Maya Law‘s heart is truly in her music. Recent single ‘Say It Ain’t So‘ is a neo-soul balad with an acoustic ambience, creating a heartfelt expression of processing heartbreak. As well as a live rendition alongside Freya Roy, the track premiered on Wordplay and has seen spins from the likes of Huw Stephens on Radio 1. It follows ‘Tired‘ as the second release from Maya’s long-awaited EP Hitchhiking, set to drop in January next year. To celebrate her new music video, we sat down and discussed Maya Law’s move to making music that’s closer to her heart.
“It’s going to be quite sad, but in a nice way.”
We found out about Norwich’s music scene, from Maya’s first hometown gigs to her favourite artists in the area. It also turns out that socially-distanced festivals might actually be better than the parties of yesteryear. Personally, I’d say it ain’t so. But Maya Law said it, so…
Why is it that sad songs can make us happy?
“Ah that’s a hard question. I think, for me, I always resonated a lot more with songs that were about sad things rather than happy things. When you’re alone listening to things and they resonate with you, it’s because you can relate to them in some way, and I personally find that a lot easier when it feels like it’s authentic and comes from the heart. Most of the time I guess it is when things aren’t going well, more so than when everything is sweet and happy.”
How does it feel to finally release ‘Say It Ain’t So’?
“I wrote it a year and a half ago and it was never really gunna be a tune that I thought I was gunna put out. To have it out now does feel quite surreal, although it’s probably one of the saddest on the EP, and they are all pretty sad. I really hope people take whatever they want from it, you know? I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to feel something. But for me, it was very much an introduction to what I thought was about to happen, and an introduction to the EP and what the EP is about.”
So what can people expect from your upcoming EP Hitchhiking?
“Well, when it started off it was going to be a bit of a showcase of what I wanted to be doing in the foreseeable. I wanted it to start acoustic and then eventually get to a full band, but now it’s more of a collection of what I’ve been doing for the last year and a half, which is really nice that it’s taken that turn. It is really quite a mix of acoustic and full band, and I’ve been able to work with a lot of session musicians on this, so that’s been really great as well. It’s going to be quite sad, but in a nice way. In a happy-ish way. When you get to the end of it, it will feel a bit better.”
You talk about this acoustic sound and having a full band, what led you to move away from what’s on your first EP four years ago, to a more stripped-back acoustic sound?
“At the time of the first album, I was working really closely with Gabriel Gifford who had a really clear idea of what he wanted. He wanted to do the album and that’s what he was doing. He was just making beats and I was singing over them. It was kind of like it was just for fun. Now, I think people had an expectation of me to carry on that kind of hip hop and R&B thing, and it just wasn’t feasible when I didn’t have so much of a relationship with Gabs. Although we do still work together, he moved to Bristol so it was more difficult for me to keep doing that. So, I had to find another way to recreate that sound, and recreate what I wanted people to think and feel when they were listening to me. I started thinking a bit more about my influences and my main influence is Amy Winehouse, also people like Etta James and old school soul and jazz singers. So for me, I kinda took a step back and thought about how I could do something that resonates with me, and what I would look at in a few years and think, ‘Yeah that’s the sound I wanted.'”
What significance does the painting Girl With a Pearl Earing have in your new video?
“That was up to the costume and design guy. He was like, ‘I made this, I want it in the video.’ I was like, ‘Yeah cool no worries.’ We actually ended up getting some really lovely stills where I was just in front of the painting and it kind of looked like a mirror of each other, which was really nice. I think when it comes to visuals, I’m very much like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. You guys just crack on and I’ll fit in somewhere.’ So yeah, unfortunately there is no significance. You guys can figure some significance out if you’d like to.”
How did you find performing at the socially distanced Wild Fields Festival?
“Yeah it was great. I had a better time there than I’ve had at most festivals to be honest. You had your own little pod and you could kinda leave all your stuff everywhere. You didn’t have to think about where your friends were because they were all with you. It was amazing to see how these massive jazz bands were keeping a hold of the crowd even though they were nowhere near the stage, like KOKOROKO and Joe Armon-Jones. It was really amazing. And to play as well was really fun. Just to be able to look out and spot everyone that you know was really nice. It was a special festival for sure.”
Who are some of your favourite artists in the Norwich scene?
“Freya Roy. Obviously I’m gunna have to say her because she’s my guitarist and I’ve always thought she was incredible. It’s such an honour to have her work so closely with me. The next thing that she’s doing is going to be amazing, I’ve heard little bits and pieces. Also, Leo Lore who’s just moved to London, but he’s my brother and therefore also from Norwich. He’s just released a single and his EP is gunna be amazing. I think Norwich is full of little pockets of really cool, interesting music. You just have to search harder for it here rather than in London where everything is just in your face all the time. But yeah, people like Nubiyan Twist have left such a massive effect on Norwich and the Norwich music scene. All of us are very grateful for their influence here.”
What were your first experiences like playing live in your hometown?
“Yeah it was nice. Have you been to Norwich? It’s very ‘everyone knows each other’, so when you walk down the street you’ll always know somebody. So when I started playing it didn’t really feel like I was doing anything that scary because I knew like half of the people in the crowd anyway. Even doing headline shows at the Arts Centre, most of them I knew, they were family, friends and all those people. It was definitely a nice place to first do gigs. It was quite a jump going to London and being like, ‘I have no idea who any of you are.’ But yeah, definitely very supportive. Big love to the Arts Centre. They sorted me out.”
It’s difficult, but any plans for live shows in the future?
“Hopefully, I’d love to do an EP launch in some way early next year. It would be really nice to do some-sort of socially distanced thing. Yeah, who knows. No one knows what’s going on. There are a few socially distanced gigs but I’m not sure yet.”
It was nice to see you perform ‘Say It Not So’ on Wordplay a while ago. Has anything changed with the song since then?
“Yeah they’re really nice guys over there. We did that live version specifically for them. It is a very stripped back tune so I couldn’t just do an acoustic version because it already was one. But the production of the tune after it being live-sounding, that was all Freya Roy who sorted those things out and made it feel a little bit more intimate and spaced-out, which is exactly how I wanted it to be anyway.”
So, what’s next for Maya Law?
“Well it’s gunna be quite a busy next few months in terms of releases. I’m gunna have at least another single and then another couple of videos. And then the whole EP is out and it’ll be on vinyl which is really exciting. So that’s what’s coming, early next year it’ll be here. Mid-January-ish. Everything has been postponed so fingers crossed.”
Stream ‘Say It Ain’t So‘ now
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe