In January 2020, Muni Long risked it all by shedding her old performance name (Priscilla Renea) and a lucrative songwriting career to launch her indie label Supergiant Records. She then proved her mettle as an artist, releasing the viral “Hrs & Hrs,” topping the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart and forging a partnership with Def Jam Recordings, which released her album “Public Displays of Affection” in September 2022.
Now, Long has three nominations at the upcoming Grammys: “Hrs & Hrs” is up for R&B song and R&B performance, and she’s in the running for best new artist.
Ahead of the big show on Feb. 5, the singer-songwriter spoke with Variety about her evolving role in the music industry, being nominated in the same category as her idols and why she’s lost interest in writing for anyone but herself.
What did it take to bet on yourself by self-funding your career?
My mindset was that the only real risk is time versus money. How long is it going to take for people to turn their heads and look in my direction? It wasn’t cheap. Would we have the capital to sustain us until that date? The hardest part for me was the human factor.
People moving in fear and not understanding what we’re doing and listening to outsiders tell them, “That won’t work,” and “She need to sell that song.” It’s funny because the music industry is one of the most creative businesses, but there are so many people who are afraid to take risks. I didn’t look at it as taking a risk — I looked at it like I spent 12 years serving others, helping them build their dreams, so I don’t feel guilty putting time and effort into mine.
How did your name change play into your evolution as an artist?
From a layman’s level, people are used to seeing artists have alter egos. But it’s deeper than that. On a quantum level, you can’t half do it. I had to really stop and become the person I wanted to be. I’m not Priscilla anymore. I’m Muni Long; I dress a certain way, I talk a certain way. I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I don’t believe in rules to a certain extent; I have the freedom to express myself the best way I know how with the tools I have in front of me.
Are you still thinking about writing for other artists?
I just don’t have the desire to do it. I was in a service position for over a decade, I did that and it’s over. I was really good at writing for others and interpreting others’ perspectives and feelings, but that doesn’t mean that I’m satisfied doing that forever.
“Hrs & Hrs” was huge on TikTok and Instagram and even had its own user challenge. Can you speak to using social media to promote the song?
I’m always of the mind of “What is this? How can I use this to my benefit?” When I see an open lane, I’m jumping in it. … I know a lot of people in the music community may frown upon the way I broke in through TikTok and social media, but I don’t plan on living up to anyone else’s expectations. In 10 years, I think looking back, people won’t even remember that — they’ll just remember a consistent flow of incredible work because that’s what I plan on doing.
I also think if it’s not TikTok, it was going to be something else. Back in the day, it was open mics and talent show contests, before that there was the radio — It’s just going to continue to evolve. I think if you don’t get with the times you just get left behind.
How does it feel to be up for three Grammys?
It feels like the next logical step in my journey. I have this long list of things I would like to accomplish. I’m definitely appreciative of my peers giving me that nod … because the musician community, in general, it’s really hard to impress us.
You’re nominated alongside Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige.
I think about that, but I also can’t think about that. You can never surpass your idols, so I have to believe that I am deserving and worthy of standing next to these incredible people. I have to really embody it or else it’s going to feel like a fluke.
After the success of ‘Hrs And Hrs’ are you feeling the pressure to match or top that with new music?
I think that pressure comes with feeling like you have to meet some kind of outside expectation to prove to other people that you’re worthy. I don’t need that — I don’t care if other people think I can’t do it again. It’s really about me impacting people and showing them they can do whatever they set their minds to.