- Words Hiba Hassan
- Photography Holly Whittaker
- Styling Alizé Demange
- Hair Emma May
- Makeup Jessica Mejia
- Creative Assistant Hiba Hassan
- Production Studio Notion
Getting personal with her debut record, Miraa May reflects on motherhood, healing and prioritising working with women.
I’d be lying if I were to say that life was an unwavering journey of exhilaration and positive resilience. But even as I write this now, there are battling thoughts of defeat and every trial and tribulation that is imposed on us as women by the infinite pillars in the world that are built to work against us. The many conversations surrounding our rights and how we conduct ourselves in the music industry and beyond can now feel like air filling up a space where only action is needed. Every industry is institutionally sexist, and I say this without any hesitation. But there are simple movements that singer-songwriter Miraa May is fulfilling to create a change with every inch of her being.
We’re days away from the release of her highly anticipated debut album, Tales Of A Miracle — a project that interlaces every battle that Miraa and so many of us have endured at one moment or another. The title stems from personal miracles in every chapter of her life, curating the vision that she is now living in. Beginning our powerful conversation with her two-year-old son by her side as she gets him ready for his midday nap, being a mum is the most important role that she will embark on, changing her attitude to life and the honour she gives herself. As she puts it: “I want to be an example for my son, being open and honest with my feelings and extending that grace where I can.”
Born in Algeria and moving to Hornsey, London at a young age, she found escapism in musical extracurricular activities while attending a performing arts school. As the eldest of her siblings, her mum was supportive of her aspirations, an endearing and selfless act often tied to protecting her from her difficult home life.
Generational trauma is a battle many of us are continuing to heal from, and it takes real groundwork to bring ourselves into a healthier space. This project depicts that journey – from childhood events and dealing with trauma from those moments, to learning to love wholeheartedly while giving birth and battling postnatal depression, the album was birthed from every one of those minutes. And through Miraa’s life, music has been a constant outlet to turn to. Whether it be her own pen to paper or the music of others, she is curating a sound that offers a hand to hold onto through some of our darkest moments.
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So much has gone into this album – years of life, traumatic and beautiful, while also moving tactically to make sure women are at the forefront of its curation and its meaning. How would you reflect back on this period in your life now it’s about to be released?
It’s a forever thing. It ties into my childhood, becoming a mother, me finally finding myself. It is such a big step for someone that has struggled their whole life to be happy. This album signifies happiness, unity, power to be a woman and to be a mum. And I hope it helps anyone else who has ever felt like me. There were so many times I didn’t think I would make it, but I’m a miracle – tales of a miracle. It is all a step forward for all of us into healing and I feel like that is the most you can do in life. Just heal. This life is a test, it’s not meant to be beautiful all the time. We find the happiness and make the blessings.
This album had an all-female team in all aspects of creating it, was that always the intention?
When we started making the album, I wanted to use the studio closest to me. There was only one woman in there at the time and she was a runner. Even though she knew how to engineer, all the engineers were men. The engineer I had at the time was doing manly, egoistical stuff, and we were clashing a lot because he just thought I was being rude. But if it was any other male artist that came in, he wouldn’t have had a problem with listening to me. I had to stop working with him, so I requested the only woman there, the runner — and even then they were trying to give me the other male engineers — but now the rest of the album is engineered by her and another woman. Female writers, female producers, female engineers… You will always see women around me. The only male contribution was production.
I’ve always spoken about how hard it is for women in all industries. Women are not being paid the same as men even with the same or more experience, even if they are more talented. Men are still able to control women’s bodies; we live in an unfair society. I’ve been talking about women for time, so I’m not talking anymore. I’m just going to move a certain way. When I start charging a mad ting, don’t question me. Don’t question me when I start moving how men do. Women have been talking about it, we’ve tried every way to make it equal, so now I’m not talking, I’m gonna do.
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So, for those out there reading this that complain equality is hard to achieve, was it difficult to find a female-led team?
It wasn’t at all! I messaged all the women I knew, and they said yes in a heartbeat. All of that stuff they talk about, that ‘women don’t support each other’ , is crap. We are here for each other. Raye, Mahalia, Jorja… It’s all love. We are all going through the same transitions as women, so it feels more cohesive as a project. I am very proud of that and very grateful to all those women who helped me create this.
