maya j dishes self producing, bella thorne, + overcoming pressure
Whether you've seen her on Nickelodeon or heard her on Radio Disney- Maya J (a.k.a Maya Jenkins) is taking the media by storm.
How have you been + how’s the city? I’m so excited to get up to L.A.!
You know, it doesn’t snow in L.A., but there are a lot of flakes. Haha, just a funny quip I learned from a friend a few years ago. But honestly, the city is beautiful, crazy, and cool all at the same time.
So your latest single and new music video “Like You” was released earlier this year that I heard you CO-PRODUCED? The work, the time- so much goes into a project like that. Tell us a little about the process.
It was definitely a process. It taught me so much about perseverance and handling things under pressure. Had I known for sure that it would end up okay like it did, then I would have been able to be more calm and collected during the initial record creation process.
I have a very unique vision for music and artistic presentation in general, so although it may take a longer time to complete with the producer or engineer, it is 100% worth it to me to have the music I write come to life as pop records. For all of the songs that I have released thus far, I came in with a finished song and a vision for it, and I have a very hands-on approach to the song’s production.
I like to be involved in every sound that comes out on my records. I sit there with my notes and build the record’s track with the producer, and I don’t leave that part up to chance at all. I stay through the remainder of the process, up until the last tiny mastering detail. I do like to co-produce, although some might not understand that. In my case, not only am I the artist, but I am the songwriter, the label, and the A&R. I have to put my heart and soul into everything, and I want to, because that’s the kind of passion I have for this. When you write a song, you care about the details in the final record, no matter how small. When your money is going toward the creation and promotion, you think like a label as far as the product, image and quality. It is my job to handle all of the duties involved in distribution and promotion. It’s on my shoulders, so I have to nit-pick, as they say. All I ever try to do is secure quality recordings with emotional music that has meaning. I have learned why many collaborators continue to work with each other for years and years, because they have found someone who can musically finish their sentences, dot their “i’s” & cross their “t’s”. I’m always searching for that.
Anyway, when “Like You” finally got done, I think I ate way too much ice cream for celebration! The actual music video making process was another crazy time for me. Fun, but a whirlwind of emotions. Talking with my team, we knew what we were going to deal with after we discussed all of the kind of shots we wanted. I absolutely loved the performance aspect and that feeling is what saved me, but the process was very hard. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong — so we had to laugh to keep from crying. But sometimes we still cried!
My director and I were almost convinced that we were cursed because of things continuously going awry. We had to do 2 re-shoots, my make-up artist quit last minute, my hair dresser got sick the day of, and the hard drive failed. THEN, the gag IS — I got hustled by the data recovery company, as 2-Day turn around turned into 2-WEEK turnaround. The release day countdown was gone, and half of the shots were part of corrupt files, so we finished the video with what we had left. It was definitely a story comparable to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, but each and every time, we got back up. I refused to let it defeat me or the video.
I put out so many fires, & I guess as an artist and business person, that’s what you constantly have to do — not just once or twice. Things aren’t necessarily smooth sailing, but that doesn’t mean you fold. So, there is that. Contrary to ‘Like You’, my ‘Come Find Me’ video shoot went on seamlessly, and post production was super fun and simple. I didn’t exactly realize all the things that could have gone wrong, because the ride so smooth. The “Like You” process will be in my head whenever I even come close to complaining about anything. I’m thankful for everything that has happened and I don’t regret any of it. I hope everyone can take away what I had to take away from this experience ... Sometimes stuff sucks, but ya know, #StaySparkly. Right? :)
Let’s talk Freeform (formerly ABC Family). You were asked to write + perform an original song called “Tell Me” which Freeform ended up using on a promotional trailer for Famous in Love! Personally, I love Bella Thorne as an actress. Getting featured on the soundtrack for such a big production, what were your initial thoughts?
My initial thoughts were ... ECSTASY! I have loved ABC family shows since I was 12 years old, and I always said I wanted one of MY songs to be in a main promo for one of their shows. I still can’t believe it actually happened. I’ve always planned it in my head, so it was extremely cool to see it in real life. The fact that the Freeform head of A&R liked my other music enough to go out of his way to ask me to write for them, was truly amazing. This my first major songwriting placement, and it was a great one for the books. With “Tell Me”, I actually thought the song was going to be on The Fosters because of the similar storyline to what I wrote lyrically, but when it ended up being on Famous in Love, it was such a beautiful surprise! When they posted it on social media, I was actually in the car with my mom, and I made her think there was a road issue with the scream. One of the editors told me that the song was the entire inspiration for the promo trailer, and I was so grateful... bouncing up and down like a kid in a candy store. This was such a good memory that I’ll have with me forever. And Hey - I love Bella Thorne. I don’t know her personally, but we could totally be South Florida buddies. She is from South Florida, and I grew up there. We both had the same acting manager for a short time in the Ft. Lauderdale / Hollywood Area. I have been a fan of her’s for a long time too.
“Tell Me” and the Famous in Love moments. What a great career highlight. Here is to many more cherishable moments.
As a young songwriter in a big city, there’s sure to be difficulties along the way. How do you handle the pressure + what helps you stay motivated?
Well, I will say that to call them difficulties would be an understatement. There is an element of insecurity, constant fear of losing ideas, fear of having music stolen from you, not knowing who to trust, and many other dips you have to navigate through. It’s a sad truth that there are a lot of people in the industry willing to turn their backs on you if it means gaining clout. I am happy to say that I’m not like that. The most important thing to remember is why you are a songwriter. Its something I love, one of the things I can be proud of, and it’s music.
Any upcoming projects to share? <3
In the acting arena, I have a few indie film projects I’m currently filming, and a tv series pilot I’m still working on at my company. I absolutely love discussing film, television, scripts, characters, and all of that, so even though I have no idea what is going to happen around the corner, it excites me to think about it. With music, I have so many new songs I wrote, and I’m kind of ready to let the cup spill over! I’ve had a lot of funny experiences between last year and this year, and much of that is definitely in there lyrically. I’m in talks to be work with Freeform again soon, and I’ll have a new single out before you know it.
I’m staying busy and trying to stay as sane as possible over here. Ya know? The team and I are excited about the future. Stay tuned.