Maya Kally - Interview (September 2019)
Ally got the opportunity to sit down with the up-and-coming musician and singer-songwriter Maya Kally. Having not long released her latest single ‘We’re Waiting’, the jazz fusion artist describes her music as ‘‘an eccentric flow of conscious writing; the merging minds of Fiona Apple and The Beatles".
You’ve recently released your latest single, ‘We’re Waiting’,
what has the reception been like so far?
“It’s been lovely! For example, a few Jazz FM presenters and producers have got in touch and left some really lovely reviews. In the next couple of months, something quite big is coming from it.
[‘We’re Waiting’] is completely different to ‘Another Time’, and it’s quite out there, in a sense. [Because of that] I was a bit apprehensive to how it would be received. You never know when is the right time to release a tune, but you’ve just got to go for it and hope for the best!”
‘We’re Waiting’ touches on some important themes about the plight of musicians within a fiercely difficult industry. Can you run us through what it’s about, what it means to you and the creative process you went through to create it?
“What it’s about, is just feeling as though something is unattainable. The thing that you want, that you work for, is just related to myself in terms of music. I’m sure a lot of musicians can relate, feeling as if you’re stagnant. And although you’ll have some great gigs, you still comeback to that same bit where you’re constantly thinking about it, you’re constantly working, you’re constantly emailing, whatever it may be, to try and get to that next level where you can make [performing] into a career and make a living out of it. It’s just about that concept, that concept and feeling will be your downfall. The thing that you love, and the thing that you want, will end up leading you to basically ruining you, because you end up putting too much into it and making you a bit crazy!
I got the influence from a friend at Leeds College of Music, he composed a piece and I really liked it as it was really quirky, different and engaging. I took that influence, and wanted to create something similar, which I do with almost all of my tunes that I write. I’m influenced by figures such as Johnny Cash. So, I’ll take influence from it, but I won’t really take anything from it. I won’t copy the chord progression or writing; I’ll just create something like that. That’s where ‘We’re Waiting’ came from. I just tried to make it as quirky as possible.”
Having studied and lived in Leeds, what do you feel the difference between London and Leeds? How have you adapted? What has it been like coming back to London as a performer?
“In regard to adapting, it’s like music where you constantly have to keep on reinventing yourself. I don’t think I’ll adapt to the music industry in London. I’m having to constantly keep trying, constantly keep churning and working. It’s been interesting!
What I liked about Leeds College of Music, is that it was so intense. It forced me to get my shit together basically! I feel like London is the same, I’ll look back in a couple years or a decade, and I’ll think ‘Fucking hell… I don’t even know who I was at that time’, because I was so focused on this one thing. It’s taught me a lot. London is London you know?”
Has London forced you to compromise your music at all?
“No I don’t think so. I think the only thing which has changed, is just for the better. Just knowing that I want to be successful, I have to just do it. You have to really analyse yourself and think, ‘What are the shit parts? What are the parts which can improve?’ that sort of thing. London has been a bit of a slap in the face! But I don’t think I’ve compromised, and I don’t hope I will.”
Why has moving to London been a slap in the face?
“It’s both the pace of London, and the other pressure which people put on London. London, LA, New York is seen as the place to be for creatives and music. I’ve come in and I think, ‘Ok, I’m in a place where I can get so many opportunities. I can meet so many people, I can have so many experiences…’. That sort of pressure, I put on myself.”
Looking over your musical career so far, what has been some of your proudest moments?
“My personal highlight, is having a thought when I’m on a train, looking into the crowds or whenever, and think ‘Yeah, I’m going to do that!’, and I make a music video or tune. It’s just turning something which is all in your control, so if you fail or succeed, it’s all down to you. Knowing you can achieve something you’ve done, it’s like anything is possible. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s when you create something. For example, coming up with ‘Another Time’, I was on a fucking mega bus home, it was horrible! But I was looking out the window, and saw these clouds separate, and I thought of the idea and wrote it down. Then in a couple of months, it was recorded and done! When something comes together when it’s all on you, it’s a sense of power over your life!”
Who are you listening to at the moment? Which artists are exciting you?
“I’ve been listening to a lot of rap artists right now, and some really powerful women. The classics which I’ve been listening to are like Nina Simone, Otis Redding, Dark Dark Dark and Johnny Cash.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Lizzo at the moment - I just love what she represents! Just some of her live performances, the way she speaks and gets her message across and then whips out a flute! It’s something like, for example, when I was obsessed with Princess Nokia. That strong character, that fearless character which she represents, and that’s who I want to be! I want to empower people and allow people to be whoever you want to be!”
If you could name one venue that you want to play it, but haven’t yet, where would you choose to play?
“I can describe a type of venue I like. I don’t really rate massive venues. Obviously, I’d love to play in a venue where you can fit loads of people in, and thousands of people are really enjoying the music. I think that’s the dream of most musicians! That sort of thing would be incredible.
But I just love a front room, or something which is really intimate. Somewhere you play that the audience really appreciate it. I love being in that environment, where you’re all intimate and cosy. I just want to do as many of those as possible! Imagine that feeling where you create a vibe and feeling.
Although the thousands of people would be mind-blowing, the intimate would be almost better. I do, obviously, want to draw large crowds to do what I can do!”
What have you got coming up which you can tell us about project and gig wise?
“I’ve got an idea, for a kind of streamed live session, where I’m singing to the camera, but you hear the finished product! I’m also releasing a few more singles, and then an EP. That’ll either be in the Autumn or possibly a bit later.
The EP will be super intimate – it’s the concept of writing in my bedroom. Something which is warm and intimate.
I’ve been in and out of the studio a lot. I’ve been recording the EP, later tunes and making sure I’m always in the studio. I’m fortunate enough to be working with some amazing people, that have taken me under their wing! I’m very fortunate, and very lucky!”