By: Dennis M. Kelly
DK: Good day Mayda, thank you very much for taking the time with us today! How are you?
Mayda: Hello! I am well, thanks!
DK: I must confess and I apologize, I had only recently heard of you through your media company, but I am so glad I did! You have an amazing sound that you just cannot sit still while listening to. And now you’ll be taking this great sound to the Green Mill Jazz Club on December 11th. This is pretty much a set of short dates from one end of the country to the other. Was there a reason for choosing these select cities and venues?
Mayda: Yes, the reason was to visit some of the most Segregated Cities in America and share music with them.
DK: Will there be any additional dates added yet?
Mayda: There might be added dates along the way, but my travel companion is planning on doing interviews and press along the way as well. We’ll try to fit in everything we can.
DK: You are touring in support of your most recent release entitled “Tusks in Furs,” which came out in September; please tell me about it, how does it differ from your previous EPs and album?
Mayda: My previous releases were more thrown together because I wrote them around the same time. Tusks in Furs if more of a group of songs that work together thematically and sonically kind of like chapters in a book or acts in a play. Also, I think my sound is more developed with this album.
DK: The album cover and title prompt me to ask if there are any specific meanings behind both that you’d like to share with us?
Mayda: The album and the title definitely are supposed to help underline the theme of the album which is ‘survival’.
DK: How long did it take you to put this album together?
Mayda: Putting together the album probably took 2 or 3 years. I write a lot so there wasn’t any waiting for songs to roll around. What took the longest was mixing and mastering.
DK: Did you approach the album any differently in terms of the recording?
Mayda: In terms of recording, my method is pretty much collaborative every time. I will go in and build the foundation with the lyrics, melody, guitar, any samples or certain sound that I feel are necessary. Sometimes finding initial sounds is done with my DJ, Chris Neviator or Michael Bland. Then, I send it to different musicians who might be inspired to add a part. After I listen to see what fits, I just pick and choose.
DK: How long have you been producing your own music?
Mayda: I have always been producing my own music, so maybe 5 years.
DK: You mentioned that you build the foundation of the songs with lyrics, can you tell me more?
Mayda: The lyrics and the basic melody are usually done by me alone. I am very particular when it comes to words and melody. I hope to be able to become a better collaborator when it comes to writing.
DK: I know you learned guitar when you were five, but when did you learn keyboards? Which one are you more articulate with?
Mayda: Actually, I learned piano first at 5 years old. Guitar came later when I started to listen to blues and rock. I used to be able to read sheet music on the piano really well, now though I am better with guitar.
DK: Do you plan on picking up any more instruments, like bass?
Mayda: I know how to play bass already. Once you know guitar, you pretty much can play bass. For me , it is harder to play bass due to the size (ha ha ha). I love that instrument though.
DK: That is true and yes, bass guitar can be a fun instrument to mess around with from time to time. How did you hook up with Michael Bland, Jacob Hanson, Cory Eischen, and Yohannes Tona?
Mayda: I used to front this indie rock band Elephine that recorded a demo. A guy that was helping us out passed it along to Michael at a club and he contacted me. Michael called on the other guys to play. I am extremely fortunate to have these excellent players.
DK: Indeed! How involved are you with the management of your career, you have a manager, but do you still involve yourself in those areas or let Ross attend to those details?
Mayda: Actually, I do a lot of the managing because I am a control freak. I set up a lot of the meetings and dates, hire all the work, delegate the plan, handle the merch and finances, and most importantly make and create the music. I guess you could say that not only am I the president, but I am also the client.
DK: LOL…There is nothing at all wrong with that. As Tina Guo just said in her interview “No one works harder for you than you,” and as long as it works for you, then why question it? Right? You’ve got some videos out too, the most recent of which being for “Panthers,” how involved are you in the creative process of the videos?
Mayda: I always have the ultimate say, but I like to let people be creative and see what they can come up with. If it doesn’t vibe with me, then I will definitely step in. Otherwise, it is interesting to see how others view my music.
DK: Has making the videos helped further define your original vision you’ve had for the song, or just added a different flavor to it? or neither?
Mayda: Making videos has definitely contributed to the package. As a visual artist, I want the video to either help the sound/song or add something new to it. With videos you are adding another element to the song. Everything should make sense together.
DK: Besides your great sound, you also have a great and unique image that works quite well together. What have been some useful lessons you’ve learned in your career already that might help others who are just starting out in their careers?
Mayda: Thank you. I think it is important to be comfortable and genuine to yourself. Do not try to be something you are not. On the other hand it is ok to experiment and playful. If you want to try another outfit on, then go for it. That is the beauty of art, to evolve and try new things.
DK: Getting back to your live performance, you recently toured Europe and South Korea, where in Europe did you perform?
Mayda: In Europe I mainly performed in Scandinavia.
DK: How was that experience and how were you received?
Mayda: The experience was wonderful! Being from a Scandinavian rooted state, it actually felt similar culturally. Although, people were very open and happy to listen to something new.
DK: Being Korean and adopted when you were less than one year old, how was it touring Korea for you?
Mayda: Touring Korea was a life changing experience because not only was I going back to my homeland for the first time, I was performing. There were a whirlwind of emotions going on inside me.
DK: Were there any spots in particular you wanted to visit while you were there?
Mayda: Since I had never been there before, there was no spot in particular that I wanted to visit. All I know is that I wanted to do and see as much as I could.
DK: What is the longest you’ve been on the road so far?
Mayda: the longest I have been on the road is a week or so-not long.
DK: How do you like that aspect of the career?
Mayda: Being on the road is something I would like to do more of. I love traveling and moving forward whether it be for music or not. I just love being around different people and cultures especially if I have never been there before.
DK: Where do you pull the energy from that comes out of you during your live shows?
Mayda: My energy comes from a passion to connect with people. All of my songs have a message that I want people to atleast hear even if they might not understand or even like it.
DK: What do you have planned for 2012 so far?
Mayda: For 2012, I plan on creating and touring. I am actually getting more into the theater scene. I am writing short plays with original music, so hopefully a musical infused theater production will be my next big project.
DK: What are some longer term goals you have, what would you like to see happen for your career?
Mayda: I want to take my career to new audiences whether it be with music, art, theater… I just want to touch as many different cultures and people as I can.
DK: Well, we very much look forward to your show here on December 11th, and I want to thank you very much for your time today!
Mayda: Thanks so much! I hope you guys enjoy my music!
Standing just shy of five-feet-tall, Mayda is an adopted Korean-American pop-funk artist from the Twin Cities. She writes and produces her own music with famed drummer/producer Michael Bland (Prince NPG, Soul Asylum) and is known for igniting a room with her energy, charm and contagious pop songs. Since being deemed 2010’s Best R&B Artist by the City Pages, Mayda has toured South Korea, the Midwest and performed at SXSW. Her music has been nationally recognized on Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show, MTV’s The Real World, a KFC commercial and she even has been a featured artist on YouTube.