INTERVIEW: Get Familiar With Cool, Creative and Conscious POLLY A.
If you think you’ve never heard of Polly A. before, think again. As an American singer/songwriter from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Polly A. had established her talent and songwriting skill before her own name began to get the recognition it deserves. Working as a lyricist, Polly A. has written for artists like Alicia Keys, Selena Gomez, Natasha Bedingfield amongst plenty others. She also co-wrote the gold-certified “Crooked Smile” with J. Cole that earned a nomination for “Record of the Year” at the 2013 Soul Train Music Awards.
After her success as a songwriter, she wanted to do more, saying, “I love songwriting, but I don’t want to do it forever...I need to focus on my artistry.” Since then, Polly A. has released a lot of her own music, and just dropped her latest EP, Ghetto Gold Dream, last month.
We sat down with Polly A. when she was in NYC to talk and get deep into her brilliant mind about vulnerability, turn up songs, and more.
What color do you feel like today?
Purple. Like a violet flower.
What was it like first picking up a pen and writing music? Can you describe the feeling?
Well, I first started writing poetry and then I kind of attempted to turn poetry into songs. So I wouldn’t consider myself a poet at the time, but I was writing just free entry -- almost journal style, but in poem form. I discovered Fiona Apple at that time and I thought that her stuff sounded like poems that she put to a melody and I was really inspired by that style.
How do you feel about vulnerability and its importance in writing/creating music?
I think it’s all about being vulnerable and honest and really remembering everything you experience. From what the sun looked like, what it smelled like... If you’re talking about a person, what their skin felt like... I like to be very visual and I like to bring the person in every way into what was happening. Just peeling away all the layers and exposing your heart and just everything that was happening on every level. It’s not just about the action, it’s about the feeling when they looked at me or what their hair felt like.
It’s all about the details.
What was the creative process like in the making of your single Ghetto Gold Dream? Do you have a favorite memory from making the EP?
For me, it always starts with the melody. How I digest music is sort like the melody will capture me, you’ll hear something in the distance and it will resonate with you or it won’t. Then I’ll listen to the lyrics second. So not that the melody is more important, but it’s the first thing you latch onto.
I start there. When it comes to the lyrics, I think about if it would be interesting for me to see these words or just read this, and would it make sense to me as it’s own written piece? If those two things can marry, then you know you have something special.
It’s about being descriptive and visual.
I think music that translates is so much about storytelling and bringing people into what you’re trying to say in a very visceral way.
What in your life inspires you in your everyday life? Fuels you, so to speak?
People. The human experience.
I was just talking to my Uber driver and he was like ‘What do you do?’ and I said ‘Well I’m a singer/song writer, but I’m really something like an anthropologist. I just love studying humans and the human condition.’ and he was like ‘Does that work, do you do that with your songwriting?’ Really just what we all go through. We’re all living our own individual journeys but it’s the same journey at the same time. We all experience the same things, and in all forms of art, when something hits it’s because we all connect to something that we all experience. That’s why it hits. It taps into the common human experience.
That’s why I always feel like music is the closest art form to God because it’s the one that you literally feel. You can be at a concert and be on the same vibration because everybody knows the lyrics to the same song. You can be next to a stranger but singing the same thing -- it’s like we are together in that moment. That’s what I love about music. It just brings people together.
What did you grow up listening to? Does it reflect in your own personal style?
My mother is Jamaican so as a kid it was a lot of like roots reggae. Bob Marley, Third World, Yellowman... The hip hop era definitely inspired me, 90’s R&B, and alternative rock like Fiona Apple and Radiohead. My favorite singer is Marvin Gaye so I kind of went back in my teenage years and discovered all the soul stuff from the 60’s. I think everybody listens to something or sees something, it inspires you to want to make others feel how you felt. I definitely listen to a lot of people and take an emotion or feeling from other people. It’s all an evolution, we’re all borrowing from one another and making it our own.
Do you have a favorite artist that you’ve written for?
I work really closely with this artist Kat Dahlia. We’re really close friends and we write a lot together; I really love the songs we’ve created. We're simply on the same wavelength as far as how we view the world. We have a song called “Mirror” that has a basic meaning of we are all kind of reflections of each other.
In what ways do you hold yourself back? What is your biggest challenge?
I think everyone is their own worst enemy. At the end of the day, we all may have outward voices, but I think it’s really just projections. What you chose to focus on is really what’s inside of you and that may be a voice inside your head. You could do something and you could get ten compliments but you’ll remember the one negative thing. Like on YouTube -- I’ll look at the comments sometimes and a bunch of them will be like ‘Oh you rock!’ or ‘You’re great!’ and then one person will be like ‘eh, the song is alright’ and I’ll be like ‘What the fuck!?’ And that sticks. It’s really just like that hater in your head that all of us have and have to deal with. One of my biggest challenges just quieting that voice. Even studying that voice -- who are you and why are you here, why are you saying things to me that are not nice?
Just remembering that it is me and it is me choosing to give attention to it, and telling it to be nice to me. It all starts within, I think that people who are shitty to other people are really just shitty to themselves and they’re just projecting how they feel about themselves.
How do you escape?
Acid! .... Just kidding. Lately I’ve been learning piano and that’s been a pretty good escape. I go into it and I’ll plan on rehearsing for two hours and I look up and it’s like four hours later! It just flies by because it’s so meditative and that’s been my main escape the past few months.
Turn up song? Cry song?
I like emo Drake. I also like Justin Bieber’s latest album, all of those singles are so good.
Cry song? This didn’t used to be my cry song, it’s only because he died. But now every time I hear "Adore" -- it's my favorite song in the whole world by Prince. After he died, it got really hard to listen to, but now it’s kind of therapeutic.
How do you want to be remembered?
I wanna be remembered as someone who was able to bring people together and recognize the similarities on how we really are strategically divided for other people’s agendas.
People have an agenda in telling us how different we are when we’re really the same, we all come from the same place.
I just want that to be the overlaying message in all my music, kind of how Prince or Michael Jackson did. I think what was so great about them was their ability to unify people and remind people how we are the same. It’s one love and a universal love, and we all have the same energy flowing through us. That’s why we’re all here, it’s to share that with each other.