Mayda: You want to control things around you, but you can't
Knowing that record-keeping can get messy in Korea, she requested a DNA test to ensure that the people she had met were indeed her parents. Then came the crushing blow. They refused to submit to the testing, and stated that they were not interested in being a part of Mayda's life. Mayda didn't know what to feel. "It was devastating, but I have to learn to accept it somehow," she says.
All of these experiences and reflecting upon her interactions with others spurned some major philosophical revelations for Mayda, which she put into her songwriting for the album. Its first single, "All I Have," was written with a message in mind: all that we have is our love -- the love that we give to others. "You want to control other people, and things around you, but you can't," she says. "The only thing you can really have and know is what you have inside. I know that sounds cheesy as all hell, but it's true."
"All I Have" is a ridiculously catchy, radio-friendly song. Mayda's voice on the track carries between layers of drums and bouncing electronic elements, beginning lazily and quickly gathering force as she declares, "Love is all that I have." It is searching, soulful. At 2:16, it is short in length, but manages to travel through several musical landscapes from start to finish. The lyrics offer a personal reflection of bittersweet lessons learned -- finding triumph in an ended relationship.
"I've actually been married before," she says. "I was the girlfriend at the rap show behind the merch table like, yeah babe, I love you!," she says. This was about eight years ago, and she has since been divorced. "I don't regret it. It was a great experience, and we still have love for each other. He is a great guy. He deserves a really wonderful person. I just can't be that person."
Right after meeting her parents, she wrote the song "Verite," which appears last on the album. "I videotaped myself writing it, because I was breaking down," she says. "I don't think I'll let anybody see it." She describes the song as being "hypnotic." It is still difficult for her to listen to the song.
"Verite" is hard to listen to. "I don't know what's true," it begins. "I just want to hide tonight." The undercurrent is dark and luring. An unsettling keyboard part is reminiscent of the off-kilter chord progression in an early Nine Inch Nails song. Eventually her voice becomes almost lost in a cascade of sound, until it all fades out into a nothingness that is the end of the album.
This album is strikingly different from her previous work. There are more heavy electronic elements, and less of the funk overtones. It feels like a declaration. The work is cohesive from start to finish -- a strong, solid pop album, backed by producer Chris Neviator. Much like imagining Mayda struggling through crowds in foreign countries, the image of such a small woman behind the huge voice is hard to reconcile, but this aesthetic confusion lends itself to the sounds on the album. On "Dangerous," there are elements of the music that sound like chirping birds, or screeching parrots. "There's a bomb inside my chest that's ticking in my skeleton," she says over a wailing synthesized flute. "There's a bomb inside my chest that's bigger than an elephant."
"Nightingale" emphasizes her signature guitar-playing sound. The notes weep over one another, interrupted by loud drum machine claps as she layers her voice soothingly over the building cacophony. "Nightingale" is a perfect lullaby, Mayda-style. "All this worry is mine," she sings, "and you can have it. Nobody deserves these tears but me."
Mayda is currently working on a theater project scheduled to debut next July at the Guthrie. It will be her first performance piece. "I'm super damn nervous," she says. "I've got stuff to work on." It will be a one-woman show, for which she will create all of the music. "I can't really believe it yet, because it's so far away...but it will be a bunch of different scenes that I wrote, and you will see my alter-ego come out." The performance will run for two nights, and if it is successful, she will take it on the road.
For now, she's filling her summer schedule with local shows, and preparing for the release of the second half of this album. She seems content, yet with Mayda it is clear that things are constantly changing, and she likes it this way. Without the struggle, where would the inspiration stem from?
"I'm just Mayda. I do what I do, and every day I'm just trying to be okay with the things I'm doing, making sure I'm a good person and that I'm doing what I like to do," she says. "I want to live, and I want to be happy. It's not easy being a musician, and being different."
Mayda performs this Saturday at the Turf Club with Mixed Blood Majority, Joe Horton, and Alexei Moon Casselle. Dance crew Hiponymous joins. Hosted by Toki Wright. 9 PM, 21+, $8 presale/$10 door
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