If you’ve been wondering why you haven’t been hearing Mya‘s music like you’re used to over the past few years, there’s a good reason for that. With the changing landscape of the r&b scene here in the U.S., like many artists before her, she released her past few albums exclusively in Japan, a place that has always shown love to pure r&b. Additionally, she’s joined the many artists in r&b who have shunned major labels to release their albums independently. YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to catch up with Mya upon the release of her new album K.I.S.S. in the U.S. (it released in Japan a few months earlier). We had a chance to discuss her decision to release her albums overseas first, how she approached this new album, why she feels it’s her best work yet, the challenges she now faces as an independent artist, if music is still important to her with a blossoming acting career to fall back on, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: How did you approach the creation of the “K.I.S.S.” album compared to your previous albums?
Mya: Just like “Sugar & Spice” and “Beauty & the Streets Vol. 1”, I was also the executive producer for “K.I.S.S”. That entails scouting the producers, songwriters, arranging the album track listing, keeping track of the accounting. “Sugar & Spice” was catered more to Japan’s distinct sound & market, but approaching “K.I.S.S.”, I wanted to make a classic Mya album even if it meant digging deeper into my pockets. This album has a balance of mid-tempos, up-tempos, slow jams and great production. As fun as this album is, there’s also lots of substance to be discovered lyrically, without getting bored or depressed.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about what’s included on the U.S. version of the album.
Mya: There are about six new songs on the U.S./Canada version. The world version becomes available February 14, 2012.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You released your last two albums “Sugar in Spice” & “Liberation” only in Japan, and released your new “K.I.S.S.” album in Japan first. Talk about the decision to do that and what your fan base is like over there.
Mya: Actually “Liberation” was accidentally released in Japan by ex-label Motown/Universal in 2007; a mistake that allowed me to get out of my contract and become independent. Due to the positive response to “Liberation” in Japan, I was approached by Manhattan Records, a Japanese label, to do a one-territory deal in which I could maintain ownership of my masters, executive produce my album and have it properly supported in that territory. Taking the wise business advice from mentors like Prince and J. Prince regarding ownership, I gave it a shot, released my first indie project “Sugar & Spice” the following year  and learned so much from a business aspect by doing so. The fans there are very enthusiastic and so supportive. This was a both business move for me as much as it was a personal move.
YouKnowIGotSoul: This is your second album release on an independent label. What challenges do you find releasing music as an independent artist?
Mya: This is actually my 4th release on Planet 9. There are many benefits. The biggest challenge is self-financing 100% of everything. Recording costs, studio time, engineer fees, travel costs are all a part of the creation process. Then after the creation, there are producer fees, mixing, mastering, photo shoots, artwork, packaging, artist feature fees, legal fees, clearances, and so on that must be covered before any music can officially be released to the public. And then there’s so much more money involved to fund music videos, publicity, get it played on radio nationally and globally. I’m still working on it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: With the success you’ve had on television and acting in movies over the past years, is your success in music to you still as important as it once was?
Mya: My music has always been important regardless of other projects. And in the past few years, it’s been more important than ever before as the world hasn’t even received the best of me yet.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Give us some background on the U.S. single “Somebody Come Get This Bitch”.
Mya: “SCGTB” is a song that I created with two friends of mine just acting out in the studio. The song is about maintaining composure when the messy, shady friend of friend decides to tag along on a girls’ night out. All it takes is one rotten apple to spoil the whole bunch.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Looking back on your career, what is your favorite album that you’ve recorded and why?
Mya: So far, my favorite album I’ve recorded is K.I.S.S. The creative process has been a breath of fresh air. I’ve been free to do what I want, work on things to my liking without egos or politics involved. At the end of the day, I’m happy to have that same feeling I had when I used to sing for my friends in high school. It’s about making a great body of work & giving people an experience. I know my fans can hear that when they take a listen.
YouKnowIGotSoul: A favorite collaboration of yours you’ve had is “Girls Dem Sugar” with Beenie Man. Talk about the song and what you remember most about it.
Mya: I remember walking into the studio, meeting up with Pharell of The Neptunes who sang the melody that I loved the first time I heard it. It was infectious. I remember meeting Beenie Man for the first time on the actual set of the video & then actually going to Jamaica to perform it with him for SunSplash a year or two later, which was quite an experience.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What do you remember most about recording “Take Me There” with Blackstreet and Mase?
Mya: I remember working alongside Teddy Riley & Chauncey of Blackstreet in the studio. It wasn’t until we actually shot the music video that I met Mase. Working with such a talented, highly respected producer like Teddy Riley so early in my career was one of the highlights of recording this song.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Your biggest single of your own to date has been “Case of the Ex”. Talk about how this song was created.
Mya: I was working at Redzone Studios in Atlanta, GA & through the walls in the room next door, we heard this banging’ track! I stepped out of my current session to see what was going on & there you go. That was my first introduction to Tricky Stewart & the beginning of “Case of the Ex” which was originally a rap song, later penned by Traci Hale.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Mya: I can be found on twitter.com/missmya, myamya.com. K.I.S.S. is available on iTunes & Amazon.com now. The world version will be available on February 14, 2012. Physical orders become available via amazon.com in February 2012 & autographed copies become available on myamya.com.