Cracking The Sky-Conversations With Creatives

CRACKING THE SKY with guest Mya Byrne

January 03, 2021 Cidny Bullens
Cracking The Sky-Conversations With Creatives
CRACKING THE SKY with guest Mya Byrne
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

From San Francisco via NYC, Mya Byrne is a poet, award-winning performing songwriter, and activist.

A proud transwoman, she established her solo folk/Americana career in 2012, releasing several solo albums, after years of performing in with the Roots-Rock band, The Ramblers.

Mya often mentors developing artists and beginning writers, hosting workshops and lecturing as well, as she seeks to drive change in her community, both through music and allyship.

Post-transtion, she made her acting debut at NYC’s Dixon Place in 2014 and has continued that part of her career on various stages around the country, including Berkeley Rep. Her film experience includes

Working with  the Honest Accomplice Theatre in New York, and Periwinkle Theatre in San Francisco. Mya is currently in post-production for her directorial debut, a short film about trans pioneer Lou Sullivan.



Cid [00:00:05] Hey, everybody, welcome to my podcast, Cracking the Sky Conversations with Creative's. I'm your host Cidny Bullens. I'm here in East Nashville, Tennessee, where around every corner is a front porch, a songwriter and a barking dog. On my podcast, I'm talking with a whole spectrum of creative people from around the world. I dig deep into what inspires these artists and creators to do what they do and what it takes for them to make the leap into the creative unknown. I'm featuring some incredibly gifted people, musicians, songwriters, artists, authors, record producers, actors, filmmakers and more. I go inside the mainstream and outside the lines, so settle in wherever you are as we explore the process of making something out of nothing through the experience of some of the most creative people of our time. 


Cid [00:01:14] Hey, everybody, welcome to the podcast today my guest is Mya Byrne. Mya reached out to me a few years ago on Facebook as a fellow singer, songwriter and transgender person. This summer, Mya reviewed my new album, Walking Through This World, for an online publication called Country Queer. And then a few weeks later, she interviewed me for that same online magazine. And, it was a terrific experience. And as we were talking during the interview, I really noted to myself that I wanted to have her on the podcast. From San Francisco via New York City, Mya Byrne is a poet, award winning performing songwriter and activist, a proud trans woman, she established her solo folk Americana career in 2012, releasing several solo albums. After years of performing with the Roots-rock band The Ramblers, Mya often mentors developing artists and beginning writers, hosting workshops and lecturing, as well as she seeks to drive change in her community both through music and allai ship. Post transition, she made her acting debut at New York City's Dickson Place in 2014 and has continued that part of her career on various stages around the country, including Berkeley Rep. Her film experience includes working with the honest, accomplished theater in New York and Periwinkle Theater in San Francisco. Mya is currently in post-production for her directorial debut, a short film about trans pioneer Lou Sullivan. So without further ado, as they say and apparently, as I say, welcome Mya Byrne to my Cracking the Sky podcast. 


Mya [00:03:25] Thanks so much for having me. 


Cid [00:03:28] My wife says that you did the best interview of me a few months ago when you interviewed me for a magazine called... An online magazine called Country Queer. And it was so great talking to you. We talked on the phone for almost a couple hours, I think. It was it was pretty long as part of the interview. But but you really got down to the nitty gritty of me and the music, but also some of my personal life. And I'm hoping that I can do that. We have a little different trajectory here on the podcast. But I'm hoping I could do as good a job on you as you did with me. So you are and your your bio is really great. It says Mya Byrne is a guitarist, singer, songwriter, actor, poet, pundit, producer and engineer. And it goes on from there. But what I picked up on in your short bio, and we all all artists have a short bio and a long bio and in between bios and one hundred and ten word bios and 50 word bios, all that stuff, because we need to for different situations. But in your short bio, you put poet first in your description. 


Mya [00:04:48] Yeah. 


Cid [00:04:48] And I want to know why. 


Mya [00:04:51] My first love was poetry. It always was... I used to I taught myself how to write by honestly, by writing limericks and things like that, I had no idea limericks were supposed to be dirty. I remember being in first or second grade and just writing books and books of limericks that I would make up just the silly things. And then... Poetry was my escape, really. I had started writing songs to entertain myself even as a child, I would make up songs with my sisters on road trips or when we were just home from school on a snow day. I grew up in the Northeast, so we had snow days. And but I remember the first song I wrote was in first grade and I performed it in front of the entire school. And it was about the fact that my grandparents had given me a camera for Hanukkah. And but funnily enough, the character in the song was a girl. I had was like trans even then, but the poetry side of me was... of course, I'd always played guitar, but for many, many years I had been told up until my early 20s I wasn't a good singer. I wasn't the kind of... I wasn't the kind of person who could be anything other than a guitar player or music engineer. And but poetry is really what saved me. And especially in high school, I was super, super depressed for many reasons that I don't need to get into. But I remember I basically almost got thrown out of school because I was cutting class and I was doing a lot of drugs and I was just basically a juvenile delinquent. And thank God for my mother who saw that. I mean, I come from I come from a family of. Really. My, my... There's a lot of mental illness in my family and my parents divorced when I was about 12 and, you know, sort of typical suburban white girl problems, but it affected me pretty badly. And at some point I realized I had a mind and that I really loved using it in some at some point I realized I loved writing poetry and and I got fascinated, actually, through reading Wired, the biography that Bob Woodward did of John Belushi. I got into Dylan Thomas and I got obsessed with Dylan Thomas and the way he wrote and I started carrying a notebook with me everywhere I went. And at that time, my my grades were OK. But I had to stay behind a year in high school. And I remember showing up to homeroom, which was the auto shop, because that's what I did. I was an auto shop, but there were other girls and auto shop was really cool actually. But so Mr. Parker up there was talking about carburetors and I would be taking notes on that, but also writing down poetry. And I got into sonnets and I started writing sonnets every day. And so the first things of mine, I never really got published or recognized or poems. And I continued writing poetry and went to school for poetry, even though I had been writing, starting to write songs. 


Cid [00:08:37] So you went to college? We write poetry. 


Mya [00:08:39] Yeah, I did. I started college at Berklee College of Music, studying, recording, engineering, Boston and...


Cid [00:08:46] Boston, my hometown. 


Mya [00:08:48] Yeah, that's right. I forgot about that. Yeah, I was. I mean, I was born in Boston, but I grew up in New Jersey and... 


Cid [00:08:55] I didn't know that. 


Cid [00:08:56] Yeah, well, we were both born in Boston. How about that? 


Mya [00:08:59] Were you born at the Boston lying in? 


Cid [00:09:01] I was. I was.


Mya [00:09:02] Oh my God. You know, the story of that hospital. Not to tangentialize too much. 


Cid [00:09:12] Yeah, go ahead. 


Mya [00:09:13] I actually have I actually have a postcard from, I think the fifties of it overhead when they designed that hospital or whatever the architect was thinking in the 20s or 30s or whatever it is. The hospital is the uterus. The the parking lots are ovaries and and the and the driveways are fallopian tubes. 


Cid [00:09:35] I did not... I never heard that. Never. 


Mya [00:09:38] Yeah. And I was I was one of the last couple of days to be born there. And then then they built the other hospital...


Cid [00:09:48] And then it became Brigham and Women's. That's amazing... 


Mya [00:09:52] Oh my God. We were born in the same place that we were. This podcast gold. But, yeah. So I went there and I hooked up with Peter Wolf. I interned for him for a while and I had started a band up in...


Cid [00:10:12] In Boston, in his studio in Boston? 


Mya [00:10:16] In Boston. Ah, well, he was sort of mentoring us and I was of his girl Friday kind of person. I would run errands for him. I would drive him around. I was... 


Cid [00:10:27] Gofer protege, I like to call it. 


Mya [00:10:29] Yeah, gofer Protegé. And he was always trying to come up with different stage names for me and he taught me a lot about how to be a mensch in rock and roll and like. And we would have dinner on Friday nights and he was kind of my surrogate family. Me, him, and I lived with his girlfriend at the time and he was super sweet to me and helped me and and I saw his process of songwriting, which was really cool. At the time, though, I still hadn't really written a bunch of songs on my own and at a certain point I decided I need to leave Boston and I, but the thing that always kept me going was poetry. I went to I went to London and I started studying musicology and philosophy and interning at a recording studio. And even though I do recording, engineering and producing still, I decided that... One day I was sitting in a hotel lobby in Hyde Park waiting for a friend of mine to come have some coffee, and as was my habit, I had a notebook or ... No, I bought some stationery from the hotel and a pen and I started writing a poem just to sort of get my thoughts out. And I had been really thinking about living in England and pursuing this career as a recording engineer. And I wrote, apropos of nothing, I wrote you holding your hands the key to your survival, and I looked at my hands, there was a pen. I still have that pen somewhere. And I'm trying not to be too sentimental, but certain things. Yeah, and at that moment, I said out loud and talk about a crack the sky moment, I kind of looked up at the sky and it's just like...I'm going to move to New York, I'm going to finish college and study poetry, and I'm going to become a professional songwriter. 


Cid [00:12:37] Well we can end the podcast now because you just you just went into your cracking the sky moment. But we won't we won't end, we won't end. 


Mya [00:12:46] I have many of those. 


Cid [00:12:46] But no, I love I love that. And I you know, I can relate to those moments where suddenly just something drops in and says this this is what you're going to do or this is where you're going to go or, you know, something like that. So. So you were in London and did you come back? 


Mya [00:13:05] I did come back I came back in July. Yes, I came back around June, July of 2001, and I decided to go to The New School in New York. And I was supposed to start school on September 13th, 2001. So. So I woke up September 11th and and watched the world change, which was interesting. I started school in the village having to show my I.D. and cross those barriers every day. So I was there at the New School and I really started studying poetry. And I was studying with these incredible people that had known Allen Ginsberg. And I started and all these other folks I met, Jo Armstead, who was an artist, is an artist in her own right. But she started out as one of the Ikettes, she happened to be, my she happened to be my classmate... Because I was in adult education program, which was really cool because it meant I wasn't with a whole bunch of college kids. And so hanging out with this older woman for, like, I don't know, 10 months before she dropped that on me. So I wound up excelling in my poetry studies and I was going to go get an MFA in poetics. I had applied to Columbia and applied to the New School. But my main mentor, who is a poet named Sharon Mesmer, was like, are you sure you want to do that? Because you could just go out and write? She said that to me. I was like, no, no, no, I want to do this. I want to do this. And then I didn't get into either of those classes in either of those schools and I was devastated. And she's like, you see, just go out and write, just figure it out. I wound up stopping writing poetry for a long time. I would write poetry on the subway. I would write sonnets to and from work because that's just enough time to write a sonnet. And that was my poetic exercise. But around that time is when I started formally songwriting like 2002-2003.


Cid [00:15:17] So from there, from when you did start writing a song, writing songs, I mean. Did you pursue then getting into a band or or or, you know, doing some gigs on your own as a solo artist? How did you kind of start working in your songs? 


Mya [00:15:40] So when I first moved back to the States, I had started a band with a childhood friend... And it's interesting because I in preparation for this interview, I've actually been revisiting those songs from my first EP, which is called Dawn, under my old name, and half of those songs on that EP were co-written with with...his name is Danny Stein. He's a master sommelier now in New Jersey. And at a certain point, I realized that I had been getting into a habit which would follow me for many, many years, which I'm sure many people are familiar with, which was codependency--allowing other people to sort of run roughshod over my ideas. And I love Danny, still a friend, but I think sometimes when you get into dance with people, everybody's worst elements can come out. And it's very rare that you can find the kind of people to work with where you can have open communication and stuff like that. So I broke up that band and finished the EP on my own and I actually mixed it the day of the famous New York City blackout in 2003. We were we were at the studio and we had the tapes going. I did it to 24 track two inch and all of a sudden the machines start warbling. 


Cid [00:17:05] Wow. 


Mya [00:17:05] What the hell's going on? Machines were just serviced and then the lights started dimming. We were like, well it's like the summer time, maybe there's a brownout and suddenly we hear an explosion and we look outside and people are walking around like zombies. Now that the traffic lights are working like, well, I guess that's the end of the session for today. And walked back West Fourth Street to Ninety Sixth Street, where I lived at the time. And I released that album. And I was lucky enough that my advisers at the new school knew that I was a musician and helped me focus on that and wound up advising me to to go to certain seminars and things like that, not exploitative seminars and things like that. And of course, I knew a lot about the music industry. But as you remember, in 1998, after the big Seagrams sort of convergence, the Seagrams MCA and everything, everything changed in 1998 for the for the music industry. For those of you who don't know. And it really changed the face of how music is sold and a lot of legacy now what we call legacy artists got kind of left by the wayside and especially on smaller labels. So that's why, I mean, I know that you worked with Danny Goldberg at Artemis. He was, I hesitate to say, the word victim of that, he was running Mercury Records at the time. And he was like, what the hell are you going to do? It is something which was great. I mean, like he was one of the last gasp some old school. So I managed to meet all these musicians and music advisors and incredible people. And of course, the New School being in New York, I took classes with, like Sid Bernstein and people like that were just advising me on what to do. So this was the last gasp of like fax machines and things like that. So I wound up I'm like I'm like, what do you do to get a gig in New York? Right. I had no idea. I had I had a paper calendar, and every Tuesday I called the booker at CBGB's. Every Thursday I called the booker at Acme Underground until I got until I got gigs. And then I would send out press releases every Monday before six o'clock and I got known, which was really cool. My first gig wound up being at CBGB's Gallery and got written up in The Village Voice, which was...Yeah. And so that was all solo. And I did solo gigs until about twenty six when I hooked up with the band again. And I played with that band, The Ramblers, for I'm going to say five years. 


Cid [00:19:49] No, it's it's it's awesome and that shows where persistence comes in. Things that record companies used to do for you and agents used to do for you, and, you know, we it's a different, different time now. I do want to ask one question before we get into some of the, ah, similar lives here. With all those adjectives that we've talked about that are all the nouns, all the things, all the positions that you hold in your life in terms of being a creator and a creative person, and there are so many, including, which I love, building your first Telecaster at age twenty one. I mean, that takes some creativity. But I wanted to ask about yourself as a writer and a journalist because I found when, when you interviewed me back in June or July, I guess it was July, you you really... You know there are certain... I've been interviewed thousands of times over 45 years and some of them... You know that they don't know what the heck they're talking about and they haven't done any homework or they haven't, you know, they don't know who they're talking to or why they're talking to you, or anything else. That's on the really bad side of the spectrum. And then other people... And these are few and far between, but I find it with you and I and that's happened a few times, where people just really do their homework. But they also... And so they ask the questions that maybe, that kind of under lie underneath other questions that are obvious. And I found that with you. But also the way you put together your article in the writing of it and everything. I mean, I just find it... I just think, you know, you're really good at that. And I was wondering if you if you like doing that kind of writing, if you like doing interviewing, if you like... Because it is part of the creative process. I mean, not just interviewing, but writing, writing articles, you know, for magazines or whatever. Do you like that? I mean, is it something you want to pursue? 


Mya [00:22:32] Well, I guess I mean, I am pursuing it. It's it's a thing. When I when I lived in New York, I started writing some reviews and just some opinion stuff for a local paper paper called Boog City, which is an East Village rag that my friend was publishing. And I started writing similar effect reviews for a magazine called The Deli, but I never really got into it. And then after I transitioned, all of a sudden I got real passionate about writing again because I was... Again, I was angry because I could see the societal effects of what was happening. The first thing I did when I came out was I wrote a long. Like blog post about how important it was to support gender equality law that was on the table at the time in New York. And then I don't remember quite what happened, it was...Either somebody asked me to write something for the Huffington Post or the Advocate, I can't remember, but I wound up starting to write for The Advocate. I put together a list of thirty seven trans anthems for The Advocate. Because Kate Pearson... 


Cid [00:23:49] Trans anthems being trans songs? 


Mya [00:23:53] Trans songs by trans People, in which I also focused on people who had been overlooked as trans in their lifetime or didn't get the chance to come out. And that came out like, I want to say 2014,2015, because Kate Pierson of the B-52s had put out a kind of...not very... kind of an ignorant song about transition that upset a lot of people in my community. And I have no doubt in my mind Kate Pierson is a lovely and wonderful person. But this song was just... It was called Mister Sister, and it was really, really troubling and problematic. And at the time, I was just like fresh out of the box, trans and really reactionary.  So I started writing a series of articles for The Advocate and later for Huffington Post and got interviewed for MSNBC and started doing all of this stuff. And so when you ask, did I like it, it wasn't about that. It was that I felt that it was a calling that I needed to do this thing. So now what's interesting is that... And I'm still like... A lot of these articles that I wrote I'm still cited in like, OK, you don't cast men to play trans women and things like that. And they held a lot of water and I'm really proud of that. But when it comes down to the Country Queer thing, I find that the thing I like the most is interviewing, which is funny because it's the thing that also intimidated me the most and the...To interview you especially, I was I was completely intimidated. I've only done it I had only done a handful of interviews and I was like and I'm calling up my friends have been journalists for years... And and because I knew how to write a personal essay, but and I'd studied the work of Timothy White... 


Cid [00:25:57] Oh, I love Timothy.  I knew Timothy. 


Mya [00:26:01] Oh, you did. He seemed like such a sweet guy. 


Cid [00:26:05] Sweetest guy in the world. We would we would have lunch every once in a while when I lived in New York. And he was a great supporter of mine. I was just devastated when he died. 


Mya [00:26:16] Yeah, I remember my grandmother from my from my I think 12th the 13th birthday, bought me his collection of essays, Rock Lives. 


Cid [00:26:27] I have that. I have it right there. I'm pointing to it as we speak. Timothy White, by the way, for those of you who don't know, was the... At the time that he died, he was the editor in chief of Billboard magazine, the music industry magazine, and he was a champion of musicians and artists and songwriters much more than the industry itself. 


Mya [00:26:55] Oh, my God. He was really such a wonderful writer. I mean, his interview with Paul Simon in that book is is so good. And also a young Wenner's long form interviews, especially the interviews he did of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1971, '72 for Rolling Stone really influenced me. And when I went to interview you, those were, those were what I concentrated on prepping with. Because you've been through a lot of stuff. And a lot of the people I interviewed prior to you... It's not that they don't have the same level of experience, it's just that with you... I had read a lot of the interviews that you've done since transition, and I didn't want to repeat any of these questions. I really wanted to get into some other stuff that was really, really interesting. And I wanted us to have a conversation and something I tell a lot of my or all of my interview subjects really is that unlike other interviewers, I don't just want to be like, OK, come here, promote your stuff. I want to give you a platform to talk about what's really freaking important. And and that to me... So I'm so long story short, and this is a long story, I'm very new to interviewing, but I seem to be pretty good at this now. 


Cid [00:28:27] You're very you're very good at it. And, you know, I'm flattered that you you know, that you did, you know the homework that you did do. I'm not sure I feel worthy of all the all the prep you did. But I got to ask this question because it was and I am kind of jumping out of the the writing thing that we were talking about. But I really want to know the answer to this question because it's asked of me and maybe it's one of those questions you skipped over because it's been asked, you know, it's been asked of me. But but I want to know because I want to know. I mean, I know what my experience is when people ask me, is it different now creating as a man, you know, with testosterone? I mean, let's get... You know, I take hormones, I'm assuming you take hormones. 


Mya [00:29:27] Oh yeah. Hormones. 


Cid [00:29:28] It's called HRT, hormone replacement therapy. And, you know, I started mine eight years ago and you started yours six... 


Mya [00:29:38] Seven. 


Cid [00:29:40] Seven years ago. So not to not to actually... Mine's nine years now, but, um. But... You know, I mean, there was a certain way that I wrote songs that I don't even know, I can't explain them, but there was a certain way that the creative process happened with me before I transitioned. And I can't I couldn't explain it if my life depended on it. But I know it's different today and I want to know if it's different for you. If you feel a cellular I want to say difference in your creative process today as a woman than you did in prior to transition. 


Mya [00:30:26] I do feel a large difference and I think it's coming from a couple of different places, I think that, first of all, I've been writing songs almost every Monday for the last... Since 2003. My friend, my friend Jack Hardy ran a writers meeting in New York, which is ... And I consider him my songwriting mentor. He was the person who really taught me a lot about the magic and power of songwriting. What changed for me is that... First of all, let's talk about my content. Is that...For a long time, I think my I would I would wait for songs a lot. I would wait for songs to come, and sometimes that's fine, sometimes I, I know, like something's brewing and I'll wait for it to come. And like Ben Harper says, if it comes to you in the shower, get out of the damn shower and write it down. I have never more than like six feet away from some sort of writing implements, but or in and of course, now I use my phone a lot. But what changed for me, content wise, is that, I think prior to transition, and you can see this in a lot of, you can hear this in the light of my earlier songs is a lot of my songs are about not being where I wanted to be and needing to sort of unveil to get to where I want it to go, like my song Getting There--off of the Ramblers album Getting There. It stopped at the starting line, I believe every time you travel the line, every stop stalling as fast as you can. You don't know as fast as you dare. You don't know where you're going. You're getting there, right? And like that's like to me in the Wayback Machine. Hindsight is 20/20. I'm like, how did I not just transition, you know? And I know why. It was a scary world, you know that. 


Cid [00:32:32] Yeah,. 


Mya [00:32:33] We transitioned at similar times, I think because I have finally had role models. I had you. There's Laura Jane Grace. There Mina Caputo, there was Kate Bornstein who was more prominent. I had started dating somebody who was who is genderqueer, who later transitioned  and hanging out and weird artsy communities. And I finally realized... What wound up happening is that my songs became more, became less introspective. Like I'm searching for this great inner knowledge. I'm searching for this great understanding. And it became about, it became about like today, it became about the things that I'm going through. It became it became about me observing the world. One of the things that I think happens when certain people find there cellular balance, so to speak, is that it's like breathing a sigh, you're like, aaah. Now, the problem with that is that, like, I was in high school when I was bored at school and I would just write, write, write, write, write. And I did that all through college, too. I'd be taking notes at lectures with like, with like one hand. And then I'd have my little notebook on the other side writing down whatever the hell I was going to write, which later turned into songs. And I kind of do that Lucinda Williams thing sometimes where I have a lot of snippets that I'll turn into something else. But what wound up happening is that I had to create pathways for myself to be more deliberate about my songwriting, which is, which was really difficult and still is very difficult. It's such a complicated question because there's that content level and then there's that production level. 


Cid [00:34:31] So there's the discipline part is the content part, and then there's the emotional vein. What happens in your body when you... You know what what is it different now? 


Mya [00:34:47] It is. You know, I, it is absolutely different. But yeah, I think the feeling inside me is just has changed. 


Cid [00:34:59] Because... And what I'm saying and and I know I'm digging in here. 


Mya [00:35:03] No, no, I know. Dig, dig, dig.


Cid [00:35:06] Like I'm a guy now. I'm a guy. I take testosterone. I'm a guy. But when I take testosterone, the difference of how I write a song is cellular because my cells are now affected by the hormones and I don't want to get to too in the weeds here with with hormones, but but... So when I sit down to write a song, I as a transman, for example, don't have the access to my female emotions that I had as a woman. So... 


Mya [00:35:48] That's interesting. 


Cid [00:35:50] For example, when I... And I'll try to make this quick, because I want to hear your answer. When I was writing my... I started writing my one person show back in 2014, which I started performing in 2016, Somewhere Between: Not An Ordinary Life, I stopped taking testosterone for a few months because I needed access to get into some of the emotional content that I needed to write about. So and maybe this is, you know, nobody gives a shit except us trans people. But to me, it's a it's so interesting that there's a difference between the female creative brain and the male creative brain. And this is not about, you know, anything except that the fact that there's a difference. And I'm just wondering if you feel like, for example, you have more access to your emotions now than you did before? 


Mya [00:36:52] I would say that I have more access to my emotions in general. And they... And I've told this story a million times. But there's a song I wrote with a friend of mine called These Blues Weren't Meant to Survive, which is on my on my album Getting There with the Ramblers. And when I cut the vocal, you know, I didn't know what that song is about. Obviously, now I know what these blues weren't meant to survive. That is like that is a transition, you know. I mean, it's a universal song. But for me, I... You know, there was there was always an element of duality in my songs before, and I and I was always looking for some sort of light to find me and all this other stuff. And I think now... It's interesting, and so I was in the studio and I was cutting the vocal for that song and I remember finishing it and I did it all in one take. And I and I remember just like... And there was a there was a video feed between the between the control room and the vocal booth. And I remember just collapsing on the floor in tears after I cut that vocal and not knowing why. And then later on I knew why. I was like, oh, I'm singing a song to myself to tell me to keep going, which is not uncommon for a lot of for I think especially for transwomen, per say. I mean, I hear that in a lot of people's songs like... Laura Jane Grace has some songs like that in her earlier work, Free Transition, you know. But I think for me now what's interesting to me is that I'm able to get out of my own egotistical, emotional state and get more into what, it's hard to say universal because it's still based on my own experience... 


Cid [00:38:44] Well, but that's that's OK. 


Mya [00:38:45] Yeah. And and... So I'm going to read to you some lyrics I wrote yesterday, and I told I told you this earlier on the phone, but so...This came out of a prompt from a friend of mine who who ... I call him, he's another transperson Stepter who... he runs Transgenders records out of New York, a very dear friend. And I was like, man, I need a song for today because I was just like I had written sort of a half assed song for the for my songwriters meeting. And I really didn't like it. And he's like. He's like. He writes back a text that says. Another trans, transgender miracle. I was just like interesting because a friend of mine had told me the week before that I was a walking miracle and I was like, well, let me let me combine these two concepts. And so I'm just is it OK if I just read this episode? So. The reaction to the song when I played it yesterday was like, wow, you just wrote a song that's both about yourself surviving something, but also like I feel like you're wrapping your arms around me because of this, you know? Friends tell me I'm a walking miracle because I survived. Yes, I survived to be who I am today by the grace of God go I. Things happen on the daily. Seem hard to believe. And here's the line that I'm going to give you songwriting credit for- Like the sky, like the sky is cracking open watching over me and then the chorus. I'm not the only one. I'm not the only one. There are so many of us out there shining in the sun, came through fire, came through danger, some older, some young walking miracle. I'm not the only one. So in this song. And when I sung it, I'm like, OK, this song means something to me...One of my friends. Ina May Wool who is kind of... One of the one of the big mamas of the songwriting group was just like, you just like hit on some universal shit, man. And you're saying, OK, all these people are saying these things to you about how great you are and how proud they are of you. And you're saying I'm not the only one. There's a lot of people around who are going through these things. And so this is a song about being trans. It's a song about being sober. It's a song about... It's a song about surviving a massive motorcycle accident, which I did. There's other verses in there that are about like literally me falling down on the highway and things like that. And and... I wrote this song in literally ten minutes. And I'm not saying that to be like, oh, I'm so cool. I'm saying that because I get into this hyper focused mode and and that's the thing. I pick a certain time of day, like it's usually around...  I usually write songs in the morning, like I'll write the first part of a lyric in the morning and then I'll finish it up around 4:00 p.m. And because the meeting is, the meeting is like 5:00 and hopefully I'll do it on Sunday, but it's on Monday. And and so that's the kind of those are the kinds of things that I'm writing right now where I'm able to engage both empathy for myself through this self-knowledge and emotional stability. And also be able to write something that, you know, this is not the greatest song I've ever written. But it's it's also just, I think, indicative of the kind of writing I'm doing right now, which to me, when I'm writing my songs, as opposed to like writing a song with a friend or working on a musical or something like that. I want to write songs that are resonating with people. I want to write songs that make people feel better about themselves. And that's always been a goal. But for so long, my songs were like love songs. They were hate songs. They were bluesy songs. They were woman done me wrong songs. And something that's really interesting is that you talk about the dichotomy of the of the male writing brain and the female writing brain. And somebody pointed out to me a long time ago that if you listen to blues songs from from men and from women back in the day, like I'm talking like pre electric blues songs. You've got songs like by women who are just like, are you going to come over and make me feel good? Are you going to just, like, dog out on me again? And all of the men songs are like, my baby done me wrong, I'm gonna cry cause she done me wrong. I'm going to pick up-- cause she done me wrong. And there's no like I was a jerk and I didn't make my baby feel good. I should work on that. It's like you listen to the women's songs and there's a lot of explicit lesbian content in a lot of too, but that's the whole point. And I think. I think in the movie The Color Purple and... Which is now musical, that's pretty that's pretty exemplified by the Sister Song in The Color Purple, that's just such a you know, that's just such a great example of a modern interpretation of a classic women's blues song. But like all of these songs from Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton and, you know, they're just there's so much joy in them. There's also so much like wink and a nod about like, you know, the milk man treats me better than you do, man. 


Cid [00:44:42] Yeah. 


Mya [00:44:43] There is so many of so many of the men's blues songs are just are very much... It's funny because they're they're almost more emotional, but they're emotional in like this desperation kind of way rather than being rather than being practically emotional. You know what I'm saying?


Mya [00:45:10] (SONG) 


Cid [00:45:45] I love that, I love this. OK, what differences do you find in terms of creativity or creative energy living in San Francisco as opposed to living in New York? 


Mya [00:45:58] The differences in creative energy are very interesting because especially between San Francisco, New York, because in New York, I think I'm more driven by the constant buzz and hum of activity. And before the pandemic, of course, my songwriting group is based in New York and I would continue to write songs on Mondays, but I would be going to New York every six to nine weeks, so for like three weeks. So I would get in my time at those meetings and see my friends. But I went to school... When I studied poetics, I was really focused on the New York School of Poets. So I feel like New York is a stage that continually gets reset. So when I walk around New York... I wrote a song last week called Walking With Ghosts that kind of encapsulates that experience of both walking in New York and walking through the Castro where I currently live. And I think that's a lot of the that's the similar aspect, is that there's so much history embedded in the sidewalk. But in New York, I'm doing a lot of my writing while I'm walking, taking the subway and or at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I go to when I'm in New York, I go to the Met and I sit in front of Monet and Van Gogh's and Rembrandts and kind of groove off of that. And that's that's that's always been a big part of my creative process. And whereas in San Francisco, I think a lot of the songs that I write here or that are based out of here and my poetics, they're here because in New York in the '90s and 2000s. So much of poverty and homelessness was literally pushed out of New York by Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, and I mean, I worked on Forty Second Street when smut still existed. That was my first job... Was in a recording studio on 42nd Street above Peep World and and I and so to see vice disappear, but also to see the way the houseless are treated in New York, it's actually harder to witness. Whereas in San Francisco you're constantly surrounded by it and there's so much social justice happening. Every day, and there's something that you want to do and want to see, and so that's, I think, the difference and it is that I think I tend to write more about things. I mean, I write about things that are happening everywhere because I'm an observant person. And like Harlan Howard said, read the newspaper every day because that's where you're going to find inspiration. But my creative energy and my creative output and process is definitely different in New York. And it's almost intangible because I feel like I'm catching a wave of something, whereas in San Francisco I feel a little more insular and I feel like I'm not forcing myself to push it out. But that. I have to really engage more with my surroundings and get and there's there's more thought behind it, no matter how fast or slow I'm writing something. 


Cid [00:49:23] Great answer, I mean, I, I, I get it. I mean, the reason I'm living in Nashville, even with a pandemic is because I don't write... I mean, I write in anywhere, but in Maine, I where I lived for 30 years, basically, you know, I am not that inspired to write songs. I do. But it's it's it's harder for me. And in Santa Fe, where I lived for two years with my when I first got married, I could... Even though I wrote most of my album there, my new album, Walking Through This World, I wrote my new album because I had to write it was time and it all started coming out. But it wasn't... I'm not inspired by you know... Some people go off in the mountains of the ocean and they go, oh, when they start writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, whether it's songs or stories or books or whatever. Not me. I've got to be where the energy is. 


Mya [00:50:21] Oh, my God... 


Cid [00:50:22] And so New York, Nashville. I mean, I'm never going to live in New York again, but being in Nashville does that for me. But anyway, that's a great... It's great to hear, you know, your take on on where you are, because it is a big thing, you know, where we are to to be able to create. I think I'm going to wrap it up there. I've got... If there's anything you want to promote or or say before we we end. I'll give you that opportunity right now, otherwise... 


Mya [00:51:02] I would absolutely love for listeners to follow me on YouTube because I'm trying to build up a platform there and it's Again, my name is spelled Mya Byrne, so that's really important to me. And also, as I mentioned before, my Patreon, which really right now in this pandemic time when it's very hard to find meaningful work as a musician, I'm really depending a lot on... I'm really depending a lot on people who are interested in my creative process and I am trying to achieve financial independence. And so, yes, it's very difficult when you can't play gigs and the gigs that do come in... I'm doing session work and whatever. So please, if you are feeling up to it and you want access to... I think I just passed sixty nine songs on my Patreon and then plus more. It's our music and it's and Other than that if you're trans and you're listening to this-- I love you. If you think that you might be trans and you're listening to this now--the lines are open, here for you if you if you need any advice. There's there's so many people out there who want to help you and keep yourself safe. 


Cid [00:52:39] Definitely. 


Mya [00:52:39] There's a world out here, and, yeah, both Cid and I had careers before we came out. But there are opportunities for you now that weren't there for us when we started, and I want you to know that you're loved and... Just do you just let it happen and, you know...


Cid [00:53:05] Thanks, Mya. That's that's great. And Mya Byrne is... And I mean the list of things that she does guitarist, singer, songwriter, actor, poet, pundit, producer, engineer... But more than that, you're an activist. And you're a champion of trans people and you're a loud voice, which I like because I have a loud voice too. Loud in different ways but that's what it's all about. So and it is very important to support independent musicians at this time. When we can't go, we can't go anywhere and do what we do. So meet Mya Bynre at m-y-a b-y-r-n-e dot com and and Patreon and YouTube and Facebook and all the other stuff. 


Mya [00:54:13] Also, just so people know, I just directed my first film which got into the San Francisco Film Festival, which is on... The film is called Lou, A San Francisco Fantasy. It is the first time I've ever written and directed, and it got into the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival. It is about... Is loosely based on the life of Lou Sullivan, who is the gay trans pioneer and who founded the GLBT Historical Society, was a wonderful, wonderful person. And I'm totally honored that that is out there right now. And I'm hoping for more good stuff. And I'm writing more film, which is so weird. I'm like doing all these things. What's going on now? 


Cid [00:54:58] I think it's fantastic. And I'm glad you brought that up. Mya Byrne, thank you so much for coming on. 


Mya [00:55:05] Thank you Cid. 


Cid [00:55:05] ...on cracking the sky conversations with creatives. You talked about several crack the sky moments and so we'll just keep back in the sky as we go. 


Mya [00:55:18] Thank you Cid. 


Cid [00:55:19] Thank you so much.


Podcast Intro
Mya Byrne Intro
Berklee, Boston, Peter Wolf
London and songwriting
NYC and Beginning of Solo Career
Becoming a journalist
Transition, Hormones and Creating
Creating and Place
Where to find Mya and more
Podcast Outtro