- Words Hiba Hassan
- Photography Megan Malone
Muni Long has been a backstage pillar of music for over a decade. Now she is receiving her accolades and releasing projects that scream authenticity.
Muni Long has had arguably one of the biggest R&B tracks in the past few years with the single “Hrs & Hrs”, yet her presence in the industry has prolonged for over a decade. As a songwriter, she has penned some of the biggest R&B classics such as “California King Bed” by Rihanna and “A No No” by Mariah Carey – to name a few – but for the past few years, she has been curating music for Muni Long, an alias to her real name, Priscilla Renea.
It is 9 am in sunny Calabasas, where Muni joins me via a video call with her frequent breakfast of America’s traditional Pop Tart. She has a childlike but astute energy; one where you can comprehend that a significant inner self-development journey has happened to get Muni to this point right now. Before creating her own chart topper, the role of a songwriter, no matter how important, is gruelling. Creating a persona that ensures you get that call back to work on more singles; not being the loudest, the best dressed, or the most opinionated is your position, she tells me.
Now established in her own right as a songwriter, singer, director, producer and so much more, she is ready to carry on releasing music that is authentic to her and her trajectory. Fresh off the release of her latest single, “Baby Boo”, featuring Saweetie, there are an ample amount of lessons and music she intends to gift us with.
You have such a fun new single with Saweetie, “Baby Boo”! How did that collaboration come about?
I actually listened to a few start ideas and was played the Baby Boo scratch which I loved immediately, and most of the time when I’m writing if it hits me I’ll just start singing whatever I hear. I started off with the beginning of the song, and the finished product came about pretty quickly maybe like 45 minutes to an hour max. Then my publisher has been working with Saweetie on her album and told me to come over where I played Baby Boo and at first, she wasn’t sure because as artists we have very specific ideas for what we want to do or be involved in.
But then we played it for a second time, and she was happy to get on it. and she’s actually singing on it, which I love, and we then wrote a song together for her project. But she’s so sweet and fun, I really enjoyed working with her on this.
Being in music for over a decade now as a songwriter, and now musician, how important is it for you to work with other prominent women in this industry?
I think competition in distance comes from scarcity. Like when you feel like you don’t have enough so you don’t want to share, I don’t have that issue because I have so much music in so many different areas, and I don’t really have one place where I have to sit. So I want to collaborate with everyone, from rap, pop, rock, it doesn’t matter I just want to make great music. it’s more about alignment than anything, whoever has their energy in the right place to actually take the song. Because the songs I write are so massive, maybe in not chart success but maybe in their impact or a song that defines an artist, even as a songwriter those are the kinds of songs I was putting into the world. So, if I’m going to share that with somebody, they have to have the right energy to carry it to where it needs to go.
I actually have a collaboration coming with Craig David which I’m really excited about!
No way? Everyone in the UK is going to love that!
It’s so good. He is doing what I’ve been saying I want to do which is bringing back that R&B pop sound, he’s so good and incredibly talented. I don’t understand why he didn’t reach the status he’s at now back then, maybe it’s because there were so many artists in a similar lane back then, you kind of get lumped in with everyone else. But now when everyone is struggling to find that thing people will be surprised at what he is doing.
What was that first moment where you knew this was the journey for you?
I feel like I was always crazy enough to think I could do it. I don’t know where it came from, but I was always writing songs since I was eight years old, entering talent shows, begging my mum to take me to auditions, I was just always there. I remember I wanted to be a ballerina, I almost deviated to become a forensic scientist and then I wanted to be a chef, but I always came back here. Always.
When speaking on the impact of music you create, did you anticipate how “Hrs & Hrs” would take off?
No way. I don’t think you can either, it’s not something I can put in a bottle. You just have to make something that brings emotion and feeling out of you and whatever you feel, that seems to be the general consensus, all the songs I’ve had that are successful; “Hrs & Hrs”, “Time Machine”, “Another”, they all have their different levels of success and whatever that means for me. But all of the parts that resonated with me, are the parts that resonate with everyone else, the reaction I had is that same reaction other people had when I listened to it or made it. Same exact reaction. Not even a little bit off, so I have to trust that. If it doesn’t make me want to dance, laugh, clap or sing, then I shouldn’t be putting it out. I am always trying to keep it childlike in a sense, maybe that’s why so many children do love my music, which is the best. But there is no way you can predict that.
