The music industry is tough, but family proves to be tougher. NYC Tastemakers had the pleasure of talking with up-and-coming musicians Mia Lailani and Devan Ibiza and their music producing father and manager Maximino Perez to discuss their debut album Blink of an Eye, the meaning of music, and their bond as a family unit.
Q: Being that you have your first album release coming up, how does that make you feel?
Mia Lailani: I’m really excited. We’ve been working on the album for about a year and six months, and it just went through a lot of different changes, and a lot of growth has happened over that time span. It’s my first solo album: a product, a work of art that I’ve been working on for a while, and I poured my heart out into it – we all did, Devan and I, dad… I’m just really excited for everyone to hear… and hope they relate and enjoy it.
Q: Who are you in a nutshell, Mia?
ML: I am a 15-year-old singer-songwriter from the Bronx. I’ve been singing since I was two years old, and I made my first song at 10 with Devan. I love music so much; it’s such a gift to write about all these emotions I go through as I grow up and things that I experience, things that I observe. I love music with my whole heart, and it’s just so beautiful to write and for others to relate to it.
Q: You just said that you write your own songs, which is incredibly impressive for someone of your age bracket. Your music seems very deep-rooted, coming from a deep place. Can you talk about your creative processes and what you do to come up with such powerful lyrics?
ML: Sometime before 2020, I was only writing about things that I have seen, things that I observed; like, I would watch a movie and be inspired and write about that – I have some unreleased songs about movies – I wrote some songs about books that I read and other people’s stories, other people experiences. And then, around high school, I had new experiences I wrote about, like liking somebody or being scared of the future, like “Mama Said,” a song that’s on my album.
My songwriting process always changes; it keeps evolving, but I basically start on the piano, or if Devan has a beat, I’ll listen to it. Usually, it’ll hit instantly, and then I’ll come up with a melody. I’ll take my voice memos out and just start singing whatever… and if I hear something that I like, I’ll go back and write it down and tweak it. But I just used to limit myself from writing something or trying not to be too controversial or too direct in the lyrics. But now, I just write how I feel and just let it all out rather than limiting myself or being like, “ehhh, let me not write that.” You never know when you can relate to it; emotion is powerful.
Q: What do you want people to feel when they hear your music?
ML: On this album, I want people to resonate and not feel alone. Hopefully, they would relate and feel heard or feel like I described a part of their life that they went through. And also, a lot of the songs on the album are very upbeat, so honestly, just to make people happy and feel joy because that’s really what we need in the world. There’s a lot of hate, a lot of negativity, so honestly, just to spread love, positivity, and feel heard and not alone.
Q: Why did you title your album “Blink of an Eye”?
ML: Within the year that we worked on it, a lot of time passed, and I went through a lot of growth. It felt like such a long process – working on it – but now that it’s done, it’s like, “wow.” Like, it happened so quick[ly] and all this time had passed and all this growth that I went through – it’s here in a blink of an eye. And, the songs tell the story of all these different parts of my life, all these different chapters, how fast it went, and how much better life is today for me.
Q: Can you talk about the context of the album? And is there a song, or songs, that you resonate the most with?
ML: I mean, all of them, of course! But I guess one of the songs I really, really resonate with a lot is the intro (“Blink of an Eye (Intro)”). And so, basically, this is the first realization in that time span I wrote this album that a lot of time has passed. I went through all this growth, and I basically talked about how I never noticed how fast time was going and just how fast I evolved and progressed. It’s kind of eerie, the sound of that song, and I absolutely love the sound of that song.
I also really love “Sweet Dreams” a lot because it’s speaking about self-love, basically, and just moving on: old chapter, new life. So, yeah, “Sweet Dreams” I resonate with a lot. I feel like the vibe of it is just really uplifting, and some people who have heard it already say that it’s so freeing, and it makes you feel some type of way. That song is really special to me; it was an awakening point in my life when I made that song. It’s just about self-love and doing better for yourself.
And “Mama Said,” of course, because it talks about not wanting to grow up. I go through that phase quite often as I continue to grow, being scared of the future, and just like growing is hard and growing pains, it’s just tough. “Mama Said” I resonate with a lot, and I think a lot of other teens and the younger generation will relate to it, too.
