by Lily Lyons
“It was one of those things where you are a little bit crying but also a little bit laughing,” Miranda Inzunza says when I ask her about writing her recent single “Take.” “I said the line ‘there goes my shirt,’ and I started laughing, thinking to myself ‘that’s hilarious but I’m so depressed.’” The beautifully blunt and visceral song that emerged from that writing session now has 27,000 plays on SoundCloud and has given some major feels to bloggers and listeners alike. But—like most of the songs on her new EP Listener—she almost didn’t release it: “Every time I write something I feel this sense that I need to hold onto it because it’s scary to show other people. That was amplified times a million with this EP,” she tells me.
Luckily for the rest of us, her friends and collaborators encouraged her to push through her fear. “I felt so embarrassed to show “Take,” but then I realized how many people responded to it,” she tells me. “When I played it for friends they were like ‘I totally felt that’ and I was like ‘that’s because it was real.’” As she worked on Listener, she slowly began to realize that putting vulnerability into her music could be empowering. The resulting lyrics are unflinching, melding with Miranda’s intimate vocal melodies into dangerously good electro R&B slow jams.
The process of making Listener has been one of both emotional and musical growth for Miranda. Over the two years during which she wrote the songs, she graduated from Berklee, changed her sound from acoustic to electronic, and developed marketing skills and social-media saavy from scratch. She also had her heart broken just a couple times. Sitting confidently across the table from me in a coffee shop, she’s clearly a different person than the Miranda who wrote “Anchor,” the oldest song on the EP. But she’s okay with that: “I think people like hearing where somebody came from,” she muses, naming the deliciousness of listening to an artist’s first raw songs that we’ve all felt. “People like to go on that journey with you…because it’s fun and interesting, and it’s real.”
One artist whose journey she has followed with special interest is Drake. When I ask her about her SoundCloud bio, which reads ‘lowkey tryna be the female Drake,’ she looks amused. Apparently equating her music with Drake’s music has become a thing since she went through “the biggest Drake phase” around the time of writing “Take.” Her friends noticed the similarity and she embraced it: “people always comment on it, so I honestly just think it’s hilarious. They take it really seriously like ‘are you really trying to be Drake? You’re not being yourself then.’ And I’m like ‘no, I’m just kidding,’” she laughs. But she still crushes on him hard, if jokingly:
“I just love Drake. I’m obsessed with him and I wanna marry him…Okay maybe not really; Rihanna can have him. I have the same birthday with Rihanna so I can live vicariously.”
With or without Drake’s everlasting love, Miranda is becoming a fully realized artist. Her songs lay out an intoxicating mood that’s quiet but heady, like the silence that happens after freshly fallen snow. But despite the success that Listener has had, she isn’t settling any time soon: “as an artist you have to keep changing, making new stuff for yourself, and adding some uncharted territory,” she says. She restlessly picks up new influences and writes and co-writes frequently in order to refine her sound so it feels new and authentic to her. But her sensitivity to the world remains the backbone of her artistry. In a brainstorming session, her songwriting teacher Mark Simos asked her how she was described by her friends and she replied: “people always say that I’m a listener.” Her self-description became her EP title because it captured the unfiltered, observant intensity of her music. “I think what attracts people to what I do is that I am not putting up any walls or barriers or trying to make myself look or sound a certain way,” she says. “I just feel like the music is me and these are really honest feelings that I had.”
IF YOU’RE INTO SOME SERIOUSLY CHILL R&B AND WANT TO FEEL MAJOR FEELS, CHECK OUT “LISTENER” HERE: