Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments. Mia Doi Todd is a singer-songwriter and L.A. native. Since 1997, Todd has released ten solo albums and appeared on countless recordings with other artists, including Saul Williams, The Folk Implosion, and David J of Bauhaus. She is also part of the creative team behind local venue Zebulon Café Concert in Frogtown. Todd spoke with KCRW about the pleasures of introspection, the healing powers of music, and the perfect reggae tune for a trampoline.
We've been sheltering in place here at our home since March 12. I was super-stressed out about this new record I've been trying to make. We were in the final stages of mixing, and all the craziness that descends when you're trying to finish up a record … then this happened. I felt so relieved that I didn't have to deal with it for a while!
One of the big challenges has been keeping my daughter engaged and exercising during this shelter-in-place time. So we have a trampoline in the backyard, and we set up a little sound system so we could play music and get her excited. We'd go on the trampoline and turn on Gregory Isaacs. Her favorite track is "If I Don't Have You." We like to imagine it's about her, but it's about everybody, whomever you sing it to.
We don't have a super hi-fi system. We have a Technics turntable and these old wooden speakers; I think they're from the '70s, so we definitely have a vintage sound going on. We recently moved most of the vinyl back into the living room and set up the turntables in a more functional way, and we've been enjoying pulling out our records.
During the quarantine, I've been wanting to listen to Milton Nascimento, a Brazilian artist that I really love. He, for me, is like the voice of Mother Nature, and the way that humans are a part of Mother Nature speaking. Milton has a self-titled album, Milton, that he recorded in Los Angeles — actually in Malibu — in 1976. Wayne Shorter's on that album, as is Herbie Hancock. It's more of a jazz record, and Milton's voice is so beautiful that it just gets to the heart of emotion and intuitiveness.
I've enjoyed sitting and knitting the last couple of weeks and listening to music. I've been putting on whole albums like I used to do: listening to side one and side two, and maybe even side three and four. Just taking the time that I haven't had the chance to do. It's a way to look inside yourself, and I've been enjoying that introspection.
Another artist that I really love is Cartola. There are so many emotions going through me every day about the situation we're in. And I've been going back to Brazilian music over and over again for that complexity of emotion. In Cartola's music, I hear all the longing and sadness and happiness and expectation in every note of his voice. There's a song I love called "Preciso Me Encontrar" on his self-titled album from 1976.
I've also been really into Laraaji's Essence/Universe album. For me, Laraaji's music is very cosmic and universal. It's like a teaching kind of music, a healing kind of music.
He has another album called Vision Songs Vol. 1, which is a vocal album, and it has all these inspirational sort of sutras. My favorite track is his interpretation of the Hindu Mantra, "Om Namah Shivaya."
There's another album, not very well known, called Segredos Vegetais - "The Secrets of the Plants." It's by Dércio Marques, another Brazilian artist. It's a very long and dreamy album, and I could listen to that over and over again. That's a gorgeous one.
Check out KCRW’s other Private Playlists:
Inara George shares tips for raising music-literate kids during quarantine
Chris Cohen shares Algerian synth funk, avant jazz, and more far-out sounds
Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy offers an earthy soundtrack for the homebound