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Maiah Wynne

Award-winning singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Maiah Wynne delivers powerful and universally resonant lyrics with a hauntingly beautiful voice layered in sophisticated and emotive folk/pop soundscapes. Captivating audiences worldwide with her ethereal, signature sound, Maiah cultivates a duality in her vocal quality that is both timeless and genuinely unique - simultaneously delicate and strong, light and dark, “pretty-but-raw.” (The Missoula Independent) Oregon Public Broadcasting described her song Sleep as “a gorgeous piece of orchestral folk pop that hides a sinister lyrical theme,” and KEXP wrote of Maiah’s “dusky, delicate voice brimming with emotion.” Varied timbres of dulcimer, keyboards, ukulele, banjo, guitar and percussion reveal her multi-talented musical facility, and amplify her enigmatic vocal lines. 

In addition to finalizing her first full length album, Maiah is currently collaborating on an EP with Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Alex Lifeson of Rush, and Juno Award winner Andy Curran. As the winner of the International Music from the Moon Contest in 2019, Maiah performed her original song Show the World for astronauts at the Apollo 11 Homecoming Dinner at the Space and Rocket Center, and recorded at the legendary FAME studios. Additional accolades include winning The Burl Audio Covid19 Songwriting Contest (2020), the Claim to Fame International Song Contest (2018), the HATCH Groundbreaker Award for Music (2016), Zoo Music Awards 18 and Under (2015), and earning Second Place in KEXP’s “Sound Off” Battle of the Bands competition (2018). 

“The sky is clearly the limit for this rising folk star." (The Revue) Maiah has featured on NPR’s All Songs Considered (2019), at Sundance (2016), SXSW (2017), and in-studio on KEXP (2018). Her numerous film music placements include the major motion picture The Ballad of Lefty Brown starring Bill Pullman. She has collaborated with the Portland Cello Project and opened for artists and bands including Lucinda W.

    • Oh my gosh hello how are you!? 

    • I guess we'll just jump in - how long has your journey been and what has it been like?

  • Hi! I'm great! What an interesting question! I like it. It's very open to interpretation. I suppose if you're asking about my life long journey so far- it has been strange and windy and downright silly at times! But if you're asking more specifically about my musical journey, that has been about 7 years in the making as a full time musician (from when I started playing shows in coffee shops & releasing my own music) it has gone by incredibly fast and it has been an adventure! I've learned so much about the music industry, my goals as an artist, the kind of musician I want to be, and how I want to make a positive difference in the world.
    In the last 7 years, I've grown so much as an artist and as a person. I started out in highschool playing music in my local coffee shop in Montana. Since then, I've released a lot of music, won multiple international music contests and awards, collaborated with some if my heroes, and toured across the country! All of that came from a lot of hard work and trial and error. I made many mistakes and have been learning and growing along the way. I've had support from some amazing people too, and I have those people to thank for a lot of those successes. I can't wait to see what the future holds.

    • So tell us about that moment when you decided to get up and perform. What was that first time like?

  • The first time I played a solo song in front of people I was a sophomore in highschool. I got to do a song by myself for our spring choir concert and I was extremely nervous. I was lucky to have a lot of support from friends in the crowd, but I definitely could feel my heart beating out of my chest. It was exciting and nerve wracking. My first gig at a coffee shop a year later was a lot of fun. A lot of my nerves had subsided by then and it was a much more low key situation. I had the chance to make mistakes and learn from them in that setting. I would play for hours and forget how long I had been there. I remember one time I played an 8 hour show with no breaks because I just got lost in the fun of it. Playing whatever song came to mind, originals and covers- even sometimes improvising something. It was such a blessing to have those first regular gigs. I learned a lot and got a lot better because of it.

    • That's amazing.How do you accidentally do an 8 hour gig? Did the coffee shop just not care? That is the coolest thing I have ever heard!

  • They let me play as long as I wanted, which was really cool! The baristas liked me and I just played for tips. So some days I'd play for a couple hours, others I'd just keep going till I dropped! I made decent money on the days I played longer too. I've gotten some really fun things in my tip jar.

    • Hahaha like what? O.o you have me intrigued

  • I've gotten dozens of 2 dollar bills, buttons, pins, handmade book marks and artwork, rare coins, love letters, and more phone numbers than I can count!?
    One of my favorites was an enamel pin that said "works of heart"
    Oh and necklaces and jewelry too!
    But my absolute favorite thing to get is a personal note in my tip jar. I've received some of the beautiful and heartfelt notes about how much my music meant to a person.

    • That must be super rewarding. I know your work has meant a lot to me, especially through trying times. Where do you get your inspiration?

  • It has been truly rewarding. It keeps me going and motivates me to keep putting myself out there, even when I get down on myself. I'm an over thinker and that's where a lot of my inspiration comes from - all the things spinning around in my head. I figured out how to turn those thoughts and emotions into music when I was around 13 and I haven't stopped since! I feel a lot. I'm a very empathetic and emotional person- and also deal with a lot of anxiety. It can feel like a super power sometimes, and like kryptonite other times. If I didn't have music to help me process I don't know where I'd be. I feel inspired by everything. I've written hundreds of songs and I don't think I'll ever stop because it is such an important part of my ability to deal with life. It's an outlet, a lifeline, a journal, and a way to understand myself better.

    • How many contests did you enter before you won the first one?

  • That's a great question! I entered a lot of contests before I actually won one. The first contest I won was called the Zoo Music Awards and was held in Missoula Montana (where I lived my later teenage years) Before that I had entered some online contests and some local talent contests but the closest I had gotten to winning was third place in one of them. There have been so many that I've never won or even gotten close to winning, but that first win was such a huge rush for me. There was a big awards ceremony in town for it, and it felt like a mini version of the Grammys. It seemed like the whole city was in that building when I got up and took the award on stage and said my little speech. I don't remember what I said and hadn't planned anything because I didn't think I would win but I remember feeling so  overwhelmed with gratitude. Up until that moment I never thought I really could win something like that. I was walking on clouds for weeks.

    • What kind of mental shift did you go through after that monumental moment? Did you ever come back down from the clouds?

  • It definitely stayed with me and made me believe in myself more! That's funny, maybe a part of my brain is still up there floating around. It feels like it sometimes! I've gone through a lot of fluctuations since then. I think that's the case for a lot of artists. You get these big wins sometimes, and then big challenges. But most of the time it's a lot of little steps forward and chipping away at the dream. Sometimes you spend time and energy on a project that doesn't pan out or you get negative comments online or you don't win the thing. But other times you get little wins like watching people dance to your music at a show, getting your music up on Spotify for the first time, or making your first music videos. It's all the little wins that keep me moving forward and help me to push past the hard stuff.

    • You are such an inspiration Maiah! You're music videos are absolutely stunning. When did you do your first music video?

  • Thank you!! I've had a lot of fun making them! My very first music video was actually for a song called "Home" I was a sophomore in highschool and it was my first time recording and making a video like that. The video was beautiful! It isn't up anywhere on YouTube but you might be able to find it if you did a deep dive on Google. It is really cool for me to go back and watch it because I can really hear how much I've grown as a vocalist and a songwriter.

    • Kind of random, normally I like to stay on topic, but tell me about your wings! What they mean to you and when you started performing in them?

  • Yess! When I was around 16 I was walking downtown and saw these huge butterfly wings for sale at a local costume store. I fell in love and immediately got the idea to wear them during my show. At that time it was easy to throw an idea like that out there and try it without thinking too much about it. It was just silly and fun. The first time I wore wings for a show was about a week after I bought those for one of my very first shows at the Break Coffee shop. I set up in front of a big window inside so I thought they would help draw people in to come listen, and it totally worked. I ended up wearing those wings for 5 years taking them across country on tour with me until they started to fall apart. They are still up on my wall and I've been trying to replace them ever since haha. I've been trying a lot of different sizes and colors out, but I'm not sure I've found that perfect replacement yet. Those first ones will always be on my wall and they are now super sentimental to me

    • That is so amazing! I love how it was a divine whim that gave you your signature look. Do they give you added confidence on the stage?
      *or did they, rather? Considering you had to retire your original wings

  • They do! Even the new ones. I think sometimes it gives me that little bit of push out of my comfort zone that I need. It helps me be a little bolder and a little louder and they remind me to have fun and not take everything too seriously

    • Do you still get stage fright at all after all this time?

