September 27, 1990
Active since: 2012-Present
Indie-rock star Mitski was born in Japan to an American father and Japanese mother on September 27, 1990. Miyawaki moved around during her youth, living in over 13 countries around the world, before graduating from high school in Turkey. She attended college in the United States, first enrolling at Hunter College in New York City to study film before transferring to SUNY Purchase for music composition.
Before graduating from SUNY Purchase in 2013, Miyawaki released her first two albums using the school’s resources, including a 60-piece student orchestra featured on her second project. Lush (2012) and Retired from Sad, New Career in Business (2013) were released in Mitski’s junior and senior years as end of term projects. Both albums were self-released by Mitski herself via Bandcamp.
Mitski’s label debut saw a departure from her earlier releases’ classical influences. In 2014, through the label Double Double Whammy, Mitski released Bury Me at Makeout Creek. Inspired by the exhaustion she felt after her first two albums, graduating from SUNY Purchase, and working nonstop to pay bills, Bury Me at Makeout Creek was Mitski’s outlet for her rage. Trading the piano for the guitar, using home studios instead of her school’s professional recording studios, and lyrics that speak to the reckless nature of youth and heartbreak, Mitski’s third album evoked the indie rock sound she’s now known for. Bury Me at Makeout Creek received praise from music outlets such as Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, with some of praise drawing comparisons to 90’s indie rock stars such as Liz Phair.
The following year, Mitski signed to the record label Dead Oceans and in 2016 released her fourth album, Puberty 2. Sonically, Puberty 2 is a combination of elements from Mitski’s first three albums. The album delved into themes about isolation, depression, growing up, and relationships. Like BMAMC, Puberty 2 garnered widespread acclaim, mostly for the album’s lead single “Your Best American Girl” and its accompanying video that created conversations about racial identity in America. Puberty 2, landed on several “best albums of 2016” and “best albums of the 2010s” lists.
The buzz catapulted the indie singer-songwriter into the mainstream and led to several tours and festival appearances. Mitski spent the rest of 2016 touring Europe and North America. The following year, Mistki joined one of her music influences, 90s rock band The Pixies, on tour as an opener. In 2018, she traded smaller venues for stadiums when she joined pop-star Lorde’s Melodrama World Tour. Mitski also was a part of numerous festival lineups such as Coachella, Boston Calling, Primavera Sound, and Panorama.
In August 2018, Mitski released her fifth album Be the Cowboy which unlike her previous albums, incorporates fictional depictions in her songwriting in an attempt to shed the “sad girl” persona music critics wrote her as due to her lyrics. The album’s title refers to the myth of the cowboy, who in American pop culture is often depicted as a white man who can cause destruction without any consequences which Mitski found to be “interesting.” The album features instruments used throughout her first four albums, along with the synthesizer creating songs that at times sound like show tunes. Some of the songs take on perspectives that are not from Mitski’s experience, such as “Me and My Husband” which explores marriage and “Two Slow Dancers” that focuses on aging individuals. Be the Cowboy was also a success and a favorite by numerous publications, as it appeared on a plethora of end of the year lists devoted to best albums of 2018. Mitski also earned praise from others in the music industry, such as punk icon Iggy Pop who proclaimed the singer to be “the most advanced American songwriter” that he knew of. Aside from the acclaim, Be the Cowboy was also her first album to chart on the Billboard 200. Mitski toured the album for most of 2019, with her final show in New York City’s Central Park which was billed as her last show indefinitely after five years of nonstop touring. The final shows at Central Park sold out quickly, with the first one selling out in under an hour. Having deleted all her social media accounts, Mitski has since been mum during her hiatus with the exception of contributing the track “Cop Car” to the soundtrack of the 2020 horror flick The Turning and appearing on pop singer songwriter Alie X’s album Cape Cod for the song “Susie Save Your Love”.
Aside from the Pixies and comparisons to artists like Liz Phair, Mitski has cited a range of artists and types of music as influencing her work. Over the years, Mitski has cited Connie Converse, Frank Ocean, David Lynch, her classical training in music, Jeff Buckley, M.I.A, Björk, Kate Bush, Ikue Asazaki, and global folk music as some of her influences. Mitski has been credited with supporting other women in indie rock, many of them also considering the indie superstar an inspiration. Singers like Jay Som (Melina Duerte), Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, Phoebe Bridgers, Soccer Mommy (Sophia Allison), Snail Mail (Lindsey Jordan), along with musician friends Vagabon (Laetitia Tamko) and Sasami (Sasami Ashford), have all cited Mitski as an influence or supporter of their work.