What It's Really Like to Be a Country Artist

In our 9-5 series, we ask boss babes what a day in their work lives entails. This week, country artist Jade Mya—who, at 12, also became the youngest Canadian to transition from male to female—gives us a glimpse into her daily grind

Country artist

Age: 25

Education: Bachelors in psychology and criminology from York University

Length of time at current gig: 2 and half years

Did you know early on that you wanted to be a singer? Yes. Going to school was kind of something I did until I could figure out what I needed to do to get into the music industry, because I wasn’t going to sit around and do nothing.

Why country music? I grew up in the countryside, so I was born and raised around it. I grew up with a cornfield in the backyard and chickens—I don’t really know other music aside from country. I remember having this battery-powered player that would play music regardless of losing power in the country all the time. It’s funny because now I live in a city where I’m surrounded by Drake fans, but country music is really up there as well.

While you were growing up, you also transitioned from a male to a female. Can you tell me a bit about your journey? For a long time I didn’t speak about it, so a lot of people didn’t know about my past because I was the youngest person to ever undergo everything. At the age of 12, I started the therapy I needed. I always knew things were different with me and luckily I had all the right people around me. My mom is so supportive, I have a great sister and brother, and they put me in contact with the people I needed to see. I spoke with a therapist and doctors from when I was 12 until 14, and then I did the surgery and got everything changed.

Around that age, boys and girls can experience changes in their voices. Did you find that you had to adjust your singing style and find your voice again? I hadn’t yet gone through puberty at that point, so it wasn’t a big obstacle. I was finding my tone and singing style as a natural part of my transition.

Country artist

Why did you recently decide to speak about your transition publicly? We were coming off of a lot of radio touring and the Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMAs) were coming around, and we were getting so much buzz around the music, that as a team, we thought it would be a great idea to share this part of my story and tell everyone from our point of view, rather than someone else’s. I wanted to also think of this interview as a light for people who may be going through the same journey.

What’s the response to your story been like? A lot of people recently all found out because of an interview I did with etalk where I really opened up about it. People were, of course, shocked because I grew up doing fitness modelling, wearing bikinis with all these curves, and a lot of people just had no idea. There’s nothing that I can say that has been particularly negative, everything has been pretty positive. Of course, fans have their questions because that’s who we are as humans—and I’m a bit of an unknown territory. But, I think this will open up a new window of country music fans, maybe people who are going through the same situation.

Country artist

You describe your music as a blend of storytelling and musical styles—how has your journey influenced your work? These past few years, I have mostly released covers, many of them from the hit-show Nashville, but even the covers have touched me and my story. The cover of “Lies of the Lonely” broke me into the industry. It was an acoustic performance at the Orange Lounge in Toronto, which has hosted people like Ellie Goulding and even Amy Winehouse. It’s a song that’s about the lies we tell ourselves when we’re single. Being in such a busy career and having people constantly asking me if I was seeing somebody, my response was always that I was happy being single. Those are the lies that we tell ourselves. A lot of the songs coming out soon will be more original songs, songs that talk about my journey, and of course, guys I’ve dated, because everyone loves a good heartbreak song.

That cover got more than 57,000 hits on YouTube. Now that you’re becoming more well-known, what’s an average day for you? I sit in bed, have my tea, and I turn on my laptop and answer emails every morning. Then I’ll message my band mates and see what kind of rehearsal schedule we need to put together. Tonight we’re rehearsing from 5 till 11 p.m. It really changes every day, which I love. This week we’ve got a radio show that we’re videoing, we have a music video that’s coming out and next week we’ve got a show.

When you’re performing, how do you get in the zone before a hitting the stage? A vocal coach told me that if I felt nervous, I should kickbox the air to release all that nervousness. So before I go on stage, I do my vocal warm-up and I sing a song with the band, we tell each other how grateful we are for getting this gig and for everyone who listens to country music, and then I punch the air for about 20 seconds. They laugh at me, and then I go up.

How would you describe your personal style? I’ve got this Kacey Musgraves meets Shania Twain look. Sexy, daring, authentic, risky, and a little crazy—that’s me in a nutshell.

What is the best part of your day? Performing is my favourite time of day. If I’m not performing, I get bummed out.

What is the worst part of your day? I need a certain amount of sleep [to function] but I have to drink lots of water—around 2.5 L a day—to be able to do what I do, so I often wake up in the middle of the night to use the washroom and then I can’t fall back asleep. There’s no winning.

Who is someone you admire in the country music industry? Dolly Parton. She’s on tour right now and gosh, I don’t even know how old she is, but she’s still kicking the walls down. I like to be different and I’m definitely not similar to anyone else. I relate to Dolly because she’s always been herself. There’s never been another Dolly Parton and she had to burn bridges and knock walls down and get that musical respect.

What attributes does someone need to make it in country music? They have to be strong, and be okay with hearing some negatives. The country music industry is so kind, they’ll give you feedback on what you need to do to get there, you just have to have a strong enough shell to take some of the criticism.

How do you unwind? If I run out of Lucky Charms, I usually unwind with an episode of Family Guy. A new season just came out on Netflix and it’s just so funny—I’m such a child. When I got to bars, I’ll still ask for chocolate milk, and I’ll ask for it on the rocks. That’s just me.

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