Mina Alali is a 19 year old college student who’s recently been setting the world on fire with her music. Her single, “Something About Her”, the title track from her latest album just debuted at #7 on the Billboard charts. She recently kicked off her first national tour and even in the midst of all this going on Mina took some time to answer a few questions for The No Fly Zone and our readers. Enjoy!
NFZ: You’re barely done with your first year of college and yet you’ve made a ton of records, music videos, TV appearances and been traveling all around the world. So, in as much detail as possible can you tell us what you’ve done and how you did it?
I’ve been creating original songs since my senior in high school. I came out with my debut album, Unique, in December 2015, while simultaneously creating my second album with my cowriter, Arlene. I guess the pace really started to pick up in the summer of 2016 when I released my original song called “Carnival Girl”, addressing the issues of drug abuse and addiction. This song got good local recognition, and I was able to perform it on Good Day Sacramento and land interviews with newpapers and magazines.
Three months later, I signed with the national indie label, Kick-a-Beat Records. I was in my second semester of freshman year at Berklee College of Music. Berklee being in Boston, I had to travel back to California couple times to work things out with this label and do some music videos. I’m studying Music Business/Management at Berklee, and I’ve definitely had to learn how to juggle my own music career and school. I’ve just accepted the fact that there will be a lot on my plate for the next couple years.
I’ve done about five music videos so far for the songs on my album, some of which have yet to be released. I also was spending four months this past semester, in Valencia, Spain because Berklee has a campus there and I decided I wanted to study abroad last summer. I traveled back to the US twice during my time there to do music videos and TV appearances on the East Coast. It was a lot to handle but I’m not complaining – I am incredibly grateful to do what I love!
After coming back from Valencia, just a couple weeks ago, my title track and single from my album, “Something About Her,” reached number 7 on the Billboard Charts for Hot Singles of the week! It has actually been on the charts for two weeks now, and this has open a lot more doors and opportunities, putting my label and I on a more professional level in the industry.
This summer, I’ll be touring with my band around California, Oregon, and Washington, performing the songs on my album and some cover songs. I am extremely excited!
NFZ: You’re about to embark on you’re first national tour in the US. How are you preparing for it and how does it feel?
I met the members of my band a couple weeks ago and I already feel super attached, and like there’s good chemistry going on between all of us already. I have never performed with a band, so this is all new and exciting for me. It’s a completely different feel than singing with background tracks. I am very ready to get on the road – combining traveling with music is ideal! We’ll see where this tour takes us.
NFZ: Share with us what it’s like working with the record label you’re currently signed with.
I signed with a national indie record label in October 2016, called Kick-a-Beat Records, and I’d say that was a huge turning point. Just to take my music to a whole new professional level, and have a team of people that take me, my music, and my vision seriously was really incredible and humbling. I thought I knew what I was doing in terms of promoting myself and getting my name out there, but it was until I signed with this label that I realized how much there is to do in order to work your way through the industry.
NFZ: You maintain a strict vegan diet. How long have you been a vegan and what was it that led you to that decision?
I was living in Iran (my father is Iranian, so I’m half Persian) the semester before I started college, and Iranians basically live off of meat and dairy products, so going from eating a minimal amount of these products to an abundance made me feel groggy, tired, and sluggish after about two weeks. I decided to cut out both meat and dairy, so follow a vegan diet, for a week to see how I felt. I had never felt better in my life and I’ve just stuck with it since then. It’s been almost 2 years and I am really happy. Also to learn about the ethical and environmental reasons has been life changing, and as has a huge animal lover, I’ve become super passionate about veganism and animal activism.
NFZ: You’re a world traveler. These days is it difficult to find the food you want while you’re on the road?
I knew that living in the US, it wouldn’t be hard to maintain a vegan diet just because of all the alternatives for meat and dairy products that American brands offer, but I thought living in Iran would be difficult since almost no one is vegetarian or vegan there. It wasn’t hard, and I was pretty much living off of fruits, vegetables, and lots of rice for two months straight and to this day I would say that those two months were the healthiest I had ever felt. I don’t find it difficult to find vegan food, no matter where I am, because I think once you’ve adapted to the lifestyle everything becomes easier.
NFZ: You’ve just completed and released your latest album, “Something About Her”. What were the highs and lows that went into the process of writing and recording this one?
