Masha Pruss

 

Her debut collection of originals, collaborations and covers is elevated by one of the most sensual artists of the jazz articulation we've encountered.
 

Welling forth from the problematic black experience of twentieth century America, jazz has become perhaps the most traveled form of critically appreciated music. Its idiom is deeply informed by the deracinated yearnings of a whole people, and that energy constantly seeks expression through others who can authentically channel it. In this light it is no surprise that a young woman from (what was once) the U.S.S.R. would develop her voice in its tradition. Masha Pruss's far-flung peregrinations have taken her all over the Western world, and her hew EP 'Honestly' exhibits a swooning cosmopolitan sensuality that her muses - which include Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday - would instantly relate to. Independent reporter Blake Wright recently caught up with the gorgeous singer to talk about her complex migration from Kiev to Israel to Moscow and New York City, her extensive career in acting and music, and her expectations for the coming year.

BLAKE: Let's just get this out in the open - What is the craziest thing that has happened to you in your music career?
MASHA: I started composing my own stuff without a proper knowledge of what I was doing, which is crazy enough. It’s also crazy that some of my songs are in English, because it’s not my first language - not even the second. I was singing from the very first moments I remember myself, but creating my own material is something different. Because all lyrics and music I compose come to me without any effort from my side, the only thing I can do is to accept it as a precious present. Yet sometimes I feel it’s crazy and I think to myself ‘God, why me? I mean, I am grateful and happy, but it’s crazy and beautiful!‘

BLAKE: Your song ‘Little Pieces' is receiving a positive listener response on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
MASHA: You know what? I am an actress. I have an acting degree and acting is what I mostly do here in New York. ‘Little Pieces’ was one of my first songs. I composed it a few years ago as an experiment, just for fun. I submitted it to my agent as a part of my portfolio, and to be honest kinda forgot about it. When my projects are complete I let them live their own life and go on to other things. So when I first heard it playing on radio my reaction was ’Wow! Such a beautiful song! It still resonates with me.’ I compare this to the pride a mother feels when her child achieves a high mark in something they both like.

BLAKE: What was the inspiration behind your debut radio single?
MASHA: I am a very moody girl (and very aware of it). All my creations are honest, kinda private, and mirror what I have inside. At the time I was composing that song, I was getting out of a sad but beautiful story and used music to cure myself. Sometimes, when I have no one to talk to, I just start singing or writing or composing and it helps to cope with whatever uncool stuff I am dealing with at the moment.

BLAKE: It is often said that great art arises from difficult experience. Is there something in your life experience thus far that you would describe as the ‘catalyst’ or ‘fuel’ for your desire to create music?
MASHA: Well that’s how it all really started, when I created my first song. I have a close friend I've known since I was two years old. We lived in the same building, went to the same kindergarten, our families were really close and we practically grew up together. But I got married and relocated to New York and he stayed in Kiev. It’s kinda hard to keep a friendship alive when an ocean separates you. We still loved each other, but lived very different lives. Anyway... one day I was running from one voiceover session to another and my telephone rang. I was in the city - you can imagine how noisy it is there - people are talking, autos are honking, etc. - so at first I didn’t even recognize it was my friend calling. To my horror he was not just calling to chat, but sobbing and crying because his dad just passed away and I was the only person he could actually be open with about his feelings. He had become a very powerful figure in the Ukraine and couldn’t afford to show weakness to other people. I was shocked and the only thing I managed to say was 'Wow!' I never know what to say in such moments. I really wanted to calm him down and help, but I was just out of words. He said that I had become a true American and our conversation died quickly. I couldn’t work after that. All I could think about on my way home was how unsympathetic and hardhearted I had become in America... and suddenly I started hearing the song, lyrics and music all together - very clear in Ukrainian - and I found a chocolate wrapper in my bag and wrote it down. It was my first one and I never changed a word of it.

BLAKE: How would you characterize yourself as an artist/musician? (Ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving, complicated…)
MASHA: I’d say everything I write is intimate and honest - to a degree some people would find embarrassing - but I only see beauty in the opportunity to be open, but still understood and accepted. I am happy my stuff resonates with peoples' hearts and experiences.

 

BLAKE: What has your experience been like working with the other people on your team?
MASHA: I don’t really have a team. I found a great producer, Roman Korotin, but he lives in California now and for me it’s very important to look into each other’s eyes while working - to exchange ideas in person, not Skype or fFcebook. I also had the honor to record a few songs with my friends (brilliant musicians) Sasha Ratmansky and Michael Seropyan. They are always an inspiration to me. But because I don’t have a particular style, I always need new people to help me with my ideas, so my ‘team’ changes from song to song.

BLAKE: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
MASHA: Not at all! My older sister took piano lessons for years, but she hated it and my dad was so sick of her complaining he said 'No more musicians in our family!' That’s why I do not play any instruments, sadly. I just sing.

BLAKE: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist? What do you find most challenging?
MASHA: The process of creating a piece of art is inherently rewarding. Being connected to something bigger than you, something incredible, something you don’t quite understand but admire - actually becoming a part of it - that’s rewarding. As to challenges; I never know what I should do next. Okay, I have the song. It’s fantastic. Now what? As they say, 'Show me the money!'

BLAKE: Who are your role models in music?
MASHA: I don’t have role models in music. I am incredibly uneducated in terms of music, actually.

BLAKE: Describe your best or most memorable performance.
MASHA: Back in my theatrical college I was singing a Ukrainian song dedicated to all mothers and people started crying and coming to hug me and I didn’t understand what touched them so deeply. I was just singing and enjoying myself. I still don’t understand.

BLAKE: What advice would you give to young, aspiring artists out there who are unsure and need guidance?
MASHA: I’d say just do what you love no matter what.

BLAKE: What's next for you as an artist? Is there a new single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
MASHA: I never plan for a new song; they just come to me when somebody 'up there' sends them. For now I am mostly concentrating on my acting career, but who knows what’ll come next. My concerts and other musical projects are never planned. It all just happens somehow.

BLAKE: Thank you kindly for sharing your life with us. You are a beautiful and talanted singer, and given the incredible appeal of 'Honestly' we expect that faculty will soon rival acting as your central ambition!

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