The new online voice of a generation, mxmtoon, is here to stay armed with her ukulele and heart of gold!
Despite mxmtoon’s meteoric rise to fame beginning as YouTuber who was able to show up online as completely herself, music has always run thicker than water in mxmtoon’s life.
Hailing from Oakland, California, mxmtoon started playing music as early as six years old when her mum signed her up for violin. Music has always been something in her life that she’s made sure to incorporate within her videos – it was always there, just sometimes not at the forefront. When listening to the beginnings of mxmtoon’s teenage years, it is like watching your favourite Disney movie that has you gunning for the cute and humble protagonist. When she was 10, she joined a rock band at her school and of course sang ‘Wonderwall’ because she auditioned as a cellist and her teacher immediately thought that wasn’t going to happen, and asked if she could sing. So that’s what mxmtoon did, and she’s been writing music ever since. Introduce the internet and the ability to set up a camera in your bedroom and here we have the birth of mxmtoon.
mxmtoon’s brand of YouTube is something that’s entirely her – hilarious, humble, sometimes awkward and entirely authentic. Probably something that is a rarity in the age of digital online perfection. Perhaps this is why millions of eyes who consider mxmtoon a friend are such lovers of her. Her ability to go on camera looking like a ‘normal’ and talk about things in a human and funny way has adorned mxmtoon a legion of friends behind her. However, the tide began shifting when mxmtoon began posting her diary-like entries as songs online with her tender vocals and ukulele playing. Like mxmtoon herself, the millions who connected with mxmtoon instantly began connecting with the sincere and likeable tracks that she was posting online as they too were entirely mxmtoon.
Fast forward a small amount of time and here we have mxmtoon just finishing up a global tour with the release of more tracks that engage and emote her audience consistently coming. Meeting mxmtoon in person is entirely like just watching one of her videos – she’s funny with a goofy humour, super polite and sweet. We caught up with the new voice of an online generation to see how things are going, and what’s next for the online superstar!
What got you into starting your youtube channel, was it just something fun to do at the beginning?
It was definitely fun. At that point when I was younger, YouTubers came up in the world as this new profession that people were aspiring for. I was watching so many people on YouTube and looking at what they were doing and they were making these really cool videos and had this weird opportunity to be solely creatively independent, to make anything that they wanted. In my mind, I didn’t know how to verbalise that quite yet. But, I knew that I wanted to do the same thing and the best way I could put it was that I wanted to be a YouTuber, so I told my mom, I was like “hey, I really wanna be a YouTuber! I know you think that’s dumb but I really want to do this. I’ll make some YouTube videos and see how it goes”. My Mom was like, ‘Sure, ok”, very dismissively. So, I made YouTube videos with my friends, I made them by myself – it was just a fun space for me to test out all the different things that I love to do in my free time, and put them on the internet.
What was the moment when you noticed things started gaining momentum?
I think the first morning I had to tell my parents that I was writing music and releasing it. I hadn’t told them yet, which was like so funny to me in retrospect, that I just didn’t tell them. And what the heck did they think their child was doing in her bedroom. I woke up, and I checked my phone as I usually do, and I looked at twitter, and I saw that I was mentioned in a Hypebeast article. And I was bugging out for like 30 seconds being like “this is so cool, this is so cool” but then it dawned on me that I had to tell them, as it is such a big publication that someone else could tell them before I even got the chance. So, I went to the kitchen and I was like “Mom, Dad, I have to tell you something”. And I’m sure in their minds, they were like “oh my god, is our child addicted to something?”. I told them that I wrote the music and they were probably relieved that it wasn’t anything super scary. They went into this deep dive about the whole music world and what I was putting out online, I think at that moment it finally felt real because I was having people from my real life interact with what I was doing online and it hit me that there were other people on the other side of a screen engaging with it, consuming the content that I was putting out there. So yeah, that’s when it hit me!
What was it like when you began performing live and you made that crossover into being a person in front of an audience rather than your camera?
I think it was the first live show that I ever played in 2018, which was August last year. It was just opening for two of my friends. I played the show and I didn’t really expect anyone to show up really, for me at least. But everyone knew the lyrics to my songs, it was the most magical thing that had ever happened to me. It was crazy, I was just blabbering nervously on stage singing my music and probably messing up on some of my lyrics and people were still cheering for me, and applauding. It was a switch that flipped in me, I was like “Oh my gosh, this wild, these people take the time to listen and they spent their hard-earned money on a ticket and came out to spend it with me”. To sing along and hear me play live, god what a blessing is that.
Did things just keep building momentum and momentum after that?
Yeah. I kept just doing music. Kept doing it because I loved it, and I still do it because I love it. But, I feel like I got really lucky in a lot of ways. I work really hard, but I do feel like the progression of everything just happened kinda crazily well.
