Ahead of her debut EP Jade, due out this September, New York-based artist Ms. White is leaving her past behind and reintroducing herself with a cheeky new video for “Full Grown.” In her buoyant first single, Mattie White combines her love for Amy Winehouse’s soulful jazz with a heavy dose of pop and a video that’s equal parts cute and sultry.
Originally one-half of electronic-pop duo Governors, Ms. White reemerged in 2015 under a new name that coincided with her personal journey to womanhood. As a transgender jazz-pop musician, she’s navigating her medical transition and critiquing the male-centric music industry one note at a time.
In the video for “Full Grown,” directed by friend and collaborator Habib Khan Awan, Ms. White navigates love and serves looks on set for a soda pop commercial. It’s a kitschy, cute introduction to the burgeoning songstress that matches her bright personality. To celebrate the premiere of the video, OUT jumped on the phone with Ms. White to talk about the video’s inspiration, how her transition has impacted her music, and her eternal love for Amy Winehouse.
OUT: What inspired the concept for the video?
Ms. White: I wrote the whole album before I started transitioning, so it’s been a kind of interesting journey trying to reformulate some of the stuff that I’d written. I still like the songs and they still resonate with me, but I have to work on it visually to have it make sense with what’s going on now.
I was collaborating with the director because he is a friend of mine and he wanted to direct something. I told him I wanted it to be some sort of kitschy video about a guy falling for me and positioning me as a woman in the video, not as a man.
What inspires your sound?
Deep down, I really am a jazz person. Amy Winehouse is my all-time favorite artist ever forever and when I was learning to sing in high school, all of my influences were modern versions of jazz. It wasn’t like Ella Fitzgerald or Diana Washington. It was more Amy Winehouse, Adele, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu. Those kinds of people who took jazz and modernized it.
I wanted what I was writing to ultimately be jazz, but modernized in a sense that we’re not even calling it jazz as a genre. As a person, I love pop music and shitty radio songs—they’re really catchy. I want to make stuff like that but it’s just... when I sit at a piano and write a song what comes out happens to be jazz.
What kind of challenges have you faced as a transgender artist in the music industry?
Luckily, I haven’t had too many snags. It’s mostly just dealing with the very male-centric music industry. It’s a lot of straight, bro-type dudes and hot girls so I’ve been in between that a little bit. All of the people that I’ve worked with so far were already either my friends or friends of friends so I haven’t had anything outwardly gross happen. I imagine I will and I’ll have more to report back as it progresses.
It’s also hard to position myself in the right place because I want to be viewed as a female artist but vocally, I don’t sing as a woman. I think I have a certain feminine thing about my voice but I have a male range.
How has your transition impacted your music?
I’ve been through a lot of different music projects and this is my first one presenting myself as a trans woman. It makes a lot more sense to me and feel a lot better about it. Honestly, a big part of my transition was the fact that I was releasing this album and was supposed to be under a boy name.
Part of my transition is just making sense of music and how me as an artist fits into me as a person. The first thing I knew was that it makes more sense to say I’m a woman. It’s going to be a journey.