Oakland native singer/songwriter mxmtoon, otherwise known as Maia, is only two years into a blooming music career she previously never dared to dream about. Having nurtured her love for music from the confines of her parent’s guest bedroom, the singer’s 2019 debut album ‘Masquerade’ was one of the first steps Maia has taken towards the flourishing success that lay ahead.
Speaking about the album, the 19-year-old talent says: “’Masquerade’ is a piece of work that encompasses all the experiences and stories that has made me who I am today. It’s just ‘me’ in a project. If you don’t know me or my story very well, the album is the best place to start.”
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Continuing on she explains her song writing process and evolution. ”My lyrics are similar are to a diary entry. Always to the point and casual, the same way I talk. So that’s remained on ‘Masquerade’ but my sound has evolved to playing on a ukulele in my bedroom but as I worked on the album I realised there were endless possibilities as to where my production could go.”
Asked about the intricacies of moving from working by yourself to now depending on other creatives, Maia is candid as she confides that she did harbour worries regarding creative control. But she then goes on to confirm that her fears were unfounded as working with others only served to enhance her potential.
She says: “In the beginning, I did worry. I didn’t want to lose creative control and bring in other people who may not understand what I’m trying to convey but this year has been amazing for me and proven to me that collaborations help me grow as an artist. I went to my first co-writes this year, where I was able to listen to and understand the stories of others. I also know what I want my music to sound like so being with another person doesn’t change it but just helps refine it even more.”
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Despite welcoming the perspectives and stories of others into her song-writing, Maia concedes that her best work comes from a personal place. And for someone like her - a bisexual teen from an immigrant family – there happens to be a lot of vulnerability to draw from.
This personable aspect of her music is clearly conveyed in the message of her first release for 2020, a spellbinding offering called ‘Fever Dream’. About the track, she says:
“Launching myself into the music industry was a rollercoaster chapter in my life, and even still I’m extremely new to this world. ‘fever dream’ is about exactly that, and the leap of faith that’s required when you make decisions in your life at different points. you may not always know the outcome, but trusting yourself, allowing yourself the opportunity to take risks, and the chance to face new challenges can be utterly rewarding.”
The rising star – who dreams of collaborating someday with the likes of Rex Orange County, Lizzo, Clairo – still has her feet planted firmly on the ground with her biggest influences being her family and friends. Previously a student of architecture, and continuing to be inspired by empowered women in that industry, Maia’s humble upbringing shine particularly on her favourite track of her debut album, ‘Unspoken Words’.
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With a similar hope of being there for her listeners, Maia hopes that her music leaves behind the supportive message that “everyone knows that they aren’t alone. I listen to music when I’m low to cope with my emotions, and I want my music to be that for someone else. I want them to know they aren’t going through any particular experience alone, that feeling things isn’t wrong; it’s what makes us human so we should never feel ashamed or isolated by things you’re going through.”
The young singer, who speaks in a genuinely excited tone offset by words of wisdom beyond her years, is clearly brave and open about her life – managing to see the good parts of experiences that may seem bleak to others. A good example being her approach to how her sexuality and her origins are handled.
She explains: “There are hard parts, but the most beautiful part of being me is that I’ve had the chance to experience different cultures as long as I’ve grown up. I’m thankful to all my experiences because it’s made me who I am; and I love myself.”
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Maia, who has just relocated and been touring as well, does take a moment to acknowledge the gnawing sense of homesickness that settles after the novelty of the travels wear off. But again, she’s able to dig deeper finding solace in music; particularly in the Benjamin Francis Leftwich song ‘Atlas Hands’.
Revealing a tidbit about the importance of this particular track in her playlist, she says: “This song has been on my playlist since 2014, I listen to it whenever I’m craving something familiar. It’s the song I turn to when I need comfort.”
Continuing on this tangent of comfort and good moments, she reminisces on what she considers the highlight of her career so far and says: “My favourite moment was the last day of my headline tour in New York. I was nervous but it I persevered and got through this mammoth task of touring. It was hard yet so rewarding.
But other than that I’m proud of myself every day for different reasons.” With her first-ever UK tour behind her, she looks forward on the matter of touring – there’s a tour of Asia coming up with multiplatinum singer Lauv, with mxmtoon commenting: “The touring has helped me expand my world view so I’ve loved it. I visited the UK for the first time in 2020 and I’d love to go to South America and Europe in the future as well.”
With lots of new music- including a pair of back-to-back EPs due out later this year- her bucket list for the year is as simple and as positive as she is. She explains that aside from maybe releasing a fun music video, her major goal is to spend a whole week with her family, with aspiration to become a plant mum!
Humorous yet sincere, youthful yet wise, mxmtoon is already a solid presence in the lives of her audience with her soaring vocals, adventurous production and a likeable personality to boot; and 2020 is surely going to be the year that not only strengthens this remarkable talent’s bond with her listeners, but also hike up the amount glowing praise from critics.
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Words: Malvika Padin
Photo Credit: April Blum
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