Mia Doi Todd 12th album, Music Life, was recorded in her native Los Angeles. The album features guest performances from Jeff Parker, Money Mark, Fabiano do Nascimento, Sam Gendel, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Laraaji. Ever since her debut release in 1997, singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd has created a body of work that is intensely personal and unique, with a rich variety of cultural and creative influences. A solo artist with an innate sense of connecting links between other musicians, Mia has stepped into the role of composer on Music Life. The album, produced with husband Jesse Peterson, embraces the themes of motherhood and the creative life of the artist. The songs, autobiographical with a splash of mythology, continue her lyrical journey, from the deserts of Rajasthan to the coast of Bahia, from existential questions on mortality, sexual assault and overdose to the wonder and joy of caring for a young child. The songs are epic and cinematic.
“Take Me to the Mountain” is a symphonic call to Nature’s healing powers. In the sea shanty “My Fisherman,” based on novelist Jorge Amado’s Sea of Death, Mia sings from the perspective of the mermaid and ocean goddess, Yemanja, about her lover, the allegorical fisherman, who faces the dangers of the sea to feed his family. Like the figure of the artist, he is always chasing the muse. “Little Bird” hides its secret source of sadness behind a sweet samba flair. Mia’s cover of “If I Don’t Have You” is a fragile, folky take on Gregory Isaacs’ classic lovers rock ballad, with lilting vocals and melodica floating above earthy percussion. “Daughter of Hope” finishes the album with a prayer for the future, amidst angelic choir and triumphant horns. Mia describes writing the title track “Music Life”: “The title track begins: “If you give your life to music, it opens up the path.”
My musical path started when I was a teenager, taking singing lessons from my Silver Lake neighbor who was an opera singer. Not long afterwards, I began writing songs and finding my own voice. I followed indie rock bands and started playing shows around town. Gradually music came to consume most of my being! The song addresses the ups and downs of a musician’s life. I wrote it the night I came home from a dear friend’s memorial service, another of several musician friends who have passed away at a young age. The song morphs organically through background vocals and psychedelic guitars and ultimately emerges as a celebration of life lived fully. We recorded the basic tracks at Barefoot Recording (formerly Crystal Sound) in Hollywood, the studio where Stevie Wonder and others recorded many great albums. I played the 9 foot grand piano there and sang my heart out, surrounded by my musical friends and collaborators: Money Mark on organ, Jesse Peterson on rhythm guitar, Will Logan on drums, Andres Renteria on percussion and Brandon Owens on bass. The song comes to a final crescendo with Jeff Parker’s swirling electric guitar solos and the lyrics “If you give your life to music, no regret, don’t forget, I loved you.”