Pia Mia Reflects on Early Success: 'It's Kind of Surreal'

Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for American Express
Pia Mia performs at American Express UNSTAGED at El Rey Theatre on August 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

Pia Mia knew from an early age that she was destined for stardom. By the time she was 11 years old, the Guam-born singer was already performing professionally at the weddings of Japanese tourists on the island. Her career only grew from there.

Mia began posting covers on YouTube in 2009 and now boasts more than 330,000 followers and over 79 million views on her official Vevo channel. Her big break came after moving to Los Angeles in 2010. Sitting at the Kardashians’ dinner surrounded by Kanye West, Kim and Drake, Mia was asked to sing Drizzy’s "Hold On, We're Going Home." Kardashian was so impressed with her vocal range that she posted a video of the impromptu performance, which gave the budding singer a major boost in exposure.


VIDEO: Backstage with Pia Mia at the Amex AIR concert

“I used to be so shy when I was younger. I wouldn’t even be able to communicate. The second I stepped on a stage was the one place I felt comfortable and confident and OK to be myself,” the 18-year-old pop singer told Billboard backstage at L.A.’s El Rey Theatre on Aug. 20, where she helped launch this year’s American Express’ UNSTAGED: Artists in Residence program.

“It’s kind of surreal to me because I had this dream when I was so young back on my home island of Guam and then being here now and seeing everything unfolding is crazy.”

Amex AIR: The Journeys of Pia Mia, Børns, Rae Sremmurd and Gavin James

Mia’s first official single, "Do It Again" (feat. Chris Brown and Tyga), was released in early May. The song was a top 20 hit on both the Rhythmic Songs and Billboard + Twitter Trending 140 charts. Now she’s looking to take her career to the next step, which is one reason why she’s excited to be a part of Amex AIR, which launched in 2014 with the purpose of boosting the profiles of emerging artists. This year’s lineup also includes Rae SremmurdBørns and Gavin James.

Video: Pia Mia performs "Do It Again" live at Amex AIR

“What American Express does is so cool because they give you a platform where you’re able to have so many more eyes on you,” she told Billboard during an educational summit at L.A.’s historic Carondelet House prior to the El Rey concert on Aug. 20.

“They give you a chance to say who you are and show who you are through your performances. They did these artist videos where we voiced over a video of us, which is cool, because it’s a whole package where you get to see who the person is. I don’t think a lot of artists have had the opportunity to have someone like American Express do that for them.”

Mia is currently writing music for her debut album, which does not yet have a release date.