  • All the time!! I think I've just gotten better at pushing through it. Sometimes I get even more nervous singing in a small room to a few people than on stage in front of a thousand people. I get so nervous on stage sometimes that my whole body shakes and my voice is unsteady. But I still have fun, its just a part of it. Like a roller coaster. It's equal parts terrifying and exhilarating and so worth it!

    • What is it like being in front of thousands of people? How long have you been envisioning yourself in that place? (Congratulations by the way )

  • Thank you! I've only done a couple shows to an audience that size, and it is really amazing. It brings everything  to another level - the energy, the nerves, the performance. It is truly wonderful and I hope to get the opportunity to play for that many people again soon! I've been dreaming of being on big stages for the past 6 years and I still dream about what it would be like to tour across the globe with huge audiences every night. It would be a dream! I love the interaction with the crowd and getting to talk to people afterward. It is a one-of-a-kind experience

    • Where have you been on tour so far?

  • I've been all across the US but I especially love touring on the West Coast. The drive through California Washington Montana and Oregon is always super pretty!!

    • What has it been like as a full time artist? When was the last time you had a "normal" job? 
      What is your day to day like now compared to pre...2020 lol

  • Being a full time artist is amazing and a privilege. It is truly a gift and I feel very lucky. I'm on my own schedule for the most part which is really nice and I get to create all the time. It has been hard to get to this point, and I couldn't do it without a lot of help. I feel like I'm just barely skimming by sometimes. Trying to making enough money to make ends meet as an artist can be really tough especially in today's industry. Not even to mention how Covid has affected everything *cries quietly* but it is so worth it to be able to create and live the life that I love. I appreciate it sooo much.
    The last time I had a "normal" job was still not really a normal job! My first job was working as an on set PA/sound utility on film sets for a couple years when I was finishing highschool. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about how filmmaking works. It is a LOT of hard work and long long days. There were a few times we filmed for over 24 hours straight with no sleep. There is so much hard work and dedication that goes into making all the film and television that we watch daily. It really helped to drive in that work ethic though
    My day to day right now is crazy weird. 2020 has been... challenging, and I'm sure most people are in the same boat. I've been trying to come up with better ways to keep my mind and body healthy. Every day I try to have a little business meeting to figure out what I'm doing to make progress on my album and projects, and check in with myself on mental and physical health. The days go by so fast and I forget what month it is sometimes. It has been a whirlwind. But I think I'm finally starting to get into a groove with the at home 24/7 thing (maybe) I was on the road a lot before all this so it feels really different. It was nice to be home for a while but that's worn off and I'm feeling more anxious and antsy to get back out there playing shows and meeting people, which of course can't really happen right now. But I've got a lot of hope for the future of the industry. I think we are going to find ways to keep supporting the arts even in the middle of all that is happening

    • I know that the world is just upside down right now and I'm really glad that it is affecting all artists across the board. Have you been making use of virtual venues? 
      I was super happy to see the influx of online events that burst forth when all the shut downs first started

  • I have! I did a virtual concert series a couple months ago every week called "Maiah Wynne'sDays" It was really great to connect with people that way. I took cover song requests and learned a lot! It was a blast. I will be doing another livestream concert in a couple weeks on August 27th for Burl Audio!

    • Since this interview won't be out before then, will there be a replay?

  • Absolutely! You will be able to watch the replay on the Burl Audio YouTube channel :)

    • That's super exciting :3What will that experience be like for you compared to, say NPR Tiny Desk Concert or KEXP? (Hopefully I have my facts/reference point straight)

  • KEXP was absolutely AMAZING and I hope to go back! It was such a thrill to be in their studio. I was there the same day as St Vincent and that was super cool. This will be a bit different since it's a bit of a smaller production but it will still have some great camera and audio gear! My submission for the Tiny Desk contest was featured last year, but I actually haven't gotten to perform at the Tiny Desk yet! It is on my bucket list for sure!

    • Do you get to go perform at Burl Audio's studio? :D just curious if the pandemic brings up any new challenges with a performance like this. I haven't really been talking about it directly, but yours is the first career immediately impacted by this in such a huge way.

