Overnight success has been a long time coming for Muni Long. The artist formerly known as Priscilla Renea landed a recording deal with Capitol in the late 2000s due to a viral YouTube hit. Pigeonholated and misunderstood, her artistic endeavor did not take off, but she quickly established herself as one of the industry’s go-to hitmakers, writing songs for Madonna, Rihanna, Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande. Along the way, the 33-year-old has become a staunch advocate for songwriters and creators and created her own independent label, Supergiant Records.
In 2020, she decided it was time for a creative rebirth. Enter: Muni Long.
Already a passionate student of the industry thanks to her Capitol background (Priscilla Renea was signed by A&R veteran Chris Anokute, who is Muni Long’s co-manager alongside Supergiant label partner Rashad Tyler), she predicted. TikTok’s role in Breakout Songs and saw the platform as a major opportunity. After all, Renea had conquered YouTube in the 2000s and intrinsically understood that the most precious commodity on social media is authenticity.
Upon releasing her 2021 EP, “Public Displays of Affection,” she focused on engaging with fans – and they returned the favor by doing “Hrs and Hrs”, a slender and adored R&B ballad, a TikTok phenomenon. The song quickly took the plunge, making it to the top 10 on the iTunes, Apple Music, Shazam, Spotify, and SoundCloud charts. This week it became Long’s first hit in the Billboard Hot 100 Top 40, realizing years of dream-in-the-making.
Variety: You’ve been so successful as a songwriter. How does it feel to have a huge hit?
Muni Long: It’s an amazing experience. I am delighted now to have a platform to speak on behalf of songwriters. I have always insisted that artists be paid fairly. It’s always been predatory since the early days of Tin Pan Alley, where songwriters were paid pennies. These songs brought in millions of dollars to other people, and songwriters were begging in the streets. This industry is the Wild Wild West. There is no one who really speaks for these lower level creatives, who really make the meat and potatoes part of the music. I am delighted to speak for these people.
It’s so interesting that “Hrs and Hrs” is blowing up on TikTok, because you were one of the first artists to go viral on YouTube in the 2000s.
Everything happens for a reason. All the things that I have experienced in my past have brought me to where I am now. Being a viral sensation on YouTube prepared me for how the music business exists in 2022. Because of TikTok, the song has exploded. It’s an amazing loop moment. I knew intuitively where the industry was headed about two years ago. I was like, “Wait a minute, Priscilla, you already did. You were the first, at least one of the first artists to go viral on YouTube. At one point, I was consistently the # 1 musician on YouTube.
Did you record “Hrs and Hrs” with TikTok in mind?
Unintentional. I leave a place of flux and give way to divine events. I see myself as a chain. If you’ve been in the studio with me before, you know I channel. I just open my mouth and things come out.
What’s the secret to your success on TikTok, other than great writing?
TikTok was definitely part of the strategy, that’s for sure. Without revealing my secrets, I realized that I had to be my own marketing business. I create my own ads and put them on my own billboard, which is my TikTok. Another of my little secrets is that you have to really love your supporters. You can’t expect people to spend time watching you and streaming your music, and coming to your shows and interacting with your content, if it’s one-sided. So I make sure to like as many comments as possible. I make sure to visit their pages. I’ll watch their stories if I’m interested.
I am really, genuinely interested in what my supporters think and who they are. And I think that’s part of the reason the song blew up too, because people would see me responding and leaving comments on their videos and telling them how good they sounded or how beautiful they were or how awesome they are as a couple. together. It’s just about making people feel special, giving them back that love. I don’t think artists do it enough. And so as not to hurt anyone or pass judgment on anyone. I think that’s all the supporters and the fans really want. They want to feel appreciated.
Tell us about your journey as a freelance artist?
