It only took three EPs in less than a year for Josie Boivin, who goes by the name MUNYA, to establish herself outside the country. But this isn’t her first rodeo; music has been part of her for so long that her main issue with it is the overabundance of possibilities. What do you do, when you know how to do everything?
While in a high-school integrated arts program, MUNYA furthered the piano skills she’d picked up as a child. Then one day, things changed when she imitated – loosely yet convincingly – a schoolmate who was an opera singer. “I was in the stairwell and there was a ton of echo,” she says. “The opera teacher heard me sing and said I should do opera. I studied that for two years while pursuing piano, too.”
Stepping Out of The Comfort Zone
Opera remained part of her life during her cégep studies in Saguenay, after which she headed to Montréal. “I wanted to travel, my focus no longer was music,” she says.
But don’t be fooled: MUNYA’s music isn’t classical, and you won’t find Puccini’s entire oeuvre on her Bandcamp page. “I don’t sing opera anymore, except for the members of my family who are quite fond of it, but it’s a muscular vocal technique that needs to be maintained,” she says. “It allowed me to have control over my voice and be really comfortable with it. No matter what happens, my voice rarely gets tired.”
It’s was a strong, sudden interest in jazz brought her back to her calling. “I started listening to John Coltrane, Chet Baker, icons,” she says. “That’s when I decided to study jazz at Université de Montréal.”
She quickly dropped out, and was propelled into the world of music as never before, by becoming a session musician for the likes of Philémon Cimon, Alex Nevsky and Stirling Groove, to name but a few. “The problem I have with music is that I love so many genres that I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to play,” says MUNYA. “I started doing re-mixes of songs that I liked, and developed producing skills.”
She started working on her solo project in November of 2017. And by “solo,” MUNYA means it, her two hands firmly on the steering wheel. “I recorded a bit of guitar and drums with two other musicians, but otherwise I always work alone,” she says. “My sound is quite personal, I guess, because people who play all their instruments, produce, and sing are quite rare.”
Thus were born three ethereal EPs over her rich, charged past year. All three episodes of MUNYA’s output follow each other gracefully, like the seasons of life. “I didn’t want to make a whole album in one go, it would’ve been too taxing on my soul,” she says. “The attention that the first EP attracted gave me the confidence to start writing another.”
On the Road Again
May, November, March. Three stops on the journey, three landmarks on the road map, three EPs: North Hatley, Delmano and Blue Pine. A cottage in the Eastern Townships with a view of a lake, where everything began; a hotel bar in New York City ,where an outlandish dream was sown and gave birth to “La femme à la peau bleue” (“The woman with blue skin”) from “Vendredi sur mer”; and a fictional place discovered in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. It’s often said that great things would happen if places could speak. As it turns out, they speak a language that MUNYA understands.
She shares her productions as little as possible before they’re final. “People will share their opinions with you and that makes you doubt what you wrote,” she says. “After that, the result isn’t as natural.”
Working, but not travelling, solo; that’s how she progresses, finding inspiration in artists she appreciates, while not needing any day-to-day help.
The Journey of a Voice
The celebrated label Luminelle Records took MUNYA under its wing early on in the journey. “My first EP was released independently, and music blogs shared ‘Des bisous partout.’ I had a review in Pitchfork, and people all over Europe and the U.S. started writing to me. No one from Québec,” she says.
No one is a prophet in their own land, and even though the song that broke her out on the scene is written and sung in French, it’s not in her native Québec that her career took off. “It’s a timing thing,” she says. “Québec will always be my home. A lifetime is years, not just months. Everything in its own time.”
After giving just two solo shows, MUNYA’s embarked on her first tour, a string of sold-out shows where she opened for Cults in the U.S. “These guys are my friends now,” she says. “They really helped me out, and I know that once I’ve progressed in my own career, I’ll want to help others like they helped me.”
For MUNYA, creation is a living thing, and things need to be in motion, and we have to let them carry us forward. “One has to make music for oneself,” she says. “We’re humans, not robots. We absorb stuff. I feel like today’s delivery modes allow us to let ourselves be guided, and see where creation takes us. We don’t have a model or a recipe. You just gotta keep your feet moving.”