PHOTOGRAPHY AMANDA MERTEN @mandaknowsbutts
INTERVIEW KERANE MARCELLUS @keranenotkaren
STYLING KAT TYPALDOS @kattypaldos using only vintage clothing and personal archive pieces
HAIR ANDRE GUNN @888dre @artdeptagency
MAKEUP ALEXANDRA FRENCH @alexandraafrench @aframe_agency
STYLING ASSISTANT PHOEBE FELTON @phoebefelton
The 31-year-old songstress Donna Missal has been in love with music since she could first remember; she started recording music with her dad at just 4 years old. “I don’t have any memory of life without music and I have always wanted to be an artist. It’s like a lifelong thing.” As she creates today she mentions her sound is “ever-evolving” and rooted in honesty, just like her. “[It’s] always finding the line between playfulness and seriousness, it’s pop music without rules and framed by whatever I’m obsessing over sonically at the time.” Staying the same is not in her interest as she looks forward to growing old and seeing where life goes as she gets smarter and her experiences get deeper. The pandemic was and is an era of hardship for so many of us and for Donna it wasn’t any better. She created her new EP in the mirror, in the night “through the most difficult and confusing and unclear months of the pandemic.” It completely changed her, hence another stage of evolution.
Her sound currently is reminiscent of gray rainy days with a little sun peeking from the clouds. Her song “insecure” especially recalls that imagery. The melancholy element to the EP that you might feel is because she recorded each song with just her vocals without music. We hear “raw” as a description for emotional performances and Missal took that to new levels. Recording from home, she would “start recording and just make shit up for like, an hour straight.” Like alchemy, she would manipulate parts until satisfied with the sounds. “I’d find the lyric, using the phonetics and vowel sounds from my musings, one of my favorite ways to find lyrics that feel really true. Usually, whatever I’ve been thinking about finds its way out of my body most earnestly that way.” Ruminating on her past relationships “insecure” was about those in her life and around her energy whether good or bad, Missal was confronting her use of autonomy. “With a new sense of agency in who I let in and who I wouldn’t let in anymore, and I wanted to say it in the bluntest way I could.”
Some of those people in her life, namely men running labels more often than not, take advantage of young talent — especially women. With candor, she says, “men are still very much the gatekeepers of every major industry, and parading women around as ‘bosses’ doesn’t change the deep roots of misogynistic practices and patriarchal culture inside every system. It’s ugly and oppressive.” She advises femmes that want to be artists like her should figure out what it is they want first, and continually check back in on those goals to reference when big decisions need to be made and to focus on what you want to change. “I think just being aware of that as you go will help from top to bottom on how you create your art, to how you market it, perform, and present it.” Tired of the traditional cycle of being signed to a label, Missal made the leap to becoming an independent artist and hasn’t looked back. The conversation around being independent wasn’t popular when Missal first ventured into her career. Now, there’s space for artists to make and follow their own rules.
Sometimes money can get in the way of that. Most artists aren’t allowed to be vulnerable about the inner workings of the way money affects their artistry; Missal opens up a bit about her relationship with money. “Money is an exhausting topic and at the foundation of all of my most prominent challenges in life and in this industry, which I really don’t need to get into — it hurts my spirit to ruminate on shit like that.” As a tour is hopefully in the works for Missal, getting the idea off the ground can be difficult: but she thinks fans deserve the experience of a transcendent show. Her favorite moment of a show is seeing a “this is my first concert” sign, solidifying her wanting to tour all the time.
She’s grown immensely personally and creatively and humbly comments on her growth, “I’m not as ambitious, in the ways that I don’t imagine myself as a rockstar anymore, but I am more aligned to what kind of life I really want and what that really looks like practically. I am freer than ever in my writing, I believe in myself as a writer more than ever and it’s empowering. I am relying on myself more than others, which is a development as well. I’m growing every day.” Naturally said like a true rockstar. Emotionally, as her EP may make you feel like you’re looking into the mirror and experiencing the exact same things as her, Missal is coming out of a depression that was frightening but is trying to make more space for inspiration to grow. “I’m resilient and I’m figuring it out.” As we all contemplate our own meaning of beauty, Missal’s definition is struggle. “Everything beautiful I can think of hasn’t become so without incredible effort. And I think that’s beautiful in.