Meeting with Maya Hawke: “I feel free when I express myself through music”

Entering our lives with a bang thanks to the series “Stranger Things”, Maya Hawke is nonetheless a promising singer-songwriter, who last month delivered a second album in the vein of Sufjan Stevens. We met her, just to evoke music, the muses and Willie Nelson.

Maya Hawke is quite talkative, but not one to spread herself too thin either. There is a kind of constancy in her uninterrupted flow of consciousness, which leads her to dissect to the bone the process of writing her songs and the stories behind them. Maya loves to talk about music, she tells us so right from the start. it seems to be spreading in the public square in a slightly whimsical and romantic way.

When we contact her at the beginning of September, it’s to talk about her latest album, MOSS, without ignoring that it is through the cinema (she furtively played the character of Linda Kasabian in the Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood of Tarantino) and his role in the hit series Stranger Thingswhich the New Yorker first became known for. “I have always written songs, without ever thinking of making a professional activity of it, she confides to us. I feel so free when I express myself through music, that I never wanted to take the risk of losing that freedom. You know that thing they say, the moment your passion turns into a job, you start losing a bit of leeway? Well I’m not there yet with the music”.

A collaborative disc

MOSS is Maya’s second discographic delivery and comes out two years after the very convincing Blush (2020), boxed at the time with his pal Jesse Harris, who had already crossed paths with Norah Jones and Melody Gardot (among others). By his own admission, Blush would be more in an Americana vein, under a high country-folk influence, bordering on lo-fi, unlike MOSS, more delicate and crafted, whose gesture would be closer to a record by Sufjan Stevens. No wonder, moreover, to come across promising Christian Lee Hutson, a Californian songwriter highly prized by certain critics in the Inrocks.

I then entered into a sort of chaotic and emotionally taxing writing process, which led me to dive back into the notebooks I kept in high school and put together different poems

Yet it is with bassist and keyboardist Benjamin Lazar Davis that MOSS was sketched out, around three titles: Therese, Bloomed Into Blue and Mermaid Bar, before Will Graefe (already present on the first album) and Christian Lee Hutson intervene in the story. Mayan: “With Ben, we had these songs that we had planned to record for an EP. I hadn’t really considered doing a new album, because I only had three days free before shooting started. And then finally that three day period turned into two and a half weeks, so I suggested that we tackle something longer and he said ok. It was last summer, at a somewhat special time in my life. I then entered into a sort of chaotic and emotionally taxing writing process, which led me to dive back into the notebooks I kept in high school and put together different poems. And then we ended up with Will, and Christian, who I didn’t know at all at the time. With them, I had a totally different way of working.” She continues: To Ben, I sent complex, dense and convoluted poems, while to Christian, I sent simpler and more direct texts. With Will, it was something else again, we worked on the melodies, we fumbled around for hours until we found the right song. It’s a passionate and collaborative record, that’s what I can say about it”.

High School Lover

As a young teenager, Maya quickly learns that she will not be able to follow the same academic path as her peers, in particular because she is then suffering from dyslexia, a disorder that pushes her very early to “Abandon the idea of ​​succeeding at school in a traditional course”she tells us:My parents gave me a creative perspective to help me through the hardships of schooling. I was not good in English class? Alright, so let’s make a song, write a short story, or paint a watercolor portrait! Let’s sit down and talk about that Willie Nelson album, then stay up all night writing poems. As far as I can remember, I always wanted to evolve in artistic spheres”.

“I am obsessed with the idea of ​​defending the muses and speaking on behalf of those who are used, without ever accounting for their point of view”

It is therefore in a high school in Brooklyn that offers courses focused on artistic expression, without a classic notation grid, that she will flourish, to the point of drawing from this experience the snippets of the songs that will constitute MOSS. As Bloomed Into Bluefrom a poem called The B-Word Musewrote with another student at the time: “I followed this poetry workshop which, at the end of the year, offered to associate us with the jazz group for an evening called Jazz Poetry, she continues. We recited The B-Word Muse spoken word style in front of the other students, with the jazz band improvising behind. I remember working a lot on this poem. It was like building a little world, with its little stories and its characters”.

Another song is directly inspired by this writing experience (and the painting Therese dreamingby Balthus), Therese. The text takes the side of the muse of the artist, dispossessed of all consideration (“She empathizes with your feelings/She’s more interested in ceilings”she sings): “I am interested in the subject of which we will make a work of art. Since The B-Word Muse, I’m obsessed with the idea of ​​defending muses and speaking on behalf of those we use, without ever accounting for their point of view”.

My father used to sing Red Headed Stranger, by Willie Nelson. It was my bedtime story”

The pieces that make up MOSS thus seem to come out of a creative workshop, where each idea is worth exploiting on the condition of drawing all the threads down to the smallest detail: Backup Plan raises the question of knowing if the B plans that we fomentemaya hawke in a corner of our head would not be our real A plans; Hiatus evokes the moments of wandering between film shoots and the complexity of maintaining stable relationships; Luna Motharguably the saddest, speaks of the futile sense of guilt and the chaotic path of redemption that this entails; mermaid bar tells the story of a young girl who tries to fuck herself up by jumping into the Hudson River and who, instead of dying, turns into a mermaid.

Red Headed Stranger

During the discussion, Maya Hawke deduces that this attraction for stories told in song comes to her from her childhood, when her parents sang lullabies to her to fall asleep: “it’s the repetitive side of the thing, she tells us. I realized the power of storytelling and the emotional impact it could have in song. My father (comedian Ethan Hawke, editor’s note), used to sing Red Headed Stranger, by Willie Nelson. It was my bedtime story”. In the living room, records by Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and Kris Kristofferson play on repeat. And in her iPod (she is amused by the fact that she comes from the iTunes Store generation), we come across Wilco, Bright Eyes, Evan Dando as well as Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus from the Hannah Montana era.

We ask him if the idea of ​​starting a band has ever crossed his mind: “I always felt too insecure for that, does she meet us. When I was younger, I thought my songs were too average to dare to submit them to a group. I feel free when I make music, but above all very vulnerable. To be the leader of a band, you have to be confident! To be able to say : ‘ok, guys, you will now dedicate your lives to my band’”. And the approach to writing, has it become simpler over time? “With me, nothing gets easier over time. I wish it were different. From a practical point of view, perhaps. But not in my head”she concludes.

Album: MOSS (Mom+Pop)

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