Almost every singer, “sang-er” (as in a person who can “sang”), and someone who needs to shut up and sit down, dreams of being recognized for his/her talent and effort. Singer/Writer Mayisha, a model, Sarah Lawrence grad and Brooklyn resident, is living the dream. The 2009 Urban/Alternative Grammy nominee for the song,”Wanna Be”, from her debut CD, This Much is True (Eusonia Records), took time out of her busy schedule to talk to The Ride about the nomination, the awards ceremony and what’s up next.
The Ride: First of all, congratulations on your Grammy nomination. I have to admit I used to…or rather, I still do, have fantasies about winning some big award and thanking the appropriate academy as I clutch the statuette in my hands for my dear life…
Maiysha: Thanks much…that’s a pretty common fantasy, so you’re in good company!
The Ride: But enough about me… I have to know, where were you and what were you doing when you received word about the nomination?
Maiysha: Sad to say, I didn’t even know when nominations were being announced. I was having a rather boring evening at home in my jammies, watching “Top Chef” on my DVR!
The Ride: What were you feeling? Personally, I would have fainted from screaming so much!
Maiysha: My initial feeling was disbelief, since my label hadn’t even told me that I’d been submitted for consideration. My second was immense gratitude and relief at being recognized and validated in that way. In all honesty, I’d been experiencing a crisis of faith regarding my career at the time, so it was a exactly the sign that I needed. And yes, there was a healthy amount of screaming, once it started to sink in!
The Ride: What did you think about the other nominees? Were they worthy of being in YOUR category?
Maiysha: I was actually incredibly flattered to be included with the other nominees in my category. We’re all so different, and I’m proud to say that I enjoy the music of all of my fellow nominees, so “worthiness” was never an issue. That the category has even been created is a boon for those of us who don’t do typical R&B or Soul music. It’s a bit of much-needed recognition for the “Urban” kids that are doing their own thing…
The Ride: Let’s fast forward a bit. What was your time in LA before Grammys like? Did you party like an Urban/Alternative chanteuse or a rock star?
Maiysha: Frankly, the week I spent in LA pre-Grammys was a working one…and exhausting! Being an indie artist on a very limited budget, I had to use the opportunity to get as much as exposure in LA as possible. Therefore, it was a week filled with meetings, interviews, and performances — in fact, I did four in 48 hours! By the end of the week, I barely had a voice, but I definitely made an impact, and got to meet some amazing people (like J*Davey and Garth Trinidad). I do wish I’d gotten to hit a few more parties , though!
The Ride: Everyone (Note: “everyone” usually means “me”) dreams of strolling along the red carpet, camera flashes popping, people calling your name. What was that whole experience like?
Maiysha: You know, after ten years of modeling, I didn’t think it’d be so jarring for me. I was all good through the Q&As, but when I hit that wall of photographers, literally screaming my name, I was a bit overwhelmed…they’re aggressive!
The Ride: By the way, who designed your outfit?
Maiysha: My longtime friend, Carmen Webber of Sistahs of Harlem (also a Project Runway alum), designed the outfit for me. I told her I wanted to be unconventional, and definitely didn’t want a long dress…we agreed it should be a jumpsuit! Crazy as it sounds, the idea was Cleopatra meets Josephine Baker meets Grace Jones…I’d say we accomplished that.
The Ride: Did you have some diva stylist help you with the selection?
Maiysha: Helen Barbieri is my regular stylist here in New York. I wouldn’t call her a diva, but she’s been a tremendous help over the past year, and though she gave Carmen and I space to collaborate on the outfit, she flew out to help accessorize me for the big day, pulling the jewelry (Kara Ross), handbag (Swarovski), and shoes (Jimmy Choo) I wore for the big day. I’m also so grateful that celebrity makeup artist Ashunta Sheriff (Alicia Keys, Jasmine Sullivan), got up early on Grammy day to lend me her tremendous talents as well.
The Ride: Your Grammy outfit attracted a bit of attention – notably from fashion blog Go Fug Yourself, which made some “interesting” comments. What did you think when you read that post?
