You could say there are two sides to Malia Civetz.
Spending her formative years on the Big Island of Hawaii, the pop singer and songwriter emanates the endless empathy she uncovered rooted under the sun, sand, and surf at four-years-old. Simultaneously, the artist shines just as brightly as the lights on the Las Vegas Strip where she hit the stage four years later. This duality ultimately courses through her music. With a mile-long vocal range, spotlight-grabbing delivery, cleverly personal lyrics, and confidence for days, the artist emerged in 2017 with a show-stopping style steeped in swaggering R&B and skyscraper-size pop. Within a few months of her arrival, she earned a spot on the playlist of early champion Taylor Swift, and Ryan Seacrest debuted her first single “Champagne Clouds” on his KIIS FM “On Air With Ryan” show and predicted, “You’re going to hear about Malia—a lot.”
So, get to know her…
“I don’t separate myself from the artist you see on stage,” she explains. “In terms of personality, I’m a combination of Hawaiian and Las Vegas ideologies. I believe as long as you’re kind to yourself and others, you’ll have a wonderful life. That comes from the islands. I also love neon signs, shiny clothes, jewelry, feathers, putting on a show, and the extravagance of Vegas. My aesthetic is ‘Las Vegas on a beach.’ Musically, it’s a relatable, urban vibe. I just want to connect with as many listeners as I can.”
That connection to the audience can be traced back to her time in Hawaii. Reflecting on early memories of living in a hotel as a toddler, she often slipped out of her chair at dinner to join the hula dancers or house bands, while her parents—who worked in the island’s hotel business—looked on. A few months after her fifth birthday, the family had moved to Las Vegas. As a child, she caught her first musical, 42nd Street, and witnessed the Céline Dion residency in addition to numerous larger-than-life productions on the Strip and beyond.
Heading to the stage as part of various singing groups by eight, she soon found herself belting out “Orange Colored Sky” and other Great American Songbook standards around town at iconic spots like The Bootlegger Bistro, the Suncoast Showroom, and Stirling Club. As her profile grew, she ended up singing the National Anthem for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Kings, and Galaxy. She caught the attention of Vegas show biz royalty Kelly Clinton-Holmes and Clint Holmes and they became like her musical parents. Taking her powerful voice back East, she would hit the stage at the Apollo Theater as a “Star of Tomorrow” at 13.
Her voice has also been heard with symphonies across the country as well. Collaborating with composer Steve Hackman on mash-up performances “Beethoven & Coldplay”, “Tchaikovsky & Drake”, and more, she has performed as a featured vocalist with the Indianapolis Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Columbus Symphony, and more. Along the way, she even sang for President Barack Obama in 2010 and again for the President and the First Lady at the White House in 2015.
As a high school senior, she won a Barry Manilow-hosted singing competition, and the legendary singer took her under his wing. Not only did she perform two numbers at the closing weekend of his residency at The Paris Las Vegas, but he personally wrote a letter of recommendation to the prestigious Popular Music program at the USC Thornton School of Music on her behalf. At USC, she landed a spot in the renowned a capella group The SoCal Vocals, performing as a soloist with the 2015 group to win the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella.
Following graduation, she hit a rough patch. Broke in Los Angeles, the songstress did everything she could to remain on the West Coast. She spent a few months living out of her car while couch surfing. This illuminated her commitment to not only staying in the city, but also pursuing her dream to no end. The work eventually paid off. Fellow SoCal VoCal alum and powerhouse songwriter Ross Golan recognized Malia’s talent and introduced her to ubiquitous producer and songwriter J Kash [Maroon 5, Charlie Puth]. After an impromptu 2017 writing session at Kash’s house, she landed a deal with their newly launched Friends With Pens label.
At this point, her own sound clearly came into focus.
“I grew up loving all types of music and especially Chris Brown and Usher,” she explains. “For me, it is about trying to find a way for female artists to exist in the pop world bringing in elements of hip-hop and R&B. It’s about breaking boundaries.”
The 2017 debut single “Champagne Clouds” pops the creative cork for Malia. Over ethereal production, her seismic vocals engage and intoxicate at each turn before she carries the unshakable refrain, “You’re gonna find me on the champagne clouds.” After just three months, she crossed the four million-mark on Spotify as Swift shared the song on her Apple Music and Spotify Favorite Songs Playlist with continued support from KIIS FM.
“When my parents came to visit when I signed to Warner Chappell, Ross bought a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rosé,” she recalls. “Rosé always meant celebration to me. When I was writing the song, there was an incredible sunset that I watched from my friend’s balcony. I had that bottle on my mind. It inspired ‘Champagne Clouds’ and reminded me of my time in college. I never wanted to leave parties back then.”
Her talent is just starting to bubble up to the surface on “Champagne Clouds” though.
With new music and performances planned for 2018 and beyond, audiences everywhere will get to know all sides of Malia.
“My goal is to help people take a break from their problems and let their minds be at ease before they have to go back to this very intense universe in which we live,” she leaves off. “For as much as it can be an escape, I also want to make thought-provoking music. It’s about opening doors to let women be whoever they want to be in this industry and life in general.”
Carleen Donovan/ Elisa Kupelian