In preparation for the Cut The Crap Poetry evening, I:M sits down with the poets and performers. With honesty the core theme for the event, we look to hear some truths from the artists and to also celebrate the beginning of the new poetry section of the magazine. The event is fast approaching, on October 17th. Over the weekend we had the privilege of speaking to the delightful singer/songwriter, Maia Miller-Lewis, aka Unofficial Maia.
What is your name and what do you study?
My name is Maia and, for now, I study politics
Aha, I like that phrasing.
When did you start making music? When did it became a way of expressing yourself?
I’ve been writing songs on the piano since I was 14 but I didn’t perform or do any self promo until this time last year when I put my first video on Facebook. I hadn’t performed live until this march or start garage band until this June.
Wow, so there was a long time when your music was really private?
Yeah, definitely, because I was very focused on achieving and being academic. So I completely ignored something that was undeniably me.
You featured on the podcast The Guilty Feminist, how did that come about?
I applied for some work experience for the BBC. I got the interview but I was really anxious and so didn’t get the placement. So as a result, when I got the rejection email, I decided to, quite randomly, email Deborah Frances-White (the host of The Guilty Feminist podcast) for some work experience. I attached my tunes to show what I do and literally 10 minutes later she got back to me and said she wanted me to perform on the podcast!
Did you get to do an “I’m a feminist but…”?
No, sadly not. But I did get to tell Deborah on stage about how my old stage name, Unofficial Maia actually turned out to be the name of a porn-star.
That’s amazing! People are googling your name looking for music and finding porn, or vice versa! A good way to get listens?
Any publicity is good publicity!
And then recently you featured on BBC Music Introducing! You’re so out there!
BBC introducing just works by anyone could send their stuff in. I first submitted my songs in November before I’d even performed and so the quality was terrible. At that moment I realised how important production was, so that’s why I’ve only just been played now by resubmitting it. I’ve been played on BBC intro in the west and the east midlands, which is cheating the system slightly. You’re not suppose to do that. That’s my big lie!
Well it’s all in the name of promo! Bankers have done worse things.
Who are your main influences?
I don’t like the idea of idols and influences because of how little you know about them. In terms of styles of music I love Florence and the machine, Benjamin Clementine, along with your classics; Beatles, Oasis, Pink Floyd.
When I first listened to you my first thought was Bjork!
Yeah, I remember you saying! I’d never had that before.
Something about the eery, dreamy vocals maybe.
So the theme of the night is Cut The Crap - it’s about being honest about with something or someone. What is the bullshit you’re trying to cut?
A lot of my music is about problems that I’ve dealt with in life, they’re the bullshit. The song ‘Should I Go’ is about anxiety in social situations. ‘King Of the Hill’ is about someone who really pissed me off in first year, related to the culture of elitism at Bristol Uni. Cutting the bullshit by exposing the bullshit through songs is what I do.
What about ‘Single-minded’?
Oh yeah that’s about a specific incident. I’d been out with some male friends and they’d been taking the piss out of one of my female friends. I was so angry that within 20 minutes of getting home I’d written ‘Single Minded’ about them. Because I was so pissed off I just couldn’t do anything but think about it and the only way I could mellow down was writing it down. Every time I listen or sing that song, I giggle because I can remember exactly how angry I was at the time.
Hopefully you don’t see them in the crowd and have to sing it through gritted teeth!
Finally, do you have a story about a time that you lied and either got caught, or something you’d like to confess now?
I lied to my cousin when we were young, which resulted in her getting stuck atop a caravan. We used to go away with the family during summer. I was an active child and I liked climbing things, while my cousin wasn’t very good at it at all. So, when I climbed onto the roof of our caravan I then convinced her to climb up too by telling her it would be really easy for her to get down, in full knowledge that she would be stuck there. I then jumped off and ran away and left her stuck up there for 3 hours.
That is really cruel!
She got me back later though by locking me in a cupboard, so I don’t feel too guilty about it.