My album, “Something About Her,” was in the works for about a year and a half and I’m so content with the way it turned out. I would say it’s especially cool to look back on, because almost every song I co-wrote came from direct experience and what I was feeling in the moment. For instance, the song “22 Cents Less,” addressing the issues of the wage gap, was written after I had just heard about the wage gap and how women on average are pay 22 cents less to the dollar compared to their male coworkers. The minute after I learned of this fact, I called up my cowriter and was like, “This is ridiculous, but it’s also a great title for a song.” Even the song, “Something About Her,” is around the idea of how a woman doesn’t need a man and that she can be independent and happy. This was written when I had been feeling those thoughts – very in the moment. The whole album is part of my life journey in itself.
NFZ: What are your top 3 favorites from the 11 songs on “Something About Her” and why?
My top three favorite songs from my album have to be Feeling Good, 22 Cents Less, and my cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” by Elvis. “Feeling Good” is that ballad-y, soothing, feel-good love song, and although I love incorporating messages of social justice in my songs, I also wanted to sprinkle some love songs in the album – we need some of those, too! “22 Cents Less” talks about something so important today, and the topic is something I deeply care about. The music video that went along with it (available on YouTube) also came together super well – we got women from lots of different races, ethnicities, and ages to be a part of it. Lastly, for my cover of Can’t Help Falling in Love, we decided to include in the album because this is my favorite song and again, it just is one of those feel good songs and I feel like the rendition we were able to put together worked perfectly for the lyrics.
NFZ: Your “22 Cents Less” and “What I Want” records did quite well last year on radio last year. Any tips for those trying to break into the music business for those still trying to get their foot in the door?
If you’re a songwriter, always write about things that you care about and that you truly mean. I’ve had people say, “As a songwriter you’re going to need to be able to pop out new original songs in five minutes!” – I can’t do that. When I do, my songs just don’t seem as good of songs as the ones that come from the heart. Also, creating professional pages across all social media platforms, and keeping them updated and being consistent is super important.
NFZ: You’re now appearing on both television and performing on stage. Which do you prefer and why?
I haven’t performed on stage much yet, so that’s why I’m excited for tour this summer. I’d have to say appearing on television is preferred at this point, although it is nerve-wracking at times!
NFZ: We’re sure there are a lot of people you’ve come in contact with during you career in the entertainment industry. Could tell us about some of the ones who have been the most and least helpful along the way?
My vocal coach and producer first and foremost, David James, was the one who got me in touch with my cowriter and now manager, Arlene. Both have been extremely helpful and supportive over the past two years, with me writing original songs, signing with the record label, and getting a foot in the entertainment industry. Also Vanessa Errecarte of Erreco Strategies has been absolutely amazing for my label and I, and getting our name and our work out there. I also have my parents, Mia Mind Music, Select-O Hits, my label, Kick-A-Beat Records, Joan Martin, Jillian Todd, View Maniac, and Karvin of KES music to thank for their work and support. I have an amazing team behind me. I’d say least helpful have been those people that say, “It’s not possible,” or “The music business is unreliable, and too hard to get through nowadays.” Those kinds of comments just don’t really change anything for me. I know what I’m capable of, and with a team like mine I’m sure we’d be able to accomplish just about anything!
NFZ: How do you feel about the current state of today’s entertainment business?
For an artist, today’s entertainment business is certainly hard to get through. There is just so much talent out there and you really have to stand out amongst the crowd to be noticed. I can see that it’s challenging, but I’ve never liked being completely at ease anyways. I always find that I’m more productive and happier when I’m slightly outside of my comfort zone, so I try to always stay on my toes, and I know that if I were given the platform and opportunity to become more well-known in the entertainment business, I would use that power and influence to the benefit of others. With humanitarian parents, I grew up wanting to help people, as cliché as that sounds. I’m happy that my songs 22 Cents Less and Something About Her, for example, got good recognition because the messages in these songs are centered around topics that I deeply care about.
NFZ: What about the state of the world, particularly politics?
I think the world today could use a giant hug. People are hurting, the earth is hurting, and what we need today is kindness, compassion, more love and understanding of one another. I think politics often comes down to basic morals, and if we forget about the two sides of the equation (the left and right parties), and focus on truly opening our arms to one another, because we all share this earth and we’re all in this together, I think we could solve a lot of the worlds’ problems today. This is also why I am so passionate about music – music is a gateway to people’s hearts, it’s its own unique entity and a way for people to truly feel something that spoken words alone could never do. If I can create the best lyrics and a good melody and have it be heard by people, for the song to really touch and move people, my job is complete.
NFZ: How can people follow and stay in touch with you?
I am on almost every social media platform as Mina Alali or Mina Alali Music. My album, Something About Her, and other musical works are on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Spotify and more.