We had the good fortune of connecting with Donna Mikayla Mundy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Donna Mikayla, what principle do you value most?
The value that matters the most to me is truth. Both personal truth and what we know and further seek collectively, as objectively as possible. The pursuit of truth encompasses many values and includes navigating darkness, some would rather not acknowledge or face. There is so much to be gained from shadow work that shouldn’t be left out and without it, there is no truth or becoming whole. It brings peace and real, healthy bonding between people and all things. If your end goal is finding your personal truth, you ultimately can’t go wrong and will find fulfillment in the journey itself. If you strive to find objective truth as well, you’re solving problems rather than creating them; respecting yourself, others, what is known and what is to be discovered. It doesn’t get better than that. Part of the pursuit is understanding and accepting that no one lives without deviation or without making mistakes. Truth is the catalyst for progress and purpose. Humans have an innate strive to further discover and apply it. As Carl Sagan said, “We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself…” I believe this is our best guess as to why we exist.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Growing up, I remember constantly drawing, making bow and arrows with my brothers, playing imaginative games…later indulging in analog photography, writing stories, making up and singing songs, creating art of every kind. I also had a deep love of fashion from the get-go. Let’s just say, I did not fit in with my southern Indiana 1st grade class photo, wearing a vampiric frilly top, mulberry lipstick and rocking a sleek bob haircut. I adored going to the library with my aunt. My favorite was the occult section, where I would find books on meditation, developing psychic abilities and learning about herbs and spells. I also loved Astronomy, Psychology and every single one of my classes throughout school. On the weekends, at my dad’s house, I watched movies endlessly, and I couldn’t get enough of the behind the scenes/special features. I’ve always been fascinated by how things are made and how things work. Most of my life, I aspired to be a filmmaker. I had many obsessions in film and in music, from Pirates Of The Caribbean to Braveheart, Spice Girls to Pink Floyd. I was always singing and writing songs and got my first guitar at age 14. The first song I learned to play all the way through was Jesus of Suburbia by Green Day. My brother was so proud of me. I didn’t discover much about recording until my early twenties, after falling into a 3-day conspiracy theory YouTube hole, which ended in downloading software to see what an A Perfect Circle song would sound like shifted down to “the healing frequency” of 432Hz. Though it’s completely laughable, I did come out of it with a serious awakening. Audio engineering opened a portal into the unknown, into endless possibilities and into parts of myself I had not yet come to know. Creating soundscapes was immediately fulfilling. That first blank session and every one after held open space, where I could pour out my internal world, into the external. There are no rules and few constraints. Anyway, that’s enough about my inner workings and backstory you didn’t ask for. Here is my very LA tale. Though, my expedition into the music industry started in Bloomington, Indiana.
Before I started in the music industry, I was working on a lot of independent films, music videos and other projects. I was also involved with a budding film festival. Nothing went wrong and I never grew tired of it. It was odd, I kind of just switched gears. Out of nowhere, I inquired and then landed a job transferring/digitally archiving open reel tapes, via a friend I had worked with at the Bluebird Nightclub. There I met my first audio mentor, Mike Notaro. I began shadowing Mike, learning live sound at this great venue called The Bishop Bar. Dan Coleman, who organized the shows there, started booking me to play pretty regularly after seeing me play, what I thought would be a one-off opening set. Over the next two years, I played shows, solo and with Mike’s band, Early Life, worked a lot more, learned a lot more about audio with Mike and had briefly visited LA once, to meet Soundgirls founder Karrie Keyes. She messaged me one day, sometime later and asked if I was interested in coming to LA to do a Soundgirls live sound workshop. My life was kind of in shambles and I had wanted to since age 17, so I decided to pack all the belongings I could fit into my car, drove across the country solo, and moved to LA.
I have never had trouble scoring a job, but it was rough trying to find work here. They wouldn’t even hire me at Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas BBQ. I did a bunch of random gigs, including background acting and other film work and sadly, sold some of my music gear to stay afloat. Three months in, I walked into West LA Studios, and immediately knew it was going to work out. Shout out to Ricky and Allen. I made great friends with a few of the musicians, which have played in bands and am still close with. Those rehearsal studios became a sanctuary for me, as it was for so many musicians for 32 years. RIP. Thanks a lot, global pandemic.
During my time at West LA, I also picked up another gig working at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. My roommate, Kate, also worked there and asked me to cover a shift for her last minute, because she wasn’t feeling well. This shift was my second time running live sound there, and I also had to do lights, which I had never done before. It happened to be for a Transcendental Meditation seminar with speaker and cult film legend, David Lynch. No pressure. I was standing behind the console, as we do, ready for showtime, and before the event even began, a man walked up to me and asked if I was working for the David Lynch Foundation or for the Ebell. Upon finding out I worked at the Ebell, he gave me his business card and told me I should come apply at his recording studio. The man was Jeff Greenberg, owner of The Village Studios. Two weeks later, I interviewed and got the job as a runner. I had contacted every small and medium sized recording studio in LA in the months previous to this happening. Not a single one responded. And there I was, scared to death I was going to accidentally strobe light David Lynch and the TM-ers, and now I somehow work at one of the top recording studios in Los Angeles. It was completely bizarre.
