Mayda: You want to control things around you, but you can't
Mayda isn't like any other performer in Minneapolis. You can't categorize her music, or fit her in with any particular scene. This is something that she is both proud of and uncomfortable with. Her new album, Busy Signals, will be celebrated with a release show at the Turf Club this Saturday. She wrote the album during her recent tour through Korea and Europe, and recorded the material immediately upon returning to Minneapolis. The work is a whirlwind -- much like the commotion in her mind, caused by recent life-changing events which served to feed her incessant desire to somehow express these internal thoughts outwardly through sound.
Gimme Noise had the chance to sit down with Mayda to chat about the album and her travels over tea and coffee at Muddy Waters. As the sounds of Fugazi and Sonic Youth drown out the surrounding chatter, she gets real about the woman behind the work.
While out of the country, Mayda performed every single day. "I'm insane," she says. "I just like to work, and play hard, and keep doing it; see as many people and places as I can." She relied on the kindness of other musicians and friends she met along the way to ensure that she'd make it safely along her travels, and stayed guarded. The tour was a massive undertaking. The tour was entirely self-funded, and she booked all of the shows and travel arrangements entirely on her own. "It put hair on my chest," she says. "Yes, I have hair on my chest."
The mental image of Mayda traveling through foreign countries alone is somewhat startling. At just 4'10'', her impossibly small frame would be draped in luggage, snaking through large crowds. Her distinctly Americanized fashion sense betrayed her Korean ancestry, making her an outsider even in the country in which she was born. (Mayda was adopted and brought from Korea to live in Minneapolis with her adoptive family at three months old.) "People were like, who is this ten-year-old, traveling alone?" she says. "Maybe I can steal all of her Euros, or whatever." They looked at her differently. She kept her guard up. The risk was well worth the reward.
"Here, people love music, but over there, I feel like they really take it in," she says. "Of course they drink and party and have fun, but they go to see the artist and what the artist is like, and what the artist is saying, so they're super receptive in a different way. They're not just there to get drunk. They're there to see a show. It's more like a shared experience."
The tour resulted in press, interviews, and even a deal with a Korean record label. Mayda also now has a connection with Reebok, who has used one of her songs in a Korean commercial.
During the three weeks she spent touring through Korea, Mayda's world was entirely altered when she unexpectedly received the opportunity to meet her birth parents for the first time since being adopted almost 29 years ago. Before the tour, she had been searching for more information about her birth parents. She found that her parents had lied about being together so they could give her up for adoption. She had six older sisters and a younger brother who didn't know about her. And the kicker: her birthday was printed incorrectly on her birth certificate.
"I'm 29," she says. "I thought I was 30. I was like, shit, another year of this shit?" After managing to gather these small bits of information about her family and herself, she was determined to attempt to come face to face with her birth parents. Finally, she received a letter from the adoption agency telling her that her parents were willing to have this meeting.
"I didn't feel good, but I didn't feel bad," she says. "I'm glad I did it, and I'm still trying to comprehend what happened." The meeting was somewhat awkward. They talked about her siblings. "They kept saying things like, oh, you have your sister's cheekbones, and you have your third sister's eyebrows... They all grew up together. I have no idea how you keep a kid a secret from your other kids." She struggled to see herself in her parents' faces. She never got a straight answer as to why of all the children only she had been given up for adoption, but she believes that it had something to do with financial struggles. Again, she found herself filling the role of the outsider.
"When I first saw them I was like, I don't look like these people," she says. "They could be complete strangers. I could see these people on the street and not look twice."