A Conversation with Singer-Songwriter Maya Lavelle

Singer-songwriter Maya Lavelle makes her ‘Jake’s Take’ debut. (Photo courtesy of EMPKT PR)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

It is a pleasure to welcome singer-songwriter Maya Lavelle to Jake’s Take.

Maya Lavelle studied classical music at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam ten years ago, where she earned her masters degree in advanced composition and orchestration.  Following graduation, Maya became noticed in the international music community.  The Young Composers Meeting awarded her the Best Piece prize. She also represented the Netherlands at the Berlin International Film Festival in the Berlinale Talent Campus as a Film Composer.

International audiences recognized her hit song, “This Ain’t the End,” which was featured in the film, The Rift.  AMC also used the track in a crucial episode of The Walking Dead.  BBC Music Introducing also heavily featured another single, “Ben,” which topped the Netherlands’ iTunes Top Charts.

In this edition of A Conversation, Maya Lavelle described her songwriting process, how her affection for Tim Burton and the Brothers Grimm influenced her “House on a Rocky Road” music video, and an unexpected reptile visitor she had on the set of her “Dancing with a Bottle” music video.

Jacob Elyachar: When did you get interested in music? How did it evolve into the desire into pursuing a full-time career in the recording industry?

Maya Lavelle: Music has always been around me. I come from a very musical family. My parents are both musicians; my brother is a musician. My mom wrote lots of songs, and they were writing songs for the artist.  For me there was no other way pretty much. If other artists and singers would come along like to our house to choose the songs for their next album because my parents used to write for them, I was still a little kid, like maybe four or five years old, and it was not appropriate for a kid to sit around, of course, with these people. I hid on a staircase and listening to their whole conversation. When the singers would leave, then I would go and tell my parents, “I told you first money then cassette.”  I was right because it happened to them so many times. Like they don’t get paid. Artists gathered and recorded songs, and this doesn’t happen. I was so little, but I understood how the business works.  Apart from that, I started playing the piano when I was six. When I went to music school, and I was always composing.

Jacob Elyachar: Could you describe your songwriting process to my readers?

Maya Lavelle: Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and I write down the melodies that I dream. When I was a kid, I used to imagine the whole music background and instrumentals.  I would sometimes dream that songs are going on a radio that I’ve never heard. I used to write this down, and usually, they come out pretty good. Apart from that, I love to travel, and I get inspired by those adventures and people that I meet in all these far countries — the locals. Like my album, Hobo was named after one of these characters that I met while I was traveling through, living actually, in Los Angeles. And I always thought that homeless people have some stories to tell. So, I still wonder what these stories are.  That’s how I wrote the song. It’s called “Hobo,” and the album is named after.

(Video property of Maya Lavelle)

Jacob Elyachar: Your song, “House on a Rocky Road’s” music video transported fans into a Tim Burton-esque world filled with hybrids of his iconic characters and The Brothers Grimm’s memorable creatures. Why did you believe that the Tim Burton and the Brothers Grimm-esque characters were important to be the visual aid to the song?

Maya Lavelle:  Since I was a child, I loved fairytales, reading, and the Brothers Grimm. My grandma used to read me these books every night before I go to sleep. Sometimes she will fall asleep before me, and she would try to skip pages, but I knew all these stories all the way through just by my heart.  I kept on reminding her: “Oh no, this happened there; that happened there, and I think you skipped some pages.” Then, she would get annoyed. So, my whole childhood was fairytales. I used to make theater for my parents at home. My dad is also an actor, and we had lots of costumes that we would dress up in and do our little improvised plays. I love Tim Burton. Aesthetically I think he has been the most significant influence on my music so far because there’s this always interesting twist of reality in his movies. The characters that are so original, creative. I love the dark side of it and the edgy side, and I think just the atmosphere of my songs and the stories that I create are very related to the style.

Jacob Elyachar: What are some of the significant challenges that you faced breaking into the international music market? How did you overcome those obstacles?

Maya Lavelle: I think the challenges are in the music industry all over the world, wherever we are. The problems are similar because there are so many good artists and not a lot of spots on the music charts.  Now there is social media which can help a lot, artists to connect with the audience in a different way than before. And I think that’s a good side of it. But, on the other hand, artists have to do so much. And of course, we only want to create. We want to write songs, and we don’t want to think much about like posting all the time on Instagram and things like that. But then when you connect with the audience, then it’s very satisfying, fulfilling, and beautiful. I love to read messages from people that write to me that they overcome problems by listening to my songs and that they give them hope.

Jacob Elyachar: Let’s talk about your latest single: “Dancing with the Bottle.”  Could you describe the song to my readers and its music video to my readers?

Maya Lavelle: “Dancing with the Bottle” is a song that celebrates life. It is about getting into adventures and taking a ride through the night full of stars. The song also in a way showcases women supporting each other, having fun, and indulging in life. The video we shot in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Indian Canyons. It will soon be out, so you will be able to see. A lot of interesting things happened on this shoot. We shot the “Dancing with the Bottle” video for about ten days.  I am never going to forget when I was shooting in Indian Canyons, and after like half an hour of doing the shoot I realized there was a rattlesnake next to me, like this far. I have never seen a rattlesnake in my life, and it was so terrifying. We got a shot and have it on video. We didn’t use it in a song, but we have this, so you’ll be able to see it. I’m proud of myself that I survived this shoot. It was exhilarating!

Jacob Elyachar: If you had the opportunity to meet with aspiring singer-songwriters who want to work in the music industry, what advice would you share with them?

Maya Lavelle: It is hard to advise because everyone has their path. Of course, it’s important to follow your instinct and your own heart and to try to be better because we can always be better. And read lots of books, go to the theater, watch films. Go to museums and see the art. Connect with other artists as well because this can also be very inspiring. Of course, there will be difficult days. You have to build a massive room for hope and never give up.

Maya Lavelle’s debut studio album, Hobo, is expected to drop sometime this June.

For more information about Maya, visit her website. You can also connect with Maya Lavelle on her social media channels. Visit her Facebook,  Instagram, Twitter, & YouTube channels.   

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