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Mia and Jonah

Music Interview: Mia and Jonah (Indie Folk Duo)

Originally from the Bay area, Mia and Jonah are an indie folk duo. They moved to Los Angeles seven years ago. Mia and Jonah seamlessly trade harmonies; individually, Jonah plays guitar, dobro, mandolin, and cello, while Mia elicits beguiling sounds from a hand saw.

When they play as a band, they feature Seth Ford-Young (from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes) on bass, Steve DiStanislao (of David Gilmour acclaim) on drums, and Chris Murphy on violin.

Since they will drop a new album, Spin as One, on September 21, I (on behalf of Blogcritics) thought this was a good time to find out more about the duo.

How would you describe yourself?

Mia: I’m a dog person – who would never get a dog (I currently have a cat, less demanding for sure). I’m one of those people that wear a t-shirt and jeans or yoga pants every day with flip-flops, you know that type, you might call it lazy – I call it comfortable. I like things simple, and have a wabi-sabi mentality about life. Nothing has to be perfect. I am an artist and apparently we artists are okay with chaos. Sometimes I think, finally my house is clean! Then I go over to someone else’s house…

I love to do quiet things like reading, hiking, watching my newest latest series on Amazon (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a current fave). Though I may be easily persuaded into doing something slightly risky (and sometimes just plain dumb – but fun) like ghost riding, skinny dipping, or doing a new aerobics routine with a bunch of friends that have been practicing for months (and standing in the front row with my naturally uncoordinated body). Roller coasters, YES! Extreme sports – NO! Sky diving [is] something I haven’t done yet, but certainly look forward to in the future. A quiet day alone, definite yes! Parties – usually brings on a “Do I have to?” reply (working on that…).

I love my family and am a very loyal friend.

Jonah:  I’m pretty Aquarian in the sense that I am curious and honest, and also sometimes detached and unpredictable. I enjoy helping people and teaching music as I follow my own creative path. I thrive off of new projects, and co-write songs with friends quite a bit. I feel like I’ve really embraced the “dad” role and I’m now in a phase of my life where my daughter is the most important thing going on. The fact that Mia and I get to play music together is just an added bonus. I’m different than Mia in that I like to go to parties and such. We find a balance.

What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?

Mia: Easy! The Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World.”

Jonah:  “Bring It on Home to Me” by Sam Cooke.

Who is your favorite music artist?

Mia: That’s tough. There are many but Emmylou Harris will always slay me with her undeniably original and versatile voice.

Jonah:  That is a tough one. If I had to pick one for all time, it would probably be Bob Marley.

How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?

Mia: Being a missionary kid – I got sent away during summertime on “tour.” We would spend weeks in boot camp training to sing and dance songs for churches or at parks and malls. Then we’d go out on the road and perform. I loved singing more than anything even before that, but having an opportunity to go out on a stage and perform for loads of people, and riding around the country in a tour bus was thrilling to me. I suppose it’s what I always wanted to do. And I am still loving it today.

Jonah:  I started on the cello when I was seven years old and really got into the instrument. I played in a youth symphony in Pittsburgh, PA growing up and loved being engulfed in the sound of the group. When I moved to New York, it was the ’90s and I started listening to more music from the ’60s and ’70s, as well as getting turned on to all those ’90s rock bands. When I got a license to drive, I sold my cello and bought a guitar. I’ve been writing and singing songs since then. It’s always been the one creative part of myself that I could never let go of.

You have a new album dropping September 21, called Spin as One. What inspired the album?

Jonah: We realized over the years that when we wrote songs and put them out into the world, it was almost as if our life took shape of the meaning of the songs, like we were manifesting our future through the content of our lyrics. So, the writing for Spin as One is an attempt to paint ourselves a rich and expanding life. We took some years off while our daughter was young, and I had another band called Midnight Ball. Mia was totally supportive of that project, and when she felt ready was like, “Hey, let’s make a record where we sing the whole thing in harmony because that is how we want to live.” Alan [Grubner] (violin on Spin as One) was coming out to LA frequently, and we started getting songs together that worked well with the violin. We put the initial tracks down (with Alan) at 4th Street Recording in Santa Monica, and then we added Stevie D on the drums, and Seth Ford-Young on bass. The project became Spin as One.

How did you get such a stellar cast of musicians to participate on the album?

Mia: I suppose that we have been blessed to meet so many talented musicians on our journey getting here (which started in 2004 when we began our first album). The fact that they love and worked to be a part of our album is incredible to me still.

Jonah: We’ve become musical friends over the years. I had a band in college with Alan (violin) and Chris Pandolfi (banjo for Spin as One) called Bobbyjason. We were a bluegrass trio and would play weekly at the local hospital. Both of them have gone on to be even more amazing than they were back then. Seth (bass) has been on all of our records. We met him in the Bay Area back in 2004 before he went on tour with Tom Waits and Edward Sharpe. Now we all live in LA! Scotty P (co-writer on “Our Old Farm” and “Sugarbones”) introduced us years ago to Stevie DiStanislao and he’s such a sweet soul. I saw him playing for David Crosby and was flipping out about their sound – he is a legend on the drums! Stevie came to see a Midnight Ball show, and I got to reconnect with him about the Mia and Jonah project.

Will you be doing any touring?

Mia: Yes! We will be in Canada for The Jasper Folk Music Fest Sept. 8/10 and have our LA record release coming up at Molly Malone’s on Sept. 15. October is looking great with a gig at Underground Exchange in Ojai, CA. Portland is the plan during the holidays and New York after that… . This is our daughter’s first year in kindergarten which means we are trying to stay on a consistent schedule and stick around home a bit as well, so keep your eyes open for performances in and around the LA area!

Jonah: I teach music at a middle school during the school year, so summer 2019 we are planning to tour as much as we can on the West and East Coasts.

Pre-order Spin as One on Apple/iTunes.

Follow Mia and Jonah on their official website, miaandjonah.com.

About Randall Radic

Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.

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