned and organic vocals. As your Web site described it, “[Masha] can illuminate the stage with force of her personality, or quietly draw you in with her confidence with a soft confession that touches your heart.” Is it safe to say that your sound is dichotomous, with soft and intense singing blending together?
Masha: I like to immerse myself completely in the lyrics and melody of a song. There are stories behind my lyrics, which I can’t help but feel in my heart. I don’t think about anything when I sing. I just emote whatever comes naturally. I might be screaming, or I could barely make a sound.
GALO: Stupid, Stupid Dreams features an anthem called “Ugly,” a personal story set to a raw rock track with grinding guitars, punctuated by your “heated” voice. The beginning lyrics read, “Doesn’t any girl wanna feel pretty, pretty/ Doesn’t any girl wanna be on top of the world for a day/ Doesn’t anyone wanna feel loved, really.” The chorus explodes into an emotional outpouring from a girl coming to terms with a painful truth, and facing that revelation. The narrative is even more haunting and heart-wrenching when one hears the live, acoustic version. Please tell us the story behind “Ugly.” What’s the concept and inspiration here?
Masha: I wrote this song after a pretty shitty breakup. This person walked all over me, made me feel hopeless and worthless. Like my life was over. He brainwashed me into thinking that I was less than I am. It took me a long time to get over that hurt. In this song, I came to the realization that “I’m only Ugly with you,” [and that] is exactly how I felt. It was like an epiphany. I wrote “Ugly” because I needed girls around the world to know that they are beautiful, and worth it.
GALO: Another track, “Amen,” begins with guitar strumming before introducing your soulful pipes. Out of nowhere, the song builds to a culmination of voices from a choir for a commanding, up-tempo track. The candid lyrics talk about love and equality, but what other topics do you explore with this particular single?
Masha: [I explore] violence. It’s so archaic to think that people still walk around shooting each other. I don’t understand why we all just can’t live life with love. Why do we have to bud our noses into other people’s lives? [This message] is what “Amen” is about to me; love really is all we need to live (in a perfect world, of course).
GALO: The new record is fraught with songs, amalgamating a pop sensibility with heavy influences from rock, country, gospel, heavy metal and folk. Having a nuanced style that is a masterful confluence of so many genres, and having honed that melting pot musical approach while working on your inaugural record, you prove to be an “outside of the box” thinker. What was the pinnacle, the highest moment in creating this album? And what was the piece de resistance or best song here?
Masha: The best moment for me in creating this record was recording the choir in “Amen.” It was an incredibly humbling moment to see 40 people in one room helping me to finish a song. Also, one of the last days of mixing with Nathan [Chapman] and Claude [Kelly,] I had a bit of a panic attack. It was just overwhelming to see these songs be brought to life in exactly the way that I heard them in my head. I shed a few tears that day.
GALO: A lot of your most enrapturing, sublime performances are of cover songs, including Imagine Dragon’s “Demons” and Nirvana’s “Come as You Are,” which was featured in commercial spots for the television series, Witches of East End. Why is doing cover songs so attractive, especially when you’re performing them on stage?
Masha: When performing covers on stage, most of the people in the audience already know the song. I just like to take the song and flip it on its head. I try something different, and that’s exciting for me.
GALO: Please walk us through the process of writing songs. Do you craft lyrics before composing music, or the reverse? Do you try to keep up with industry trends when it comes to using certain sounds?
Masha: Writing always comes different. Sometimes, I have a lyric that I dreamt of months ago, and other times, the melody comes first. I like to create music that I’m proud of. I definitely go with my gut, no questions asked. Where the music industry is heading toward now is very exciting. I think the idea of a trend, when it comes to sounds or genre, is dissipating. There is no trend.
GALO: And when it comes to stellar showcases in front of your fans, what’s your mental process like when getting ready for them? Are there any nerves?
Masha: There is always a bit of nerves right before I get on stage. I worry if I’ll even remember how to sing, or if I’m going to hit that high note in the bridge of “Ladies First.” But then, as soon as I sing the first line, all of those nerves go away. Hanging out with my band beforehand, at the dive bar around the venue, is always a plus, too.
GALO: You are active on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and have more than 2 million views on your YouTube channel. Imagine if these platforms didn’t exist. What impact or effect do you think that would have on the music industry?
Masha: YouTube has definitely played a pivotal role in my career thus far. It’s given me a direct form of communication with fans. I don’t have to go through record executives to get to them. If these social media platforms didn’t exist, artists would have to go about it the old-fashioned way, [like using] word of mouth.
For more information about Masha, including more videos and performance dates, please visit her Web site at http://thenameismasha.com/. “Stupid, Stupid Dreams” is currently available for purchase on iTunes.