What was that feeling like of seeing how well that song was taken after rebranding yourself as not just a songwriter and the trajectory of what is next for you?
It took me a while to believe it because you know everything these days are kind of like fake news. You look at something and no one really believes anything anymore, and you have to be that way with things now. I tweeted something the other day and it was a headline from a story I read that wasn’t true, and the number of people that believed it is crazy, I think even a couple of blogs posted it. So, I have a certain amount of distrust in general from my years of being in this business and how people try and manipulate you. So I already had that, and on top of this generation of fake news and just content that is far from the truth, you have to have your guard up.
I just felt like when it was blowing up in the first three months I was like “hmm ok, sure”.
What is hard navigating the space you were going into after like 10 years of being behind the scenes?
It wasn’t hard at all in the first two years because I was incognito, I had to change my name and genre because I was known for making pop music for other people. I never did do R&B, I think the only R&B I did was Mariah Carey and Mary J Blige, but the others were Pop. So, it wasn’t hard when I was first starting but I think it is harder now, some people are still resisting and trying to pull me back into what they thought I was before. Because when I was writing for other people I wasn’t completely myself, I had to be this character to get the placement, I couldn’t be myself, I couldn’t be loud or dress up to go to the studio, you can’t do that when you are a songwriter, not if you want to get called back anyway. But I think with songs like “Baby Boo” and when I dropped the project and the next album, me just continuing to be consistent will block out all that noise.
Like when Miley was transitioning from being on Disney, she was in an interview and they were challenging her authenticity and she just said she will keep being authentic to herself and be consistent, I feel the same way. I just have to put my blinders on and keep doing what I’m doing, go a bit back to what I was doing two years ago and follow my gut.
I feel like blocking out all of that background noise takes a lot of inner self-work, what stuff do you do or people in your life that help to keep that mentality at a constant?
I’ve been doing the work for a good ten years now and I started to get to the intense inner work teachings maybe in the last two-three years. I feel like I’ve reached a level of mastery where I understand everyone has their own journey and my tasks or perspectives aren’t going to be the same but I can align with people who have the same similar energy or belief systems.
I am reading a book right now called “The Courage To Be Disliked” by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, and it is a really good book to reinforce that it Is not my problem to care what other people think about me. we all have our journey. It brings you peace. Sometimes people will say stuff, that does trigger me, but then I realise nope, that’s your issue and I’ll let you have that. The people who understand that will let you be.
You love this quote, “whatever is most personal to you, is universal”, is it sometimes hard to be so open about your real life with a global audience?
No, I don’t have any shame in my writing. Your personal story is also someone else’s story. There’s sort of a grey area there when you have to be responsible with your storytelling so you’re not embarrassing anyone else because not everyone is as resilient. But I don’t have a problem with it.
You advocate for young creatives in this industry, what’s one piece of advice you wish you had when starting out?
The first time I was introduced to reprogramming your mind, controlling your reality, etc was with another writer at the time called Ester Dean, and I wish I had had that experience sooner. With someone introducing me to a new way of thinking that could teach me how to fish versus catching the fish for me, a lot of the time that is what happens which isn’t helpful because then you just copy what a lot of other people are doing. Ester gave me an ingredient that helped me figure out what I want to be, that happened when I was 22 years old. And it took me a while to catch on like you can’t just read one book, you have to keep reading or reprogramming because every day you will have people trying to tell you “what’s best for you”, everything is negatively polarised so you have to have a counter resistance for that.
It is so hard to not get sucked in; I catch myself sometimes doing it. it is a constant every day, if I had known that earlier I might have been a lot further, but everything happens when it is supposed to.
Your experience is so vital for people in this industry, do you want to build anything outside of creating your own music?
I think it is so important for me to share the information I have. Leading by example and being super transparent. Filming everything, I’m going to have a documentary, I think it is important for people to see what is actually happening, that is another thing you can have people on your team who talk to you every day and they still don’t believe that you are the one. So unless people actually see me planning, putting together treatments, and getting up at 5 am, people won’t believe it. so I think for me, I have to show up and show them what it really takes to do this.