I’ve worked at The Village for over 3 years now. Mostly as a runner and assistant engineer, until the pandemic, when I switched to doing reception and returned to focusing on my own art and music. I have a collection of stories that range from heartfelt to hilarious to horror. I’ve had the chance to work with and get to know so many amazing people, pros and peers alike. I’ve earned a handful of AllMusic and IMDb credits. I’ve learned so much and come a long way. This was the start to my very LA adventure, but I am just beginning the chapter in which I show the most character development and learn how to center myself. It’s been great and I’m grateful to each person and every step that brought me here. Working with John Alagia and getting to record my own songs at The Village has been an absolute privilege and pleasure and maybe more will come of it.
I’m trusting myself and the process. I can’t help but create and the more freedom I have, the better, so that’s what I’m working toward. Healing, honing and honoring what I need to feel open and in flow. My next steps will likely include recording more songs, designing more clothes, rocking new looks, inventing electrical gadgets, writing my first full length screenplay, and maybe even diving into a new field, like computer programming…maybe my future holds each of these things or something completely different. To be honest, I don’t know. It may sound like a lack of direction, but it isn’t. My focus is finding my truth. Whatever I choose, I’ll finally have a clear mind and full heart to put into it. That’s a confidence and sense of wholeness I’ve had to live without, yet I’ve created and been a part of many things I’m very proud of thus far. What an excellent time it’s been. I’m sure I’ll leave behind more artifacts of some kind as I move forward. Maybe you will relate to and enjoy some of them.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Post pandemic, with everything opened, I would take a friend who just arrived in LA to enjoy:
– Wind Surfing at Castiac Lake
– Top down Castiac mountain drive
– Order takeout from the best little hidden Thai restaurant ever, Thai Thai Cafe in Panorama City.
– Venice Beach for some beach and boardwalk action. We’ll grab lunch from wherever we feel along the boardwalk
– Bike, blade or join in the drum circle, some sort of interaction
– Swim or at least feet in the ocean
– Dinner at Bossa Nova Brazilian Cuisine
– Museum of Jurassic Technology
– Griffith Observatory
– Drinks and dancing at Gold Diggers in East Hollywood. Maybe get a tour of the studios in the back and we could even rent a room upstairs for the heck of it.
– Jam pack a cooler with meals made from fresh locally sourced foods
– Top down drive down the PCH
– Hike trail to Escondido Falls in Malibu and have lunch. On the way back, climb the big tree mid-trail and relax into some philosophical conversation.
– Catch the sunset and quietly eat picnic dinner on a blanket at El Matador beach.
– Top down driving day, get lost looking for palm tree lined streets, extravagant homes and historical sites of LA
– Hollywood Forever Cemetery for a projector movie
– Donuts at Donut Friend
– If it’s the right time of year, we’ll go to Echo Park Rising and if not, we’ll go to The Echo for a great sounding, yet decently intimate show, where we can also scope out and socialize with some local cuties.
– Monty’s Good Burger
– Tour The Village Studios
– Tatsu Ramen
– Westridge Trailhead hike
– Movie at The New Beverly Cinema
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I could go on forever here. I’ve had so much help and support. I’ll stick with the current. My mentors in my personal and professional life are Anya Briggs, who is a trauma informed personal development coach and psychic, John Alagia, who is a successful music producer and all-around music man and my voice coach, Melina Holm Ruais. We should all know, no one gets anywhere alone, and healthy interdependence is just as important as being grateful for those who have helped us along the way.
Anya set in motion in me, the wakeup call of a lifetime. With an approach based in logic and practicality as well as with esoteric abilities, she has helped me to better help myself, find my truth and clear away the rest. Psychologically, physiologically and spiritually. (This is not a substitute for, but includes seeking and utilizing accredited mental health care.) Being someone who came from a background of significant trauma, there was so much in my way, clouding my intuition, disconnecting me from my sense of self, and keeping me small and subservient. Healing, stepping into my power and becoming the person I can trust and rely on are now my top priorities. The best way I can describe it is, I’m becoming more myself. Every day holds exponential proof that the key to fulfillment in all aspects of life, including career, is finding and taking care of me. We all must do this for ourselves, but her help and support has been invaluable. She’s truly awesome at what she does.
John Alagia is a great example of a genuinely good hearted, music loving person, who’s been able to maintain those qualities after having huge success in the music industry. That is a feat I needed to know existed. We became friends at The Village and hanging in his studio one day, as I often did, he casually asked to hear some of my songs. A few minutes in, we were recording. It eventually turned into him fully recording, producing and mixing my debut single, Always, which I released in February 2021 under my artist moniker, Masterkey. The experience was wildly fulfilling and encouraging. He’s supported me through many more actions and kind words, in music and in friendship. He’s just an uplifting soul to be around and amazing at and passionate about what he does. Also super importantly, he’s hilarious.
Melina is the best vocal coach ever. We understand each other on many levels, personally and professionally. There’s just a lot of depth there. She knows how to coach on technique, but also how to dig into the core of what needs to go into great signing. She continues to help me access emotions I couldn’t before, pouring them into my singing. These lessons go beyond bettering my ability, they have become a huge part of my healing process. Some people come into your life and help you become everything you truly are. It pays to pay attention to those people and to be grateful for them.