What is your creative process around writing and making music?
I use the ukulele in my songs because I didn’t know how to write music on anything else. I had taken cello lessons and violin lessons and was really trained classically before I started playing the ukulele. It’s not like I can compose a sonata that went through the struggles of a 12-year-old when I was playing the cello. So, I picked up the ukulele and I learned just a few chords in music class, and I knew about rhymezone on google, where I could type in a word and then all of a sudden have a bunch of magical matches that rhymed with the one that I needed it to. I think writing just felt like this really weirdly natural thing for me to do because it had a structure to it in a way that diary entries don’t. Whatever my main thought was that was going through my mind would become the chorus, and whatever the underlying details were would become the verses. The afterthought that kind of came with my emotional state would be the bridge. It made sense to organize all of those different parts into a song, but I didn’t really look to any other artists at that point for inspiration on how to write, because I was writing in a way that made the most sense. But nowadays, I think more about my language and the way that I’m phrasing things and looking to other people’s inspiration a lot more.
You’re just finishing up your Masquerade tour now, what is it like living on the road?
Oh man, it’s so tiring! It’s so fun, but it is really tiring. I hadn’t really travelled nearly as much as I have in the past year. I think I used to leave my state maybe once or twice a year, at most. This year, I’ve hopped on a plane about 40 times in order to go to different places. I’ve gone to two new entire countries that I’ve never been to, so it’s incredible. It’s such a wild opportunity to be able to visit places you’ve never been to. It’s so fun to see the faces and meet the personalities of the people that live in those cities. So, I think that’s my favourite part. But it’s really gruelling, I didn’t realise how taxing it was going to be. But you know, you just find the time on the road to make time for yourself. And what sort of routines and rituals help you feel like its sustainable.
A lot of people relate to your music so much, but they also relate to your videos so much. What does it feel to have these millions of people that consider you a good friend?
It’s really strange. I mean it’s funny though because I definitely had those people growing up on YouTube that I looked to and thought, “Oh, they feel like such an old friend because you know so much about them even though they know nothing about you”. I always thought it would be really cool to have an audience and build that connection with other people, and now I have it. It’s amazing. It’s really nice to be able to go onto a platform like Twitter and tweet something, and all these people interact with it. I feel like I’m talking to high school friends or University friends. It’s really funny because up here, I don’t feel anything more than that really, I don’t feel like a God, or a teacher, or a counsellor for all these different people but I really just feel like I’m another teenager that’s navigating a world alongside my audience, and I just happened to have a place where I could tweet to the void and people would acknowledge me.
What’s the main message that you want to get out, within your creative work?
I think my underlying goal is that anything I make, whether that’s art, visually or musically – I hope that people who interact with the stuff I make, know that they’re not alone. I think that the world can feel really isolated and I feel that I have my own artist’s that I look up to, and to feel like I can see my own experiences within them and the art that they make, I hope that my songs resonate with a larger audience. They have done so far, but hopefully painting people’s experiences accurately, even if they are based on my art.
Who are some of your greatest inspirations?
My mom is probably the biggest one. I’m gonna know her better than anybody else. I think when it comes to art, I really look up to Lizzo as one of the artists. I see how she carries herself so unapologetically her and I love that about her. Her project is amazing. I really look up to Billie Eilish, who is also younger than me which is funny. She’s awesome, I can’t imagine how hard it has been for her to navigate the industry at such a young age and really just killing it as much as she has. I think any strong woman that has taken the industry by storm and remained true to themselves I see as an inspiration.
Do you have a rough idea of how you want the next chapter of your music to unfold like?
Yeah, I wanna keep elevating my sound. I think that there’s still a long way for me to go production-wise, in terms of claiming what I sound like. I think there’s a lot of room there. But I hope that a lot of my lyrics continue to evolve and I’m excited to work with new people to help me branch out a little bit and try different styles and techniques. I’d like to be a little more external facing, a lot of the stuff that I do is really internal and I feel like it’s obvious that it feels like I’m monologuing to myself. Hopefully, I can make some more music that feels like it’s facing outwards and interacting with the world a little bit more.
What’s been the highlights of your year?
Oh man, finishing this tour has been a huge highlight, I never thought that that would be possible! It’s been amazing. I feel like I started it thinking it was never going to end and now all of a sudden it’s over and I still haven’t fully processed it. That’s been awesome. Honestly, I don’t know. Is surviving a good enough goal?! [laughs]. It felt like a lot of work, I just wrote a lot personally in order for me to do anything that I’m doing nowadays. This year has felt like 20 years long and I’m amazed I’ve made it to the end and still feel as good as I do about going into the next year.