Story by Jenny Schuster
Photography provided by Mia Schuster
When asked to write an article about my own daughter, Mia (West Fargo native, now Los Angeles singer/songwriter), to be honest I panicked a little.
How does one go about writing an article about their own child without sounding biased or boastful? Honestly, how do you do it? So, just like everything else in life, you begin and know that - just like everything else in life - somehow it will work out.
Believe it or not, there are more F/M graduates currently living in major U.S. cities trying to land a spot on the national music, dance or theater scene than you could imagine. These talented kids from all over the Red River Valley are digging in, doing the work and achieving what most people only dream about!
And out of the many kids who have big dreams and goals, but also a plan B, Mia Schuster decided early on that while big dreams and goals were always in the plan, deep down there was never really a plan B. “I knew from a pretty young age I wanted to do music for the rest of my life,” shared Schuster. “And I was really fortunate to be a part of such a supportive family.”
Leap of Faith
After graduating from West Fargo High School in 2015, Mia began her journey with two years on the East Coast in North Carolina to attend the popular music program at Catawba, but soon realized in her second year that she was being called to dive deeper into her music and personal growth. With a leap of faith she transferred to Bethel School of Ministry in Redding, Calif. And then with just under two years under her belt in Redding, the call to L.A. came. “Long story short, with a lot of faith and a side of insanity, I quite literally picked up and moved to L.A. on a word from the Lord," shared Schuster. “I never in a million years saw myself out here, but now I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
North Dakota Strong
When reflecting back on what truly helped set her on the path to becoming a singer/songwriter in L.A., it’s clear that along with her faith, Schuster’s North Dakota roots were a strong influence. “Growing up, I used to think I was limited by being raised in a small area away from all of the big music hubs/cities; but looking back now, I was so ridiculously blessed by the opportunities the F/M area has to offer,” said Schuster. “I had the chance to be involved in choir, orchestra, Elevate School of Rock, Trollwood, private lessons, theatre and so much more. Sweet Fargo, North Dakota set me up for success in more ways than I could possibly imagine when I was a kid. I cannot imagine getting my start anywhere else, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she shared.
Adventures in L.A.
While living in L.A. for the past two years, Schuster has had the opportunity to work with several amazingly talented artists; play gigs including the iconic Hotel Café; and write, co-write and produce songs with other successful musicians. As with any great adventure, there have been several positive influences along the way. “I feel like life in L.A. is just a crazy experience in and of itself,” shared Schuster. “But I would say one of the coolest opportunities I’ve had is to get to be mentored by Judy Stakee. She is the former senior vice president of Warner Chappell Music and has mentored artists like Sheryl Crow and Katy Perry. I’ve attended several of her writing workshops and am one of her brand ambassadors. Getting to work with her has been a really fun and growing experience!”
With exceptional guidance, faith in her back pocket and a strong North Dakota work ethic, Schuster has received accolades in several different publications for her unique voice and songwriting hooks, and has also been noted as one of L.A.’s up and coming artists. Not taking anything for granted, she also understands the importance of staying grounded and true to her calling when the pressure is high to be just like everyone else.
“I think the most important lesson I’ve learned, and quite honestly am still learning, is to not put so much pressure on things,” she shared. “At the end of the day, most of the things we waste our time worrying about don’t really matter. So what if you just gave the worst performance of your life? You’re human and you aren’t perfect; brush it off and try again. You aren’t finishing your new songs? They don’t sound as good as the old ones? It’s okay. Hits come and go; just keep creating, that’s why you even started doing this in the first place. It’s all just a perspective switch - everything can be a victory if you let it. And honestly everything is a whole lot more fun when you actually let yourself enjoy the process!”
After releasing her freshman single, “Land,” in the spring of 2019, Schuster was able to experience firsthand what it’s like putting your heart and soul out there and bracing for whatever praise or criticism comes your way. Then realizing that perhaps she had something special to share, she continued writing, revising, writing some more and working with producers such as Casey Kalmenson, Peter White, William Henderson and Konli. Her first album, “Happy Again,” was released in the summer of 2020 in the midst of a pandemic and national unrest, but with her constant goal to deliver a bit of light in the darkness.
“It is a lot of work. Wow,” Schuster shared when speaking about launching the album "Happy Again." “Like you would not even imagine! Especially as an independent artist, because essentially you are now fulfilling both the role of the artist and the record label. Basically, there’s a lot of planning and coordinating that needs to happen, conveniently neither of which are my strong suits. So my album process was definitely a bit stressful due to that learning process,” she said. “But this leads back into that important lesson I’ve been learning on not taking everything so seriously and not putting so much pressure on things. I was a bit of a crazy person when I was working on 'Happy Again,' and while I am unbelievably proud with how it turned out, I am never doing that again. Next, time I am definitely just going to enjoy the process and let things come together more naturally!”
Working several different projects at once has become the norm for Schuster. This past New Year’s Eve, she released a remake of the famous ABBA song “Dancing Queen."
“'Dancing Queen' was the release that followed my album, and I had an absolute blast on that project because I just let myself have fun and took all of my rules off,” she shared. “That is how it should be done every time in my opinion!”
With COVID-19 putting the brakes on most live performance and gigs, many artists have found new ways to navigate this last year and Schuster is no exception. “Right now I am currently working on growing my music in every way I can! I am teaching music lessons, cowriting, recording, working on new releases, etc. I’m definitely in a season of taking the time to invest in my craft by learning, learning, learning,” she shared. “While I do really miss performing live and some of the other things COVID has taken away, it has been a joy to be able to take this time to grow and develop myself as an artist at my own pace.”
Like every artist, there is always a definitive influence and theme running through their life and story. “My biggest influence for sure has been my faith,” Schuster shared. “I grew up in a Christian household which really set up the way I lived my live, but it wasn’t until I moved away to college that my faith really became my own. Since then I have been growing what I like to imagine as a garden with God of all my life adventures. But I know I never would have gotten here if it wasn’t for the crazy Jesus stories from my mom and the bedtime prayer time with my dad. They set me on this path from a young age and it is really what helped instill in me a heart to love above all else in all I do."
Where can you find her?
Schuster's music releases can be found on all platforms including iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.
And if you, too, have felt the pull and the nudge to take a leap of faith, know that you are not alone. There are so many others that have gone before you, and more to come. And maybe, just maybe, if you decide to make the leap on to the L.A. music scene, there will be one Fargo native that will be right there with you.
Mom note: I’ve had a lot of people ask me what it’s like dropping your child off in L.A. right off of Sunset Blvd to chase their dreams. It’s hard, it’s scary … but it is so, so worth it. I promise you that if you give your child wings, they will fly.
Midwest Nest loves the culture from the upper midwest, and we are excited to share stories from around the area.