A single word comes to mind when being introduced to Mara Hruby: Enlightened. So enlightened, that last year, the young Indie-Soul singer with an angelic voice released her debut EP “From Her Eyes” – an incredible, soul stirring collection of re-envisioned cover songs….for free. The response to this eclectic songstress, her effortless style, engaging voice & calming spirit has been overwhelming. She’s simply one of those people who make you feel happy after speaking with her. ……And we’re just getting to know her.
Tell us about you: where you’re from, how long you’ve been singing….we even heard you dance!
MH: I’m from Oakland, CA; I’ve never lived anywhere else. I LOVE the Bay Area! It’s wonderful & cultured & full of life. I’ve been singing since I was very young, but I’ve been professionally singing about 2-3 years now. I’ve always loved music. Everything it did to me, everything it meant to me….I ADORE it.
Tell us about your dance experience.
MH: I danced for seven years as part of the New Style Motherlode Dance Company. But, it goes back to my love for music – the music moved me, literally, to dance, ha ha! It’s funny though because about 6 months ago my mother found a letter my pre-school teacher wrote to me. It said: “Never stop singing; you’ll change the world with your voice!” The whole singing thing as a career is still new to me, but it makes me happy.
Cover songs are not easy! Comparisons are inevitable, but on your EP “From Her Eyes” you’ve refashioned familiar music in such a way that they are embraced as completely original. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
MH: It is hard! I drew my inspiration from the pure love I have for music and the power it holds. The artists that I covered, they are phenomenal to me, so it was a tribute more so. I didn’t want it to be imitation; it was about how the songs made me feel. I wanted to portray those feelings through the music.
Jamiroquai. Al Green. Mos Def. “From Her Eyes” puts a classically modern spin on hit tunes sung by male artists. Such a bold move. Why?
MH: It was a challenge. I wanted people to know my perspective as a woman. Women are powerful & there are so many things we are capable of, but we’re viewed differently. It was important to me to give my perspective on the stories told by those men to display my powerful sensitivity.
Tell us about your new video, “Character.”
MH: It was so much fun! I got the chance to work with Melinda James of About Her Films. We shot the video in my home, which is what I call “The Attic of Love” lol! It’s the second video shot at my home, the first was “Stereolab (Lose Myself)”. I wanted to show a side of myself that was personal. People (in videos) show themselves in such a “done up” way rather than show the process of getting to what you want to be the final product. I wanted to show all the things that make me happy: writing, creativity, music, cars (that’s my fathers car I’m driving in the video, so that’s a big deal for me), and being around people. Things that are involved in my normal life….that’s what I wanted to show.
You easily reflect an elegant 1940’s flavor that you carry so well! There’s an enviable sense of ownership in your personal style. Tell us about it.
MH: The 1940’s & 1950’s are my favorite era as far as beauty, glamour, fashion & how people carry themselves. I started collecting vintage dresses four years ago. I love being able to go to a thrift/vintage store and find a beautiful dress that fits well and tells a story! I love dresses that drive you to want to know what it has seen and lived through. Clothes back then were well crafted, tailored & built to last. Now, we have disposable, “fast food” clothing.
Now, our readers are going to flip about that gorgeous head of hair! Can you tell us about your hairstory, & how you maintain your beautiful tresses?
MH: (Editor’s note – Mara is extremely joyful upon hearing this question; her voice is literally dancing!) No one has ever asked me about my hair before! It’s exciting! I haven’t always embraced my curly hair, which is sad, I know. I wanted to have hair like my mother, who had bone straight hair. But my hair has always been wild and curly. It took me quite a while to finally accept and love my hair for what it naturally was.
WOW…what an amazing testimony!
MH: I cut my hair off in junior high. For some reason, my long hair became the topic of conversation & criticism & ultimately a source of insecurity for me. I didn’t think that hair was supposed to define someone’s character, but for some reason people judged me. People would evaluate what kind of person I was based on the texture of my hair. They would say “Oh, she got that good hair…she thinks she’s better than us” and it would really hurt my feelings.
MH: Yes. I was so frustrated with all attention and focus and mean comments, I cut my hair short – like Halle Berry short! I did it so people would stop talking, but that only spawned MORE criticism. I felt it was a stupid decision – changing my appearance for other people. You’re who you are for a reason, and for that you are beautiful.
What were some of your hair mishaps?
MH: I wore my hair short for the rest of junior high; in high school, I started growing it back out & by the time I graduated it was down to my shoulders. I dyed it….A LOT through that whole short hair time period. I came to realize that I had been expressing a lot through my hair as a form of my creativity. And I finally wanted to do what made ME happy, which was let go of my fear and act on my dreams.
