banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

A Dirty Dozen with MAIA SHARP – August 2023

| 22 August 2023 | Reply

Photo credit: Anna Haas

According to a recent press release: “The culmination of a 25-year career that’s included writing songs for the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Cher, and Art Garfunkel, Reckless Thoughts both continues and refines a confessional mood that emerged with Sharp’s previous album, 2021’s Mercy Rising. While that record was an Americana eruption of emotions from the end of a long marriage and leaving her native California, Reckless Thoughts is a more nuanced, clear-headed review of that life-changing roll of the dice. Born in California’s Central Valley, Sharp and her family moved to Los Angeles when she was five. Following in the footsteps of her Grammy-winning songwriter father, Randy Sharp (Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris etc.), she studied music theory at California State University Northridge, but was originally a saxophonist. Her focus as a songwriter and then performer – initially influenced by Raitt, Ricky Lee Jones, Paul Simon, and her dad – emerged only at the turn of her 20s.” We get Maia to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

The real life stories for Reckless Thoughts didn’t jump out and bite me like they did for my last album Mercy Rising.  I had gone through some big changes just before the last one that were screaming to get written.  I’m looking at those big changes now from the calmer other side instead of the dramatic middle.  It’s still real life but a whole other view of it.  I’m hoping you hear the sonic through threads from the last album and that, lyrically, Reckless is answering some of those questions Mercy was asking.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Music was a central part of home from the very beginning.  In fact, before MY very beginning, my parents met singing in a band together in high school.  One turning point I remember is when my dad drove me to my first day of seventh grade which was the first year the LAUSD offered music classes so we were talking about which instrument I should choose.  We had the classical station on in the car and an oboe solo started playing.  Dad said “you know, if you played oboe, you’d probably work a lot.”  Dad (Randy Sharp) has been a professional songwriter/producer/musician my whole life so I took his word for it and without thinking much more about it, I chose oboe.  That led to saxophone which led to being a woodwind performance major in college which led to playing in bands around Los Angeles until I realized I’d rather be the songwriter than the sideman.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

There are so many.  Mom and Dad had music playing in the house all the time and it was good stuff: Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, Rickie Lee Jones, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and Randy Newman.  Some of my most influential live shows have been from these artists as well.  One of my childhood dreams was to play saxophone for Bonnie and, surreally, I got to sit in with her on saxophone when I opened a run of shows for her after she recorded 3 of my songs.  It was overwhelming in the best way.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I’ve always wanted to meet and work with Annie Lennox.  I love how free and wild she seems to be but still technically spot on and always in control.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

I love getting out into nature.  If I can find a state park or reserve nearby (and the time to enjoy it) I’m there.  My guilty pleasure to unwind at night on or off the road is true crime shows like Dateline.  I don’t know why but it’s the only thing I can always binge on.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

This one’s tough because what I really want is for the listener to put their own life into the song or feel like it met them in an emotional place.  I never know how or if it will do that so I’m not sure how to describe it.  I don’t think the “I’m kind of a cross between…”  ever really describes someone you’ve never heard before.  Yes, I’ve definitely heard some cringey comparisons but I try to remember to consider the source.  If the person comparing me actually likes the artist they’re comparing me to I have to get over myself and take it as a compliment.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

That’s an easy one.  I’m traveling alone playing solo acoustic shows so I get to do / have to do all the jobs.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I would have been starstruck when I met Bonnie Raitt but she was so instantly cool she put me at ease right away.  A couple years later, she introduced me to Kris Kristofferson and he’s such a legend I had no idea what to say.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

I try to never take for granted how amazing it is that I get to be creative for a living.  I get to make, play and record music for my job.  That’s just fundamentally fantastic.  If I couldn’t do this I’d want to do something that puts me outside like a park ranger.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I’ve never been asked: “Are you worried about the sustainability of a career as a singer songwriter?”  Yes.  As royalty streams are less and less and fewer people purchase music, touring and sync placements become critical for survival.  Sync placements may or may not happen and touring, at some point, is going to be too physically demanding.  I’m strong and ready for anything now but can I keep this up long enough for the next ship to come in?  That’s the question we’re all facing. If I never had to answer “which do you write first, the music or the lyrics?” again, it would be too soon.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Very early on I had a showcase for a big radio station in San Francisco.  Looking back now I made some rookie moves (it was my first record deal and first big showcase so I was a total rookie).  I tried to bring my real Wurlitzer which broke in transit so I didn’t have it for the show and at the time I was way more proficient on piano than guitar.  I didn’t bring my own soundman and the sound was terrible and I let all of that get to me and affect my performance.  Not my best night but I learned a ton from it.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I think I’d want to be there for Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.  I listen to that album a lot in the morning to start the day off in a chill place.  I would love to see those guys in the moment and how they trusted each other and themselves.  Miles, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley and jazz artists in general remind me to learn it, settle into it, do my best and let it go.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad