Recently Artistic Echoes had the privilege of interviewing Reverbnation competition winner Maja, she is a singer & songwriter based in london. Her singing has been described as ‘silky & seductive voice like liquid caramel & hibiscus with a subtle citrus zing’. With influences as varied as Imogen Heap, Bon Iver, Ella Fitzgerald, Bjork, Billy Holiday, Grazyna Auguscik and Tracy Chapman. Read on to hear more about her story:
Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, about your history?
My name is Maja, I am a singer & songwriter, actress, model & presenter based in London working also freelance in sales for various clients.
I started singing very late – at around 25, properly at 28 still working full or part time in various roles. Why? At 13, I was diagnosed with serious case of nodules on my vocal chords & told I would “never ever sing”. I believed that diagnosis for a very long time, studied languages & worked in business, applying for drama schools with a forged doctors certificate, until a chance encounter with a film director in Bristol in 2004 (see documentary about me on PetalMusicOfficial youtube channel) made me risk it all & start my fight for singing. I left Poland where I was brought up, came to UK with all in one suitcase, & after years or working full time in various serious business jobs, I started singing abroad on long hotel contracts or between part time office roles & finally last year in 2014 I shared my original songs (under my songwriting name Petal) with the world. Songs available online are a result of one spontaneous recording session with my friends jazz musicians I play with at functions & events. As I cannot afford to bring them with me every time I am asked to perform, I had to brush up my piano skills & start performing my songs on my own. Hence most start with a piano arrangement, and I get kindly compared to Regina Spektor or Tori Amos, but in future I would like slightly different more pop sound. I hope to raise funds for producing an EP of 3 songs this summer via a pledgemusic campaign. My throat, btw, is fine – I had years of sessions with a speech therapist, I have to be very careful about talking in noisy places & my social life comes always second after my voice, which is my biggest treasure, but there is no scar tissue from the nodules & I am told every year at my annual vocal chords check up that all is ok.
What inspired you to first write music, to take to the stage?
I used to write poems & shared my world with others that way. Songs naturally came afterwards when I allowed myself to sing. In the past the story came first, the lyrics, now sometimes a melody or a line comes to me (I cannot describe it otherwise) & dances in my head & I have to work to get it out. I guess it is all about sharing – there are songs by artists I admire that have probably saved my life a few times, that make my life so much richer, I could simply not live without them. If I can touch one person with my work like that, if I can help one person like that and make them feel less alone, then my life is complete :). It is quite incredible to perform your own creations to the world and have the audience thank you for that – I still find it very humbling.
Your songs have quite vivid imagery, do you often find that they tell a story or are they more abstract?
Thank you for saying that, Definitely I tend to have a story behind, but sometimes it is just a feeling that comes, or a melody. I said once that words are the best things that we humans have to share our life with others, but they still fail. Music, like any other art, fills the spaces lost between words so sometimes there may not be a concrete coherent story but a feeling you cannot really describe other than sing it out..
I played a show in the Polish centre in Hammersmith last year in May, and after the show these two incredible people Rafal & Allan came up to me saying they would love to shoot a music video for me. I replied saying I did not plan a budget for that yet, but they said they did not intend to make any money with it, but simply film something to the song they liked. I still find it incredible:). I left all the creative process to Allan who shot everything, while Rafal helped out & starred in it:). Useless is a song that I only played live once! but it tends to be the favourite of the audience – as if maybe most people can sadly identify with its story ? – & I get very kind messages every month about it.
I have some ideas for videos of my other songs, & even before I finish writing them I may have a visual story behind them but it will take a while to make it a happen so I am incredibly grateful to Allan & Rafal for offering to add their art to mine 🙂
You say you are currently working on an EP is that a similar style to your current material, how is the recording process going?
I hope to get a bit more pop, more kick-ass :), even though my main inspirations are fellow singer/ songwriters such as Ingrid Michaelson or Joni Mitchell. I know I cannot arrange songs (yet), so I looked for a producer & have to trust that person while we are exploring various avenues & ways of arranging the songs I will chose for EP. I hope to raise £5-10 000 for the recording of the mini album & producing copies of it to sell at concerts together with other merchandise. It is not an easy process, and deciding what to cut, what to add is at times very stressful, but I hope it is all worth it. I would love to be able to send a few of thus produced songs to record industry contacts.
What’s the most interesting place you have performed at?
Good question! 🙂 I had an honour singing for princes & VIPs in one of the most expensive restaurants in India in 2013, while Prince Harry came to of my jazz shows earlier on in Kensington. My very first Petal show took place in Kings Cross church, one of the oldest churches in London with its very unique & magical atmosphere. However, I think my favourite was playing in a friend’s garden during a spontaneous birthday party on my humble yamaha keyboard. I do not think I sound great on this keyboard – every mistake of mine is amplified tenfold, & so I nearly did not sing at all but asked by the birthday girl I sat down and to my amazement, had the whole garden of complete strangers stand for me in darkness for over 30 minutes clapping & asking for more. I knew I touched some people & that is all that matters.
I wish! I may have missed applying to festivals this year while working on the EP (I know, face palm;0 but thank you for a reminder! I have had a lot of studying for my driving licence exam & my UK citizenship exam, so other things took over but I hope I will manage to fit a few summer shows in. Sadly not every venue has keys, & my keyboard (the only light model I manage to carry with a back injury) is well not that great :). But let’s stay optimistic & hope for some shows this summer 🙂
On your website it mentions presenting, acting and modelling how different is that from your work as a singer, do the creative outputs feed into each other?
Hmm.. not really :). Although sometimes I am asked to sing & act and I nearly ended up playing a main role in one of the West end musicals last year. When I perform my original songs, it is my most intimate part of myself that are uncovered. Acting, presenting it is still sharing stories but maybe written by someone else than myself.
Artistic Echoes aims to introduces people to new artists, writers, poets, painters, singers is there anyone you would like to recommend to our readers?
Sure i love accoustic songs by Tom Price Stepehens (London answer to Ed Sheeran), illustration by Bibi Kujawa & her amazing project of one picture a day:), incredible photography by Phine Ka (christel stol) with whom i had a chance to work with, also by Edith Bergfors and music by little unknown young gem of Flo Perlin 🙂
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