Ottawa artist Mischa is open and honest about her journey to becoming the artist she is today.
Dabbling in music as a teen, it wasn’t until 2018 that she actually decided to fully commit to her music, conquering her own self-doubt and self-criticism along the way. The process has given her more confidence and control of her music, she says, and it shows in the work she’s recently released.
We sat down with Mischa to discuss her latest single, her recent collaboration with Ottawa artist Dip Black released in early May, and what’s next.
You were born and raised in Ontario. Describe your childhood in 3 words?
Yes! I was born in Ottawa and lived here until I was 5 years old. My family then moved to Kitchener-Waterloo where I spent my childhood.
3 words to describe my childhood would be, vivid, eventful and inspiring. I wish I could say that I had the greatest childhood ever but I can tell you that I’m very grateful for the things I endured because they have shaped who I am today. Sometimes it’s not about learning certain things as much as it is about unlearning them. I’m very thankful for the fact that nothing was ever handed to me in my life. Everything I have ever had is because I earned it and that’s how it continues to be.
How did you discover your passion for music, for freestyle and for Hip Hop?
I always loved music growing up. The genres that I grew up listening to are completely different than the ones that I love now, but I would always be dancing in my room to my CD Walkman or out at recess listening to music. Music has always found a way to speak to me.
Growing up, I was always an outcast and had a hard time expressing myself without being judged. So I would always write down my thoughts for myself, knowing that was my way to vent and get everything out in a safe place.
It wasn’t until I was 17 when I met a certain friend in high school, Spiff, who got me into Hip Hop. Every time we hung out he would put on hip-hop instrumentals and freestyle over them. I was so captivated by this! So without telling anyone, I would go home and just put on random instrumentals and try to freestyle. I was never and am still not great at freestyling! (Laughs) I used to record them on my brick of a smartphone, which I still have somewhere. But that’s what got me into thinking that I could write in rhyme and potentially create songs. I had no knowledge of song structure besides what I would hear. So in the beginning, I would just fill notebooks with rhymes instead of trying to structure out songs. This was all still a hobby for me. Something on the back of my mind that I would do after school here and there. I would freestyle at parties, write occasionally and eventually just rule it out as a phase of my life and stopped until 2016.
It wasn’t until 2017 that you released your first single and made your work public. How did it feel to put yourself out there back in 2017?
I moved back to Ottawa in 2014 and that’s where I connected with my first friend, producer and artist, Jonny Brown. I knew he made music and I always admired that but I never actually contemplated myself building a career off of it until 2016. Even then at that point, it was still just a hobby to me. I turned to him for some help when I wanted to record my first song and had no idea what to do or where to start. He was the very first person to record me! The initial song I released was a cover to “Needed Me” by Rihanna. I went and changed all of the verses to my own lyrics and did my own rendition of the hook. As much as I always loved rapping, I was still lacking in self-confidence, so I decided to take a much more R&B approach to this cover. It was very nerve wracking putting that song out. I’d struggled to be accepted since I was young, so I definitely had a lot of worry and doubt. But I did it! I’m very happy that I did it, too, because the feedback on it was great and I don’t think anybody expected it either. After that release, Jonny Brown soon introduced me to Vante Poems, another artist from Ottawa and we totally hit it off. I was still trying to figure out what was going on with my sound and who I was. It was very much a hobby still. I never really had any huge mentors and felt that it was all very new to me as I went along with it. I ended up releasing some more music afterwards but from there, I had a hard time with my mental health and decided to stop making music. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I felt that I wasn’t being true to myself or my sound and in the end I was my own biggest critic. So I took a break for a year. Late 2018 is when I had an epiphany and I knew that this is what I wanted to do and I fully wanted to make a career of it. It took me stepping away from something to come back and actually give it 100% of my attention and love. At that time something just clicked. To me, it was the official start of Mischa. At least, that’s how it felt to me because I was finally listening to myself and felt like I had complete control and confidence.
Since then, you went to perform across Ottawa and Toronto. What’s your favourite thing about performing?
I would have to say my favourite thing about performing is being able to share the energy and vibes with everyone in the crowd. It’s a completely different feeling than listening to a song on your headphones versus seeing it performed live. You can see the emotion, energy and dedication that goes into everything! To me, it doesn’t matter if there are 10 people in the crowd or 100 people, I will always give my absolute best. Performing is one of my favourite things to do and I always feel my most confident while doing it.
How are you staying busy during quarantine?
I’m taking this time to do a lot of self-reflection and planning. I have a lot planned when it comes to music, releases and future performances. So I’m making sure that I’m strategically making each move. I’m blessed to have a home studio, so there has been a lot of writing and recording being done. I’m also taking this chance to gain more knowledge and insight on all aspects of the music industry. I’m a firm believer that learning never stops. There tends to be an underlying pressure that if we don’t come out of quarantine with a new skill or more music or whatever that looks like for anyone that we are being lazy, but just remember that’s not always the case for some. Do what you can and what feels comfortable to you.
Tell us about some of your favourite collaborations.
