Donna Missal is a rising singer, song-writer from New Jersey who has been compared to artists like Lana Del Rey. Missal also received quite the attention after she released her cover of Drake’s popular track “Hotline Bling” where she brought an edgy twist. We got the opportunity to chat with her about her writing process and her upcoming music.
TYF: How did you get into music? Did you have any influences early on in your life?
Donna Missal: My dad’s the biggest influence in my decision to pursue music as a career. He was a singer, songwriter, drummer, producer and ran a studio in manhattan in the 80’s. His mother was a songwriter in the 40’s. I think it’s just in my lineage.
TYF: What’s it like not being tied to a label at the moment and having a sort of free for all when it comes to your music?
Missal: It’s been great! I spent the last few years acquiring a really amazing group of people who make all kinds of things happen that I would have never be able to on my own. My manager, publisher and agent are sort of my “label” right now. It’s collaborative – we make decisions together. The difference at this point, I think, is that those decisions are made by an “art first, commerce second” approach. major labels, understandably, have to asses risk and think about the bottom line. bypassing that way of thinking has created a super safe space for me to create things.
TYF: Have you ever experienced writer’s block when it comes to putting together your music? If so, how did you overcome it?
Missal: Of course – I think everyone does. I try to get out of my own way by listening to music that inspires me, reading, going on walks, things like that. Most of my ideas come when I’m not in a writing room but rather just riding the subway or walking somewhere.
TYF: What challenges have you faced as an unsigned artist?
Missal: Those challenges are getting smaller every day in this business, but it definitely makes it harder to get touring opportunities, having stable financial support and getting your music on the radio. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way of doing this though, and if you’re happy, inspired, busy, whether on a label or not, you’re in a good spot.
TYF: What’s your writing process like for your original songs?
Missal: Recently, my process has been almost entirely collaborative. I used to write songs alone in my bedroom and bring them to a guitarist or someone who could help me make sense of the music. Over the last year, I’ve been in all kinds of creative situations and it changes depending on who is in the room. I’ve been writing with artists, producers, musicians, and everyone brings something different to the process. My role is always shifting; I think it keeps me sharp.
TYF: Are you currently working on an EP or full-length album right now?
Missal: Yes! I wasn’t sure that’s what I was doing until very recently. I’ve written about a hundred songs in the last 9 months. I’m currently spending the time to put together a full-length album.
TYF: You recently covered Drake’s “Hotline Bling”. What made you want to cover that song?
Missal: I had a show coming up around the time the song came out, and I thought it would be cool to cover it at the show. We recorded our version in the studio we were rehearsing in. Honestly, I was looking to bring attention to my project, and it became so popular so fast that it just made sense to put it out. I thought it was something that my teenage sister and brother would think is cool, and that my dad could also listen to and appreciate. I make most of my decisions in music based on those standards.
TYF: If you could cover any song right now, what would it be?
Missal: I like to do covers that I can manipulate so far from the original version that it sounds like a new song. Lately that’s been taking a modern song and putting an old-school curve on it; so I’d like to switch it up and take a classic and modernize it. If I could cover any song right now it would probably be a Dionne Warwick or Janis Joplin song. I used to shy away from covering female singers, fearing comparison. I got over that – women rule!
TYF: What are some of your favorite songs right now?
Missal: Impossible for me to call anything a favorite but at the top of my “recently played” list is NxWorries, Beach House, and KAYTRANADA.
TYF: You were a part of the 2016 Bumbershoot lineup this year in Seattle. How did that opportunity come about and what was that experience like?
Missal: I got lucky and my management found me the most badass female agent ever. Bumbershoot was a stop on my first tour outside of the tri-state area. That show might have been my favorite out of them all. My sisters and friends from Jersey and New York came out. It felt like a hometown show in a place I’d never been; it was really special.
TYF: What has been a favorite moment from your music career thus far?
Missal: I can’t pinpoint a moment because there’s been so many. I had moments that proved to be really challenging but so rewarding. Some of my favorite songs I’ve written that are going on this record were with people I idolize. It’s really humbling and surreal.
Donna Missal’s music can be streamed on her Soundcloud page.