Interview: Maya Law

Norwich singer songwriter Maya Law has the Midas touch, spinning past experiences into musical gold. Tender and honest, her latest EP Hitchhiking delves into heartbreak, inviting the audience along Maya’s road to healing. 

We caught up with her to gain insight into her world, exploring the inspirations behind the record, collaborations and all important advice for her fellow musicians…

THE INDIEPENDENT: Before we delve into the record, could you give us some insight into what first drew you towards music? 

MAYA: I grew up in quite a musical family, we always had music playing in the house and my brother, Leo Law, is also an artist so I’m kind of following in his footsteps. One of my earliest memories is sitting in the back of the car, on a really long car journey and listening to Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.

I’m not sure I ever planned a career in music, I was quite a nervous person on stage for a really long time so it was hard to think about it as a career but I just sort of fell into it… And then songwriting started to become a habit and a form of therapy so it felt like a natural process to follow music. I definitely do it for myself as opposed to making music for other people which, I think, is the best way to do it. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: Which musical genres do you feel most drawn to?

MAYA: Honestly, it changes quite a lot but I am quite drawn to noughties R’n’B and neo-soul. I’ve found Jorja Smith quite inspiring, this surge of neo-soul has become like a whole genre that is being created by predominantly women. I’ve found that really cool to watch and I was like ‘oh, maybe I want to be a part of that’. I mainly write with an acoustic guitar and I wanted to find the hybrid between the folk singer songwriter thing but paired with a vocal that was a bit closer to soul and R’n’B. I’m still trying to figure out which box I’m in, although I kind of like not necessarily being in one of them. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: Who have you been listening to through lockdown?

MAYA: Jazmine Sullivan! I love her older songs such as ‘Mascara’ but she’s also recently released this collaborative album, Heaux Tales, that features spoken word sections that explain the story behind the tune. I think she’s setting the standard of what women can now speak about, talking about things like sex and being in control of our bodies. There is a huge sensitivity that comes with female writing. She’s a huge inspiration for honesty and openness, and you know being able to say I’m in the wrong sometimes, I let myself down sometimes and that’s okay. She’s my Artist of the Year for sure. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: Hitchhiking is the first body of work you’ve released in a while, can you take us through the recording process?

MAYA: After I split from my ex, I found all the tracks just seemed to come out of me really quickly. It was actually two or three years ago now, and I recorded all of it with my manager at the time. We spent a lot of time in the studio, just getting it all down and out and then there was a huge break. I think that was really needed, to just not think about it for a while. Instead, I focused on the business side of it, getting it pressed to vinyl, how I was going to fund everything, things like that. When I released my first album I didn’t know how I wanted it to be so I let other people take the reigns a bit more but this one felt much more personal so I really wanted to meticulously plan out what I wanted to do with it. It might not necessarily be my best work ever or will ever do but it’s the most personal. I do feel that that is a step forward that I needed to take and to be more open and honest. Maybe the next thing I do will be completely different and it will go back to being a social commentary or something like that! 

THE INDIEPENDENT: Why did you decide to release the EP now? 

MAYA: It wasn’t actually planned this way! We intended to release it last year but due to COVID and the lockdowns, understandably everything got delayed. A lot of things were out of our control like the plant pressing the EP to vinyl got shut down like a million times… In hindsight though, I’m really glad it came out now because everything got overwhelming and I didn’t want Hitchhiking to get lost in the noise.

I think the last track ‘Hitchhiking’ is quite uplifting and hopeful too, and I definitely need that at the minute. I do find myself singing that around my flat looking forward to the end of the lockdown. So, I do think it’s come out at the right time despite not being planned this way. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: ‘Hitchhiking’ delves into your experience of heartbreak, why is it important to use such personal experiences in your music?

MAYA: It’s not as intentional as ‘oh, I’ve had my heart broken and now I’m going to write an EP about it’ but I think this EP is a way for me to say all the things that I wanted to at the time, and didn’t get a chance to. I was in a long-distance relationship and I wasn’t able to get everything off my chest especially because it was all communicated through a screen. I think it’s important for me to talk about being vulnerable and be authentic because you can tell when something is true and when it isn’t. Another of my major songwriting inspirations is Amy Winehouse, all of her tunes are like reading a diary. I’d love for people to listen to my EP and understand exactly what has happened, maybe even find comfort in it too. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: The EP features the live track ‘Absence’, why did you decide to include this format?

MAYA: ‘Absence’ was the first song I wrote after the breakup. At the time, I was really annoyed, my sadness had faded and I left with feeling anger so the song is an affirmation that I can be alone and that I didn’t need that person anymore.

