Artist Spotlight: Mimi Knowles • Volume
mimi knowles, artist spotlight, february

Written by: Jocelyn Van Saun | Photo(s) by: Mimi Knowles Facebook

Artist Spotlight: Mimi Knowles

Name: Mimi Knowles

Hometown: Machias, ME

Current Base: Provo, UT

Genre: Pop with hip-hop/R&B influences

Age: 32

Fun Fact: “I love really nerdy stuff. I’m a big Star Wars fan. I’m really into fantasy novels. I’m more of a nerd than most people might think I would be.”

Who are your biggest musical inspirations?

“Definitely John Mayer for guitar and songwriting. Definitely Kanye West. I listened to a lot of Fugees growing up and loved Lauren Hill.”

On your website, you mention that your family was one of the first Black families to move to Maine. Could you tell me about that?

“My moms from Quebec. And my dads from the Bahamas. When his family moved up to Maine, they were one of the first Black families there. It’s weird to think now that I was a lot of peoples’ first black experience growing up in school.”

When did you start playing music? 

“I always sang in the house growing up. My dad brought a lot of Motown influence into the family. With my mom being from Quebec, Celine Dion was always playing. I was always singing and I wanted to play instruments, but I’m one of ten, so money was always kind of tight. I sang because that was free. When I was 15, I got a guitar for Christmas. That was my gift that year and I was beside myself. I wrote my first couple of songs and thought, ‘This is what I’m doing for the rest of my life.'”

How’d you end up in Provo?

“My older brothers moved out here, so I came out to Utah to be with them and serve a two-year mission for the LDS church. Even though I’ve since left the church, I’m thankful I came out here because I’ve just grown and learned so much.

When I came back from that mission it was just go time. It all happened really quick. There was a competition where the winner would open for Carrie Underwood that I won. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to open for a lot of really cool people like Boyz II Men, 2 Chainz, Charlie Puth, Khalid. You learn so much when you see top tier talent perform like that.”

What has the music scene been like out here for you?

“Indie-folk was everything when I first moved here. I didn’t totally feel like I was a part of the community until I won a local Battle of the Bands and then the music community accepted me. People really started to listen up. But I did have fans from day one who really appreciated hearing something different.”

What previous albums and releases do you currently have out?

“Chariot” – 2022
“IRL” – 2020
“Nervous” – 2019
“Limited Edition” – 2018
“Chew” – 2017
“Better” – 2016

What current projects and new releases are in the works?

“Right now I’m actually focusing on two docuseries that I’m screen-writing and creating. The first is called Where’s The Green Room. It follows musicians that have backed the biggest musical icons of all time. You have these juggernauts like Cher, Madonna, Jay Z, etc. and they’re on stage, but there’s a band behind them … and you never really hear to stories of the musicians behind them. That’s kind of the docuseries, just following them and hearing these crazy stories and being able to champion these people that are just outside of the spotlight. The pilot should be finished next month, I’m scoring it now.

The other one is called Our Black Stories. Too often I feel like the narrative of the Black community is geared toward trauma and focuses on the difficulties that the Black community endures. I want to put out some content that’s about Black people that’s not about all of the tragedies we suffer because, for a lot of the Black community, we’ve already experienced it, we don’t want to see it again. So, I wanted to make something that shows my community thriving and doing amazing things. Because we are doing amazing things.

Storytelling is what I’m going to do until the day I die. I love the music-making, I’ll always do that, but I just realized I have stories to tell that last longer than three minutes.”

You’ve got a lot going on. Can you walk me through how your career has evolved to where it’s at today?

“I’d been doing the solo artist thing for a while and was looking for other ways to monetize, so that’s when I started working Warner Chappell Production Music as a songwriter. I released my song, “Chariot” last month and I own my own catalog too, so I’m still doing a lot of library stuff. I’m also composing for some T.V. shows and I run a lot of corporate party bands. For a lot of musicians it’s hard to make money while you’re trying to be an artist, so a lot of up-and-coming musicians who want to focus on their craft and not get a day job can do these corporate gigs and make a lot of money, but their job is still in music. From my perspective, being Black, there were so many information and opportunities that just didn’t come down my pipeline.

In the work I’m doing today, with the screenplays and the docuseries, my main focus in anything I produce is that it provides leadership opportunities for women and the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities in the music industry. I’m championing those stories first. I’m excited for people to see what’s coming out. I just want the stories I’m telling to inspire more people to tell their stories. There’s a lot of stories that we see over and over again, recycled through Hollywood and music. It’s not that I want any voices to be silenced, I just want to amplify some of these voices that don’t often have the opportunity to be heard. That’s everything for me.”

Okay so you kind of know the music industry from the inside-out at this point. What’s some advice you’d give to artists trying to make it?

“One thing I wish I could impress on up-and-coming musicians is that, if you have your dream, really, really pursue it, but it does not hurt to develop different, monetizable skill sets, especially in music. The more revenue streams you can have as a musician, the more you’ll be able to sustain yourself. I really hope people have access to that information. There’s no 401ks for musicians. We have to figure that stuff out and protect our futures.”

What’s been your favorite past show?

“Opening up for Khalid was really cool. The Charlie Puth show was really cool. And the last local show I played before COVID hit. It was at Velour and I had just released “IRL.” That was just so fun to play for my fans that came to see just me and my songs. My daughter was there too, singing my songs. Man, there’s just nothing like it.”

Where can we see you play next?

“I don’t have anything lined up as far as live shows go, but I want to release a song every month or so this year. We’ll see. But, I’ll hopefully play some shows this summer. Right now, my main focus is production and really T.V. and film.”

Where is a dream venue you’d love to play at one day?

Red Rocks Amphitheater

What do you want fans to feel when they listen to your music?

“That they can be accepted the way they are. However they identify, whatever spot they’re at in their lives, that they can be happy with where they’re at. There are so many things saying ‘you have to be skinnier,’ ‘you have to be thicker, ‘ you have to be darker,’ ‘you’ve got to be lighter.’ I just hope people can be in the moment, happy, and not worrying that they have to become something. They can just be in the moment and be accepted just the way they are.”

For more information, visit his website. Listen below.