Budding New Orleanian Mia Borders talks range

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October 2, 2013
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Mia Borders isn’t one to limit herself. Her first full-length album, “Southern Fried Soul,” released in 2009, was filled mostly with soft pop tunes but also included a couple edgier tracks. In 2010, “Magnolia Blue” showed her funky side. She incorporated the rhythm and blues and soul music she grew up with into 2012’s release, “Wherever There Is.”

Borders attributes her diverse style to being born and raised in the Crescent City.

“Having so much of my life formed while I was in New Orleans is probably a huge reason why it’s very difficult to pin a genre label down on me,” she said. “I think it has a lot to do with the melting pot and the eclectic nature of New Orleans itself, and I think that translates into my music pretty easily.”


The 26-year-old said her musical influences include Simon and Garfunkel, whose music her mother often played at home, and Bill Withers, whose “Use Me” she covered on “Wherever There Is.” As early as age 3, she was making up silly songs and singing them for whomever would listen.

Sometimes Borders’ songwriting process starts with the lyrics, and other times she’ll come up with a tune on her guitar before adding words.

“I constantly have my phone on me, so I jot words or phrases down or I hum melodies into my voice memo,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll just be walking around cleaning my house, and I’ll just start singing something to myself, and then I’ll put the chords to it later.”


She is enthusiastic about creating music and is continually composing new material. It doesn’t always come easy to her, though.

“I get that writer’s block where I can’t imagine writing another song again. Then, all of a sudden, there’s a rush of creativity and inspiration, and it all comes together in the nick of time usually.”

Borders’ most recent album, “Quarter-Life Crisis,” released in April, tells of love gone wrong and starting anew. The title came from a visit with her therapist, who used the phrase to explain why Borders was feeling “lost” for no obvious reason.


“I was doing well professionally, but for some reason I was freaking out,” she said. “I figured rather than shy away from it, I would own it and call the album that. It wound up working out with the material on the album.”

“Quarter-Life Crisis” has a rock flavor thanks to its producer, Anders Osborne. From the opening jam, “Soundcheck,” to the heavy guitar of “Where I Come From,” Osborne’s influence is clear. But as with Borders’ previous releases, a variety of music is mixed together.

One of Borders’ favorite tracks on the record is the Motown-inspired ballad “Say a Prayer,” though she said the album includes “a bunch of (songs) that turned out exactly how I wanted them to and other ones that turned out completely different and that sounded so much better than I could have imagined.”


An example of the latter is “Keep Crying.” She went into the studio with an idea for the drums in the song, but Osborne convinced her to send the percussion in a different direction.

For each record, Borders focuses on creating fresh material so she can stay motivated. “It can get tiresome hearing the same songs over and over again,” she explained. “I like to change it up, and with each album, I realize that I’ve tried something a little bit different.”

With her brother, Borders started her own record label before releasing “Southern Fried Soul.” Since then, she has put out music every year and played throughout the state and country. Her gigs have included New Orleans’ House of Blues and Essence Music Festival, the Green Parrot Bar in Key West and D.C.’s Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. Oct. 11 marks her second time performing at the Voice of the Wetlands Festival in Houma.


Borders brings a confident style, personal lyrics and an assortment of genres to the stage. She said that she has developed as a musician through playing with her band and that she has seen improvement in both her guitar-playing and songwriting over the years.

“The older I get the better the writing gets,” she said. “I have more experience behind me, and that makes for better music, more mature music.”

She continues adding dates to her concert calendar and hopes to have new music out next year. She also isn’t ruling out adding other artists to her record label, though for now she’s focusing on her own career. In addition to writing songs, she’s working on a book paralleling her childhood and that of her grandmother, who raised her after Borders’ mother died when she was 6.


Borders has a degree in English literature from Loyola University. Despite her passion for music, she promised her family she would pursue higher education.

“I would get a degree just in case the entertainment thing didn’t work out. I always wanted to be a movie star and a rock star and all that stuff, but the thing is that wasn’t practical.”

Her four full-length studio albums and substantial list of performances suggest otherwise.


Mia Borders, the nascent, rang less New Orleans guitarist, singer and songwriter, opens the Voice of the Wetlands Festival Oct. 11 in Houma. In an interview with the Gumbo Entertainment Guide, she discussed her inspiration and plans for the future.

COURTESY HYPERSOUL