Against the odds: Miraa May on her rise to success and her acclaimed debut album

Miraa May by Jameela Elfaki (Jameela Elfaki)
Miraa May by Jameela Elfaki (Jameela Elfaki)

When the exciting rising superstar Miraa May describes her life, she is blunt, truthful and fires out expletives like bullets from a gun. The week after her second sold out headline show, and just before the annual Music of Black Origin Awards - where the 26-year-old artist scooped three nominations: Album of the Year, Best Female Act and Best R&B/Soul Act – she is in typically forthright form.

“I was just f---ing happy to be invited to the MOBOs!” she says. “For it to get nominated for a f---ing MOBO, a MOBO, within six months of it being out, is insane.”


Her music is as honest as she is, with melodies that soften the blow of loaded lyrics without diminishing the impact of their message. Over the past nine years Miraa has progressed from raw soulful vocals over a guitar to exploring afrobeat infusions, emulations of traditional 00s R&B, grime artist collaborations and garage remixes. All of these influences culminate in Tales of a Miracle, her debut album released earlier this year.

Tales of a Miracle and the resulting accolades mark both a professional and personal breakthrough for Miraa who spent her formative years navigating the industry and her mental health. “I really was a very depressed suicidal young child who didn’t have any help,” she says. “I say it in one of my songs: ‘All I needed was guidance.’”

Having had a difficult upbringing, Miraa left home at 17 but always found solace in music. After finishing school, Miraa spent two years playing gigs around Shoreditch whilst cleaning, waitressing and even being a door-to-door makeup salesperson. Estranged from her parents during this time, Miraa relied on her friends and their parents for support as she embarked on her career.

Producer Salaam Remi, known for working with Amy Winehouse, Alicia Keys and The Fugees, discovered Miraa’s first EP on SoundCloud in 2014. Remi flew Miraa to LA to sign a publishing deal in 2015 and she spent the next three years writing for people and working on her own music.

Then Island Records approached Miraa in 2018 to give her a record deal - but she insisted on choosing her own manager. “So, I’m brokety broke, yeah. I got nooo money, right,” Miraa recounts, “And I was like, ‘No. It will be my friend Taisha. I am absolutely sure she’s capable of managing me.’”

Taisha and Miraa met aged 11 on their first day of secondary school. “15 years of hardcore sisterhood,” Miraa says. “We manoeuvred our label situation in a way that is unheard of. [Taisha] now has two artists on her roster and a personal assistant,” Miraa smiles triumphantly.

This defining moment in Miraa’s career set the precedent for how she continues to champion women in the industry and do things her way. Miraa’s debut album, and the female-led recording of it, is another case in point.

 (Island Records)
(Island Records)

“Sarah Dorgan is one of the main engineers that did my album,” Miraa says. “She started off as an assistant, and now she is booked and busy. You cannot get her. I remember she said to me ‘I actually used to feel invisible in here.’” Not anymore.

Even when the label wanted Miraa to get male rappers on the album, she chose women. “I’m so damn proud that I was able to use my position to get all female engineers, all women features, some of the biggest names in the UK, all on one album,” she says.

At last week’s headline show, Miraa invited classical violinist Marisee Cato to perform. “She looked glorious. A black woman with her natural hair out, playing her violin in front of everyone,” Miraa says. “Now people are calling her to play violin on their songs.”

One of the few males in Miraa’s album sessions was her baby boy, now a toddler. She gave birth during the first lockdown and suffered postpartum depression. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt so suicidal, so sad and so anxious in my life all at once,” Miraa says.

Just like when she was a teenager, Miraa found solace in music and started writing Tales of a Miracle. “It was really me going into survival mode,” she reflects. “I just needed to be happy for my baby so the best thing for me, was to get in the studio.”

Personal experiences aside, Miraa feels that the commercial side of the industry puts “mental strain” on artists too. She ignores industry people that suggest she uses TikTok for her work, seeing it as a “viral place” rather than a sign of longevity.

“[Music] shouldn’t be digested quickly to be shat out even quicker. I love a McDonald’s, but I’m not gonna survive on it. Some people are McDonald’s. You have to go to the Mayan temple to taste me. I am Chipotle. I will never disappear from your mind,” she jokes.

Photo: Jameela Elfaki (Jameela Elfaki)
Photo: Jameela Elfaki (Jameela Elfaki)

Banter aside – and Miraa provides a lot – she believes “mental health is extremely important, so labels need to cough up their money. I’m talking money for therapists and money for gym membership. Every artist needs that.”

Now Miraa has two therapists; one provided by her label for work, and one for her personal life. Yet music is still her first choice of therapy. After her headline show, “I had so many things on my mind,” she says. “I just had to go the studio. And when I came back, I felt so much better.”

Looking ahead, Miraa is hoping for a bigger and better 2023. “I am the poster girl for being a bad bitch,” she says, boosted by the confidence that the MOBO nominations have given her, and realising how far she’s come:

“That little girl that lives inside my chest is smiling from ear to ear. She is very bewildered. She can’t believe that I’ve been able to do it because she thought we weren’t going to make it past the age of eighteen.”

Tales of a Miracle by Miraa May is out now. A deluxe version with brand new songs is coming out in early 2023.