HomeInterviewsQ&A: Miss USA and country singer Asya Branch

Q&A: Miss USA and country singer Asya Branch

Asya Branch, former Miss Mississippi and Miss USA, sat down with 360°Sound to talk about her burgeoning country music career. A native of Booneville, Mississippi and a graduate of the University of Mississippi, Branch made history as the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Mississippi USA in 2018. She then went on to become Miss USA in 2020.

Now, Branch has her sights set on becoming a country music star. The 25-year-old will open for country singer-songwriter Drake White this Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Crossroads Arena in Corinth, Mississippi. In this exclusive interview, Branch discusses how pageants prepared her for a music career, being inspired by Shania Twain, getting back in touch with her Southern twang, and more.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can check out the video of the entire interview at the end of this article.

360°Sound: What can attendees expect from your concert on Saturday?

[Credit: Damon Palmer]
Asya Branch: I’m doing a 30-minute set, opening up the show at 7 o’clock on the dot. Super exciting! I know people know so much about my pageant background, and no one really associates me as being a music artist. So, it’s super exciting, and something fresh and new that I’m able to bring out.

They can expect a little bit of everything. Obviously, it is country, but one of the songs is a little bit pop, and there’s one that tells the story of my life. It’s called “When it Ain’t.” It’s talking about the percentage of the time that I spend all dolled up and in front of the lights and crowds. And then the other percentage of the time that I’m just laid back, enjoying visiting home and going back to my roots. And so, there are some personal songs in there.

Tell us about your songwriting. Did you write all the songs by yourself?

No, I had a lot of help. I think you need a village when it comes to creating anything that’s going to be a piece of art. I’ve had some really incredible people on this journey with me. My producer, David Duncan, has been instrumental in this entire process. He’ll actually be playing the electric guitar at the show this Saturday. Jacob Lutz, an artist in Nashville, is so wonderfully gifted and talented. I’ll take an idea to him, and he’s able to really put it in better words. It’s been a collaborative effort.

[Credit: Damon Palmer]

Dylan Keith has also been very instrumental in songwriting and developing and composing the tracks. That’s been our main team. We’ve all been able to work together. I think that we’ve meshed really well. They’re like, “Alright, Asya, tell us what you want, and we’re gonna work with you to help you create that.” It’s nice to have their support and guidance because they are so well-versed in the world of music. They’re helping me learn a lot along the way. They’ve been incredible in this journey.

Tell us about your interest in country music. Who were some of your favorite artists growing up?

Growing up, I was exposed to a lot of different types of music, so my taste in music is eclectic. But I’ve always loved country music. I remember my dad introduced me to the Shania Twain record, Up!, the green one [country version], when I was 5. To this day, I know every single song on that album. That really opened my eyes to country music. I think that’s where I first developed my love for it, and it just continued growing from there.

It’s so funny because I feel like people always expect me to give a different answer when they’re like, “What’s your favorite genre?” Since day one, it’s been country. Outside of Shania Twain and Carrie Underwood, I have been inspired by Beyoncé and Mariah Carey. The list goes on and on. I love pop music. Dua Lipa is one of the best performers, so I take notes from her. I feel like I’ve picked from every genre when it comes to developing myself as an artist and performer. I love all styles of music, and I think that comes into play when writing and creating songs. I’m able to take the things I like about each genre and mash it together to fit my sound while keeping it country.

Does singing country music differ from singing other genres? Are there any specific challenges with country?

I don’t think so. I think the biggest challenge for me has been getting my twang back because I have lived in so many places. And with pageantry, I suppressed it for the enunciation and making sure that people from anywhere could understand what I was saying. I love a Southern accent. It’s just music to my ears. Being able to let it come back naturally has been so much fun.

People are like, “Whoa, I never heard your country accent.” I’m like, “Yeah, she’s in there. She’s excited to come back out.” That’s been the biggest challenge for me, incorporating that back into music and letting it flow naturally and not worrying about it. Being able to be free and be myself while creating this music has been so refreshing.

What are some ways in which your pageant experience and serving as Miss USA prepared you for performing country music?

Honestly, I think that everything in life aligns as it should. I feel like I wouldn’t be prepared to take on this journey as a country artist if it weren’t for my background in pageantry. Growing up in high school, I had terrible stage fright. People would not believe it to this day. I feel like developing my confidence and communication skills over the years through pageantry has definitely helped me in this journey and made things so much easier.

When I was on stage competing for Miss Mississippi, the year that I won, my feet were shaking as I was answering my question and performing my talent. I was always so nervous. I’ve always had a love for singing and performing, but the pressure of being judged and knowing that your placement relies on how well you’re doing, it always choked me up. I felt like I wasn’t able to fully let my voice come out. It was like I got choked up, and it sounded like my vocals were a little bit suppressed. But going through all of that, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and getting comfortable in front of audiences really helped me in this journey. Now I’m like, “Yes, let’s do it.” I’m super excited. I got over that hump years ago.

Have you done some recording? Any plans for a single or album?

We have a lot of songs written, and we’ve got rough tracks of them. We were trying to decide if we wanted to release an album or two EPs. Because the songs are so great, I want to release them all, but it is a lot of work. I know perfection doesn’t exist, but I want them to be as close to perfect when they are released.

We are going to release one single, hopefully within the next two months. It’s a song called “Feel Like Flying,” which I’ll be performing in the show. It’s the first original that we’ll be doing because I’m doing a couple of covers as well. It’s fun country-pop, just a catchy song that you find yourself bobbing along to whether you know the words or not. After that, we’ll either drop a chunk of them at once or slowly release one right after another. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.

What would you like to say to your fans?

First of all, I always want to say thank you so much. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for the people who have supported and followed me over the years. I love and appreciate you so much. I just hope that you’ll keep up with me. Obviously, I’ll post on my social media, but my website is still under construction. It’s asyabranchmusic.com. Once that’s up and running, everything will be there. I will post links to new releases and shows that I’ll be doing so people can look there and see where I’ll be next.

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