Interview with Chin Singer & Songwriter Milla Dawt Hniang
07 January 2013: A new album by a rising Chin singer and songwriter, Milla Dawt Hniang, is out nationwide in the US tomorrow. Produced by TMG record label, the album is a compilation of heartfelt country songs written by the 22-year-old music artist.
Her album CD is available online from iTunes and Amazon as well as local retail stores across USA. It can also be ordered and downloaded at Tate online music store.
Born in Hakha, Chin State, Burma to Pu Chan Tlung of Tlangpi village and Pi Ngun Zi of Tlanglo, Milla Dawt Hniang is the youngest of four siblings.
Chinland Guardian: Your album ‘Gone’ is out nationwide in the US on 8 January 2013. How do you feel?
Milla Dawt Hniang: Honestly, I feel like I haven’t woken up from a really good dream. It hasn’t hit me yet, to really accept this reality. I think it will eventually hit me once my album comes out in a few days. It’s amazing to me that I am actually given this once in a lifetime chance to do something so meaningful to me. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for God. I feel truly blessed and very thankful.
Chinland Guardian: How did you come up with the name ‘Gone’ for your album?
Milla Dawt Hniang: Originally, I thought I was going to name my CD “Gone”, the third track on my CD because everyone seemed to like that song in my record label. But it was in the process of this project, I decided to debut a self-titled CD (Milla Hniang). It made more sense to me since this was going to be my very first CD and it’s debuting nationwide.
Chinland Guardian: You wrote all the songs in your album. When did you start writing songs and how did you actually write them? Are they mostly based on your life or something else?
Milla Dawt Hniang: Well to start off with, I was never a songwriter. I never thought I could actually write songs, let alone sing them myself. But my life just sort of led me into writing my own songs. I’ve always loved reading and writing poems, and this habit started for me ever since I learned to speak English fluently. But I discovered the freedom of writing my own songs during high school. It was during in high school, I started writing poems/lyrics about high school relationships, boys I had crush on, and basically about love I’ve experienced at the time.
Yes, I write about my real life experiences with my own emotions and feelings. A boy I dated for over two years broke up with me over the phone and I was heartbroken. After I hung up the phone, I went upstairs sobbing, ended up sitting in my room and wrote my first song “Summer Romance”. It was probably a few weeks later I decided to create the poem I wrote about that specific breakup into a song. I first played this song for my best friend one day randomly and she told me “I love it”. She somehow convinced me to play my song for other people when I sang at bars and coffee houses, which I did end up doing eventually.
Surprisingly, people reacted to my song, a lot better than what I had hoped for. They ended up liking my song a lot. I had people coming up to me and of course sharing their break-up stories and how they related to my song a lot. It was then I thought, “Maybe I’ll consider writing my own songs!” After that point, I decided to write about everything and that’s how I started writing.
Chinland Guardian: Do you write as well as sing in other languages such as Chin and Burmese?
Milla Dawt Hniang: Yes, I also write and sing in Chin, but not in Burmese. It’s been over 10 years since I’ve left Burma, and so to fluently speak the language and to write in Burmese is pretty tough for me at this point. The Chin songs I’ve written so far are all Christian songs and I wanted to be prepared for a future project and hopefully get a Chin Christian CD out. One Chin song I’ve written was for my mom as a mother’s day gift in 2011 and it’s called ‘Ka Nu Dawtnak’. Technically, this is the only Chin song I’ve written and sung so far as of this point.
Chinland Guardian: You mentioned that you got a call from the record company that signed you. How did this all happen?
Milla Dawt Hniang: I uploaded a cover song called “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show on all my social media sites and out of the blue, I got the call from the company. It was Brooke Stone, a rep from TMG record label, and she offered me a contract with the company. It was earlier last year around February I signed with TMG record label and we’ve been working on my album for the past year. It took me a year to complete this project, and the process was truly an amazing adventurous journey for me.
Chinland Guardian: How did you see and feel now when you look all the way back to the first time you started playing guitar and uploading your music on YouTube?
Milla Dawt Hniang: I am seriously still in the “gasp” stage and I think it is going to take some time for me to really accept this reality, because this is too good to be true. When I look back, I feel so thankful towards God and I definitely feel blessed that I’ve been able to accomplish a lot for myself, throughout all the rejections and difficulties. And at the same time, I feel like I have such a long way to go, still. There are so many things I still want to accomplish for myself in the future. Even so probably with more rejections and difficulties, but my heart is in the right place and I am willing to get through it all, now that my foot is in the door. Hopefully, if God willing, I’ll be able to reach all my goals in the future. I want to be able to look back at my life one day and say, “I’ve lived my life to the fullest”. And most likely, only after that I’ll be happy .
Chinland Guardian: What has been the biggest challenge in the process of writing and singing a song?
Milla Dawt Hniang: To be honest, I don’t think there is a specific “challenge” for me when it comes to writing and singing a song. But if I had to choose an area where I focus a lot of my energy on, it is probably keeping my own sound and style when I write and sing a song. It’s very important for me to not sound like anyone when I do sing and I only want to be myself. Especially when it comes to writing my songs as well, I write my lyrics from real emotions and real life experience, so I never want to change that. It’s most important to me to let my audience and fans know the real ‘ME’.
