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Name: Adam Bernard
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About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week - Maiysha
Monday, July 07, 2008

Don’t be quick to stereotype soul singer Maiysha based on her looks, she may have fashion model on her resume but she isn’t just another pretty face. In fact, when it comes to this stunner her vocals are just as strong as her beauty is striking. A child of divorce, Maiysha, who now calls Brooklyn, NY, home, grew up alternating between the Midwestern metropolises of Minneapolis and Chicago listening to a diverse list of artists that included Stevie Wonder, Prince, Blondie and Billy Joel. Her debut album, This Much Is True, is set to hit stores in August and with her star clearly on the rise I sat down with the songstress this week to find out more about who she is, the secret she kept from her coworkers during the high point of her modeling days, and what led to her fantastic interpolation of the Peter Gabriel classic “Sledgehammer.”

Adam Bernard: Start me off with some background info. When did you start singing and what has your career path been like up till now?
Maiysha: My earliest memory is singing along with my mom to the radio. At two years old I was apparently requesting Natalie Cole and Diana Ross. Fast forward to second grade and my first play, I was a singing frog and LOVED it. Though I was a pretty creative and vivacious kid I was really shy about my talents, so my parents didn't know I was serious until I was twelve and cast as Dorothy in The Wiz. I spent my high school years performing in every school play and had aspirations for Broadway. Still, I forewent the conservatory route and chose Sarah Lawrence for college, where I quickly realized I wanted to sing rather than act. As half of a pop duo I was offered my first production deal as a college freshman by renowned songwriter Chip Taylor, but forewent that to finish school and hopefully, eventually, write my own songs. Post-college was a difficult time for me, growing up seemed really scary. I was teaching drama to elementary school kids and was in a volatile relationship that took my focus off music for awhile. When I emerged from what I now call my "blue phase" the first thing I did was audition for a small funk band. I quickly became lead singer and developed confidence as a songwriter. A mutual friend then introduced me to Scott Jacoby, a young, ridiculously talented, producer, and we began writing together, which began the journey that brought me here. At my core, I think I'm still that singing frog, so excited to have found something I love so much, and all I really want to do is to keep that feeling for as long as possible. I guess I'm also still a bit of the actress I was back then, except now I'm acting out different aspects of myself through my songs, and Scott is the ideal partner in that he sees and nurtures my tendency to shape-shift.

Adam Bernard: You have the interesting distinction of being a model simply to pay the bills while you recorded your album. Modeling is a cutthroat industry; did any of the girls who work their whole lives to be models throw significant amounts of Haterade your way, or did you not reveal your true goals to anyone in that industry?
Maiysha: Though I started modeling to pay off college loans I'd be completely remiss if I didn't say that I've enjoyed my career and feel blessed to have been so successful. I wouldn't have been able to make this album if I hadn't had the time and money that modeling afforded me. As far as my colleagues in the industry, most of them weren't aware of my "other life," so to speak. I guess I'm still a bit shy in that respect, but now that it's become common knowledge I've felt a tremendous amount of support and encouragement, and thankfully, not much "Haterade" to speak of. Hopefully, it'll stay that way.

Adam Bernard: Did you have any worries once the album was completed and you attempted to make the jump into the music industry that all the suits up in the offices would be dismissive because of your modeling background?
Maiysha: Well, despite the fact that everyone knows good looks help in the music biz, I was definitely concerned about the misperception that this was a "vanity project" even though I've been a musician much longer than I've been a model. Thankfully, I have a great team on my side and the music always comes first when presenting me, so my fears were unfounded. In the long run, hopefully it'll simply be an asset, as it has been to many actresses, but to me it's a happy accident, and a sidebar, really.

Adam Bernard: In what ways do you hope your own music influences people?
Maiysha: The best hope I could ever have for my music is that it rings true to the people who listen to it. Whether it's one of my more tongue-in-cheek songs, or one that's deeply confessional, I hope the listener can find something relatable in it and, in doing so, that they feel connected to me. That's how I feel about the artists that most inspire me, and I hope it's what every songwriter aspires to.

Adam Bernard: If possible, describe the emotions going through you when you write a song.
Maiysha: Well, what I feel when I start a song obviously depends very much on what event or emotion inspired it, but regardless, in the process of fleshing it out I always go through the same emotions, pretty much in the same order: the headiness of inspiration, the fear that my hands can't move as fast as my brain, the doubt that I'm writing anything worthwhile, and the adrenaline rush of seeing it take shape and hearing it fully formed in my head even before I get into the studio. Mind you, those stages might occur over minutes, days, or even months, but it's always the same, and frankly, it's addictive.

Adam Bernard: The final track on This Much Is True is a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” What made you want to cover that song and how did the unique arrangement of it come about?
Maiysha: The initial idea to do a cover was Scott's. Honestly, I wasn't too clear on what he was going for, but he thought it'd be a great way to showcase my interpretive skills. I started out singing Jazz standards, so I approach songs lyrically first. I made a whole CD of songs I loved and thought I could cover well; Etta James, Bob Dylan, and Quincy Jones were included on that list, then I was shopping one day and heard "Sledgehammer" over the sound-system. I was newly struck by how sexy the song is, which was lost on me as a child when it came out, but I didn't think I could do it justice. I jokingly mentioned it to Scott as he listened to my compilation and he freaked out! He had an instant vision of how it could be reworked and when I heard it I instantly knew how to sing it. Needless to say, I'm glad I followed his lead.

Adam Bernard: Would you like to remake any other classic songs from the 80’s?
Maiysha: Well, I'm a child of the 80's, so that music is always close to my heart, though many of my favorites have already been covered, which make me cautious to reveal my secrets since I'd actually love to do an album of covers at some point. Let's just say I'm quite partial to Terence Trent D'Arby, Crowded House, and Kenny Loggins… though you'll never hear me doing "Footloose!"

Related Links

Website: maiysha.com
MySpace: myspace.com/maiyshamusic
UFO Music: ufomusic.com


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:44 AM  
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