So how long have you been natural?
MH: I’ve been fully natural for the last 5-6 years now. And I haven’t dyed my hair since 2007. I love my hair now, I really truly embrace it!
It looks incredibly healthy! What do you do to take care of those smiling curls?
MH: I try not to straighten my hair too much or apply too much heat to it, except for when I style it for my shows. (I use heat protectors for that; Pureology’s Colour Stylist Heat Spray). I try to use natural products because I don’t want to put too much “gunk” in my hair. Right now, I use Organics Olive Oil Creamy Aloe Shampoo because I wanted a gentle and more natural cleanser. To condition in the shower, I use the Dove Intensive Repair line, either the conditioner for heat protection or moisture. Once my hair is washed, I scrunch in Pure Aloe Vera gel while my hair is wet, my favorite kind is the Aloe Vera Gel from Trader Joe’s. It’s a great way to seal in moisture and give great shine to your hair. Four months ago, I started using Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Style Milk alternating it with the Shea Moisture Yucca & Aloe Volumizing Conditioner because I wanted to be proactive in taking better care of my hair. Shea Moisture is a good friend of mine! I use it after I use the Aloe Vera Gel, and then I scrunch my hair dry with a towel. After those steps I let it air dry or I use a diffuser if I’m in a rush. Even though my hair visually is thick, the individual strands are very thin and fine, so I prefer to use products that won’t weigh it down and make it oily. But right now, I adore the Shea Moisture products… they are my favorite!
OMG, mine, too!!!! I love the Curl & Style Milk! So how would you describe your hair type?
MH: (laughing) I just learned there were different names for hair types! I never knew! My hair is thin/fine yet big & full! I think that makes me between a 3a and 3b. To be honest, I feel I’ve been blessed to have a really simple routine. It’s very easy to maintain and keep healthy, but I have to wash my hair about every 3 days because it gets oily quickly. I always look at someone with similar textures to mine to see how they care for theirs. But it’s really trial & error. I have to find what suits me best.
So you don’t venture out into protective styling?
MH: I read the Corinne Bailey Rae interview, it was so informative! I’ve never done a braid out, twisting or anything like that. But I will smooth my wet hair into a ponytail, twist it into a tight bun & when it dries, I take it down & shake it out.
Lol, that’s what we call a “bun out!”
MH: Oh, really? There’s a name for everything! That’s why I love the natural hair community…and it’s about time! Women of color, we go through a lot with our hair. It’s a process. And there’s a lot of insecurity that goes along with our hair. But natural hair is so beautiful; I hope the trend never goes away!
Are there any products you haven’t tried that you’d like to give a test run on your curls?
MH: It blows my mind how many natural products there are! But natural products can be pretty pricey. My goal is to use Bumble & Bumble products for my washing and conditioning because their products are wonderful, but they are sooo expensive! I like to be smart with my dollars, so anything I try has to be cost efficient for the pocket!
You sing, you dance, you take awesome care of your hair. But you also make beautiful hand-crafted jewelry & scarves!
MH: Yes I do! I even sell them at my shows. I’ve always loved being crafty. I feel inspired and I just go out and find resources/materials so I can create. I just go with my intuition. It’s just my way of showing more creativity. (Ed’s note – Mara’s handmade goods are sold through her website Marahruby.com under “Merch” or MaraHruby.bigcartel.com)
You’re planning to release an album of original songs written by yourself in 2012. What story do you want listeners to receive from your recordings?
MH: Well, I can’t tell people how to feel and I don’t want to, but I want to inspire them to think about what the song is trying to communicate. I always pray people realize the passion I put into my music. I want people to know I really love what I do. I’m genuine and truthful & try to display what comes naturally.
You’re right in the middle of seeing your dreams come true. How do you feel?
MH: I feel honored, humbled, flattered & elated….this is something I’ve worked really hard at. It can be grueling at times, & there is the realization of being a tormented artist. But I’m so happy people are taking in my music the way they are. I can’t wait to keep going, & go on tour. I truly love what I do!
What’s next for you?
MH: Finishing up my album for the 2012 release & releasing two more music videos! I’m also going to be playing 11/15 in New York, 11/16 in Philly & 11/17 in DC. My main focus right now is finishing the album, but I’m forever going to put out visuals!
What would you like to leave our readers with?
MH: I’d say the most important lesson I’ve learned is to live for yourself and what you believe in. We are in charge of our own destiny. Go for what you love and believe in your natural talents!
Catch Mara Hruby on the Night With A Muse Tour next week:
New York: 11/15