Artist Moorea Masa and the Mood talks music and mental health

Moorea Masa and the Mood. Photo Credit: Jayden Becker.
Moorea Masa and the Mood. Photo Credit: Jayden Becker. /

We live in a society where music can be seen as a unifier. For singer-songwriter, Moorea Masa, that statement is just a portion of her ethos. The Portland-native just released her single, ‘Joyful’, which speaks to the act of pursuing joy as an act of resistance and being more authentic to oneself. In this conversation with Masa, she shares the reality of being an artist as a BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ artist while diving deep into how she maintains her mental health as an artist. We also find out what her favorite reality television show is and the answer might just surprise you! Read on to learn more about Moorea Masa.

Culturess: I wanted to start off and ask about your most recent release, joyful, which is available to stream right now. So I loved it. I loved the lyrics. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but once I heard those opening lyrics, I was like, “Oh, I’m going to love this.” It literally talks about finding joy and resistance. Can you tell me more about that songwriting process? 

Moorea Masa: Okay, a little backstory. I wrote a record that I released a couple of years ago called ‘Heart in the Wild’, and it was a record for me about some really tough stuff. My relationship with my mom, she has a lot of mental health issues, and it was such an important but very hard record to write, but it was very healing. and then 2020 happened, the pandemic, everything that’s been going on, and I just was starting to write again, and I was like, I don’t have capacity for the same sort of to go into the depths of my hardship in the same way. I was really feeling like, joy and ease and pleasure are such important forms of healing as well, and valid forms of healing and aren’t any less deep than facing your darkest hardship. So I really wanted to make a record that was like, how do I focus on that? Not that I don’t want to focus on the bad stuff, but it’s like the hard stuff. But it’s like, we have so much hard stuff going on every day right now. It seems like we’re just bombarded all the time with the news, and it can feel really overwhelming.

Moorea Masa (CONT’D): So I think we are feeling used to that, comfortable with the hard stuff. So I was like, how can I lean into joy? Because really, I was really feeling that through all the Black Lives Matter movement and everything, it’s like, you know, in a way, in a huge way, I feel like our joy and our pleasure is the resistance, right? Is such a valid form of resistance. I’m mixed, and I look very light-skinned, but I am mixed, and I’ve been thinking a lot about that in my own healing journey, and what I can bring to the movement is, and I think joy in this moment feels really important play and joy. So, anyway, I wrote this record with that in mind, and I wrote a lot of songs around it, and this song was really, like, I sat down at my guitar, and I was like, “How do I write a song that is like my mission statement?” If I wanted to say all the things in this record that I’m writing about really directly in one song, how would I write it?

Moorea Masa: So this just kind of poured out of me really quickly, and it feels like a prayer. To me, it feels like a mission statement. It’s been cool making this record. That’s been kind of my guiding force in everything in the recording process and the writing process. Is it feeling easeful? Is it feeling pleasureful? Life isn’t always going to feel that way, but is there a way that I can pivot in this moment to make it? Am I doing something that’s harder than it needs to be, basically, or why am I pushing myself in this moment? If I’m at my capacity, can I give myself rest in this moment? Can I pivot towards joy in this moment and if I can, it’s just been like a really cool reframing process for me, along with response?

Culturess:  You’ve been doing music for a while. I wanted to ask, when you were first putting out music, since you’re a woman of color and you’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community, did you have any expectations about where you thought you would be? I don’t want to say place necessarily, but, like, your niche in this industry, it’s so large. You can get lost easily.

Moorea Masa: Yeah, I feel like I’ve made a lot of different kinds of music. Like the project that I first started in when I was like 15, I was in this folk band duo. I’ve always listened to R&B and soul music. I grew up listening to R&B and Soul music. So I felt like I actually that felt really natural to me. I don’t know, I’ve always felt really okay with just following where my passion is and what I’m wanting to create. I think there are artists that really create stuff that’s I think my voice is me, but sometimes I’m like, okay, I want to switch it up. My last record was kind of sad. Now I’m like, “How can I bring some fun enjoy into this?”. I haven’t felt like necessarily a really strong pull towards one thing. I’ve always felt comfortable doing lots of different things.

