Rising Pop Artist Drea Hopes to Find 'Vacancy' in Music Scene

04/18/2016 04:32 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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A child of the Midwest, Drea was a known personality in the Minneapolis music scene as TV host of the local live music show, TC Muzique. Back then, Drea also ran her own hip-hop dance company teaching dance and choreography. Although she loved both gigs, she was, at her core, a songwriter, performer and dreamer.

Three years ago, her ambitions as a musician inspired her to pack up her life and head west to Los Angeles. With no plan, no job and no prospects, Drea survived by scrappy self-reliance and sheer determination.

These days, however, Drea is wildly excited to share her debut EP, No Vacancy, with the world. No Vacancy is a bold debut -- a collection of club-oriented, melodic pop songs. Drea does not hold back; her deeply personal lyrics echo themes of self-empowerment and hopeful romantic musings. And she will make you want to dance.

I sat down with Drea to discuss the process behind recording and releasing the forthcoming No Vacancy EP.

Congratulations on your debut EP, No Vacancy. The well-crafted pop songs are a remarkable achievement for a new artist.
Thank you so much! I couldn't be more excited about what we've created. I've been blessed to have an awesome partner in my producer Raz Klinghoffer, and an amazing creative and management team supporting me. This release is going to be unlike anything you've ever seen from me before, and I can't wait to share it with the world!

What has the writing and recording process been like?
This was one of the most interesting projects for me in terms of writing. In the past, I'd write with guitar or keys, or come up with a vocal melody on top of a track that had been given to me in advance. With Raz, I was in the studio with him as he started on a beat, and ten minutes later he'd look at me like "What do you have?" It was challenging and invigorating to work in such a high-pressure creative environment. The expectations were high, and I had no option but to meet and exceed them.

In a post on your website, you mention that the No Vacancy EP is the first time you found a sound that resonates with your soul. What do you mean by that?
I'm a hip-hop dancer, so all my years behind a guitar never truly felt like me. I had a moment several months back where I sat with myself and wrote down the top ten days in my life so far. The majority of them were on stage, but none of them had me behind an instrument. This EP allows me to not only showcase who I am as a writer and a vocalist, but also as a dynamic and mobile performer. I'm so excited to perform in this capacity, backed by music that I would actually love listening to even if it wasn't mine.

What was it like growing up in Minnesota, and how did you find yourself in LA?
Growing up in Minnesota was hugely influential to the person I am today. There's a pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality that is very much a part of the culture in Minnesota, a work ethic that I have definitely carried with me to LA. Minnesota has a very rich music and creative culture as well, and that was a great platform for me to begin my music career. Then, about three years ago, it was time for me to take my career to the next level, and there's arguably only one place for that -- Los Angeles.

You've said before you believe it's important that women speak out about online harassment, including "casual" sexism which many people tend to just shrug off. What would you say to folks that say "you're too sensitive" or "it's just a joke, lighten up"?
This is a tricky one. First off, I think women need to do what they feel is right for themselves. There's enough in our societal infrastructure telling women how to behave. That being said, I do believe it's important to have a conversation about these things, because without putting something on the table, how can we hope to change it? I respect other people's opinions, but sexism is sexism. Just because something is "normal" doesn't mean it should be.

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Some people confuse speaking out against misogyny with "male bashing" or "men hating" -- you clearly do not hate men. Why do you think some confuse the two?
I believe men are instrumental in bringing about a positive change in this world. I am blessed to have some amazing and supportive men in my life, and I wouldn't trade them for the world. I think defensiveness is a natural reaction for a lot of men who hear women speak out about sexism, not unlike the defensiveness many white people feel now when Black Lives Matter topics are brought to the table. There's a helplessness underneath all that defensiveness, I think... a feeling of guilt that as a whole we are part of a problem that maybe we personally didn't cause, but also don't know how to remedy. I try to explain my point of view as kindly as possible, and to of course be open to conversation, but sometimes the harsh truth is just that - harsh. And sometimes it HAS to be to get the point across. I don't apologize for that.

You've also mention that it's important that women in music support other women in music. Tell us about that.
This is HUGE. Women supporting women in general is huge, but especially in a male-dominated industry that doesn't always have the best interest of its female counterparts in mind. There's a toxic culture of competition among women that I actually don't think is natural, as many people would argue. In contrast, there's something so powerful about women coming together, about artists coming together, and supporting each other's strength instead of being threatened by it. I think if as a human population we did that, many of our problems would cease to exist. I'm blessed to have many of the power players on my team be women, and it makes me so proud to see all these women work together in their element.

What do you think would surprise fans to learn about you?
I'm a donut fanatic. Just kidding. That's not a surprise, most of my posts mention donuts in some form or another. In all seriousness, though, I think this whole EP will be a big surprise to both the people who have been following my music career from the beginning and to those who have just known me since I moved to LA. This is the first time I'm coming out with music that truly displays all I can do, and I'm ready to flex those muscles. It's going to be quite the show.

What can fans look forward to you in 2016 and beyond?
I have an incredible musical work in the No Vacancy EP coming out this summer, and am building an outstanding team of absolute hustlers to help make the most of these opportunities. I couldn't be more excited about No Vacancy and the places we're about to go!

Drea is currently crowdfunding her No Vacancy EP via Pledge Music.