Mina Tobias follows her music path

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Growing up around her parents, both of them artists, (her mother actress Mädchen Amick and her father musician/singer/producer David Alexis), Mina Tobias decided to follow the same path.

She started singing when she was very young with her father. Around 4th grade, she started performing in front of other people when she joined the middle school chorus.

Nowadays, Mina has just finished a song called “Daylight Dreaming” with her brother Sylvester Alexis, and she is working on the music video from her song “Freedom”, her favorite one.

In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Mina spoke about her beginnings, the experience of making her music video “Holding Back” and her newest song she wrote with her brother.

How did you start singing?

I started singing fairly young with my dad, who was a music producer at the time. He bought me a little 8-track recorder and that started my interest in recording vocals. I started actually performing in front of other people around 4th grade when I joined the middle school chorus. I continued chorus all throughout middle school and high school and also got involved in A Capella groups a little later on, along with recording my own songs on the side.

Both of your parents are artists, how was it like growing around that? Do you think that it has influenced you in choosing to follow a music career?

Being around two very talented parents definitely guided my career choices over the years. Growing up around very open and creative people helped me feel comfortable experimenting in different arts, so I dabbled in theater and designing and music… and pretty much anything that seemed creative! I always loved visiting my mom (actress Mädchen Amick) on set and sitting behind the monitor so that I could hear what the director’s notes were, and seeing the full process of making a script come to life (and yes I love memorizing her lines too!). I’ve always loved listening to my dad (musician/singer/producer David Alexis) play guitar and piano, and improvise songs during a session. Being immersed in both music and film/television has given me a lot of unusual experiences over the years, and without seeing my parents succeed in such a risky career path I wouldn’t have thought a music career would even be possible for me.

Which are your musical influences?

In general I grew up around a lot of R&B, so I have Earth, Wind, and Fire, Prince, D’angelo, Michael and Janet Jackson, and Brian McKnight lodged in the back of my brain. Many times I’ll have the radio on a classics channel and know every word to a song that I don’t even recognize – just because there was always music playing in the house at all hours of the day and night. Once I started fully producing my own music in high school I was influenced by artists like Robyn, Robin Thicke, India.Arie, Aaliyah, and many more.

How can you describe your music?

I have trouble trying to figure out what genre my song is after I write it, because when I’m creating it I don’t think about that kind of stuff! But I think my sound has somewhat evolved to be a pop-alternative style, usually with heavy synthesizers and keyboard effects and often mid-tempo. Since I come from a choral and A Capella background, I’ve always loved experimenting with harmonies. Some of my earliest songs had way too much complexity with the number of vocal parts, so over the years I’ve tried to cut back a bit so that you can actually understand what I’m saying!

You write your songs too, where does the creativity come from?

There are so many things day-to-day that inspire my music. Overall, I don’t really write my music like a diary. Maybe it’s too personal for me and I’m not ready to be that vulnerable yet, but I really love writing my songs like short stories. I like to think about the things that are weighing down on my mind, like a friend going through a break up, or a question about how I would handle a situation that occurred, and I try to write a story in the first person about that. People always ask me who my songs are about, and for the most part they are characters that I’ve made up, but the initial inspiration always comes from a person in my life – and then I create a story from there. The melodic part usually comes from just playing around on the keyboard until I find something that is catchy, and then I add the drum machine and other components later.

How was it like shooting your video “Holding Back”?

It was so fun! I was really lucky to get a hold of the director Kai Keane, who was also a Cornell student and is a really talented director. He has done a lot of documentary work as well. I sent him the song and he mastered it immediately and we brainstormed the basic theme for the video. It was my first music video, so I was just super ecstatic that it was even happening. The whole day before the shoot I was just reassuring myself that I’ve seen my mom on screen for 20 years, so I could do it for four minutes. I tried to channel my mom’s confidence on screen since, of course, she’s my favorite actress!

What’s the story behind that song?

Holding Back is about a climactic point in a relationship where she feels that the man she’s with is not fully present or open to her. It’s all about confronting this guy who is guarded and won’t fully commit to showing all of his “sides” to her, both good and bad, and because of this emotional block she can’t get close to him. I love writing about people’s “dark side” – in fact I have a song called Dark Side which is about a similar relationship (but the girl is more willing to put up with him in that story than in Holding Back). Though I wrote it about a romantic relationship, I wanted it to apply to any kind of relationship – that moment when someone lets their guard down is so powerful and creates the most meaningful connections that we can experience.

You’ve recently released “Freedom”, what can you tell us about the song?

I don’t know if it’s weird to say that you have favorite songs, but Freedom is definitely one of mine because of how easy it was to write it. I heard pretty much all of it in a dream and woke up and recorded the skeleton of the song that night. Freedom is about someone running away from their problems and I always love using a road as imagery for separation, for a series of choices, and for a direction someone takes. So the main theme of the song is a road, and the story revolves around hopping in the car and heading for a coast and looking for some kind of physical freedom without addressing the psychological boundaries that this character can’t face. I also allowed myself to oversaturate the harmonies just for fun! I will to say that a music video is in the works with a really amazing award-winning director and I will be giving more info soon about that on my Twitter. I’m very excited about that.

Which other projects are you working on?

I just finished a song that I’m very proud of, because I got to have my brother come and rap on the song! It was so much fun – it’s called “Daylight Dreaming” featuring Sylvester Alexis. I wrote the music and the choruses and just knew that this song needed him. I created several different versions of the song as I tried to find a verse pattern that sounded good and felt right, and finally I realized that it only made sense if I added his voice and his story to it. My brother is so talented, I didn’t give him any notes on what vibe I wanted or what story to tell, I just sent him the song with my completed part and let him do his thing. He gave it that missing dynamic component that only he could deliver. He got it mastered by Audio Shift Studios and I immediately uploaded it to my music sites and I’m putting it on Spotify this month. That was my first official collaboration with my brother and definitely not my last!

Samantha Schuster