  • Yeah! I'll be headed to their studio and there will be minimal people behind the cameras all with masks. I'm a little nervous as it's my first show outside of the safety of my own house since this whole thing started! I'm hoping it all goes smoothly and that everything is safe and sanitized properly :)I've had to cancel a few other gigs due to this whole thing even though there were safety precautions. I've been trying to take it really seriously as I have an immune-compromised roommate

    • What kind of safety precautions have you personally been taking?

  • My main precaution is that I pretty much haven't left my house I've been lucky to be able to order grocery delivery from some wonderful different online services. I've only had to venture out to public places a few times for small things. And I always wear my mask and sanitize!

    • What have you been working on in this time?

  • I'm working on my first official full-length album! And I've been getting my home studio space updated and it's really coming together. I'm super excited to release these songs!

    • How many songs? What is that process like? (Putting together the album as well as updating your space)

  • I'm not exactly sure how many songs will be on the record yet but my guess is around 11! :) it has been a really fulfilling, fun and challenging process! The hard part for me is choosing which songs and letting go of perfectionism. Nothing ever turns out exactly how you plan it, and that's part of the art! But sometimes it can be really hard to move forward in a project instead of fixating on all the little details

    • Oh my goodness, I never even considered that part of recording before! How do you get through it and decide that a song is "good enough" to move on (but like, who are we kidding? They're all fantastic works of art)

  • Aw thank you!! I sometimes have to rely on my producer and manager to tell me when I should move on I've learned to trust their judgment when I can feel myself fixating too much. It is really nice to have people who care about the music as much as I do that can help me make those tough choices! I know myself enough now to know when I need to let someone else with an outside perspective lead me forward. :)

    • It's interesting when you evolve to that point with your craft lol. I have just gotten there myself. How did you know you were in need of that help (because we all are and shedding light on the journey is nurturing for us all)

  • I totally agree! It is important to know when to seek outside support to move forward on a project! For me, I can feel it in my stomach. It is an anxious and unpleasant feeling in my gut- almost obsessive at times. And at that point I know it's time to let someone else help me. I think it's that combination of perfectionism and self-doubt that starts to build. The line between them disappears in those moments and I can recognize it more easily in myself now. For a long time, I would just let it grow until I felt completely defeated and unworthy. Which wasn't healthy or good for my spirit at all. It still isn't always easy to know when it's starting, but I can avoid the growing cloud now before it turns into a total pile of negative mush (usually)


    • "Total pile of negative mush" is the best way I have ever heard it described lol. So, other than that perfect self-doubt, is music a good outlet for diffusing your anxiety? Especially now that you've made your art into your work.

  • Music is definitely a good way for me to diffuse anxiety and work through emotions! I find it extremely helpful for getting through difficult things. But, sometimes I do get anxious when I'm working on tight deadlines or with other people. Music is the most calming and therapeutic when I'm just creating for fun with no expectations. I have to remind myself to make time for that side of the music process now that I'm working on a lot of high-stress jobs. It's really important for my mental health and creativity :)

    • So you're working on an album of 11 songs, how many songs have you written since you started your path? And how many of those actually get recorded?

  • Man I've written sooo many songs (not all of them are good haha) I've written over 200 songs since I started writing. I get overwhelmed thinking about finding the time to record them all the way I envision them. It would take so long! What I have recorded right now is only a fraction of what represents me as a writer and musician :) I'm really excited to be putting more work out there and showing more sides to my music! It is super hard to decide which songs to record next. I think I change my mind almost every day because each day I'm connecting with a different mood and melody

    • 200 songs is incredible! And what a milestone to have a fraction of that recorded! That's a lot of hard work. Do you ever switch up genres? How would you describe your overall vibe to someone who has never listened?

  • I switch up genres all the time! I'm actually about to release an electronic/pop/rock song I wrote inspired by the Netflix show Trinkets! You can actually hear the song in season 2 of the series *which just came out!* in episode 6 as a background song playing from in the car. I was an extra on set as well which is how I made those connections. You can see me and my wings in the Halloween party scene.
    I've explored a lot of different genres through collaboration and when I write for specific projects. The collaborative EP I'm releasing with Alex Lifeson and Andy Curran is a lot darker and heavier than my usual sound, and I did the old school country/blues end credits song for the feature film "The Ballad of Lefty Brown" 
    I love trying new things and exploring new sounds in my music! I don't ever want to stop being creative because I put myself into a box. But generally when I describe my usual sound to people I say something like orchestral folk/pop

    • How many instruments can you play?