Culturess: That’s a great answer. You are also really passionate about mental health. I know that’s so important, especially as an artist. So what do you do to take care of your mental health? And what advice can you give to other people, not even just artists, but consumers, how they can take care of their mental health?

Moorea Masa: Yeah, well, there’s so many different ways and so many different valid ways. I think on the large grand scale of things, I’m like, everybody needs therapy, like get in therapy, you know? I was working with an organization called Backline, and they’re amazing for musicians and artists, specifically musicians and people in the music industry and Black Mental Health Alliance, they work with putting because finding a therapist can be really overwhelming. And so they work with folks and they give you like, a case manager and they ask all the things that you want and are looking for, and they try to pair you with a therapist. It’s all free. It’s an incredible organization. Black Mental Health Alliance has paired with Backline, and they work with BIPOC folks to find BIPOC therapists, which I feel really passionate about because it’s very hard to find BIPOC therapists that don’t have long waiting lists, especially in these moments. That’s the one thing. Then I also think that there are so many other valid forms of self care. Like, we hear about going out in nature and meditating and exercising and all these completely valid forms.

Then I’m also, like, I really have been leaning into sometimes watching trash TV and drinking a glass of wine and eating cookies on the couch. Like, that is just as valid. The kind of more trashy forms of self care I feel can be really helpful and valid. They really do have their place. Watching Love Island I just don’t think should be looked down upon. I really feel strongly that those other forms of self care are really helpful and valid, too.

Culturess: Our readers are definitely going to love that you mentioned Love Island. I mean, come on, who doesn’t?

Moorea Masa: Literally, if you say you don’t, you’re lying. It’s good.

Culturess: Exactly. Oh, I love that. Actually, speaking of television, Central Park, Bob’s Burgers, and you’ve also were on some late night shows. I saw Conan as well. How did you feel when you got those opportunities?

Moorea Masa: I love singing on Bob’s Burgers and Central Park. It’s super duper fun. I’ve had this kind of whole career also singing backup, doing a lot of backup work for people. So when I sang on Conan and these other late night shows, [The Tonight Show with] Jimmy Fallon, I was singing backup for other artists like Alan Stone and this project, EL VY. I’ve done a lot of backup singing. I was singing with k.d. Lang for a while. Those were so much fun to do. I love supporting other artists, and I’m excited to get to do them myself one day.

Culturess: Well, that’s awesome to hear. You have some upcoming performances. I’d love to hear more about where you’re going to be performing in the next month or so.

Moorea Masa: Well, I have one show. I’m getting married at the end of this month.

Culturess: Congrats!

Moorea Masa: Thank you!  We’re doing a show in Portland on the 25th at The Goodfoot. And then also this fall, I’m going to be touring with Proxima Parada, opening for them. Yeah, kind of all over the West Coast and other little places.

Culturess: We touched upon this earlier, but being someone who is an artist, who is very open about, like you said, talking about joy and joy and resistance, do you have any type of advice or experiences that you could share about being a woman in this industry and being someone and giving advice to other woman artists who are maybe scared or nervous to take that step for their career?

Moorea Masa: It’s definitely hard out there. And as an independent artist, and I really think my number one thing would be that community is everything and you can’t do it alone. And I think a lot of times it’s like we’re really told just like, you can be independent, you can learn to do everything yourself, and we just shouldn’t have to and we don’t have to, and find a community and lean on your community and take care of your community. And I think that that’s been the thing that’s helped me the most, is I know a lot of people who they try to be everything for themselves, and I get that, and I get that desire, but I think that that’s a wrong expectation that we have to be literally everything and we need help, we need support. That doesn’t have to be like a booking agent or a label, but call on your friends. Call on other artists and trade with other artists. Go and help your friend make their music video and maybe they’ll come help. I had my friends yesterday, we made a music video and two of my friends came and they helped me to do my makeup and my hair. Their next music video, their next thing, they’re going to call me and I’m going to help them and we take care of each other. I think that’s really important.

Culturess: That’s awesome. Yes. Building community, I think now, especially in the world we live in, that’s probably the most important thing to do right now.

Moorea Masa: Oh, my God. It’s vital for us as artists. It’s vital for us as humans. We need each other.

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