This Time: Donna Missal's Addictive Voyage Of Self-Discovery
Donna Missal has a voice that simply cannot, and will not, be quietened.
The Jersey newcomer has arrived like a hurtling comet with her debut album 'This Time'. The record is sultry, but only for the benefit of herself. Overspilling with a soulfully demanding vocal that trills through the body and glorious tales of self-empowerment, each track tells of Donna falling in love with herself. Intricately exploring each specific emotion that comes with evolution through sonic soundscapes; she warps smooth R&B melodies with a hypnotic hip-hop attitude and feelgood pop choruses, all signed off with unmistakable smoky vocal.
Latest single, ‘Jupiter’ is true to its namesake. Paying ode to the main synth sound heard on the demo, the track is otherworldly with intimate beauty. Donna’s angelic vocal soothes atop dystopian beats that flicker like stars against a dark skyline, offering hope in a soaring chorus.
It’s a song that reigns with seduction and knows exactly what it wants to be. Commenting on personal heartbreak and struggles, Donna Missal soul searches in her music, stylishly dismissing societal pressures and expectations.
On her voyage of self-discovery, she refuses to accept anything that isn’t true to herself. Her songs are life lessons of grandeur that teach courage and confidence.
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If you had to give a TED Talk tonight, what would you talk about and why?
More representation for normalising beauty standards in the entertainment industry. It's been a subject of focus for me lately as I've been navigating my career in music. Women especially have been systematically oppressed by unrealistic standards.
We are talking about it more than ever and the conversation is being led by women, and I find that compelling and empowering, but we haven't dismantled it yet. There's work to do still.
You have a really open and vocal platform discussing identity in particular and how people have commented, especially online, about everything from slut shaming to sexuality. How do you think that today and our use of things like social media has affected or shifted conversations around such subjects?
I think social media has given the power of influence to people in a way we have never seen before and there's something intrinsically powerful in that. At the same time, power is often abused. I use my social platforms mostly to connect with people about my music and the things I'm doing in my career, but I'm motivated also by the ability to take part in the conversation around issues that matter to me.
Currently there's a lot of dialogue about identity, especially regarding sexuality, and if I'm in a position to use my platform to help normalise the inclusion of all people regardless of sexual orientation, I believe it's the right thing to do. Until we're at a place as a society where someone's sexual identity isn't a topic of conversation anymore. That's what I'm hoping for. Following from this, your style is incredible. Your press shots give so much fashion inspiration.
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How does your visual style represent you and your artistry?
Thank you! I thrift everything I wear and more often than not I style myself, so it's cool when there's a positive response, because it gives me a reason to talk about making sustainable choices in fashion and turning more people on to recycled clothing.
I think because I was raised wearing hand-me-downs and shopping at Goodwill, my preference to thrift was born from necessity, but as an adult now I just think it's a cool way to buy inexpensive, environmentally sustainable shit that's unique and has a story.
Your entire debut album is in effect, about lifting one another up and encouraging women to respect one another. Was there a particular event, or a series of events that made you write the record?
The songs were written over two years, and recorded over an additional year, so naturally the theme of the record began to center around time. Songs about the process of taking your time to figure yourself out, how you relate to yourself, how you see yourself over time, and how you see yourself through the lens of time - what you can learn over time.
Women especially are under so much pressure to capitalise on our youth, and I had to learn how to unpack the anxiety and shame around about taking my time to figure out who I am and what I want. So many women feel that. So many people feel that. I wanted the record to tell that story.
In it, you also kinda analyse how humans act around one another, for example in ‘Keep Lying’ and ‘Girl’. How do you think we can show both ourselves and each other more love? What are the small and simple acts of kindness that you like to show?
I think something important I've learned is that our self-perception informs how we perceive others and naturally the way we feel about ourselves is always reflected in the way we treat those around us. The more we respect ourselves, the more we are able to show respect to other people. The more we are able to reflect love inwards, the more we are able to outwards.
It took two years to write the record, and now that it has been out a couple of months, have you had time to settle with it? What’s your favourite part of the album?
I think my favourite part was finishing it! Seriously though, I've been really enjoying playing the album live and planning the headline tour for it, which is my first ever, getting to creative direct the visual and experiential elements of the tour have allowed me to re-live the creative process from a different angle through the music.
I've always been obsessed with having creative control and seeing a vision all the way through, so I've been having a really good time with all that. I'm just happy to have an album as my way of expressing myself and how I connect with my experiences, and how that connects with the experiences of others.
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Having been home schooled, how do you think that if played into your work as a musician? Did you grow up asking for more music lessons than math?
I think homeschooling allowed me to be a strange and creative kid, without the fear or pressure of judgement from peers, and I think that was really valuable growing up. In all seriousness though, your voice is incredible and your songwriting honest and passionate.
The songs already sound timeless, all individual anthems. What was the journey like to discover that this is the artist you wanted to be?
That is so nice. Figuring out what kind of artist I wanted to be took a long time for me, like many years of shedding the inability to see myself as strong and capable. I want to emphasise that - so anyone who may be struggling with their process of getting where they want to be feels some relief. Take your time it's okay.
I think I write the way I do now because I finally believe in the shit I'm saying, I finally feel like I have something to say that I feel passionate about, and confident enough to stand behind.
I saw somewhere that you joked about writing a Broadway musical. However, I really love musicals! And I actually think This Time would make a quite the soundtrack. ‘Don’t Say Goodnight’ would be magical on a star backdrop! So, if the record were to soundtrack a musical, what would the plot be?
Me too! It would be this like coming-of-age pop opera about a bartender in New York City who wants to write songs for a living and the first scene would be quitting the bar to pursue it. The real life events of how I began writing the album.
Finally, you recently played your first show in the UK! What did you think? Will you be back?
I loved playing in London! It was my first time ever playing a show outside of the US. I didn't have any expectations and was just hoping people would show up, so to see and hear the crowd singing the songs with me was unreal. I'll definitely be back soon.
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'This Time' is out now.
Words: Tanyel Gumushan
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