I got caught up in the industry and the status quo. There’s a tremendous magnetism in the industry – a kind of ‘this is how it is’ energy – and it sucks you in, it really is. I’ve been sucked in for years. But being successful as a songwriter has given me financial freedom to the point where I don’t have to do things that I don’t want to do. I can go, study, receive love, rest and find inspiration. A lot of people don’t realize that songwriters don’t just have money. It is love and support. You are in a very vulnerable place, where you feel that you have no confidence in yourself. There is nothing that boosts your confidence or self-esteem that you can refuse things.
When you wrote “Hrs and Hrs” did you expect it to be huge?
No idea. I was just writing from a purity of heart, authentically. I was blown away by the song when I heard it. Soufflé. And I always gravitate towards the things that inspire me to action. So it made me stop what I was doing and hit the record button to put aside the idea that was in my head. Let’s be honest, this thing is huge. It’s a hit on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, TikTok, YouTube. Neither of us knew how massive this shit was going to be. We were just doing things with a freedom, a pace, and a purpose to change the way people view indie gaming and how the internet has really, for better or for worse, changed the music industry. But everyone thought that “No Signal” or “No R&B” was going to be the song. No one thought it was “Hrs and Hrs”.
What prompted you to record under the name Muni Long?
I am a very sweet person. And I’ve always been nice and wanted to play well together. But the world is not made like that. The world takes advantage of people like that. And I took advantage of a LOT. So there came a point where I had to say, “Okay, I have to come forward and stand up for myself because if I don’t, this shit is going to crush me.” And I can’t present myself as the person who needs protection because when you do that, when you think about narcissistic relationships and abuse, when your abuser is used to being able to do whatever he wants, as soon as you say no and you get up, it enrages them. It makes them want to attack even harder so they can keep you under their control.
I had let it go on for so long, thinking that people would eventually see how great a person I am and want to change their ways. And I realized they didn’t care. They just want to get what they get. So I had to become that character, I guess, that’s really who I am on the inside, but I just don’t like to treat people like that. I choose to be nice. It’s better for me to be nice to people. But I had to become that person and just protect myself. But I always make sure that at the core of my values, after getting you together and saying everything I have to say to you, to let you know where my limits are, I always end with love.
What advice would you give to independent artists who may not have the financial resources you have for your songwriter career?
Value can be created other than by the mere paper dollar. I think if you have the resources to create your own content, if you have a cell phone or an iPad or a computer, you have a camera. And you can connect with people directly. I mean, you can literally just sit in your room and talk about your own thoughts about the world, or sit in front of your computer and sing a song. And you can keep doing it and connecting with people. Start where you are and just build. Never be afraid to try because you feel like you have nothing.
Although I may have had a lot of financial support, I didn’t have the information. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to run a record company. But I didn’t let that be an excuse I wasn’t going to start. I learned things along the way. I adjusted. I have remained humble and flexible. You have to be able to pivot if something is wrong. Always be curious, always ask questions. Never feel like you know everything. There are billions of people on this planet. Each person sees the world in a different way. So, there is no way that you can know everything. So I would say just always be ready to learn and try new things.
Have you ever considered giving up being an artist?
I gave up about 700,089 times. But then I would wake up the next day and be like, “Well, what else am I going to do? What am I going to do? “I’m really good at this. And I want to do it. And I think it sucks that I have to stop because someone else is trying to mess it up for me. So yeah , I quit a million times, but started again the next day.
How are you going to juggle your exploding career as an artist and songwriting?
The answer is simple. I spent a decade and then gave songs and helped build other people’s dreams. I think it’s okay if I take three, five years to focus on myself. And if there’s an opportunity for collaboration, when an artist wants me to write something and they can sing it, but I’m on it, we can do it. I’m not opposed to it because some of my biggest collaborations have been with artists who write their own stuff – Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey. So there are always opportunities for that.
But in terms of giving songs, it would have to be a special circumstance, someone that I highly respect, who in return for that song, they might be able to give me advice on where to want to go, or they might be able to include me in other aspects of their already established business. Because I understand the value and worth of my songs now, that they have the capacity to do what “Hrs and Hrs” did for me and explode my career, I can do it for others just with my songs. So I can’t be here to give this to everyone.
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