Interview with Ha Vay

Bay Area artist, Ha Vay stopped by to chat with MoggBlog!

What made you decide that music is the right path for you?

This question makes me laugh. I’m not sure I even “decided” that music was the right path for me. Rather, I tried just about everything else you can possibly imagine before coming to the understanding that music is probably the only thing I can do. I attended four colleges under four different majors (film, international relations, anthropology, art) and dropped out of all of them. I lived in Paris for two years. I lived out of a car and worked on farms. I couch surfed my way around the world. I worked as a barista, a hostess, a grocery store clerk, a nanny, a writing tutor, an artist’s assistant, a personal stylist. I became a top seller of vintage clothes on Depop. I think I tried really, really hard to find something I enjoyed more than making music because it can seem like such an impractical thing to pursue, but music is the only thing that’s stuck. So I’m really hoping I can make a sustainable career in it because I can’t seem to do anything else haha.

What’s your writing process like? Do you write the music or lyrics first?

My writing process is very stream-of-consciousness! I usually start playing an instrument and singing, just improvising, and see what comes out. Most of my songs appear almost fully-formed, immediately. I’ll change a few words in the production process to help it flow better. Sometimes in production or at band practices we’ll add some new chords or an instrumental section, or our guitarist, Grant, will add a solo. But generally I write every song in just a few minutes and can already imagine all the production elements in my head. That being said, I’ve been collecting certain phrases or references for years and years, just recording them in the notes app on my phone to eventually add into songs when they fit, or when it’s the right time. Sometimes I’ll write the same concept or story into several songs before finally the one that best serves the story comes about.

Do you prefer performing live or recording, and why?

I definitely prefer performing live over recording. I do love the process of producing a song – it’s world-building and can feel like solving a great big puzzle. But performing live is entirely visceral. I feel so alive and unafraid onstage. I can be kind of shy in social situations, but I’ve felt so comfortable onstage my whole life and I have no idea why. I love being able to see people’s faces and connect with them. I love the rush of it. Every show feels so different. I don’t like to plan anything that I’ll do onstage – I’m generally very energetic, I move around and dance a lot, sometimes I scream if it feels right…it’s very vulnerable. I’m usually more reserved with people, but I’m a very energetic person, so performing is a time when I can let that out be the truest version of myself. It always floors me that people enjoy watching that and connect with it – it’s the coolest thing ever and I’m so stupidly grateful every single time I get to perform.

Who are your main musical influences and why?

It might not be super obvious when you listen to my music, but I’ve always been highly influenced by pop music. A lot of bands in the DIY/indie scene might crucify me for this haha. But I think the best pop songs are able to tell a story in a very concise and effective way and I really value that. Pop chords progressions are used time and time again because they connect with people in a visceral way. Storytelling isn’t just in the lyrics, it’s the way the melody changes for each section, the structure of the song, the instrumentation. So when I’m looking for inspiration I listen to artists like Madonna, No Doubt, Carly Rae Jepsen, Harry Styles, Florence + the Machine, Michelle Branch, and Taylor Swift. That being said, I’m also very influenced by Grimes, Amy Winehouse, and Wolf Alice, each in their own ways.

What’s the best advice you’d give to your younger self?

I don’t think I would give any advice to my younger self. Life is really messy, and the more you care, the messier it gets. And I care a lot. About everyone and everything. But making mistakes, going through tough times, learning hard lessons – it’s all such an important part of living and growing up, so I wouldn’t change a thing. I definitely use songwriting as a means of reflecting on the past, finding closure, and gaining a new understanding on things. I’m grateful for even the most painful experiences I’ve had because I’ve learned a lot and it’s made me a more empathetic person. Kindness is really important to me. I’m welcoming of absolutely everyone and this has gotten me into some unfortunate situations. But at the same time, that openness is so central to who I am and how I move through the world, so I don’t want it to change.

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