Interview: Maya Yenn

Maya Yenn is an intriguing new artist on the scene who recently released a song titled Better Luck Next Time, which we reviewed. I wanted to find out more about her – you can find the interview below!

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a single titled Better Luck Next Time, which we reviewed. What can you tell us about the track?

Firstly, thank you so much for the review! So in a literal sense, it’s about a guy on a plane who’s so focused on work he’s still trying to get a report done despite the fact his plane is going down over the Atlantic. But really it’s an analogy for humankind’s self-destructive behaviour; our culture to work until we totally burnout and how our actions as a species are also destroying the world around us.

It’s essentially a song that takes that old phrase rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as an analogy for the way we treat people and our environment, except in this case the deck chairs are a report with a deadline and the Titanic is a plane going down over the Atlantic. I just feel like as a species we’re always so obsessed with productivity and that tunnel vision is so pervasive that we miss the big looming iceberg up ahead in the form of burnout or climate change, so I wanted to write about that.

Has the pandemic hindered your work much?

Bizarrely I’d actually say it was the thing that spurred me on. I know lots of artists have really struggled as a result of the pandemic, so I’m aware of how lucky I am. Before the pandemic I always dreamed of releasing music, but found it impossible to find the time to work on music for long enough to get it ready for release. So even though the pandemic was incredibly stressful and moving back into my mum’s house wasn’t exactly the dream, it gave me the time and headspace I desperately needed to knuckle down, really work on my music and finally start releasing songs independently.

What is the writing and recording process like for you?

I actually have a fairly clinical approach to songwriting! First step is lyrics which I write like a stream of consciousness – it’s more for ideas rather than necessarily taking it directly from the page, but it gets the juices flowing. Then I’ll decide on some chords, noodle around until I find some melody lines on the piano, then the last step is the production. I’ve written my last few songs like that to get out of a long stint of writer’s block, but now I’m back into the swing of it I think I might turn it on its head and start with production next time and see what happens. It’s good to switch up your process every now and then, it keeps it interesting.

Do you plan to release any singles in the near future?

Yes! I’m almost done recording my next single which should hopefully be out early autumn. It’s called Sour Grapes and it’s about growing up and realising adulthood isn’t the easy-breezy, fun-filled experience you thought it would be as a kid and now you’ve got to pay bills and take the bins out every Tuesday. I’m definitely making fun of myself a little bit in the song for being a kind of a brat but also earnestly frustrated with how hard being an adult can be.

Have you started writing for an EP or an album?

I’m still really early on in my career so I’m just getting my proverbial feet under the table with some singles for now, but making an EP is definitely on the horizon. I’ve been noticing some common themes coming out of the songs I’ve been writing more recently so an EP definitely feels like the next step career wise, but more importantly it feels like the right next step as an artist too.

Your music has an alt-pop vibe to it. What/who influences you most as an artist? What have you been listening to recently?

I grew up listening to a lot of Radiohead and Björk which hugely influenced me. Not to mention Kate Bush, Florence + the Machine and Lana Del Rey. In more recent years though, the kind of music I listen to has expanded – Jungle, Glass Animals and Still Woozy are big ones of course, and I’m definitely an FKA twigs stan. I listen to a lot of different artists but never strive to sound like any of them consciously, and don’t feel beholden to one particular genre or style. I think that’s why alt-pop is a good catch-all for my stuff, it’s a pretty broad church!

You’re based in London. What is the music scene like in your part of the world?

It’s funny, I was based in London pre-pandemic and I go back pretty regularly now things have opened up again, but I’m mostly based in the Midlands now! I find it’s continued to be a good space for me to go back to and write. In terms of the music scene, there’s some really talented people in this part of the UK that I think can often get overlooked. I absolutely love going to gigs and now that things are more open I’m planning to see a lot more of the local talent.

Do you have any tour dates lined up?

For now I’m just building up my catalogue and doing a few small gigs here and there. Once I’ve got a few more songs behind me I would love to tour though. Performing live and seeing new places is so much fun – and nothing beats an in-person live show, I’ve really missed it these past couple of years.

If so, what can people expect from a Maya Yenn gig?

Lots of live looping and live triggering. I really want my live performances to feel like a completely different experience to listening to the song recordings. You’re not just hearing the songs as they were recorded in a new space, but you’re watching me recreate my songs from scratch live. I want it to be as much a theatrical experience as I can make it on my own!

Any last words for the fans?

Thank you so much for your support and for taking such great care of the songs I’ve put out so far. I’m really excited for what’s next and so grateful for the reaction I’ve had so far. We’ve got big plans for a music video for Better Luck Next Time too, so keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks, I can’t wait for you to see it.