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Interview: 2020 Must-Know - mxmtoon

Interview: 2020 Must-Know - mxmtoon

Oakland-based artist mxmtoon (real name: Maia), started sharing her music online at the age of sixteen; connecting with fans and using her platform to help shed light on important issues close to her heart. "As a young bisexual woman of colour from a family of immigrants, a lot of current events directly affect who I am. I firmly believe it’s my obligation and opportunity to speak on issues that affect us all," she says.

Maia's candour has resonated with listeners, with her 2018 debut EP 'plum blossom' having been streamed more than 100 million times on Spotify alone, a current monthly Spotify listenership of over four million, and completely sold-out tours of North America and Europe. Now nineteen, and having released her debut album 'the masquerade' last year, Maia hopes to continue being a source of musical comfort: "When I listen to the album, it feels like a musical of the things I’ve gone through and the life inside my head. I hope people come away from it feeling like the songs belong to them too - like now there’s a piece of art in the world that speaks to their own experiences, even if they’d always felt like they were alone."

MUST-LISTEN: 'my ted talk', 'prom dress', 'seasonal depression', 'unspoken words'.
YOU WILL LIKE, IF YOU LIKE: Claud, Grace VanderWaal, Cavetown, dodie, Birdy, Tessa Violet, Girl In Red, Christian Leave... and cuddling your cat while wearing your favourite sweater.

COUP DE MAIN: In 'my ted talk' you discuss what it feels like writing love songs when you haven't yet ever been in love yourself yet. What impact do you think pop culture has had on conditioning us all from an early age on what love is and what it is like to be in love?
MXMTOON:
I think love is a concept that’s introduced to all of us at an early point in our lives and that message that someone needs to be in love in order to fulfil themselves and experience life to the fullest can be really toxic. I think pop culture doesn’t help the idea that you need another person to complete you, and a lesson that I’ve learned in my experience as a human thus far, has been that you come first. Trying to step outside the mindset that you are an incomplete half without a significant other takes time to step out of, but learning to be whole on your own is that much more eye opening after.

CDM: "I can't help the fact I like to be alone," you say in 'prom dress'. There's a social stigma against introverts, but is it beneficial to learn how to enjoy your own company and be comfortable being alone?
MXMTOON:
It’s absolutely beneficial! As an introvert myself, especially one that works in an extrovert’s field, finding time and happiness alone has been one of the key reasons I have any energy to do anything. Obviously, I think the world caters towards extroverts, so I think that giving introverts the time and space to find what feeds them is ultra important.

CDM: Was it important to you to write 'seasonal depression' to help shed light on the difficulties of living with Seasonal Affective Disorder?
MXMTOON:
Yes, I think so! I wrote 'seasonal depression' because of my own experience with SAD, and to fill the gap in music I felt existed when it came to the topic. I think it was therapeutic for me to write and sing about how my depression can worsen in the winter, and the side effect of other people also enjoying the song was a wonderful perk.

CDM: In 'suffice' you reflect on the relatable situation of not wanting to confess your feelings to someone because you don't want to risk ruining your friendship. You say, "I hope one day I’ll find myself loving another so much I’ll share with the other what I feel." Since writing that song, have you felt yet that it was worth shooting your shot even though it's scary making yourself so vulnerable?
MXMTOON:
This question is really funny to me because I’ve been in a relationship ever since the song came out! I think it’s worth shooting your shot when the right person comes along. My now boyfriend was the first person that I ever openly confessed my feelings for, so you can say I’ve had some character development! My mindset behind that was that I just couldn’t stand the fact I may never know what would happen if I didn’t ask, and now we’ve been together for a while. Being vulnerable, while utterly terrifying, can also be the most rewarding thing you ever do.

CDM: What was running through your mind while writing 'high & dry'?
MXMTOON:
Honestly, really just wanted to write a wholesome “F You” song. I feel like I’m a generous person, especially when it comes to friendships, and emotional energy isn’t something you can easily give away, especially when it’s not reciprocated. 'high & dry' is about that feeling of being fed up with putting so much into someone who gives so little back.

CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
MXMTOON:
I keep a notes entry of topics that my brain’s been circling for ages or maybe looping for an hour or so, and then I go to it when I’m trying to think of themes. Often times I think melodies introduce themselves into my head without me consciously knowing or trying to think about them. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like the musical equivalent to how a painter can see what their canvas will look like. After that point, I treat each part of a song’s anatomy as a way to organise my thoughts. The chorus is the main though, the verses are details, and the bridge is the part that could be a resolution or a piece that doesn’t quite fit with the rest in terms of theme.

CDM: Do you write your lyrics specifically for the songs, or do you write poems or prose and then evolve them into song-form?
MXMTOON:
I’ve never tried doing poem or prose for the purpose of songwriting, but I might one day! Usually everything I make is all for the purpose of songs, and occasionally I’ll write phrases or sentences I like, but I haven’t ever considered it to fully be prose or poetry.

CDM: Lyrically, what's your favourite song that you’ve written?
MXMTOON:
I think that 'dream of you' or 'unspoken words' would be my favourite! I think both represent how I’ve improved over time with songwriting, and are really significant to me.

CDM: What is your very first earliest music-related memory?
MXMTOON:
I reference this one all the time, but I have really vivid memories of sitting on my family’s kitchen when I was really little listening to funk and R&B on the stereo system while my mom would be frying noodles and the aroma of garlic and soy would waft around in the room. Music has always been a part of my life, and I owe it to my parents for making sure there was an emphasis placed on it.

CDM: At what age did you write your very first song ever, and what was it about?
MXMTOON:
Thirteen! It was a required project for my eighth grade music class, and I worked with two friends. So technically it was my first co-write and I recently met up with one of them and we were joking about how he should have gotten producer credit. It was literally a song about how we didn’t know what to write about, and also the first time I ever found out about rhyme zone!  

CDM: What's it like collaborating with Cavetown on your music?
MXMTOON:
It was wonderful. Robbie [Skinner] is such a talented producer, and his patience with helping me realise my vision for my debut album made everything possible. It was incredible to work with a musical peer and to become friends with him along the way! Super crazy too because I was totally a fan before we got to know each other, and I still am.

CDM: What's next for mxmtoon?
MXMTOON:
Lots of new music on the way, and some more live shows can be expected as well!

CDM: If M.X.M.T.O.O.N. were an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
MXMTOON:
My Xylophone Makes Terribly Obnoxious Odd Noises. Really just couldn’t think of what else to make 'X'.

CDM: If you were a country, what would be your national anthem?
MXMTOON:
Absolutely 'Boogie Wonderland' by Earth, Wind & Fire.

CDM: What’s on your bucket-list?
MXMTOON:
I really want to adopt a cat and name them "Bean" and as of right now that’s literally my only goal.

CDM: You’re one of our 'must-know’ artist picks for 2020… who are yours?
MXMTOON:
Oh my!! So many. My favourites right now are Alexander23, ROLE MODEL, BENEE, and UMI. I think I like artist names that are in caps, despite my lowercase branding!

Watch the 'seasonal depression' music video below...

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