My name is Mike Kota. My start in music was probably when I was young; my parents put me on piano lessons, but I hated that. But I still messed with the piano and the guitar around the house. Every so often I would learn something, or my world would be opened to a new artist. I had some friends in high school that made music and got me really inspired, as well as that envious, jealous side of it when you see your friends excelling at something that you also love. It fuels you.
I think I always liked singing, but it wasn’t until I met Jija that I had found somebody who actually encouraged me to sing and made it really fun and healthy competition. Friends throughout my school time helped out, too. They would be like, “Oh, you’re really good, you should keep doing it.” Then meeting friends like Josie, another artist, and my friend Cho, those people who inspired me, and were always saying like, “This is really good,” or, “No, keep working on this.” It probably took a while of me hearing my voice and being like, “Ew.” But that’s progress.
I don’t know how I would describe my music. If anybody knows, let me know. I take inspiration from people like Dev Hynes, he doesn’t need to fit himself into a label because he has his foot in so many different realms. Not just genres, but also scoring, composing and stuff. To [label myself] would be a disservice… There are just different emotions that need to get out or different ideas. It’s nice to not hold yourself to a specific thing and try to recreate that if one thing works for you. Leaning into that limitless, abundant feeling.
There are two songs I recorded recently that are really meaningful to me. One is called, “Rift,” it’s the title track of my [forthcoming] EP. I wrote it as a poem very restless at 4 a.m. in my alley. I knew I needed to write an inner loop for this project that tied all the concepts together. I didn’t put any pressure on myself and it came together effortlessly. I had so much fun producing it and adding wind chimes. It feels so heavy. To me, it feels like one of the best things that I’ve created in Ableton.
Another song is called “Corner.” On that song I delved into a new style of writing where I say one thing that is partially true, and then I’ll double back on it either at the end of the verse, or in the next verse, just so that I can talk about things that make me sad or frustrated, but are inherently toxic ideas, and then correct myself in the same song. That’s something that’s not going to be out for a while. But I’m super proud of that one and excited to share that with other people, because I think they’ll relate to it. It’s about friends and a pity party that you throw for yourself.
I was frustrated with being a part of a band in some ways, especially with being perceived as just the singer instead of getting credit where I was writing a lot. As well as the ability to just, I don’t know… I like writing music alone. I think it’s very healing and it helps me get through a lot of things. I don’t know, maybe I’m a control freak. I just wanted to be able to do something on my own and really control all the aspects of the music.
Being a woman in music is frustrating, because you think that people are reaching out to you for the right reasons, but then you show up at their house in the suburbs at 10 p.m. and they don’t want to make music with you. But they want to ask you, “Do you have a boyfriend? Oh, you do? Well, he doesn’t have to know.” There’s also the presumed lack of knowledge that gives men the audacity or entitlement to take liberties without explaining to you or asking you if that’s what you want in your music. All these experiences have led me towards hyper independence, which is bad, because it makes me think that I need to do and know everything by myself so that I don’t have to rely on other people in the industry, which are often men.
It’s hilarious and sad to listen to some of the stories that my female or femme presenting friends in the industry have. My hope is that I can get myself to the level of knowledge, skill, and networking that I don’t have to work around toxic, misogynistic people in the future. I strive to work with predominantly women or non-binary artists, whether that be within music or like photographers and videographers.
Honesty and multiplicity are important to me. Many things can be true, people can relate to different things in their own ways. Learning about myself through writing my music allows other people to learn about themselves through listening to my music. I think I’m going through a period of deconstructing everything I’ve ever wanted for myself, because our ideas don’t come out of nowhere. Our goals don’t come out of nowhere. They come from the movies that we watched as children, from the stories that our parents told us or warned us about. I’m asking myself; do I want success in music for the clout or do I want success in music because this is the only thing that I want to do with my life? Standing up for women and using my whiteness and white platform to give the mic to people of color, women of color, Indigenous women, and make sure that I can have a platform that’s powerful enough so that the right people can be heard is also important to me.
My debut EP is releasing towards the end of October and the title track will come out Oct. 13. I’ve been doing pretty much everything this whole release myself, so I haven’t had any time to think beyond l what needs to be submitted as soon as possible this week for the release next month. I’m excited. I have so much work, but I kind of have to get tunnel vision and get the job done right now.