Normally whipping out a ukulele might bring a shudder of fear, like a twee “anyway, here’s ‘Wonderwall’…”, but Oakland, CA’s mxmtoon - aka Maia - is keen to prove that conclusion wrong.
After years of being made to learn cello and violin by her mum, Maia always thought of music as a kind of “obligation”, until discovering the ukulele in her middle school music class. “It was the first instrument I picked up that didn’t have any rules,” she smiles. “I grew up with classical training, and with the ukulele it’s anything you want it to be at any given time.”
Beginning to pen her own songs in 2013, she uploaded her first track - the soothing, lovelorn ‘1-800-DATEME’ - onto SoundCloud around four years later. “That song was my first original song that I shared with anybody, which was joking about being single on Valentine’s Day,” she recalls. “Then I started posting more online on YouTube and SoundCloud, and eventually when I graduated high school it kind of came to this point where I had to make the decision whether I wanted to go do music and see if that would take me anywhere… Now, I don’t even know when I’m going to go to college!”
She clearly made the right decision as, since then, she’s played her first headline shows, released debut LP ‘the masquerade’ and several EPs, and racked up a cool 15 million (and counting) views on her viral 2019 track ‘prom dress’. “When it started blowing up because of TikTok and these viral trends it blew my mind!’ she laughs. “As someone so involved in internet culture, I think in the back of my mind it’s always going to be something that I think is cool to have a song embedded into meme culture and to put my foot in [that] landscape. I would love that to happen with another song in the future, but I’m just going to focus on making songs the same way as I’ve always done it, and if it blows up, it blows up.”
Hooking into online culture with her diary-like lyricism, Maia crafts twinkling gems characterised by her signature uke; next up, she’ll unveil new EP ‘dusk’ - the counterpart to April’s ‘dawn’ EP - which is set to land later this year. “It’s a lot more introspective and has more sombre moments,” she details. “It opens with the song ‘bon iver’ which is written about, obviously, Bon Iver. It’s the most positive on the record and it’s the transition from dawn to dusk.”
And does Justin know about his new song? “Nooope!” she laughs. “He has no idea who I am!” If mxmtoon carries on like this, that could all be about to change very soon.
As featured in the July 2020 issue of DIY, out now.
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