When it comes to solely my music, one of my favourites is the recently released “Dreamlander’s Anthem”! This track was produced by Quest from Dreamland Studios and features Capé, Hevve, DJ Prosper, Dip Black and Arfie Lalani. We had a lot of fun with this one! It was such a great experience for us to all be in studio while the beat was constructed, the writing process happened and while it was recorded. There is just something so special about the vibes created when you can see something being built from the ground up with a bit of everyone’s vision coming to life.
I have also started putting together shows in Ottawa. Thankfully I was able to have the last one before COVID-19 took over. This show was extremely special because it was a charity event for the wildlife in Australia. The event was called “Fighting Fire with Fire” and it was a collaboration with hip-hop artists and local businesses/media outlets. The event was extremely successful and raised over $2,800 for NSW Wildlife Rescue, WIRES. The collaboration of everyone coming together for our planet was wonderful. That evening is one for the books and I will always cherish it. I can’t thank all who participated enough!
How would you describe your style – both musically and how you express yourself?
I describe myself musically as a Hip Hop artist that adds a pop flavour to the music that I create. I have a bold and fierce presence that shines through my pen all while speaking my truth and saying it how it is. I find this transfers over with my style and personality all around. I’m focused on empowering myself and others while elevating to the next level. I want to connect with the leaders, go getters, creatives and dreamers and I want them to connect with me as well.
What is some advice that you can give to other artists looking to make waves in Ottawa’s music scene?
Learning never stops. Take the extra time and effort in your craft and in how you present yourself and make it impeccable. At the end of the day, you want to be putting your best foot forward. Also, support the other artists in your community. Focus on the way you approach others and how you’re showing up for them. That speaks wonders on who you are as a person. People want to feel a connection with others and if you give them something to connect with, that can go a long way. All of this requires you paying attention to specifics all around.
The difference between good and great is in the details.
Social media. Love it or hate it?
I actually go both ways with this one. I think that it’s a great resource if you are using it properly. It can be very easy to get sucked into mindless scrolling and having it become a distraction. I’m guilty for this at times! But on the other hand, it is great to connect with your current fans and to attract new fans as well. With the way everything is going digital, it’s best to take advantage of it for its pros and limit yourself away from its cons.
How do you stay motivated and focused as an artist?
With anything in life, you will make time for the things that are important to you. I cater a vast majority of time towards my craft, whether that be writing music, the business side of things or carving out my goals. For me personally, if I’m unmotivated in one aspect, I gain motivation from other aspects of the music industry. If I’m not in my best head space to be creative, I will study famous live performances or different flows and techniques of other artists. It picks me up fairly quickly and takes me right back to where I need to be as well, as I’m learning from the greats. That’s just one example, but it works really well. You start learning about yourself as an artist and where you can grow and I find that pushes me to keep working towards where I want to be.
Who are some artists you hope to work with in the future?
Wow! That’s a tough one. I mean, there’s always the superstar dream collaborations… But honestly, there are so many artists on different spectrums that I’m hoping to work with and some that may even be in the works! Some local Ottawa artists that I’m hoping to work with are Dominique Gorley, Fae, Babe Ruth, WLFKT and Capé just to name a few! There is a specific Toronto Emcee that I very much look up to and would one day love to collaborate with and her name is Lex Leosis. I’ve already learned so much from her and I truly respect her pen. I’m going to keep it there for collaborations, because I could go on and on with this one!
Tell us about your latest single, “Set it Off” and the inspiration behind it.
Yes! “Set it Off” came out on February 14th, 2020. It was produced by Quest from Dreamland Studios and mixed and mastered by Geoff McNeely. As soon as Quest sent the beat over to me, I knew what I wanted this song to be about and immediately started writing. I wrote this track about always extending your arm out to help people and in the end they take advantage of you and show no love back. I find that this can be pretty relatable, not only in the music industry but all around. It’s easy for people to take advantage of your good nature if you let them. So this song is a message about the straw that broke the camel’s back.
You can also find a music video for “Set it Off” on my YouTube channel, so be sure to check that out!
What’s next for you?
I’m extremely excited about everything that I have in the works! To kick things off, on May 1st, I dropped a collaboration with Ottawa artist Dip Black, titled “Let ‘em Out”. This is another song produced by Quest and you can expect some hype vibes from it!
There are some more projects that you can expect this year as well. Solo and collaborative. Including a collaboration EP titled, “Head over Feels” with hip-hop artist, Vante Poems and produced by Jonny Brown. This is currently in the works and more information will be given at a later date!
It is however, safe to now make the official announcement of my highly anticipated EP, “Alpha Barbie” and you can expect it in July! It will showcase my talents on both the Hip Hop and R&B spectrum. This imminent record is a follow-up to my 2019 EP “LIKE, WHOA”. You can hear two producers on this project, Jonny Brown and Quest and it will be mixed and mastered by Geoff McNeely. The single off of the EP, which is also the title track “Alpha Barbie” will be released in June to give fans a taste of what’s in store! It is composed of 5 solo tracks that I’ve carefully placed in order to give the audience the best listening experience. From the title track Hip Hop anthem “Alpha Barbie” to a smooth R&B number such as “Every time”, there is something for everyone to vibe to!
I’m adapting to how things are working out with covid-19 and as much as there are more things that I’d like to mention, we will just have to see how they play out. This time is really all about rolling with the punches and making the most of the situation at hand. I’m expanding my knowledge and I’m thrilled to see where this year takes me!