You’ve also been a new mother making this project. How has it been, almost two years into becoming a mum?
It is so rewarding. It is tough, I won’t lie, but it has gotten easier as time goes on.
I’ve never experienced love like the one with my child. Your child has your heart in their hands for the rest of their life. I get anxiety over him being safe sometimes, when I leave him, I can’t stop thinking about if he’s OK.
I know you struggled with the anxiety of being pregnant and then having a newborn at the height of Covid. How do you reflect back on those moments?
Giving birth in a pandemic was scary, I was stressed and really scared. I had deep anxiety and then got a bit of postnatal depression after, which was really hard — just getting used to a new baby and a whole new way of life in the pandemic. No one knew what they were doing, and you’re scared of getting sick while having a newborn, which is why I’m really grateful now and proud of myself for keeping it together.
Did the album serve as a getaway from all those new emotions and experiences?
Definitely. I had my baby in May 2020, then I started making the album in September. If it wasn’t for the problems I was going through, I don’t think I would’ve had the will to get myself to the studio and properly let my feelings out. I had to go there for my mental health, not that I had to make an album – I felt like I was going to explode. Being in lockdown with a new baby, I had to get out of the house. When I got to the studio, I just let it all out and it became the birth of the album. If it wasn’t for the baby there wouldn’t have been an album, I would’ve dragged the process. I felt like I had to get back to work.
Looking back at that time, which really wasn’t too long ago, do you feel like you’ve overcome those difficult feelings?
I am in a much better space. It took a lot of work though; it was a combination of having a really strong support system and having the willpower. I think my son gave me the willpower to finally take that step forward, it made me want to do everything in my power to not feel like this: going to the gym all the time, having regular therapy sessions, me time, linking up with my friends, expressing myself authentically, going to work regularly, just doing a lot to make sure I am good. Before, I let a lot of things consume me, and putting a lot of that stuff into this album was also a way to free me from those emotions.
Sometimes it is easier said than done to self-heal. What about the days when you were engulfed in those feelings?
I had and still have days where I don’t want to do anything and my mood is low, but you have to allow yourself that day to feel that. Rather than getting angry with myself for feeling like that, I need to be honest with myself and acknowledge and analyse why I’m not feeling OK. Have a day to think, to cry, to rest and not villainise myself for doing that.
You have to allow yourself the same grace that you would give to anyone you love if they were feeling that way. I have been through some devastating stuff, so I will always have those scars. It is a forever journey of working on yourself. Extend mercy anywhere you can.
Was there a moment where you realised music was that emotional outlet for you?
When I was about 16 years old, I had just been rejected from The BRIT School. I signed up for musical theatre and my dance skills just weren’t cutting it. I remember being in my room crying about it, so I asked my mum to buy me a guitar, and she brought me one from Argos. It came with a DVD that taught me how to play, so now I was playing that and writing my own stuff. Prior to that, I was a cover queen. I would sing songs, but I hadn’t written my own music until then.
Would you say your mum was a big supporter of your journey into music?
Definitely. My home life was peak, and she knew that unfortunately there wasn’t anything she could do about it, so the best thing she could do was let me go to these extracurricular activities — choirs, steel pans, anything to get me out of the house as much as possible. When you are growing up in an abusive household with a parent who is also being abused, that parent is often going to take all the abuse themselves and get the children away from the house as much as possible.
I know so many people, even myself, who relate to that relationship with an abusive or absent father and the trauma they have to deal with and make amends with later in life, otherwise it can engulf who you are.
And I have made amends; he just doesn’t exist to me anymore. Before it did hurt me, I kind of wanted my dad to change and say sorry, but things got out of hand and there are certain things you can’t come back from. We don’t really talk enough about how parental abuse can shape the rest of our lives. Certain homeless people, certain people who turn to drugs or whatever it may be, are put in dire situations and we need to look at what was fundamentally wrong. It probably starts with parents.
It’s true, that generational trauma and generational abuse aren’t looked into as much as they should be, because it does set the tone for how you deal with things or what journey you take.
And the fact we can OK it in the name of culture and the name of when they were born. I couldn’t give a damn if you were born in 1964, you just hate women…
Looking forwards, if you had three granted wishes what would they be?
For my friends and family to live long and happy lives, for my bank account to be endless, and to cure world hunger. Quickly! I know what I want.