Q: The music industry can be messy and competitive. What do you think you’ll accomplish within this industry when you launch your music career after releasing this album?
ML: I would hope to reach people and for Devan and I’s music to be heard. We work hard on our music, and there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make this album and make music, in general. I just hope to reach people and for people to hear it, and yeah, that’s it: just to be able to reach people and be happy making music together.
Q: What’s it like working on music with your family?
ML: Working with Devan and dad is the best thing ever. I’m with family, so it’s easier to get my opinions across. If I don’t like something, I can say it, rather than being scared to tell them straight up, like, “dude, I don’t like that.” And there’s advice, we can always come to each other because we’re siblings, and we understand what it’s like to make music and go through all the hardships. It’s just the chemistry and the energy that we have when we make it together.
And dad, too! He’s worked in the industry forever, and he’s our guide and our mentor; he’s our manager, too, so to be guided by him is the best thing ever… I mean, I don’t see anyone else doing the job that he’s doing. I can’t say I’ve seen anyone in their shoes. Personally, they’re the best team I could have.
Devan Ibiza: Yeah, I would say that she kind of nailed it on the head with that one. The chemistry is always there, and honestly, it’s pretty easy for her to just come downstairs, and it’s like easy access. And yeah, it’s super-cool, the energy is always good when we work. And like she said: she knows what I like, I know she likes, we both like the same type of music and I think that’s important because, a lot of times for me as a producer, sometimes I work with somebody, but it’s just not… it’s not the same. So yeah, it’s great.
Max Perez: For me, as a dad… I’ve worked for a bunch of different people, a bunch of different artists, a bunch of different labels, so out of all those experiences, this is the most fulfilling to me right now because I win either way… I get to spend time with them, create with family, and that feeling is really unique. I would be doing this anyway, but I would be doing this with somebody else – I would be trying to develop somebody else, and I was. There was a time when I realized that my kids have talent. I was working with all these different artists, all these projects. Like you said earlier, the music industry could be messy and grimy, so I’ve been through that over, and over, and over again. To know that [making music] makes [Mia and Devan] happy and that we’re actually creating something good… I think people going to like this…” We put a lot of work into it.
It’s the best feeling to see them grow and develop because I noticed at a very young age for both of them that they had talent, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be an overnight thing. This is 10 years in the making, 10 years of developing music lessons, piano lessons, recording songs that nobody is ever going to hear because they were so young; they weren’t that good yet. To see the growth now and when I hear some of these songs, I’m like, “Oh shit, that sounds great, let’s work on this, let’s develop it,” and that’s my role.
A lot of the time, they come up with the music, the lyrics, and then, I just add to it; that’s what I do, as an executive producer-type role, and I enjoy that a lot because I don’t have to create everything from scratch, they come. They do most of it… so it’s a great team that we have here. We do everything ourselves, all our time spent, all our music videos.
It’s hard also because we don’t have a major label, we do this independently. We do it because we love it, but the goal is to get more people to hear the music. Nowadays, with technology, we don’t have to be superstars; we could just make good music, and develop an audience, and be happy to be able to continue creating… so it’s tough, but it’s fun as well.
Q: Max, is it easy to step in and out of the manager role and dad role? Are the lines blurred for you?
MP: It’s a balance because sometimes they have to learn lessons themselves, and they have to go through things, so it’s a balance. Sometimes, if I don’t agree with something, I’ll let it happen. Sometimes they’ll see my point of view, sometimes they don’t. I remember when I first started, people [were] telling me, “Oh, you need them to make this type of record, you need to make that type of record.” Then, I realized, “You know what? Let them create. Giving them freedom, and whatever comes out is what we do.” I always listen to people, but I’m not saying we need a club record. We just need good records, or we just need records that resonate with other people.
And sometimes my wife plays a big part in this too. Sometimes she’ll see it, and she’ll say it. Criticism coming from me is not what I want; it has to come from other people, and sometimes, they have to just learn it on their own, just figure it out for themselves. All that we do is all a learning process, and I’m glad that they’re learning all these different skills because they will need them. One day, I’m not going to be around, or one day, they’re going to grow. When they become adults, I’m going to have to accept that it’s their life, it’s their career. I just want them to be happy and enjoy music because I’ve experienced that the music business can be very stressful. I just want them to be happy and strong.
Q: What has this experience of creating an album done for your familial relationship?
ML: I think it’s brought us a lot closer. We have to be with each other for however long the process of making a song takes, and it just makes our relationship stronger.
DI: Well, I would say that trust and all have gotten tighter and closer.
MP: And like I said before, if I wasn’t working with them, I would be working with someone else outside of my house… I wouldn’t be home; I’d be in another studio developing another artist. But I’m doing it with people I love, so it’s a win-win.
Q: The sibling vibe between Mia and Devan reminds me a lot of Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas. With this in mind, what do you think sets you apart from them or other sibling duos out there?
ML: Our music is a lot more urban, and we come from the Bronx, so we have that background, just that type of swag, so more urban. And we are Latin, so we’re able to make Latin music. Devan’s making reggaetón beats right now. I think that’s what makes us different; more urban, and I think that gives more background to us.
MP: That slang term for [Latinos], Latinx, we embody that pretty much. We are from New York, we’re Latino, we love all types of music, so we have a diverse take. We like Latin, we like hip-hop, we like pop, we like R&B, we like reggae, so all those sounds are in the music. And I think that’s what makes them different from someone like Billie and Finneas.
And family-wise, when I think about it, I don’t know any other family that kind of works like we do. We work on music together. I’ve seen brothers and sisters do it, but I haven’t seen brother, sister, and dad do it.
Q: Devan, how did you get started in the music industry? When did you discover that music was something that you wanted to do?
DI: I’ve always been around music my whole life. I’ve always loved music from a young age. I actually recorded my first song when I was like, six, on one of my dad’s beats, and it was called “Yeah, You Got It,” and he and I wrote the lyrics, and it was funny. I would also perform at my school’s shows, performed at my parents’ wedding, and then I took a break from it, and I ventured off to sports and other things I wanted to do.
But then, at the age of 11, I got reintroduced to music through DJ-ing, and we had this equipment called the Emulator, a touch screen DJ system, and I learned how to DJ on Emulator. I started doing baby showers and little events just to get my feet wet. By 14, I thought that I have to start producing my own music. At the time, I was really into EDM music, so producers like Calvin Harris, Diplo, and Skrillex – I looked up to those guys, so my father was like, “You know, you’re going to have to start producing your own music if you want to play and perform at these festivals.”
When I was DJ-ing, I did dope events. I DJ-ed at Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks, I DJ-ed for Intel, I DJ-ed at the 4040 Club… I did some really cool stuff at, like, 13, and it really opened my eyes to what could come. It was dope.
Q: Max, how did you get started? And when was it that you realized that your kids had this kind of talent for music, and what made you focus on developing them?
MP: I got into music at a very young age, as well, but more dancing. I started when I was, like, 12. I was a b-boy in the streets of New York as a breakdancer in a group, and that’s how I found hip-hop, which is probably one of my firsts. Of course, I listened to Latin music in my house, but hip-hop is something that I gravitated to.
I finished school early, so at 17, I got an internship at a recording studio, a post-production facility. Still, I wanted to make music, so I kept working on music on the side. Still, I also had this career as a post-production audio engineer. While I was doing that and growing as a producer and an audio engineer, I was pursuing music as well. It was like I lived two parallel careers that kind of work with each other because all the equipment I would need to work on with music was the same, so I did both.
I’ve always had a job in television and post[-production], and I’ve worked with many artists in record companies and television networks, so that’s where my background started behind the scenes. Then, in a group, I was an artist with Robert Clivillés in a boy band.
Then, I started my own independent things; I started producing rappers and Latin artists, working at BET on a show called 106 & Park. On that show, I worked with every artist you could imagine, setting up their performances and band equipment. I also produced the music for that show, so it was a great experience. At that same time, I started working with Rob Clivillés on a project called MVP, which was pretty successful, and then, we went our separate ways.
I started working with all these different artists, trying to put out my own artists, which is very hard. I realized after a failed group that I was in and after working so hard and spending my money and my time that I was away from my family a lot; my kids were little, and I never spent time with them. Then my wife started pointing out that Mia was singing, and that Devan is playing on my stuff… When I saw that they had a natural passion for it, my wife said, “You know, you work with all these artists, and I think if you work with them and help them, that will pay off for you in the future.” So, I went with that, and I was just like, they [have] talent, and all I have to do is nurture that.
