Interview With Monica Aben

Monica Aben, a talented and honest independent and self-released cinematic pop artist from Venice, California is getting ready to grab the world by the heartstrings one song at a time. Recently Screams Media reviewed Monica's new single "The Beginning Of Things" and found it to be a raw and beautiful love song. There's a creative authenticity in Monica's lyrics that makes her music relatable, so when given the opportunity to set up a small interview with her, Screams Media was excited to get to know more about this charming and talented emerging solo artist. We hope you enjoy getting to know more about her as much as we did and you can find all of Monica's Social Media links as well as her single "The Beginning Of Things" at the end of this article.

SCREAMS MEDIA: Tell us a bit about your background in music.

MONICA ABEN: First things first, my dad has a vinyl collection and I was raised listening to literally everything (Celine Dion, James Brown, ABBA, Don McLean, Led Zeppelin) and my mother was a professional Polynesian dancer. Music and storytelling pretty much sum up my childhood. I started playing piano when I was 4, but I still can’t really read music because I learned how to play by ear. Then I started taking guitar classes at 16, because at the time I was super into The Maine and Taylor Swift and just wanted to play their songs. It ended up feeling awkward not to sing along, so I started singing and it didn’t sound bad. Then I started writing and next thing I knew I had about 100 songs and the best of those turned into my very first record that I released back in 2015.
I got my “career” start in Nashville because a friend of a friend took me there right after I graduated high school, introduced me to a bunch of wonderful people, and gave me a whirlwind introduction to the music business. The people I started my career with are mostly based in Louisiana/ Nashville and every time I have to record anything new, I fly back to Dockside Studios (Lafayette, LA) because they’re my music family. When you find people that bring out the best in you, give you honest feedback, and know who you are as a person/ artist, it makes it really hard to go elsewhere!

SCREAMS MEDIA: Your style is described as Cinematic Pop; What influenced you to create this genre of music?

MONICA ABEN: The usual feedback from people, industry or not, was always something like “this belongs in a movie!” or “Omg, it’s so cinematic” etc. So finally after never knowing how to describe my music, I created the sub genre based on what everyone else was saying. But it’s funny because when I write songs, I write it with a music video idea already done in my head. Does that make sense? So I really do write from a cinematic point of view...It just took me a few years to find a name for it!

SCREAMS MEDIA: What do you feel makes you stand out as a solo artist in an industry that is always growing and changing?

MONICA ABEN: Maybe this sounds harsh, but the first thing that I think people notice about me is that I don’t really follow what’s “popular” ...As a person, I refuse to add to the noise just because it’s what everyone else is doing. I want to make music that makes people feel something deep in their chest, in their gut. With that being said, I think I stand out because my music is rooted in giving back to my hometown, Venice. I launched a concert series called “The Sweatpants Series” where I perform in sweatpants, everyone is encouraged to wear sweatpants, and we raise money for Safe Place For Youth. I never cared much for performing in traditional venues because I like to connect with the audience and talk to them. I realize that getting on playlists and being featured is the name of today’s game. But I just want my music to bring people together old school style. I want people to be able to embrace their feelings, embrace others, because it’s okay to be emotional...How else would we know we’re alive?! The Sweatpants Series has been growing steadily and it makes me feel whole to connect with my community and give back to the place that made me who I am today.

SCREAMS MEDIA: Tell us a bit about your process of creating; What comes first, the sound or the lyrics?

MONICA ABEN: Almost always lyrics first with the mini music video in my head. Those two things together will usually help me develop a melody.

SCREAMS MEDIA: Your single “The Beginning Of Things” was based around your relationship; Is love a common theme in your lyrics, or are there other topics you like to explore?

MONICA ABEN: This is the first love song I’ve ever written... TRUE STORY. Before this, most of my songs were in the vein of sad/ unrequited love/ existential crisis...Classic teenage themes, right? But I will say the songs I’ve written never place blame on someone or come from a victim point of view.
My upcoming full length record is so magical to me because each song walks you through the discovery of finding your place in this world through the lens of love. I think that the people you were with at different times in your life say a lot about where you were in your own life. That’s something that has always fascinated me.

