If you enjoy a groovy, soulful sound by an artist with a powerful, soulful voice and a unique charisma, then you should check out Myrna Braza! The artist and songwriter was born in Bergen, Norway, with roots from the Philippines, and has often been referred to as the “Soul Queen” of Bergen. She is an artist in her own right that keeps receiving glowing reviews for her music Internationally, and was recently mentioned as “one of the best soul talents of Norway”. For years Myrna has performed at venues and festivals around Norway, including a London tour in 2014 and The Philippines in 2015. She has also been the support for American artists such as Raphael Saadiq, Dwele and Ryan Leslie, a backup singer for Norwegian artists, featured on several Norwegian music TV shows including albums/singles with other artists and bands, and even headhunted for a role in a theater musical in Bergen. Not bad for an unsigned, independent artist! Myrna will soon be releasing her second solo album, with songs inspired by soul/gospel music from the 60´s, to timeless, catchy and funky pop songs, always adding her soulful sound.
Entertwine: Could you give us some insight into your musical background?
The first time I performed on stage I was 7 years old!
My every day life as a child involved music in some form, whether it was dancing, playing an instrument or singing – it was as natural as breathing. My older sister and I used to watch my dad (he travelled the world as a guitarist and settled down in Bergen when we were born. He actually met my mom on his tour in Norway!), perform at events all the time. My mom, who was a musician too, was the conductor in a marching band where I played the cornet. I´d have friends over all the time and we used our livingroom as our playground for song and dance. If I wasn´t using the livingroom for song and play, then my dad would practice his guitar or my parents would be singing karaoke. It was a loud home indeed.
My first song:
I´ve always loved writing poems, and when I was 12 I started adding melodies. I recorded my first song in a professional studio at the age of 13. By the time I was 15 I had performed a lot of my songs together with an r&b group inspired by our heroes Destiny´s Child.
When I was 15 I met the man that is my producer and drummer, Thomas (tomtomstudio), who has also been the love of my life for the last 9 years. In 2009 we released my debut album «Free As A Bird» through our label «tomtom&Braza», and have been collaborating as musicians ever since. He´s my wingman, we are a dream team!
Throughout the years I´ve met and worked with loads of talented people that are successful musicians and artists today. I´ve toured in Norway, London and the Philippines, been the support for known artists like Dwele, Ryan Leslie and Raphael Saadiq. Long before releasing my debut album I was a background singer and I´ve been featured in several Norwegian TV shows. I recently played a role in a big theater musical, I work as a freelance singer too and perform almost every weekend, and since 2004 I´ve been featured on loads of music releases with other artists.
My love for soulful music were influenced by my dad´s records of groups like Earth, Wind and Fire and The Manhattan Transfer, which led me to discover timeless singers like Aretha Franklin and Al Green. MTV was my main source to «urban» music, as Norwegian radios were mostly playing rock music or Norwegian songs. Then came the big voices of the 90´s, such as Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, who are the main reasons I wanted to become a singer. Other than that I was just a normal kid growing up in the 90´s, listening to popular music.
Who or what led you to pursue a career in music?
My parents always encouraged me to sing. My dad was very much my musical mentor and I guess being used to watching my parents in the spotlight all the time made it natural for me to do the same. So I guess I´ve never really pursued a career, it´s just been a natural thing for me to share my passion with others and learn by doing. When I look back though I realize that step-by-step and hard work-mentality is what I´ve built my career on, whereas passion, fun and following my heart has been the most important factors, and every time I doubt myself I find that they still are.
Never been on Idol/The Voice:
I´ve never pursued any talents competitions. People keep telling me I should but somehow it doesn´t feel right. There are never any shortcuts to a sustainable career and this industry is a tough one, there are never any guarantees. I´ve seen friends become famous and promised all sorts of wonderful opportunities by the industry one day and simply forgotten and dumped the next. I´ve seen how easy it is to get a million likes and know how hard it is to gain a few hundred followers who actually give a damn in the long run.