I had a whole idea around this song that COVID unfortunately interrupted. I was intending to release three singles with videos that would come together to form a short film. There will be a video for ‘Absence’, in it I will be singing in the Norwich Puppet Theatre to an empty audience to mirror when you’re speaking to someone and it’s like speaking to a brick wall. So I put that live performance of ‘Absence’ into Hitchhiking.  I was actually told to not put in a live track onto a vinyl record because of the sound quality but I was stubborn about it, I knew what I wanted. I really like that you can hear the creak of my chair and my footsteps. I’ve never heard that on vinyl before so even if people don’t like it, I think it’s quite nice. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: You collaborate with other musicians on the EP, such as jazz singer Freya Roy and producer Lavar Bullard, how did these collaborations come about?

MAYA: Lavar was my manager for a really long time, he’s an amazing producer and sound engineer. He used to take me to all my gigs and make me sound incredible so that was a natural collaboration.

I actually met Freya at work at the Playhouse Bar in Norwich, she plays the guitar, keys, bass; she’s kind of the whole package! We started playing together when I’d been booked for a gig with a band but didn’t have anyone to play with. I had a month to sort something out and I was talking about it at work and Freya said she’d do it! 

When it came to ‘Tired’ it was the track I wanted loads of people playing on so she came in for a session and smashed it. I knew I wanted that song to be full because it didn’t feel as vulnerable or personal. Also, since I only play guitar and I don’t produce, while I know how I want things to sound I can’t always get that down on paper so working with others and being able to hand it over to them works really well. And, you know, sometimes when you write something you have to let it go a little bit and get that fresh perspective, it always leads to the standard and quality of the music improving. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: Do you have any artists in mind that you’d like to collaborate with for your next project?

MAYA: I’d love to collaborate with SAULT but I feel like it would be impossible because they’re so anonymous. It’s really hard to find any information about them but that style would be my dream collaboration. I’ve actually got a tune with Gabriel Gifford and Freya coming out soon which is inspired by them! 

THE INDIEPENDENT: What has the impact of the current loss of touring been?

MAYA: Obviously, it would be so lovely to have some gigs to do but at the same time, gigging is quite anxiety-inducing for me. Even if the gig is in like two months time I’ll be thinking about it every day and I’ll be freaking out about it. So, in that sense, it’s been quite a nice time to just focus on other things without having that weight on my shoulder. I was supposed to do an EP release gig, which I can’t do right now but then I know that something else will happen and I will be able to do something eventually. I think that everything going online has been kind of good, I think the music industry is about to change forever, which is super exciting. It just feels like this is what we’ve needed for a really long time. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: Live shows are slowly becoming more of a possibility, have you got any shows planned? 

MAYA: I’m set to play the Norfolk and Norwich festival in May this year, I can’t reveal much about the line up except to say it’s going to be great! Hopefully it goes ahead… Beyond that, not much planned at the moment. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: Which song off of ‘Hitchhiking’ are you most looking forward to playing live? 

MAYA: ‘Absence’ is probably my favourite just because I think it’s the most unexpected one. I remember playing it two years ago at Cross The Tracks music festival and my set was a lot more hip-hop based so that tune really stood out. It’s quite a vulnerable song, so yeah, it’s my favourite — even though my mum doesn’t really like it aha. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: What advice do you have for other artists who are currently trying to make it within music?

MAYA: Just put yourself out there all the time. Whether that’s giving a festival a message on Instagram or just trying to catch their attention, you never know who is going to be on the receiving end of your email, especially when it comes to things like festivals. I think it’s really important to take risks, and don’t be afraid to look a bit silly sometimes. If you send ten emails out, you might get one really good reply which leads to you getting on the bill. And for when gigging comes back, gig loads. I spent years doing really rubbish gigs to one old man who was really pissed. And, it’s like I didn’t necessarily enjoy it or was I really old enough to be in the pub in the first place but it’s all part of building up experience. 

When it comes to festivals, as a newer artist, there is a high chance that you’re going to be playing at the same time as someone really popular, so you’re probably going to be playing to just a few people. When I played Cross The Tracks, I think it was just my brother and girlfriend in the crowd but I was so pleased to just be there. I think that’s incredibly important too, learning how to deal with a half empty room. You’ve got to make your audience feel comfortable, like everyone there is aware that there are only a few people watching so it’s better to make those few people feel special rather than being annoyed that there aren’t more watching you. 

You can listen to Hitchhiking on all major streaming services and follow Maya’s social media using the links below.

https://www.instagram.com/mayalxw/

Words by Ella McLaren


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