Mikayla Braun

Vocalist, Pianist, Songwriter

May 30, 2016


How old are you?

I’m 25.

And where are you from originally?

Washington, DC but we moved to Maryland in first or second grade. Then I went to college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and then I moved down here.

How long have you been in New Orleans?

Since September of 2012.

What brought you down here?

I wanted to go to a music town so I was thinking here, Nashville, or Austin. And my best friend at the time lived down here and I had visited her a handful of times and I knew I loved the city. Austin is awesome but it’s so much like Madison and I really wanted something completely different. And Nashville is great for production but not so much live music. New Orleans is unlike any other place in the world.

Why are you still here?

It’s one of those cliché things. Came for the music and experience and stayed for the people.

In what capacity would you say you are a part of the music community of New Orleans?

I’m learning so much in the way of different repertoires of music, like traditional jazz and blues and R&B, and brass music which is how I learned how to scat. I’m a vocalist but I also am a songwriter and I love busking so I think my place in the city is that I’m a student and the city is my higher education. The camaraderie down here is a beautiful thing. I can’t speak for anyone else, but from my perspective it’s not competitive. It’s more of a safe feeling so I feel like I can try new things and extend my ability to work.

Do you remember growing up being told or taught anything about behavioral expectations as a girl versus things that may have been told to your male counterparts?

I remember learning in school about gender roles. Not how it should be but the fact that they exist. I think my parents instilled in me that I don’t have to stick to what everyone else tells me to do, especially because of my gender. But I definitely remember growing up and knowing that it was something that wasn’t true or real.

How do you define sexism? How does it present itself to you?

Sexism is if someone is treated differently because of their gender no matter how they identify with their gender. I think it’s not being treated the same as another gender.

How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?

I think I’m lucky that I haven’t really experienced much of it. An example would be if you’re walking down the street and someone catcalls you, it makes you uncomfortable. What is the purpose of catcalling me? Does it make you feel better? Are you trying to illicit a reaction? What’s the point of it? Stop. It makes me feel uncomfortable and pissed off.

Do you always notice when people are treating you in a sexist way?

I’m very intuitive but maybe not always.  I guess I wouldn’t know if there was something I missed. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and I like to think that they’re being nice. But I don’t think I’ve really experienced sexism in the music industry. Like not getting a gig because I’m a female or getting treated differently because I’m a female. It’s work, it’s business, if you’re doing your job, then I think people respect that and will work with you.

I’ve faced it but I don’t think of it a lot. If a male musician is sleeping with a whole bunch of people, that’s great, you’re picking up chicks at your show, you do your thing. But if a female musician is sleeping with a bunch of guys, people are going to call her different names because it’s not ok for females to sexually express themselves with whoever they want. Stuff like that, but I guess I don’t think about it all the time because we did grow up with it. That’s weird. That’s interesting to think about.

Do you recall any specific occasions when you’ve experienced sexist behavior against you?

There hasn’t been anything traumatic but if people catcall you or follow you, that’s uncomfortable and annoying and invasive and can be scary. I started doing a lot of solo shows so I’d have to set up my own equipment and use the PA or bring my own sound system and I’ll get there and I’ll load in and everything and people will come up and be like “Oh honey, let me help you.” I know what I’m doing and if people assume that I don’t know what I’m doing because I’m a girl, that’s frustrating. People are so surprised when they see me wrap a cable correctly but that’s my job. Of course I can wrap a cable.

Have you ever experienced inequalities between the band members in your own band?

No, which is awesome. I think the women in the music industry down here are extraordinarily powerful and it’s actually incredible. When you approached me about this project I made a list off the top of my head of the women musicians down here and there was like 50 of them. It was incredible. Everyone that I’ve met here is really supportive of each other. There are the tributes to Amy Winehouse and Ella Fitzgerald and all that stuff and it’s very empowering that the women want to work together. But at the same time they have made themselves successful because they’re independently working really hard to do what they love to do. And I think another thing down here is as long as you’re doing what you love to do and you appreciate what you like to do, people respect that and they want to work with you. There’s something special about this city.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’m thinking about it a lot more now because there’s so much more to it than I originally thought. When you first asked, I thought “Sexism in the music industry? No, we’re all pretty powerful down here and support each other.” But there are little nuances that you don’t think about because it’s just engrained in you and that’s the way it is. But it doesn’t have to be that way.