I don´t judge the people that join these competitions, and I´ve even coached singers who´s been part of Norway´s Got Talent and Norwegian Idol, I just personally feel that I don´t belong in one myself. All I want to do is sing, write beautiful music, perform and share it with the world and meet awesome people through it, and that is exactly what I´m doing.
As an independent artist though, I admit that I conctantly feel the pressure of time and having to get to somewhere better. I put so much preassure on myself on a daily basis because I always feel I can do so much more, but the more I push for attention, the smaller I feel. The world has gotten so big now with so much information all around that one can go crazy pursuing «attention» and become obsessed with trying to be seen and heard, «liked» and «shared». I don´t think these competitions would make it any better for me.
So I try do what I can to share my music with the world, and know that I´m blessed with listeners who follow me because they love it and support me. That is true acknowledgement to me and hopefully as I create more music I will gain more listeners.
What was it like growing up in Bergen, Norway?
To be honest, at times it was really hard because I never felt like I truly belonged. I experienced a lot of bullying and my sister and I was beaten at school, all because of our skin color. It was so unfair, I was born here, but my roots are Norwegian and Filipino. I felt like I couldn´t be one or the other. I had never even been to the Philippines. It was all so confusing and hurting. Luckily things changed for me when I changed schools and the bullying stopped, although I spent a few years being an angry teenager who fell into trouble and the wrong surroundings at times. But that´s all in the past and now I think that I´m just a human being. One of my best friends once told me «I don´t see any color. To me you´re just…Myrna». I guess the music saved me too, it was good having this one passionate thing I could project my emotions through – and I still do.
With that said, my hometown Bergen is the most beautiful city in the world! It´s a small, rainy, calm and relaxed city, with charming streets and small houses and no skyscrapers, a city that lies in between seven mountains. It can sometimes be too relaxed here as one easily becomes lazy. I love having my home here though, and it´s good to know that I can travel the world anytime and pursue any dreams, and then come back home to my friends and family like nothing ever happened. Everyone is so chill about everything, and it´s definitely a city that´ll get you back down to planet Earth, even Ariana Grande could walk the streets here without anyone really taking notice.
The music here is as colorful and vibrant as the people, you´ll find everything from rock bands to electronic music. We have some great concert venues and the city is filled with amazingly talented musicians. Thousands of new students move to Bergen every year for studies, so despite it being a small city, gigging here feels new and fresh to me everytime, and my audience has always been very supportive and kind.
What experiences and events influenced the writing and recording of your upcoming album “Story Of I”?
Life itself inspires me. I often find myself writing songs that are meant to inspire and motivate and also serve as a reminder to myself when times are tough. I believe a lot of people can relate to the stories I tell, so the «I» in the album title «Story of I» is not meant for me alone, it can be anyone who relates.
This time I´ve also written songs just for fun, simply because I love groovy, timeless and catchy songs that make you forget your troubles and get your hips moving instead, and they´re so much fun to perform live.
Some of the best musicians I know has joined me on this album, including my wonderful dad who plays the guitar on almost every song. The album was produced and recorded in tomtomstudio in Bergen and I can´t wait to share it with the world!
What can you tell us about each of the featured tracks, especially the album’s first single ‘Anything’?
Story of I will consist of 11 tracks. The order of the songs haven´t been decided yet, but here are the titles and a few words about each song so you get a sense of what´s to come:
Hit Me – a groovy song about dealing with failure, dusting yourself off and trying again
Story of I – an oldschool, soulful ballad about life being more than a number in time and making the most of it. This will be one of the future singles that includes a music video!