SCREAMS MEDIA: As an independent and self-released artist, what excites you and discourages you the most about creating music?

MONICA ABEN: It’s a lot of hard work, time, and money. I love that I don’t have people telling me who to be or what to look like ‘cause I think I’d lose my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of meltdowns trying to do it all myself, but it feels really good knowing I have a strong support group that I can bounce ideas off. They have kept me positive through and through. The most discouraging part is that in this age of social media you really have to play the game. Like I said earlier, I’m more old school and sometimes trying to exist as an artist in the current industry climate makes me feel like I was born in the wrong time. Everyone wants to say it’s about the music, but if you are an independent artist you know that’s not true at all. So yeah, it can be exhausting, but it makes the little wins that much sweeter.

SCREAMS MEDIA: When was the moment that you were like “Heck yeah, I can do this! I can make a career out of this?”

MONICA ABEN: You’re going to laugh because it’s kind of lame that it took me so long to believe in myself. I used to send voice memos to some friends in high school when I started writing songs and they would always tell me that I had something and I should take it seriously, blah blah. Even my teachers were overly supportive, but I just didn’t believe in myself. These crazy opportunities kept falling in my lap and I always felt like I didn’t deserve it because I didn’t want it as bad as other people who lived and breathed music. This was something I struggled with for a long time...BUT THEN IT HAPPENED. It was 2011 and I was with one of my best friends, Lauren, who was always taking me to concerts. We were standing in a sea of people waiting for Two Door Cinema Club to perform. They started with a super slow version of the guitar riff in “What You Know” and the entire crowd was singing along at that slow pace. Just a single guitar riff and a crowd of people. I was really overwhelmed and for some reason it flipped a switch deep inside me and I was like...”Wait I DO love music. This is what I’m meant to do. I want to make people feel the exact way I feel right now.” To this day, it was probably one of the best moments of my life.

SCREAMS MEDIA: Can we briefly talk about a fan, mentor, friend or family who has really inspired you in the past to continue creating? What did this person do or say that had such an impact?

MONICA ABEN: I’d say my dearest friend and favorite co-writer, April Bender, because she truly understands me. It sounds simple and I often joke that she is the other half of my love life. But you know those moments where you don’t know what the right choice is and you overthink it until you feel like you don’t even remember who you are and what you wanted to begin with? I’ve had a few of those moments and April has reminded me, time after time, to never compare myself with others, go with my gut, and to nurture my sound instead of imitating someone else’s. Sometimes you can hear the same thing from 10 different people and it means nothing, but when you hear from someone that gets you, you actually hear it. That’s my relationship with April.

SCREAMS MEDIA: If you had the chance to collaborate with any other solo artist or band, who would you choose?

MONICA ABEN: MOTHER-FREAKING KEANE. I love their lyrics, their melodies, the arrangements, the production, Tom Chaplin’s voice! This is my PSA to the world. If anyone knows them, come find me. I have songs for them.

SCREAMS MEDIA: What is something that we can look forward to seeing from you next? Any little teasers on upcoming projects? Any shoutouts?

MONICA ABEN: The new year is going to be PACKED with so many feelings! The third single (coming February) is so personal and the story behind it is beyond ridiculous. I think it’s one of those songs that people are going to wish they wrote because it’s about a feeling we all long for, but few actually experience. That’s all I’m going to say haha! I’m really excited to share more on that one.
Also, I’m almost done with a music video that I have been DYING to share. The only thing I’ll say about it is that I hunted down the most legit spacesuit I could find...

SCREAMS MEDIA: Any last thoughts or things you would like to say to fans reading before we finish?

If you live in LA, like sweatpants, want to get in touch with your feelings, and give back to an amazing organization... Come to one of my Sweatpants Series shows! Or if you’re an LA based songwriter reading this, come sing and share your stories with us! It’s magical!

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