Maiysha: I’m a big fan of “Go Fug Yourself”, so I was tickled pink that they featured me — I thought their comments were hysterical! Truth is, though I felt very sexy in my outfit, and would wear it again in a second, it was a very deliberate choice. Helen (my stylist) pulled plenty of gorgeous dresses for me, but I knew I didn’t want to play it safe. As I said, I’m an unknown artist…I had to make the most of the potential Grammy exposure (short of pulling a TMZ-worthy stunt)! I knew a lot of folks wouldn’t “get it”, and that I’d likely end up on some “what was she thinking?” lists, but I also knew no one would take notice if I played it safe and pretty. I don’t do it in my music, why should I anywhere else? As a result, my name has reached tens of thousands more people than pre-Grammys, so… love it or hate it, it was worth it!
The Ride: I would assume that you had “What if I win?” thoughts. I know I have a million speeches for so many awards. The “screw the haters” speech. The “I’m so unworthy” speech. The “I’d Like to Thank My Momma” speech…Sorry making it about me again…Did you prepare something to say should you win?
Maiysha: Call it pessimistic, or superstitious, but I didn’t prepare a thing…I was trying so hard to stay in the moment (which was very difficult), that I didn’t even get that far! Of course, had I won, I would’ve had to wing it, but I guess that’s how I roll…
The Ride: And did you practice, the “I’m so happy to for you” half smile and clap for the winner if it wasn’t you?
Maiysha: Thankfully, I was in the pre-telecast, so I didn’t have to worry about having camera there to catch my reaction, but it was cool…I was one of the underdogs in my category, so my expectations weren’t that high.
The Ride: And sad to say, it wasn’t you but Chrisette Michele. How did you feel at the moment when your name wasn’t called?
Maiysha: I really like Chrisette Michele (who was such a gracious winner), and frankly, thought it was “her year” from the moment the nominees were announced, so I wasn’t too disappointed. As fate would have it, I was nominated for the first single off of my first album (I’ll be releasing my second in the next few weeks), so while it would’ve been amazing to win, I’d like to think it won’t be my last opportunity. After all, Chrisette was nominated in 2008 for another single off the same album, so who’s to say I can’t do the same?
The Ride: By the way, when and where did they announce your category?
Maiysha: There are over 100 categories in each year’s Grammy Awards, most of which aren’t included in the telecast viewing audiences see every year. The Urban/Alternative Performance category is (at least for the time being) announced in the pre-telecast, which takes place immediately prior to the televised portion. Needless to say, it was a long (but very cool) day…
The Ride: Enough about that. What was your favorite part of the Grammy awards show?
Maiysha: There were several highlights for me in this year’s show. One of my faves was the Four Tops’ tribute, as well as the Coldplay/Jay-Z performance. And of course, the Hip-Hop Summit was truly unique…which was heightened by the fear that M.I.A.’s water would break at any moment! But one of my honest-to-God favorite performances? Neil Diamond. He’s just too cool…
The Ride: Did you have any “Oh, hell no they didn’t” thoughts?
Maiysha: I hate to even go there, because I’m such a huge Stevie Wonder fan, but I’m still iffy on the matchup with the Jonas Brothers…but maybe I’m just jealous.
The Ride: What were some of your favorite celebrity sightings?
Maiysha: My seat gave me access to everyone who appeared onstage that night, so I got to see a lot of people I admire, but my favorite moment was when (in this order) Smokey Robinson, Herbie Hancock, Natalie Cole (my childhood idol) and Sir Paul McCartney all passed within a 30-second timeframe. I nearly broke my neck…
The Ride: What are your thoughts about the overall experience?
Maiysha: I loved being invited to “the big game”, though I still haven’t wrapped my head around the idea of these artists being my peers. Can’t wait to do it again!
The Ride: Now that you are back home, what’s next for you?
Maiysha: I guess I should release that second single, huh? Other than that, I just can’t wait to get back onstage…that’s really why I’m here, after all.
Thanks so much Maiysha.
Maiysha reports that Josh Harris has done a remix of her single, Chase, which she says “has charted” (as in Billboard charts). To find out more, click here.
Second Time Around with Singer Maiysha (The Ride)