Interview by Carla Sanchez Taylor (RiPplE PuDdle)
There is power in change, without apology or explanation, especially when it is for the purpose of an authentic need for expression.
Actress Maya Hawke has a context story that should be acknowledged for the main purpose of creative visualization. You might’ve seen her face as Robin in Stranger Things. Or perhaps you caught her in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. You may have seen the earnest eyes and mischievous grin and thought”…she reminds me of someone…” Then you find she is the daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke and you think “Of course!”
The creative side of her could be attributed to an odd nature versus nurture conundrum, but it really doesn’t matter much – because Maya Hawke is very much her own artist.
On the eve of her upcoming music debut (August 16), I got a chance to pick her brain about what it’s like to switch creative lanes from acting to music with such seamless grace.
Carla: I just listened to your two songs. There is a serenity in your voice that I felt very connected to. Tell me about how you found your sound.
Maya: I’ve always been really interested in lyrics. And some of the most memorable to me are the greats, like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell or Townes VanZandt. I love the poetry in them.
My goal with these songs was to be really clear so as to highlight the storytelling and lyricism. I love that folk music energy where the music allows the story of the song to come through in a clear way. I didn’t want the singing to overshadow the story of the song. So I just tried to sing them as simply and truthfully as I could. That’s kind of where I think the style came out of. And then of course, there’s Jesse (Harris), who I write with, who’s an amazing composer and melodic genius. He wrote the beautiful melodies for the lyrics. And we both felt very strongly about this common vision.
Carla: Considering that this is a debut, and considering the personal nature of these songs, are you nervous about performing them live? How do you remain present when you’re performing them and not in your head? Because I think the storytelling style that you’re talking about is very much connective, so the delivery of it in a live setting is very important.
Maya: There’s almost nothing that makes me more nervous than releasing these songs and performing them. But I think that telling a story from a place of nerves, is a really truthful place to tell them. And you need a little bit of that to really convey it properly. In some ways it’s even harder to convey the emotion of a song when you’re in a studio where you can do it over and over again. Being live and in front of an audience really allows you to take every moment and relish in it and fill it with your feelings. It’s petrifyingly nerve-racking but it’s where the songs are at their best. When you’re acting, you’re playing the part in someone else’s dream to try to make their dream come true. But with these songs, I’m playing a part in my own dream so that’s much more vulnerable.
Carla: You were raised by two well-known artists. That must’ve left a big footprint as far as influencing your passions. Where do you think your love for music was sparked and how do you think it was fed?
Maya: I always struggled in school but loved to read, and I loved stories and loved listening to music. The arts have always been a part of my life. I would play guitar on the couch with my dad, and my mom would take me to the movies.
I always felt like I had a voice because of this appreciation and participation. I could breathe. And in every other thing I did, as a kid, I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t feel good in sports, I didn’t feel good in school. So at a certain point, I stopped resisting that and stopped trying to fit myself into those boxes and started to just lean into this place where I fit. At first it kind of lent itself towards acting but I’ve sung and written poetry for as long as I could remember. So I’m allowing myself to explore this at the moment, but I hope to keep exploring different fields and different ways of expressing myself because, to me, it’s the most rewarding part of being alive.
Carla: What do you wish to give to your audiences? What idiosyncratic thought do you advert to, that you find ever-present in your work?
Maya: I think that both songs deal with differences between the fantasy of life and the reality of it. The first song, To Love A Boy, is about the fantasy and dream of what it would be like to be in love. I wrote that song after seeing a romantic movie. I had a hunger for the dream of what that feels like. The second song, Stay Open was written much later, after having really fallen in love, essentially for the first time. That song has a more grounded sense of reality in what it really feels like to be in love, It’s a totally scary, vulnerable and also practical experience. So what I hope people get from this album is my experience of the fantasy and the reality of being alive. Those two things inform each other and battle against each other; love each other. I feel like that’s what I’m trying to talk about in everything I do.