Chinland Guardian: What messages do you hope your fans will receive through your music?
Milla Dawt Hniang: You know, I feel that music is and always will be there for us in any situations we human beings go through in life. I want people to have my music there for them when they go through a break up or when they fall so deeply in love with someone. I want my music to comfort people in any situation they’re in.
Chinland Guardian: What bands or artists, both from Burma and abroad, have influenced you the most?
Milla Dawt Hniang: I am inspired by two specific artists: Shania Twain and Taylor Swift. I grew up listening to Shania Twain and her stories have always stuck with me since I started listening to her music back in 4th Grade. Her background story, as an artist, always inspired me to believe everything is definitely possible if you never give up. Also, I loved how she has so many vocal styles when she sings, she could do country, country-pop song styles, country-rock style and so many vocal ranges she was able to do, that made me fell in love with her voice! Taylor Swift’s background story also touched my heart deeply and I immediately fell in love with her songs. Looking up to Shania twain and Taylor Swift has taught me to be myself as a music artist and to never give up!!:-)
Chinland Guardian: At a very young age, you had suffered from polio, which eventually left your left leg ‘unable to move’ till today. How did you manage to overcome such difficult conditions to reach this far?
Milla Dawt Hniang: Yes, I got diagnosed with the polio disease a few days before I turned one year old. My left leg isn’t “unable to move”, my leg is actually functioning well and is able to move like it’s supposed to because the doctor in Falam actually gave me medication that relieved the temporary paralysis that had started to advance through my body when my parents took me to Falam as a last hope.
I did go through many difficulties because of this polio disease. My teen years were the hardest, as far as I can remember. Those were the years for me to learn to be independent and to have fun whether that’d be in my school life, social life etc. Because I’ve had many surgeries done during my teen years and I had to go to school in a wheelchair, mostly all throughout middle school and first year of high school. My disease had limited me physically to do anything a teen of my age could do at the time. Even if I were to go out to with friends to the movies, I always felt like I was a burden to the people around me because I had to depend on other people. It was tough. My teen years were definitely the darkest times in my life where I always had to ask “why me?” in the back of my mind in everything I did. I didn’t know how to cope with my situation and I didn’t know how to really accept myself for who I was.
It was only around after I turned 15 years old, I seriously took the time to re-evaluate myself and learned to accept everything that had happened in my life. Then I learned that this was who I was supposed to be. It was only after that I turned my negative situations as an advantage to learn lessons. Now that I am older, and as a 22-year-old adult, I know that the dark times that I had to experience were for a reason.
Everything I went through in my life was what made me become who I am today. So I appreciate everything that happened to me, both good and bad, because I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for all the things I’ve learned and experienced in the past. And especially with all the great things that had happened to me especially this past year is all thanks to God. It’s truly an amazing blessing from Him.
Chinland Guardian: Briefly share with us the journey your family made to move to the US.
Milla Dawt Hniang: The journey to US was very all so interesting, fun, and sad all the same time for the whole family. We were all so excited that we were going to be reunited with my dad because it had been a few years we were separated as a family. It was also very sad leaving my grandparents back in Burma and especially at the airport we all couldn’t stop crying. My grandmother was already sick at the time so she obviously knew that was going to be the last time she will see us again. So, it was such a depressing environment.
Obviously, we didn’t speak English well whatsoever; it was only my mom and my oldest sister who took care of everything on our way here in the States. I actually had a notebook/calendar that was given to me as a present so I kept a journal and wrote down my excitement throughout the whole trip. At one point, I was having such a hard time because I didn’t like any of the American food since I’ve never had them before so I went without proper meals for the whole trip. However, I definitely ate tons of food when we got to our first apartment!
Chinland Guardian: What can we expect from you in the near future? Are you planning to tour or working on any new songs and albums?
Milla Dawt Hniang: Yes, you can definitely expect future albums from me. I am always writing and I am already working on my demos, writing songs for my second album now that my first album is about to be out. Yes, the schedules will be announced probably on my social media sites. So keep an eye out! 🙂
Chinland Guardian: What would you say if you are given just one minute to talk about life?
Milla Dawt Hniang: If I were given just ONE minute to talk about life, I would say this: Life is precious and is a gift from God so appreciate every moment of your life. Learn to love and accept yourself, for who you are, because there is no one like you in the world. You’re one in a billion. Everyone is unique and different so do not try to change yourself for anyone or for anything. When you learn to accept that God made you exactly the way you are for a reason, you will live a happy life. Life is too precious for you to fall under the “norm” in what society expects you to become. So be yourself and follow your heart. Don’t try to be like everyone else, be yourself.
Chinland Guardian: Messages to your fans.
Milla Dawt Hniang: I want my supporters and fans to know that in everything you do, always put God first. Believe in yourself, no matter what situation you’re in. Especially for those who may have a visible disability, like myself, you have to learn to love yourself and believe that you can achieve your goals. One must learn to have a strong heart to endure pain. In life, you will always have some people who will try to get you down, but in return you should always be good to people. You must learn to accept that you must fail first to be successful. No matter how long it takes you to reach your goals, never give up. Don’t dwell on the negatives in your situation. If someone like me can actually start a dream journey like this, then you can do it too!