Since 2019, MAY-A has courted industry and general public attention alike; her brand of storytelling and performance easily striking, thanks to its intimacy and instant warmth. Early singles like ‘All Girls Aren’t The Same’ and ‘Apricots’ established MAY-A (aka Maya Cumming) as a refreshing presence in Australian music, easily manoeuvring between pop and rock music without losing her strong sense of identity.
We can hear poignancy throughout the 20 year old’s music – lyricism that is in some senses wise beyond its years. It’s a self-awareness that MAY-A applies to her creative process generally: whether it be her music, comic illustrations, visual design or growing online YouTuber and TikTok identity.
Following artistic inspiration wherever it leads has been a trait of MAY-A’s from a young age.
“In high school, I would just ditch high school to do music stuff,” she remembers.
“Then, when music stuff got too intense, I would do YouTube stuff. Then, when that all felt too intense, I’d do art for myself. I think I like to avoid the things that are making me stressed by doing other creative things that are still linked to it. It’s like, “I’m still doing work, but it’s not what you asked of me!”.”
It’s why even now, when we chat about music and inspiration over Zoom, MAY-A is particularly spirited when it comes to the constant chase of what’s coming next.
Threaded throughout Don’t Kiss Ur Friends is a central theme of discovery; of relationships, and of the self. Applying this more broadly, MAY-A reflects on the periods of creative self-discovery that have brought her this far.
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Watch the official music video for ‘Central Station’
“I’ve broken so many of my younger self’s rules, just by letting myself be.” she says.
“I remember, I saw the documentary with Billie Eilish, where she was talking about how she wanted to make something that no one has ever heard of before. Her brother Finneas was like, “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard, because you’re never going to be able to do that.””
“Then in an interview, like a year later, she was like, “You can’t do it, don’t even try to do it, you’ll just let yourself down.” I think that perfectly resembles the same inner conflict I was having. I was making pop music, but I really badly wanted to be something different. I had to come to terms with being like, “Okay – that’s who I am and this is just what comes out of my brain, but that’s okay.””
This isn’t to say pop is a dirty word, though. Far from it. As MAY-A explains though, her vision when it comes to creating music in a 2021 pop canon is centred on longevity and impact.
Making music that captures the attention of many is a task that MAY-A doesn’t take lightly; the connection she’s been able to generate with her fans is one that she genuinely loves and respects. Finding your community as a young person isn’t always easy, finding that community as an artist can be even harder.
For MAY-A, having music be the gateway to some invaluable relationships and connections is incredibly important. Special, too.
“The coolest thing about knowing that my music is reaching the types of audiences that I would get along with, is the fact that there are so many that I’ve spoken to who have had the exact sort of insight that I do.” she explains.
“The same perspectives, the same ideals. They love music for what it is, all the little intricacies that make artists different, rather than just liking something because it’s big.”
Right now, the focus for MAY-A is the promotion of Don’t Kiss Ur Friends, as well as her recent collaboration with Fragile Minds – a gender neutral, upcycled merch collection, through Depop. Both the merch line and the EP stand to introduce the artist to more newcomers, while further detailing to her day ones more of this creative vision she’s currently thriving on exploring.
Watch the official music video for ‘Swing Of Things’
The pressure MAY-A feels to deliver and to deliver at the high standards she holds for herself is real. But with each goal achieved, that inner monologue chills out some more, leaving MAY-A more room to actually just enjoy the final product.
And at the end of the day, that’s what an artistic lifestyle should be about.
“I think the absolute hardest thing for me, growing as an artist and not being in the stage where everything is still kept really small, is having to outsource to other people when you physically don’t have the time to do everything.” MAY-A says.
“That has been the hardest thing for me, to not direct every single thing that comes out; not draw every single thing that comes out. Acknowledging the fact that some people are better at doing my job than I am. I need to let it go. I think I’m also the proudest of myself in that sense, I’ve become less cynical about it. I let it happen. That’s been my motto for this whole year: just sit back and let it happen.”
““As soon as you decide that you’re just doing it because you love it; you know what you want to say and you don’t want to try and get anything out of it besides making music and going through that process? It’s just fun. That’s all I want to do. I just want to have fun.”