Mikaila – Interview


What is it like waking up in the morning reading a glowing review in Billboard and then going back to a somewhat normal life?

It’s really weird. I’m tutored but I’m enrolled in a public school, but it’s hard to go all the time with traveling and other demands.

And the demands on your time must be growing by the day so the balance must be tough.

It is hard. It’s something you have to deal with. It’s even harder being so young because already I don’t get many days off and when I do I have to do school work. That kind of sucks, but you learn how to balance it out.

How have your friends reacted?

They are really cool about it. They treat me the same as they have always treated me. I love coming home because it’s really grounding. They keep me grounded and bring me back to reality.

Were you prepared for how much your life changed?

There is no way you can prepare for that. I’ve heard from everybody. They’ve said that I wasn’t going to be able to prepare and that everything that I know will be different. It’s been a really good change, but there are certain sacrifices that you have to make in order to do this. But you have to do that with anything you do. You give up things to have the career you want. I mean, I’m living my dream and I’m only fourteen years old.

Exactly. The funny thing is that I didn’t know you were fourteen. I thought you were like a senior in school.

Really? (laughs)

Yeah! Wow. So when did you record the album?

We’ve been recording the album for about a year now. We went to Sweden, Norway, London, and we did a lot of stuff here too. I think what is cool about the album is that we worked with a lot of different producers so we got a lot of different sounds. My first love is R&B music, jazz, and hip-hop, so we tried to get that in there without changing it so that it lost the pop side. I love pop and that is really who I am.

What were you thinking when they said you were going to record in Sweden?

I was so excited. I have never been out of the country before so it was a completely new experience.

I’m jealous. I’ve never been there and I’d love to go. (we both laugh)

Sweden is my favorite place. It’s just beautiful there.

Have you gone back?

I’ve been there about three times.

Did you get to have fun or was it all work and no play?

It was mostly work, but we stayed in a really cool area. It had great shopping, restaurants, and museums.

When was your first time going into a studio to record?

I was eight years old. I actually got started when I was eight. I got started in the weirdest way. We weren’t even looking for this, well, I was, but my mom was the opposite of the typical stage parent you hear about. She didn’t want me to go to auditions and stuff. She wanted me to wait until I got older and make sure I went to college and got an education. So I was singing in church and had a memorial service for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing (Mikaila was born and raised a part of her life in Oklahoma). My church was actually three blocks away from the federal building so we got a lot of media coverage. I had no concept of cameras and reporters. I was just singing because my church asked me to. The executive producer of the Good Morning America show saw me perform and got a hold of my mom that night and flew us to New York to perform the next day on Good Morning America. That is really how I got started. I sang the same song and we recorded it and put it in stores and gave all the proceeds to those who lost family in the bombing.

When did you first start to think you could really do this for a living?

Actually the next day. They got like seven thousand phone calls after I performed. And then we started getting calls from producers, managers, and agents telling my mom that they wanted to make me a star. And my mom had heard all these horror stories about managers taking over your life. It was just this huge deal. She was telling them they couldn’t have her baby. We moved to Texas when I was ten and met my manager. She got Leann Rimes started. When I was twelve I recorded a demo with a local producer in Texas and we sent it an entertainment lawyer in New York City. He was also Britney Spears’ co-manager. That was before Britney actually released. We went to lunch and he told us, ‘I don’t usually fly to have lunch with someone that I haven’t decided on yet.’ He told us about Britney and that he wasn’t trying to make me a clone of her and that he saw I was different. He knew I wanted to be the next Mariah Carey. He sent the demo to ten different record labels and we flew to New York and met with five labels, like Tommy Mattola from Columbia, and others.

Was it weird when you saw the Britney Spears thing happen?

It was. I was like, ‘Dang it, I wanted to be the first one!’ It was cool. I’m really happy for her. I met her and she is actually a sweet, sweet girl. I don’t think I was expecting that because all the success she’s had and you hear so many bad stories about people. It’s refreshing to know that people can be so nice even with all the success.

What was the process like for choosing the songs?

That was really important to me. I wanted this album to represent me as an artist and I wanted it to be a good first album and establish me. We had a lot of different writers and producers and I told them what I liked and they went into the studio and put together songs.

When you were cutting demos were you playing them for your friends?

No, no, no. (laughs) Some of my friends haven’t even heard the album yet. I can honestly say I’ve never sung for my friends. I have a separate life and it’s so great. I come back home and I’m just Mikaila. It’s so amazing. I hope I can keep it like this for a while. It’s nice to be able to talk to people who are your true friends. There are a lot of people you can’t trust and it’s easy to get jaded.

It’s funny that you didn’t play it for them. I’d be all bragging and like calling everyone and playing it.

(laughs) No way. (laughs)

Do you have brothers and sisters?

Yeah, I have a brother who is twenty-four and married and a sister that is sixteen.

Do you keep it from them too?

(laughs) No, my sister hears most of it because she comes with us. My mom feels bad about leaving her behind.

What was your biggest surprise after being signed?

Since I was eight I have been doing press and interviews and performing. There were a lot of surprises. Especially being away so much. The whole process as well. There are so many things you learn, like going to other countries and learning about their cultures and religions. And about the music industry. There is so much to learn from contracts to money to points and all that stuff. You have to know that or else people can mess with you. It’s good to have people around you that you can trust.

I think a lot of people think you show up at Mtv or at a concert go on and that is all you do. But people don’t realize how much goes on behind the scenes. I guess that’s why it’s called the music business.

(laughs) That is true. And that reminds me. The videos. There is so much that goes on. People see Making The Video but they have no idea how much goes on. It’s something you can’t describe. When you pull up there at five in the morning and there is this big set made for you with directors and extras and all these props and you think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is all here for me.’ You are just like, ‘Wow. Why?’.

You’re walking around in a daze going, ‘This is for me. They’re here for me’?

(laughs) I have to pinch myself.

Is there anyone that you’d really like to meet?

I would love to meet Celine Dion. I’ve heard really good things about her and she seems like such a nice, nice person. I’d like to really find out that she is nice because then she’d really be my idol. Because then she would have it all: the voice, the family, and the whole aura. I did get to meet Jay-Z, and I’m a huge hip-hop fan so that was so cool.

What is it like now that you are emerging as a person people want to meet and look up to?

I have to admit that is a really weird deal. That is another thing that surprised me. You see that and you are like, ‘Oh, I want that,’ but when someone actually comes up to you and they are crying and going ‘I can’t believe I met you’ and I’m really thinking ‘I can’t believe you are so happy to meet me.’ It’s such a great feeling because you know your music has touched somebody.

+ charlie craine

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