Don’t Ask Mynolia Where She’s From Or Where She’s Headed
This article was originally published on Merry-Go-Round Magazine
You’re better off not asking Mynolia where she’s from or where she’s headed. There’s a formal answer there, sure, but it won’t tell you much about her artistic identity. As a culturally fluid adult who has constantly moved around from an early age, she continues to clutch onto her vagabond tendencies and absorb the different flavors of the world. As of now, she’s just walking backwards into a future full of possibilities—an evocative mosaic comprising bits and pieces of the past. This collage remains under indefinite progress, so the longer she lives, the more expansive it becomes.
There’s an undeniable comfort in detailed simplicities—especially when it takes on a creative form. Maja Presnell is a compelling figure for this very reason. The singer-songwriter, who goes by Mynolia when administering her superpowers, has spent years in the laboratory trying to perfect the science of the familiar. At 30, she’s closer to it than she’s ever been. This past December she finally released her debut LP, All Things Heavy, and make no mistake, the music didn’t just come to her three decades into her life; she’d been working on it for years before that. It was, however, only recently that a handful of her cuts collectively fell into place as a coherent unit. “It kind of happened in two chunks,” Presnell says of the recording process. “The marriage of the whole album came together as an afterthought, so I call it my debut mixtape.”
Funny how that happens. Presnell never actively worked toward patterning the record the way it ended up, yet it’s thematically sound. The lyrical matter is, at times, divergent, but an integrated auditory atmosphere encircles her words; the tracklist, as a result, breathes in sync. Because Mynolia writes from personal experience, her sound gleams with a relaxed and cozy sincerity. Despite its polished sophistication, the album carries a warmth that humans have an innate desire for. In just a little over 38 minutes, she induces a meditative lethargy into her listeners with a nurturing charm. With this in mind, it’s particularly amusing when you suddenly snap out of a trance, caught off guard by one of her lyrics: “Home office, suit and tie, it’s business time / But what’s that money gonna buy / When we’re all out of toilet paper?”
Still, these words aren’t entirely silly either. “Holding Hands (In My Dreams),” the song from which they were taken, was recorded and first released as a single during the pandemic. The consumer trends of the time and their ensuing hassles are something a lot of people lived through but everyone remembers. “There is nothing more frightening or hilarious than witnessing what our instincts tell us to do in times of crises,” she says. By touching on a ridiculous memory from an otherwise dismal phase and using that to pose a playfully existential question, Mynolia demonstrates her aptitude for funneling different topics and processing them through her custom filter.
Then there’s her imaginative side, which dictates her lighthearted approach to writing. This is a noteworthy quality because Mynolia’s work is, in fact, serious, but she doesn’t force a deep meaning on the thoughts that flow out of her. The album cover of All Things Heavy, for instance, traces back to a dream she had involving a grizzly bear charging at her inside a manor. Because she stood her ground, the animal presented her with a glowing shell instead of attacking her. This symbol stuck with her and subsequently guided her creative process, inspiring the song, “The Bear & Shell.” On the album cover, she can be seen reaching for that same glowing shell. “I didn’t even care if it meant anything in particular,” she says about the dream. “I kind of like the idea that it doesn’t have to have three layers of meaning—that’s for everyone to decide for themselves.”
In Mynolia’s world, ideas that fall out of the sky coexist with the happenings of her conscious life. Hence, the different components of her first full-length package are indeed interconnected, but not conceptually. It’s a number of ruminations, some random and others intrusive, but mostly abstractions inspired by a stimulating life. All over the place in more ways than one, her songwriting remains focused and her visions succinctly expressed—that’s just who you become when you have a sharp and busy mind.
“I have two albums worth of stuff that I’m waiting to record, which I will very soon,” she says of her next move. “Then the whole thing starts again and it takes a while.” After wrapping up a seven-date acoustic tour in Morocco last month, Mynolia recently flew over to the United States to perform at South by Southwest. Because it was so far from her home base, both her showcases were solo sets; for the future, however, she hopes to have her band by her side. And that’s really all there is to the plan: keep going and growing. In the meantime, it’s back to the lab.