When she applied to colleges, she planned to go into bio-chem program on the pre-med track. The caveat to that enduring practicality was a one-off application to the University of Southern California's Popular Music Program. Popular Music focused college-level programs are relatively rare, and USC's is among the most prestigious. She already had a scholarship in hand from another university when a letter from USC came in the mail. Her acceptance to the music program made her realize that her passion project had the potential to blossom into a career, so she took a leap of faith and decided to head to LA.
Though she majored in bass within her program, being at Thornton afforded her the chance to take voice lessons and songwriting classes as well as music tech classes that expanded her toolkit. It was in a sophomore year songwriting class that Mistine leapt into writing her first song. Though her style has shifted greatly since then, that first project made her realize that she might want to create music of her own more seriously.
|Photo: Camilo Urdaneta|
Outside of classes, school also helped her find trusted collaborators and explore her creativity in new ways. "Junior and senior year, I lived with four boys and one girl. And we were all music majors in like a tiny apartment. All the boys were music production, and my roommate, Jessi, was a songwriting major. So I was always surrounded by it... I'd be doing homework, and Grant would be like, 'Hey, can you just come here for five minutes and record this bass thing?' I think being around it so much and just getting to hop on things super quick for a few seconds taught me a lot about collaboration. Also, my one of my roommates, Jameson [Baken], is who I wrote the song ["Everett Park"] with," she says, looking back. That trust, forged through years of living together and best friendship, created the perfect space for working on this new solo music.
Coming out of college, though, Mistine didn't have her sights singularly set on a solo artist career like many of her peers. Instead, she wanted to tour. "I was like, 'I have to be able to tour.' So whatever that meant, like being in a band, getting hired by someone, or like my own thing. I was like, 'I have to make this work.'" Even with a clear goal, she wasn't sure how to get there. Connecting with an older bass player allowed her to find some much needed mentorship in taking the first steps towards touring. She remembers, "Through him, I went on a few auditions, and I didn't get any of them."
|Photo: Mallory Turner|
"We found one time where I had to leave work early and go to my soundcheck that night late, and I literally walked into the audition for like 10 minutes... They called me for a callback the next week. Apparently they weren't even like planning on having a bass player, so I feel very lucky that somehow happened to be a thing. I met so many amazing people doing that, so yeah, it was a great start. I was really lucky to have it happen very early," she concludes about managing to get her first spot on the road. Sometimes things just click into place when they need to, and that tour helped further spark Mistine's desire to put out music of her own.
She struck a chord with Conan's fandom as they followed her from show to show and in vlogs. That was how I was first introduced to her and how many fans came to hold such a place in their hearts for her. She got to experience that first-hand outside of show. "When I was working a lot, I was meeting fans and people that really connect with music, and I felt like a lot of people connected with me. It wasn't even my music, you know. I met a lot of people outside the shows, young girls that I felt a connection with, and I wanted to connect with them on a deeper level. I wanted to have my own voice be a part of it."
Looking back, Mistine realizes that those interactions shifted her focus towards her own music. "I think what made me want to put more effort into my own project was to actually feel more of a connection with people. It's so beautiful," she says, getting a bit dreamily lost in thinking about the bridges music can create. Many of those same fans she met outside of shows now regularly request covers, comment sweetly on her Instagram posts, and make TikToks about anticipating her new music.
|Photo: Hadar Pitchon|
Her journey through songwriting, though, has been a long evolution. It started with the first song she ever wrote for that sophomore class, which she boldly decided to release. "That was my first dive in, which is crazy that I put it out because I didn't know anything about songwriting really. It was a school project. All of the songs that I already have out there were projects that I worked on that I liked," she says of her original casual approach to releases.
At the time, she looked at her music as a way of telling people she could write songs more than as a statement of an artistic voice she could stand behind. "I feel like I was writing what I knew, and now I'm writing what I want and trying to experiment with new things. I didn't really see it as a possibility until that [class]. And then I was like, 'I guess this is something I would like to do at some point," she said of finding her footing with writing.
Over the pandemic, Mistine poured her focus into cultivating her own sense of voice. Taking more time to learn and grow as a musician, both through school and on the road, has also added to her outlook on writing. "If there's anything I've learned from playing in other people's bands, I felt like my job as a bass player was to make the music feel good. Like people don't really pay attention to it. They noticed when it's not there, but they don't really know when it's there most of the time, especially in pop music. I always felt like my position is like, 'I have to make the song feel good in any way possible.' So I think that's something I brought into my writing. The song has to feel good, and it has to feel the way that we want it to feel. My only goal is that, usually."
It's that driving sense of feeling that comes into her collaborations with producers. "I'll always be like, 'Okay, we made the track. Now send it to me, and I'm going to send you like 30 guitar and bass tracks, and then you can edit them.' I feel like that's something a lot of people try to leave up to the producers to do. I like being the producer, even though I'm not good at the buttons," she says with a laugh. Her instrumental background definitely leaves its fingerprints all over everything she creates.
"I think that does affect the sound because I'm pretty particular," she says when discussing her production process. "I like feelings more. I don't like to use technical terms, even though like I'm well trained in them. I try to save that for work," she adds. Then she thinks for a second before giving an example of what she's asked her producers for, "I want this at sunset, in a car, with the windows down, with my friends. That's the vibe we're going for. And until we're there, it's not done.""Everett Park" so infectious. It has a light, breezy, easy feeling that makes it a track that could play on perpetual repeat. It belongs in the triumphant section of the movie, skipping down Sunset Boulevard in the sunshine, and Mistine herself referred to it as a rom-com song. Specificity is always key in songwriting, and Mistine's ability to keep a central vision through both the lyrics and production make for a perfectly synchronized track. Her approach lends itself to a cinematic feeling as she works like she's scoring individual scenes in a movie.
"Everett Park" has been on a long road to release since it was finished last summer. Though the song has been ready, Mistine needed time personally to gear up for something as intensive as this introduction of a release. Since Mistine is handling every aspect herself from writing and production to release parties, marketing, and music videos, she needed to be in the right place to do the song justice. Luckily, now is the time. "Everett Park" will soon be followed by a second single, as long as it's mixed in time, and an acoustic version. Then there will be an EP in the early summer to culminate the era and mark the new beginning all at once.
When asked what she hoped her music could do for listeners, especially those young girls she met outside of shows, she reflects back on her own childhood to find the answer. "I was bullied a lot as a kid. I think a lot of people are, and I really want to make people feel like they have a friend. I don't want people to feel alone all the time because I know what it's like to feel really lonely," she says almost automatically like this wish is deeply ingrained in each song that she makes. "I hope it reaches people that need comfort in someone else, like need a friend to get them through the day," she adds. She hopes that listeners can feel like they're trading secrets with a friend.
If you're curious about what Mistine's roommate Jessi is up to, you can read my feature where I talk to her about her amazing singer-songwriter project as well.
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