  • A lot! I think I am at around 15 instruments now - more if you count hybrid instruments like banjolele although I mainly write music with my main 4 - guitar, piano, ukulele, and dulcimer also play instruments like the drums (kit & percussion instruments like cajon and djembe) banjo, mandolin, harp guitar, organ, bass & glockenspiel, And I'm currently learning violin

    • Oh wow! That's impressive! All self-taught?

  • Yes! I'm self-taught on all of my instruments except for piano. It was my first instrument and the only one I had lessons for :)

    • That is so amazing! I have a real appreciation for self-taught artists of all types because i feel like that personal journey translates through the medium more.So, I am completely unfamiliar with the musicland process and totally thought that you have to have an album before touring anything, but you mentioned you're working on your first full-length album now... So, what did you tour with/perform with up to this point?

  • Thank you!!
    And you are right! It makes the most sense to tour after you've released an album, and I have actually released 3 albums unofficially and toured with them independently! A lot of the songs on those albums were demos or unfinished studio recordings. I still have one of each to remember them :) my very first one I sold at shows had tracks I recorded off of my laptop microphone. They had a lot of character for sure! This will be my first "official" album release with a real album name and cohesive design all the way through (and polished studio produced tracks)

    • That's so exciting
      And kudos to you for selling laptop mic recordings! You're a badass!

  • Haha thank you! I've definitely gotten better at recording over the years and been lucky to record with a producer and in studios! :)

    • What's it like recording in a studio compared to a home studio? I've always wondered about it.

  • That's a great question! I've recorded in a lot of different styles of studios and home studios. What I love and hate about big nice studios is the pressure. They are so expensive you can only afford a short amount of time, so there's this pressure and expectation to get perfect takes. Sometimes it elevates my performances and sometimes the song suffers for it because I didn't have the time to make it the best song it could be. The home studios I've worked in have been really relaxed and stress free which is really wonderful but sometimes I don't do as well without the structure. My absolute favorite place to record is at Sorcery studios. It is a real studio but because it is my producer's studio there's no time limit or crazy amounts of money being drained. We just get to relax and create but it is still amazing quality recording. I also really enjoyed recording at Orange Lounge studios in Toronto- that was another time it was in a super nice studio but we were there after hours so there wasn't as much pressure from time or money. It was amazing being at Orange Lounge and at FAME studios because they both are these legendary studios. You see pictures of all the famous people who recorded there before you and their signatures on the wall. It's really magical and inspiring.

    • I never considered that love-hate relationship with the extra pressure before, or even that there would be extra pressure lol. What are some other things in your career that are like that, equal parts stressful and rewarding

  • I feel like having the privilege of people actually listening to my music is a balancing act sometimes too. It is SO rewarding to have people listening, but sometimes it also feels incredibly overwhelming. It's impossible to please everyone and there's always going to be someone that hits that thumbs down or tells me I should do something differently. It's just the nature of everyone having a unique perspective- there's no one magical song that everyone in the world will like. It is such a rewarding experience to have people listening and enjoying and wanting more though. And sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the demand and it's all so so so worth it. Every time I get to interact with people who like my music, it is so incredibly fulfilling. I am so grateful to each and every person who messages me. They feel like family

    • I think that aspect of building a family of people who love you is my favorite part of this new age of independent artistry. So, you mentioned anxiety. What, other than creating, do you do to combat that? Most of the Goddesses I have interviewed thus far deal with some extreme form of anxiety or another and I LOVE getting the word out about it being normal and sharing the things that can be done about it.

  • I do absolutely deal with really bad anxiety. It's hard not to be anxious these days! Some of the best practices are mindfulness and time away from social media. Space to disengage with the world for a bit and reconnect with myself 

    • Maiah thank you so much for your time! Before we go, how can the readers stay connected with you and your music?

  • Thank you!! I appreciate it! The best way is to find me on social media or on streaming sites! Spotify, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, tik tok, etc.I'm Maiah Wynne or @maiahwynne everywhere! :) Thank you so much for this lovely interview! You are wonderful and I appreciate your time

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