On her 2019 album the masquerade, 19-year-old singer/songwriter mxmtoon delivers what she calls "rhyming diary entries": an off-the-cuff account of her most private thoughts and feelings.
On her latest offering dawn, the first of 2 EP's the be released this year, we see her embrace life with astounding clarity, pushing her sound further than ever before and embracing lush soundscapes and pulsing beats. It's body-moving music for the heart and soul, a soothing and intimate collection of songs inviting us further into mxmtoon's fascinating, quixotic sonic world.
The thematic bent of dawn speaks to our uncertain times while embracing a general truism that's always important to remember: "I wanted to remind people that things will be okay and even on the darkest day, the sun still rises," Maia states . "I want to lift people up. I still love making sad songs, but I wanted to make something that felt refreshing to me this time."
In her endless effort to create true connection onstage and in her music, mxmtoon has attained an undeniable solidarity with her listeners, ultimately providing some much-needed solace for the shy, the sensitive, the routinely underrepresented.
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No matter what happens in this world, the sun will always rise and set -- a comforting and reassuring fact that mxmtoon's new EP dawn embraces with astounding clarity. The first new music since her critically acclaimed debut album the masquerade last year, dawn finds the 19-year-old singer/songwriter pushing her sound further than ever before, embracing lush soundscapes and pulsing beats. It's body-moving music for the heart and soul, a soothing and intimate collection of songs inviting us further into mxmtoon's fascinating, quixotic sonic world.
The thematic bent of dawn speaks to our uncertain times while embracing a general truism that's always important to remember: "I wanted to remind people that things will be okay and even on the darkest day, the sun still rises," Maia states. "I want to lift people up. I still love making sad songs, but I wanted to make something that felt refreshing to me this time."
dawn is the result of Maia pushing herself even further out of her comfort zone to express and embrace new emotions and sonic palettes. "I knew that I didn't want to do another album right away," she explains. "It was a personal challenge for myself to write music that's more externally-facing. A lot of my narratives and lyrics are like listening to someone ramble about what's going on inside their head, so I wanted to make music I could dance to and have other people feel like they move to."
The hypnotic spin of the first single "fever dream" zeroes in on the beauty of living in the moment and taking chances regardless of what lies ahead. "It's a song about taking a leap of faith into an unknown world, which is what I did when I started making music," she explains. "It's terrifying to put yourself out there and be vulnerable with people. I wanted to give myself a pat on the back and honor the past -- to accept the tough parts of where you come from while also seeing the beauty of the future and not knowing what will happen."
The propulsive shuffle of "quiet motions" addresses finding peace in solitude, while dawn's latest single "lessons" embraces a bold, bright melody while waxing on the dangers of overthinking things. "I think about things really intensely until they don't make sense," Maia explains while discussing the song. "I've learned a lesson to let go and be okay with not knowing the answers. This is a song about doing things with mindfulness while also knowing that you might not always be 100% certain. If you put effort into things, they take on meaning because of that effort."
dawn is the latest exciting chapter for the California-raised and Brooklyn-based musician known as Maia, who started playing music at six years old and was trained classically on violin and cello. As her musical studies continued, Maia eventually gravitated towards the guitar and ukulele -- the latter instrument shaping the very foundation of her musical career. "That's how I started doing covers of songs," she remembers. "I'd take home the ukulele from music class and try to learn how to play the songs that I loved."
Maia's transformation into mxmtoon further developed when she was being bitten by the songwriting bug after receiving a school assignment to write a song: "I wrote a song about not knowing what to write a song about," she laughs. Eventually, private toiling turned public as she began posting her music online as mxmtoon in 2017 with the hushed, loose-sounding "1-800-DATEME."
"At that point, I already used social media to express myself," she explains, "and making songs was something that felt like another aspect of expressing who I was." Although Maia cites kindred musical spirit Rex Orange County an influence, she stresses the personalness of her music above all else: "Writing music feels like a diary entry to me -- a way to keep track of my thoughts. I'm too concerned with sounds or styles, just writing what makes sense to me."
Her first EP, plum blossom, was released in 2018 right around the time when she graduated high school and decided to focus on music full-time. The EP clocked more than 100 million streams on Spotify alone -- not bad for songs recorded by herself in her parents' guest room. Since then she's sold out her US tour, is amassing millions of streams per day across DSP's and gained millions of followers and subscribers across YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, making a point of using her ever-growing platform to speak out on issues close to her heart. "As a young bisexual woman of color from a family of immigrants, a lot of current events directly affect who I am," says maia, who's mixed Chinese-American. "I firmly believe it's my obligation and opportunity to speak on issues that affect us all."
Last year's debut album, the masquerade, received praise from the likes of The New York Times, NPR and The New Yorker who point to "an emotional sophistication that reminded us that there are some things we never outgrow." Sonically it found Maia moving forward from the ukulele-led bedroom recordings of her early work towards a fuller and thrilling sheen thanks to studio time with producer Robin Skinner. "Everything to this point was acoustic, and I wanted to make something that sounded more produced, polished, and thought-out," she explains while discussing her collaborations with Robin, "It was really exciting to work with him -- an insanely new experience and a pivotal point in my life. I didn't have the vocabulary to talk about what I wanted in my music, so working with Robin so collaboratively helped me figured out what I wanted in my own music."
"Each project I've done in the past has been a level up from where I was in the past," Maia continues while discussing what dawn means to her as an artist -- and, potentially, to her listeners. "This is my era of taking the production to another level, but also working with others to help me realize even more about the type of music I could make. I'm always striving to challenge myself to progress more -- to have a better understanding of other people's experiences and to write songs that express that. I've made a lot of the music I've been most proud of making."
With dawn serving as a first installment in a two-part EP project, mxmtoon has attained an undeniable solidarity with her listeners, ultimately providing some much-needed solace for the shy, the sensitive, the routinely underrepresented. "When I listen to my first album, it feels like a musical of the things I've gone through and the life inside my head," says Maia. "I hope people come away from it feeling like the songs belong to them too -- like now there's a piece of art in the world that speaks to their own experiences, even if they'd always felt like they were alone."