The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for many people, but actress and singer Mia Pinero seized an opportunity in the middle of it. She found the time and inspiration to release Growing Up, which is her first full-length record and a chance for audiences to get to know her better than ever before. It’s personal in many ways, and will win listeners over with that honesty.
In our interview, Mia spoke with me about the process of making the record and what it means to her that it’s now out in the world. Plus, we discuss everything that she’s learned during the pandemic, which might make her the most productive person on the planet Earth.
Brittany Frederick: Walk me through the timeline of the album. Was it something that you had already been planning, or something that came together more recently?
Mia Pinero: I started working on the album in January of 2021—the whole process of arranging with my incredible collaborator Alex Thompson and recording, and coming up with the concept, and then licensing. You go through the whole process and then you have it this close to you. And then there was a bit of time that I was kind of sitting with it and then the release process. Now it’s been almost a little over a year and it’s overwhelming. It’s emotional. It’s super-exciting to think that it’s going to be the in the pockets of people and that it’s going to be up and out.
Brittany Frederick: The interesting thing about the pandemic is some artists have said it’s allowed them to focus in on their music, because they didn’t have so many outside obligations. Was that also the case for you with Growing Up?
Mia Pinero: I was really looking for a way to use my craft and express myself and I’d always wanted to make an album. And I thought oh, I do have the time to really put something together. I might not have the biggest budget in the world; we’re not going to have a big orchestra. It’s only just piano and myself. But it allowed me to take time with it and really be intentional and specific.
And absolutely, I think with the hustle and bustle and being on the treadmill, as I say, of New York City and my life as an artist, it would’ve been way harder to carve out the time [to record] and to also have the time to deeply reflect, which this album comes out of that period of reflection. So as challenging and as difficult as this pandemic has been for all of us, I think that was a gift, to have the time. And also to relate, because every single person has gone through some sort of journey during this time. Hopefully my journey and this album can also resonate with other people.
Brittany Frederick: In some ways, this album may be your introduction to a lot of people, who haven’t been able to see you on stage.
Mia Pinero: Yes, which is super-exciting because my craft, theater, is something that you go on stage, you give the audience an experience and then it’s gone. It’s not like film and TV and even recording artists [where] you get to preserve this moment. And I thought, this momen tthat I have preserved is really a piece of me. I made it in my hometown, when I would drive the roads that I used to drive to go to school. The album cover is taken on the property that I grew up on. And it’s really getting to know more of an intimate side of me.
This album is very stripped down. It’s some of the most beautiful songs that all have such story. Alex and I really wanted to make it simplified and really focused on lyric and story. You can see me on stage as a character, as a larger-than-life person, but this is really an introduction to Mia and her journey. I think that that’s really special for a debut. I keep saying someday I’ll do the big orchestra album with the big dress and the Carnegie Hall feel, but this is really personal. This album is for you when you’re on the subway, when you’re in the car, when you’re alone, when you’re walking. I’m with you in those moments. It’s a different side—and I would say maybe a truer side of me.
Brittany Frederick: Outside of the record, you’re also giving back through the Broadway Plus platform, meeting fans and teaching aspiring artists. What has that coaching experience been like for you, to be creating while also helping others create?
Mia Pinero: The joy and just the energy I had after all of my sessions, it was incredible. It was something that I found…I love doing this craft, but I also love to teach it and watch other people use their gifts and thrive and have lightbulb moments. I think anyone who starts to teach will always say that you’re also being taught. The students teach you and you start to realiz oh, I’m giving them this advice and I really need to take this. I feel really thankful for that conversation, that process, and I think it’s an amazing thing.
Brittany Frederick: Are there any other creative pursuits that you explored during the pandemic? Or anything else you’re passionate about?
Mia Pinero: The pandemic definitely helped me think about what are the parts of my garden that I’m not watering, because of course, going into musical theater and being full-force into it, it’s a big-time commitment. It’s a very rigorous career path. And I feel like having the time off, I was able to really connect as a sister, as a now tia to my sweet nephew Mateo. That was so special, to be able to spend time with him, to watch him grow.
I also love being outside and outdoors, especially being from Wisconsin. I was just walking through the trees today on this beautiful sunlit path and was listening to this podcast, Poetry Unbound. I want everyone to listen to it. It’s really beautiful. It picks a poem per episode and they break it down and analyze it and there’s beautiful music. Poetry is something that I’ve really been connecting to recently. Poetry is everywhere. Poetry is in music. Poetry is in lyrics. But I think we don’t give enough attention to poets sometimes—being able to take life experiences, whether they’re mundane or whether they’re grand, and put them in the most beautiful words. And I was walking through the woods and listening to this and really having just a beautiful experience and connection that’s been really powerful.
I got into making cocktails during the pandemic, because I loved getting a nice New York cocktail, but they’re pretty expensive. And I also love to cook and bake; to me it’s all in the same world of creating flavor profiles. So I’ve been kind of nerdy about making my own simple syrups and infusing them with herbs and it just being this really fun social practice. Same with cooking; it’s so beautiful because you’re able to put all these ingredients together and share it with people. They’re getting satiated by a work of art. I know that sounds super-corny, but you can make something beautiful that tastes wonderful, smells wonderful, and fills the soul.
Article content is (c)2020-2022 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.