Naked – a powerful gospel-inspired ballad about daring to reach your dreams and following your heart
So Simple – a delightful and warm, pop-jazzy tune about the little things that make you happy
Beautiful – a cool and funky, uptempo song dedicated to my audience for being so darn beautiful
Unstable – a soulful, groovy song about realizing you´re not made of stone and trying too hard to be perfect all the time
Never Meant To Be – a super funky, uptempo and catchy tune about being dumped
Bubble – a soulful, r&b-tune about not really wanting to deal with issues
Natural High – a cool, club-y song about being in love
Do What You Love – a catchy, uptempo song about doing what you love and loving what you do
Anything – the one song that really stands out from the rest because its so mellow and personal, a ballad about the love of my life and our story. I wrote it on our 7th anniversary and showed it to him when he came home. He was so happy with it and it was important for both of us to record it and share it with the world when it was ready.
What went into the making of the music video for ‘Anything’?
The music video was recorded last year when Bergen had the warmest and sunniest summer in like a hundred years. I really wanted to film outside in the lovely sun and feature people I care about, friends and family. I wanted something simple and had the idea of just filming their beautiful faces as they´re holding a word from the lyrics in the song. One single word can hold such power and is even more powerful when you put a face behind it. I believe the video has managed to capture something vulnerable and beautiful that moves anyone watching it. Everytime I watch the video it makes me cry, these are my family and friends all gathered in one video, and I´m reminded how much they mean to me.
The still photos in the end of the video were sent to me by followers on social media when I asked if someone would like to share a photo that represented love.
What did the writing and recording process look and sound like for this record?
It´s been a long and bumpy ride to complete this album.
Right after the released of my EP Moments in 2013, I got a job offer that I accepted that unfortunately resulted in me focusing on everything else besides my own music. After a year of pushing myself too hard, and trying so hard to combine the job of building an enterprise and my own career as an independent artist, I realized that no matter what I did for others it would never be enough, and that I would have to give up my career as an artist entirely for it to be. And I almost did! I was lost in a downwards spiral and couldn´t find my way out of it.
But then a year ago I had an awakening.
Giving up had never been an option, but then again that was something I had always meant for myself and my music, and here I was, prepared to throw it all away… and for what? For who? So I decided to take back my life and found my passion and drive for music again as the artist and musician that I am!
I can´t believe it´s been a year already, but 2015 has truly been filled with the most amazing experiences, events and opportunities and there´s no doubt in my mind that I made the right choice, I´m simply a happier person now too!
So basically, I spent most of the spring this year recording the songs for the upcoming album. Then I went on the longest summer holiday I´ve had my entire life, travelling to the Philippines for the very first time, meeting my family there and touring with my dad, performing in every city we visited. When I came back home I was filled with new energy and inspiration, and recorded the rest of the songs.
«Story of I» is definitely inspired by my good and bad experiences in life and will hopefully inspire and move others.
How does this record differ from or expand on your previous release?
It was important for me to have more «fun» on this album. It was so much fun writing the funky song «Go!» (from Moments EP) that I felt like producing a few more in that style on this album. Some of the lyrics have important messages and meanings, and others are simply made to make you feel good.
In other words, the record consists of songs inspired by oldschool soul music and heartfelt power ballads, but also groovy and catchy r&b/pop tunes that´ll make your head wiggle.
It was important for me that the songs could all «stand alone» as singles, yet having that groovy, warm sound and soulful, powerful vocals in them that makes the album feel «complete». Other than that I always strive to become a better singer and songwriter, and I wanted to put more power, soul and emotions into this album, and hopefully I´ve managed that. Some of Norway´s finest musicians including my dad is palying on this record too!
What does 2016 hold in store for Myrna Braza, musically-speaking? Do you have any upcoming performances?
In January I´ll be releasing another single, hopefully with a music video!
«Story of I» (album) will be released on February 14th, which is Thomas and mine´s 10th anniversary as a couple! And we love celebrating, so this will be a special day indeed.
I am really looking forward to touring in both Norway and The Philippines.
I will travel and perform as much as possible, but mostly try to appreciate every day and welcome opportunities as they come and just keep doing what I love.