Image: Tristan Paiige
Sheville interviewed Maria Maita-Keppeler, a Portland-based up-and-coming artist and the face of band MAITA. As a lover of music and a co-host of a college radio show (shameless plug) that plays almost exclusively indie music like this, I was excited to check out her newest single, “Honey, Have I Lost It All?”. I was even more enthusiastic about what she had to say.
The first MAITA song I personally heard was “A Beast,” off of her 2020 album, “Best Wishes.” What I love about MAITA’s music is that it shows clear inspiration from some of the names that I love most in the indie scene–Mitski, Lucy Dacus, Japanese Breakfast, Soccer Mommy, to name a few–while bringing in a unique and fresh energy that feels exciting as a listener. Check out the origin story of “Honey, Have I Lost It All?” below, and stay tuned for MAITA’s upcoming album, “I Just Want To Be Wild For You,” dropping February 18, 2022. Here’s what MAITA shared with our team:
What inspired you to become involved in the music industry? Tell us more about how you got here and your career now.
I suppose I was never inspired to become involved in the “industry.” I started off by being a bedroom singer-songwriter and falling in love with the expression of emotion through music, with the fast and rich connection that music can foster between people. Of course, there are so many components to being a professional musician, and we do have to find ways to balance creativity with business. After a couple years of playing in private and frequenting open mics, I began doing self-booked tours with Matthew Zeltzer (who plays guitar, engineers, produces our records). After touring for a while and playing hundreds of shows on the road, I decided I wanted to focus on my community. We started nurturing the Portland scene and playing with a full band and choosing to take gigs based on the audience, the other bands and the feeling of the show. This was all very inspiring and allowed us to connect with so many amazing music folks within Portland and the rest of the Pacific Northwest.
Why was it important for you to create this single?
This single was born out of frustration for not being able to write. We have the tendency to compare ourselves to others, an unhealthy practice that is perpetuated so intensely by media which likes to feed us the myth of effortless creativity and genius. “Honey, Have I Lost It All?” attempts to expose my thought patterns of feeling inadequate, jealous and competitive with other artists (particularly other women).
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced and what were the biggest catalysts for your success?
One of the biggest challenges I think is figuring out how to find the time and space to make music while being able to afford to do so. There was a period of my life where it felt like music had to pay the bills if we were going to be able to have the time to tour or record or write. It felt like I couldn’t have a day job, or shouldn’t, which ties neatly into one of the biggest catalysts to my success: realizing that I shouldn’t rely on music for money, at least not right away. This took all the financial pressure off of music and allowed us to play shows that felt good, not ones that paid. It allowed us to better separate creativity from business, which ironically ended up allowing the music to flourish and become more successful.
Who are some of your role models?
I’ve been looking up to Big Thief a lot lately. It is so difficult these days to continue to create without compromise. It’s a fear that I struggle with, and it’s always refreshing to see the ways in which they continue to create music that feels like it is tapping into something authentic, special. Any artist that continues to change and grow with every year is inspiring to me.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned? Has it translated to other aspects of your life? If so, how?
Success doesn’t always look the way you imagine it will. I think sometimes we have expectations of what success will look like, and lose sight of the milestones we do reach. Moving goalposts aren’t always bad things—we can move them closer and be proud of what we do accomplish. The music industry is incredibly challenging and competitive, and of course we all have ideas of where we’d like to be in terms of success, but I’ve learned to be very thankful of where we’ve found ourselves, because rarely does everything work out according to our wildest dreams.
What advice would you give women looking to follow in your footsteps?
Support each other! There is such a tendency for women to feel in competition with one another because it often looks as if the opportunities are limited. This is a myth—we can create our own opportunities together, take each other on tours, organize bills together, show up for one another, collaborate with one another and have even richer and more rewarding opportunities as a result. Realizing that my peers around me are my community, and not my competition, changed so much about the way I look at the music industry.
What are you hoping listeners will glean from this single?
With “Honey, Have I Lost It All?” I wanted to demystify the idea that artists don’t find themselves in unhealthy, challenging thought patterns…that they are perfect, creative beings. We all find ourselves in negative feedback loops, in moments of self-doubt and jealousy. I think our culture likes to perpetuate this idea of the savant songwriter, the genius who inhales life and exhales poetry with every breath. It’s a harmful idea because I’m not sure these ideas of the “artist” truly exist, or if they do, they are extremely few and far between.
Where should people go if they want to connect with you?
If you’d like to support the music, maita.bandcamp.com is where you can purchase the music or other merchandise. We are also on Spotify. Our favorite place to connect is at live performances, which we will provide updates for on our Instagram, @maitamusic.