Recently, I got the chance to chat with the wonderful and talented Mia Doi Todd. I’ve always been enchanted by her haunting vocals and warm instrumentation, so I was really excited to ask her about her music. We talked about the things that inspire her, some of the high-profile collaborations she’s been involved with, and her new album Morning Music.
The Porch: How did you get started with music? How long have you been writing your own songs?
Mia Doi Todd: I started singing in choirs in grammar school. We had music class a few times a week and learned Christian songs. I started writing my own songs when I was a teenager.
The Porch: Your music has very earthy, open feel. Do you feel like living in California influences your sound?
MDT: Definitely. Nature is a big influence on me. I’m a hippy. I listen to the earth for guidance in creativity and healing. California is a center of new thought and action.
The Porch: What kinds of things inspire you?
MDT: My friends and family, the passing of time, the here and now, good food, good music, good books, gardening, hiking, swimming, the ocean, waterfalls, colorful tribal clothing, sunsets…
The Porch: How do those inspirations translate into your method of writing and recording? Do you sit down to write songs or do they just come to you?
MDT: Songs take me a long time. I’m always scribbling down impressions of the world, and it’s often some inspiring event that triggers a thought. Over time I accumulate notebooks of my inner dialogue. Then I find recurring themes and relationships between different events – a thread that spins into a song.
The Porch: A few of your songs have been remixed by big names like Flying Lotus and Dntel – are those remixes something you seek out?
MDT: I produced an album of remixes of my songs a few years ago La Ninja: Amor and Other Dreams of Manzanita. I gave the tracks out to many musician and DJ friends and asked them to make remixes. I didn’t know Flying Lotus yet at the time. He made a remix of “My Room is White” and gave it to me. People sometimes send me remixes they’ve made.
The Porch: Do you feel like the remixes and reworkings bring out unexpected aspects of your songs?
MDT: Yes, they are very unpredictable. The Flying Lotus remix turned my melancholy folk song into a dance track.
The Porch: You’ve also collaborated with heavier bands like Dungen and Dead Meadow, what do you find attractive about that kind of music?
MDT: I love psych rock.
The Porch: You music seems to embrace both folk simplicity and cross-genre expansiveness, does the new album lean more toward either of those characteristics than the other?
MDT: The new instrumental album Morning Music is meditational music. It could be classified more in the world or cross-genre category more than with folk.
The Porch: What’s coming up for you? Are you working on new music? Touring?
MDT: I have a few shows at the end of May: May 27 at the El Rey in Los Angeles, May 28 at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur for the Tonalism festival, and May 29 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. I’m working on writing new songs now, also learning some covers. And I’m collaborating on a full length album with Dntel.
The Porch: Do you have a favorite moment that you’ve experienced on a porch?
MDT: My favorite time of the day is usually sitting on my porch in the morning drinking tea and looking at the sky.
The Porch: What is a perfect day for you?
MDT: A slow morning around the house, tidying up, starting a new project, singing, meet up with some friends for good dinner…