'The Girl On Her Way'
Los Angeles based singer-songwriter Maia Sharp has already made a name for herself composing songs for some of the biggest female performers in the music industry; singers like the Dixie Chicks, Cher and Bonnie Raitt. But with the release of her fourth album, “Echo”, Sharp is well on her way to establishing a successful solo career.
Backed by Raitt on the track ‘Death By Perfection’, Sharp’s strong yet feminine vocals are perfectly paired alongside folksy guitars and bluesy percussion. “Echo” is an engaging eleven track compilation of well-penned lyrics and emotionally stirring musical numbers artfully braided together by the lofty, multifaceted depths of Sharp’s well-trained vocal abilities.
Bound to be an indie-folk success, Sharp is a well-rounded musician, mastering her craft one song at a time.
Sitting down with Exclusive Magazine, Maia Sharp shared with us the delights of her new album, the beauty of persistence and insights into her successful transition from behind-the-scenes songwriter to full-fledged performer.
Your music has it’s roots in country, blues and rock. Who were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your music today? "I grew up on Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Ricki Lee Jones, Paul Simon and my dad, Randy Sharp (killer songwriter). I like that it's hard to pin a genre on any one of those artists. Maybe they have those roots you mentioned as well but I like that they just are who they are regardless of where someone feels like categorizing them on any given day. They're absolutely still a factor. I go back to those old favorite albums all the time and I always buy anything new from my fab 5. Even when Bonnie recorded my songs (and sent me a free copy) I bought it again just as an automatic response."
August saw the release of your newest album, 'Echo.' As an up-and-coming artist, how would you describe the sound and style of your music? "I know there are a lot of influences working in this album. The artists I list above plus so many others...Annie Lennox, k.d. lang, Me'Shell N'Degeocello, Sia, Fiest, Jonatha Brooke to name a few...then in college I went through a jazz phase with Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, the Adderly Brothers and on and on. Saxophone was my first instrument so being all consumed with these guys for a while was inevitable. This is all to say I'm terrible at describing my music. I think it sounds like me. The radio stations that play me play a wide variety of styles and I love that about them. Hopefully you can hear a shade of all of these folks I've listed but mostly something new."
Legendary American-blues songstress, Bonnie Raitt, makes an appearance on the album, singing background on the song “Death By Perfection”. You’ve also written several songs for Raitt since 2005. Tell us about your relationship with Raitt; how did it begin? "Apparently I had been on Bonnie's radar for a while but when she emailed me to tell me she was recording 3 of my songs it felt out of the blue to me and unbelievable. Overwhelming. She tracked the songs "I Don't Want Anything To Change," "The Bed I Made" and "Crooked Crown" and then called to see if I could come into the studio to sing some background vocals and play a few sax lines, mostly to recreate what she had heard on the demos. That's when we first met and she greeted me with a big hug and "it's so great to finally meet you!"
"SHE said that to ME before I had a chance to say it to her. From there we were off and running. I worked with her in the studio, went on the road with her for months as her special guest (she doesn't let me call myself her opening act) and when I asked her to sing on my album she did it brilliantly. We've become good friends and I'm a better person for it."
Your new single “John Q. Lonely” is getting tons of airplay since it’s release and can be heard on XM Satellite Radio’s ‘Loft’ station in heavy rotation. What can fans expect from the rest of the new album? "I think "John..." is a good example of what's there. I tried to find a balance of dark and playful and a little twisty but still hummable throughout the album. The tunes won't all sound like "John..." for sure but there are tons of common elements."
You grew up surrounded by music, being the daughter of country music writer, Randy Sharp, who has penned songs for country music’s biggest stars including the Dixie Chicks, Reba McEntire and Clay Walker. How has the support and influence from your family helped you in your musical career? "I'm very lucky to have known only support from my family in this crazy career choice. I know a lot of people doing this never get that. Dad has always been there to show me the ropes when I asked...neither him nor my mom, who sang for years as well, has ever pushed me one way or the other or laid any unsolicited advice on me. Also, I'm sure just having music in the house all the time for as long as I can remember is what first got me hooked. And I'm totally hooked."
You’re currently touring the U.S. at several shows dates in California and New York. Where can fans check out your tour schedule and what can they expect from a live set? "The best way to see the tour schedule is by going to www.maiasharp.com. I've been touring as a duo mostly with my ridiculously talented guitar player, Linda Taylor. We mix it up a lot. She plays electric or acoustic guitar and I play acoustic guitar, piano and saxophone (not all at the same time). It makes for a good variety and we try to make it easy to forget there's only two of us up there."
How easy or hard is it to create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderments and accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "It's pull-your-hair-out hard but the trick is not to think about it. I can't start measuring and comparing...I'll go under fast and probably second guess myself out of something cool. If it feels good to me, like something people I admire would like, then maybe that wanted-by-the-public thing will kick in."
You’ve already made a name for yourself within the music industry as a well sought-after songwriter, inking songs for acts like Trisha Yearwood, Art Garfunkel and Terri Clark. What’s your writing style like? In what type of environment do you find yourself the most creative? "I love the writing process. I love to dig for it. The successes I've had have been with co-writers who do the same and with artists who seem to be drawn to the extra little layers that, at least for me, only come with giving it some stewing time."
“Echo” is your fourth full-length release, preceded by “Hardly Glamour” (1997), “Maia Sharp” (2002) and “Fine Upstanding Citizen” (2005). Which album do you feel says the most about you as an artist and why? "They all reflected their place in time. I think "Echo" says the most about me as an artist but that could easily be because it's the most recent. It's the one that reflects right now. Fortunately, I feel good about "right now" and the idea that all those other albums led up to this."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today and why? "Tough one. There are so many great (sometimes for their cheese factor) 80s songs. Okay..."No One Is To Blame" by Howard Jones."
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins, do you? "Hell yeah. I saw "March of the Penguins"...the females go out and hunt while the males stay behind freezing their flippers off to watch the baby."
To learn more about the up-and-coming songstress Maia Sharp, visit her on the web!
Interviewed by: Erin M. Stranyak
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