- Words Aimee Phillips
- Photography Danny Drax
- Styling Farnoz Shay
- HMU Annette McKenzie
A talented songwriter, Sydney-based MAY-A knows exactly how to bottle the deeply-felt rushes of emotion experienced in young adulthood.
Rising indie-pop artist MAY-A has a knack for capturing people’s attention. Before she made her musical debut in 2019, MAY-A (full name Maya Cumming) was an extremely successful YouTuber, posting (now deleted) reaction videos and vlogs, which would often get more than a million views.
Now focusing solely on her artistic career, MAY-A has pivoted those views into streams and accrued a loyal, global fanbase, already naming Baby Queen and Powfu as recent collaborators. Now, MAY-A has shared her debut EP, ‘Don’t Kiss Ur Friends’.
Whether it’s effortlessly melding rocking guitar melodies with soft vocals on EP opener “Am I In My Head”, narrating a teenage crush on “Central Station” or lamenting her flaws on slow jam, “Daffodils”, the record is an endlessly listenable window into MAY-A’s innermost thoughts and feelings. The EP also features popular pre-released singles “Apricots”, “Time I Love To Waste”, and “Swing of Things” (both the original and remixed version with Powfu).
Written over a long period of time – one of the tracks was penned when MAY-A was just 16 – she says that the EP is a linear tale of a relationship she had, as well as “a journey of queer discovery, and the growth from an adolescent to a young adult”. Candid yet anthemic, we can already hear the tracks sounding out stadiums around the world.
Notion chatted with MAY-A about her inspirations and plans for the future, her battle with the pressures of social media, and the song she’d put on to impress people at a party. Dive in!
You’re currently living in Sydney – what’s the music scene like there? How much of an impact has the location had on you as an artist and your sound?
The music scene is great in Sydney, even through Covid, the amount of local shows that I’ve been to in the past year is insane. It’s really inspiring being surrounded by so many different people playing with so many different genres. Staying in Sydney has definitely made me focus on my craft and figure out what I really like. It’s also given me the opportunity to make some stupid, experimental, joke songs to pass the time and I’m really grateful for that.
Powfu recently hopped on a remix of your single “Swing of Things”. How did this union come about? Had you always wanted to work with him?
I was listening to his music and am a huge fan of his voice and the way he writes. It was super random, our teams were in contact and recommended us to each other (kind of like a blind date – but for music) and we sent him the song to see what he felt he wanted to add. I think his voice fits super well on the track.
You’ve also collaborated with Baby Queen on the single “American Dream”. What did you take away from the experience of working together?
I love Bella, her songwriting is next level. We’d been talking and FaceTiming a bit and she sent me the track and I went nuts. It’s a super brit-pop, guitar-y wet dream of a song. It’s just fun to sing. Working with her was super easy but due to covid we actually haven’t met yet, but I’ll definitely be meeting up with her in the future.
Who else is on your bucket list of collabs?
Dominic Fike is a huge one for me, I would love to do something in collaboration with him. Deb Never too. I’d love to one day get a big group of female/non-binary artists featuring on one track like Claud, Clairo, beabadoobee, ect. I think that’d be sick.
Give us a window into your creative process – how do you write a song?
Usually, it starts with a feeling that has been bottling up for a while. It probably stems from a conversation that I feel the need to have with someone or something I’ve been repressing. I always thought that I just wrote about events that were happening in my life but it’s less about what actually happened and more about my thought processes, doubts, and insecurities around what’s happening and why it’s happening if that makes any sense. Most of the time my songs are made up of random sentences, thoughts, or poems I’ve written in my phone. Sometimes I write the whole song as a stream-of-consciousness rhyming-brain-dump-mess in my notes and I clean it up later in the studio. The melodic, production part happens after. I’ll read what I’ve written to my producer and he’ll start building the track to match the emotions and we’ll freestyle different melodies over that.
Your EP ‘Don’t Kiss Your Friends’ is out today. What can you tell us about the EP? Was it inspired by a personal experience of yours?
The EP follows the course of a relationship, a journey of queer discovery, and the growth from an adolescent to a young adult. Each song is a piece of the last four or five years of my life, as the music developed, so did I. The most recent track having been written last year and the earliest at 16. It’s been a long time coming. It’s honestly a linear story of a relationship I had. The songs “Swing Of Things”, “Apricots” and “Time I Love To Waste” are all about the same person, and so is the whole damn EP. I think that’s the most cohesive you can get. But as much as it’s about that, it’s about what I’ve learned through this relationship and what was going through my head at the time.
A lot of your music is inspired by past relationships. If your exes were to write a song about you, how would that sound?
Oh god. It’d probably be a song asking me to stop writing songs about them.
You posted on Instagram recently about “resisting the urge to delete whole existence from the internet once again”. Social media presents such a paradox for artists – almost a ‘can’t live with it, can’t live without it’ situation. It’s integral to success but also creates a lot of pressure. How has your relationship changed with social since you’ve become more well known?
Definitely. It’s the weirdest mix of having to post everything but not being allowed to post anything if that makes any sense. It’s honest and fake at the same time and I think it’s just super hard for my brain to process. I know it’s part of the job but it’s difficult being unsure about how you want to present and trying to grow into yourself and having to post things online while you’re struggling with that.
If you could have any superpower – besides making great music – what would it be?
Super speed. That would be awesome.
Which song would you put on to impress people at a party?
“Low ft. T-Pain” by Flo Rida. 100%.