Interview: Mia Dyson

On the American singing accent, working with Jen Chloer and Liz Stringer and the dream of performing with Steve Nicks.

Mia Dyson, originally of Torque in NSW now lives and work in Los Angelos since 2009. She’d been hot stuff since her breaking 2003 release Cold Water, and her 2011 album Parking Lots won  “Best Blues & Roots album” at the 2005 ARIA Awards. Needless to say, we love Australian talent of Mia’s calibre here at Vicious and were pretty excited to get the chance to chat to her. I spoke to Mia, who is halfway through her Australian tour of Idyllwild, her fifth release, to talk about her work in Australia and the USA.

Hi Mia, thank you so much for your time today! I know you are midway through your Idyllwild tour. How is it going so far? 

I really enjoy playing from Idyllwild songs live, and I’v just come back from the states with my American band…and now Im playing these songs with my Australian band, who are equally good but very different. It’s been just fascinating to have their unique take on the songs, it’s kept me on my toes and kept the songs fresh and exciting for me which has been great. It’s been so lovely, this tour feels like, y’know everytime I come back, there’s a lot of diehard fans who have been listening for a long time and are very supportive, and it’s so nice to play to those people.

I can imagine that would be one of the best things.

Absolutely.

Do you have a similar sort of fanbase in the US?

I’m definitely building it, but it’s not at that stage as it is in Australia. It’s so fun to play for new audiences in American, to try and win over a crowd, rather than a crowd that knows your music already. Definitely got some of that, but it’s Very much always trying to play new audiences and build my fanbase.

When I was reading your past interviews and your site, it’s stated that “you do it because you want that artistic licence to do as you please.’ Is that the way you approach performing in the US? You want to work to your own creative work rather than  work to establish a fanbase?

Of course, I’m ambitious and would love to have fans everywhere I go, but it’s not the point or goal. It’s hopefully a by-product of doing work that I love; writing, what feels rights and telling my stories… y’know, that’s very much the essence of it and hows everything works around that.

Do you prefer the period where you’re sitting down and doing the song-writing, or the performing? Is it an equal love of both parts?

I need both, and if I was confined to do either, I would find that difficult. Writing involves solitude, and it an be very difficult but very fulfilling when it works and you feels like you have found something that feels new or fresh, unique. Then performing is more immediate and can be also tough, if you’re not feeling in the zone.

Do you pump yourself up before a show?

It’s not often that I feel up for it, but getting up on stage and it feels like work then joy. It’s fairly on the rarer side, and I warm up before a show and get myself into a place where I want to connect with people and remember why I’m doing this– Not to get caught up with things that are happening with a show – is there enough people there? Is there a good soundcheck, are we sounding good?

So those things don’t cause you stress during the performance.

Absolutely. I get to the point where things don’t work so well and that’s when you can’t put those things out of your mind when you’re on stage.

You’ve previously toured with Liz Stringer and Jen Cloher last year. How did this begin, deciding to collaborate with on another?

Jen and Liz and I have been friends for a long-time, supporting each other through record releases and tours and literally played in each other’s bands and on records. It was Jen’s idea that we make it more official and join forces and share the load. We also self- managed, all independent and sometimes it’s hard to amass a massive Australian tour by yourself. Jen thought we do it together and apply for grants to tour to region places where we wouldn’t be able to afford to individual bands.

It’s an incredible experience and we got to record tracks together in Melbourne and release an EP.

Are there any creative differences between you guys that you need to work through?

Each person gets control over their song, and I enjoy being in their company, and when it’s Jen’s show or Liz’s song, I’m happy to be directed about what they want on their song.

For the most part, we naturally play stuff that each other likes, so we don’t have to continually be saying “no no no, do this, don’t do this” but we haven’t moved into that stage, we’re going to be doing some writing together. This question becomes very relevant then.

We’ve each done a bit of writing together, but for fun or to see what will happened. But we’ll try to write together to see if we can crate something that’s actually fully DYSON STRINGER CLOHER.

Do you think there is there something authentically Australian about your work?

I was brought up here, I was born here and that has an impact on me and my personality, my psyche. Yet I grew up listening I listened to so much American music – and we’ve had a discussion about singing with the Australian or American accent…not even the American accent, but the singing accent. Even the Rolling Stones, who are English, sing with the American accent. Or Midnight Oil, one of the most iconic Australian bands, they do the same.

I get and have been criticised for singing with an American accent but I think that’s absurd…I mean, that’s what the ‘singing accent” is. Some people consciously sing in an Australian accent and do that well, like Miss Higgins and Laura Jean, but it doesn’t work for me.

I don’t feel liking the sound of it. I guess Australian is in my being, but not necessarily in the sound of my voice.

I know you opened for Steve Nicks and Bonnie Raitte in the US, could you tell me a little bit more about that experience, and who else you’d like work or tour with in the future

It was a total honour and a wonderful experience. She was a sweetheart and sounded amazing, as with opening for Bonnie Raitte. It was feeling part of the global music community. To be finishing myself as a little girl, it was a total dream. So yeah, to work with one of my heroes Lucinda Williams is definitely on my to-do list before I die!

Thank you so much for your time, and I’ll be seeing you perform later this year!

Have a good day, mate.

Thanks mate, you too!

Mia Dyson is performing at Meredith Music Festival this weekend and at Howler (December 13) as part of the Dyson Stringer Cloher band. You can buy tickets here.

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