Q: Who are some of your musical inspirations?
ML: I really love Queen and their frontman, Freddie Mercury. I am very inspired by him – I watched the movie. I love Billie Eilish, I love Harry Styles a lot… I think I put some little bits of Harry Styles in there in one of the songs. Towards the end kind, I kind of got inspired by Olivia Rodrigo’s music and just the vocal effects that she uses on her voice. I mean [those are] pretty much my top inspirations right now.
MP: One of the things I love about my kids is that their music is really eclectic. They’ll play me songs that I’ve never even heard, and I’m like, “How do you find this?” They like old stuff, like Latin stuff, so their musical taste is very diverse; more diverse than I am, and I love music.
Q: Where do you see yourselves in five years?
DI: In five years, I’ll be, what? 27? In five years, I see us doing shows, continuing to put out music, and really grow the fanbase. Personally, I want to win a Grammy. I know Mia does, too. I want to work with all types of artists. I hope to tour and do shows, grow the fanbase, keep working with other artists – I would love to work with Drake. I just hope that people would appreciate what we do, and we could make a living off what we love and just keep getting better.
ML: In five years, I’ll be 21! Devan said a lot of the things I want to [accomplish] in five years, but I hope that I start making new genres of music or just expanding my sound of music. My [vocal] range, especially, I hope that I have a larger range and I use more of my chest voice in the future. [I’d like to] Win some Grammy’s and put out a lot more music, more albums, and be able to grow our fanbase, of course… Be able to make music quicker, and that I just continue to make songs that relate to people. I hope that I’m just happy in five years – happy with what I’m doing, that my family and I are happy, and make a living off my music and be happy doing it.
Q: Max, where do you see your kids in five years?
MP: In five years, I hope that we can take it to a way bigger audience, where we’re reaching a lot more people. This world is so big, and technology has made it possible to reach a lot of people. I just want to make sure that we’re ready for that. I’ve had a taste of it, and I know how crazy it can get, so we’re all prepared to take this road and that we stay strong together. I would love them to make a living, like they said, off their music. When you love what you do, it’s not work, so that’s the goal here – loving what we do, so we could be happy.
I’m happy with where we’re at right now. We just need to grow the audience, to get out there a little more, maybe sign with a label; I would love them, in the future, to sign with a partner, someone that can help us and take us to the next level.
I think Mia could be a very successful artist, and Devan, one of the most sought-after producers in the game. That’s what we’re looking forward to, trying to take it all the way… there’s no B-plan for us right now.
Q: Any final thoughts?
ML: We worked so hard. I’m really proud of the album and so excited to have it out. We’ve been listening to the songs for such a long time and working on them, and just to put them out and finally get that payoff. And I’m so excited for the next body of work that I’m going to work on, and I’m excited to see what I create. I love music very, very much.
Final thoughts from NYC Tastemakers
After my hour-long conversation with this talented family, I was able to solidify the meaning of merging work and family and what makes such a concept so enjoyable. The idea that this trio worked together to find a sound, conceptualize it, and realistically find a way to make it come to life should be an inspiration to all those desirous of making a living in the music industry.
The talents of Mia and Devan on Blink of an Eye are on full display on the album from start to finish. As I worked my way through the album, I constantly reminded myself that Mia is on the edge of 15 and Devan is 22 years old because of the immense amount of passion and enthusiasm that came through in their music and lyrics. It takes natural talent to be able to pull together a full-on masterpiece like Blink of an Eye.
Although the album itself is a work of art from top to bottom, I found myself connecting to the songs “Baila (feat Jon Lee),” due to its urban, Latinx flair, and “Mama Said,” because of its simplicity and realistic quality. Some albums are skippable, but this one was certainly not one of them as the songs captivate the listener from the first note to the last. The songs were beautifully crafted, and the album, unfortunately for me, was truly over in the blink of an eye.
In actual reality, there are other sibling musical duos out there. Still, the fact is that they all pale in comparison to Mia and Devan. This is what they want to do: music. They’re not doing it for fame or fortune; they’re just doing it to share their passion and talents with the world, inspire people to think differently, and give people something to relate to.
Join me on this musical journey when Blink of an Eye is released on all major digital streaming platforms on July 2.