MAY-A 397 interview
[Photo by Danny Draxx]

At 19, MAY-A is already versed in the music industry’s ins and outs. She started her career at about 13 when she spontaneously walked into an office looking for singing lessons. The man who she met there later became her manager, the two sharing an instant connection. Since then, MAY-A has put out a number of singles, including a reimagining of her song “Swing Of Things” featuring Powfu (which she thinks is better than the original).

Now, MAY-A is fresh off the release of her debut EP, Don’t Kiss Ur Friends. The EP is a collection of brutally honest tracks that have become a staple of MAY-A’s songwriting. She uses ’90s inspirations to show the world her unique perspective of what it means to come of age today, battling emotions and maneuvering complicated relationships with your friends—who you may or may not have kissed. She strips down traditional pop sounds and themes, adding edgier guitar riffs and lyrics to create a more DIY, indie-pop sound.

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Over Zoom, MAY-A is starting her day in her plant-covered home in her native country of Australia. Her cozy apartment not only houses her new puppy, Basil, but has also been the setting for multiple of her music videos and her YouTube series, “Don’t Wake The Neighbours.” 

As its name might suggest, the series was born out of a rocky relationship with a neighbor. “[It’s] out of spite, but [it] also started off as a joke,” MAY-A says. “We were talking about how we should have different bands come in to play songs to annoy her, and then we ended up actually doing it, but [it was] really stripped back and quiet, so it actually wasn’t a huge problem.”

The release of Don’t Kiss Ur Friends is a welcome relief for MAY-A, who believes one of the most rewarding parts of the songwriting process happens at “the very end, right after the song and the videos and the whole atmosphere around the song is exactly what you wanted.” 

Other than your career in music and your series on YouTube, you also have posted some poetry to your website. How does writing poetry serve as a creative outlet compared to music?

All my songs start off as poems, or at least attempted poems. That’s the easiest form for me to write in. But if I just wrote poetry, I’m not sure that it would go super far in this day and age. I guess songwriting is a different version of poetry. They all start off as small ideas that eventually get turned into music once I bring them to the producer that I work with and he comes up [with] a vibe of the instrumental. And then I play around with different melodies with the stuff that I’ve already written. Sometimes it’s nice to just keep it as a poem if you think that’s the best form that it can take, especially if it’s something that’s hard to talk about.

Which came first: your interest in poetry or your interest in music?

Music came first because that was the easiest one to understand. I also didn’t really know that I was going to be a songwriter. I didn’t even realize until I got signed that I could be a songwriter. I’ve written music since I can remember. I keep finding old diaries from when I was like 7 that have songs in them or even have poems in them. The age just keeps getting younger and younger the more stuff that I find. [I didn’t] even realize that I was doing it back then, either. 

Where did the inspiration behind your EP title Don’t Kiss Ur Friends come from?

It’s a stupid thing that everyone does at a party at some point in their life. They’ll kiss a friend and go, “Oh, God. You were just meant to be a friend. You are not meant to be anything more.” But also, so many of the songs that I’ve written [in] the past few years had just been about teenage life. It revolves around, “Oh, does this person like me? Do I like this person?”

Trying to figure out and maneuver relationships is so difficult when you’re young because obviously, you don’t fully understand yet. The main reason is [the thought of how] if I never kissed that person, they could have been a friend rather than a relationship. And then if that never happened, well, the EP wouldn’t exist, and I wouldn’t have written the songs, but I also wouldn’t have had to have gone through it. But [it’s] all for the better, I think. 

I’m sure your first EP has been years in the making. What does it feel like to complete it?

So good. Honestly, I try my hardest to answer this question like, “I’m just excited to get it out there!” But honestly, once something has been sitting there for that long, especially when I write pretty honestly and openly about my feelings and where I am at exactly [in] that point in time, it’s so hard to have to hold on to some of those songs. One of the songs on the EP was written when I was 16. So having to go and play that to labels and keep talking about that song and how I felt then is honestly such a weight because I don’t feel like that anymore. I’m not that person anymore, and I’ve let that person go. But even [with] that song still existing in this space where it’s not fully out, there are pieces of me that are just like, “Do I still feel like that?” Like, “No, you don’t. You just think that you do.” 

What have you learned the most about yourself through this project?

Honestly, to let more things go. I can have a really, really clear vision of how I want something to be. And when it starts dissolving a little bit, I can either hold on tight or just be like, “OK, well, this is the direction in which this is going.” I’ve been choosing the latter more often now than I used to. I used to try and scoop up all the pieces and save as much of the original idea as possible, but I know that there are so many cogs working that it just doesn’t matter.

Do you think the lessons that you’ve learned through creating music have transferred into your day-to-day life? 

I think I’m getting better at communicating as time goes on. I used to think it was really ironic that I could write so honestly [about] how I felt, but I could barely talk to someone about it. I think the more that I do interviews and I talk about how I feel and I write more music and I explain how the songs are, it’s becoming easier to talk to people before I write the song about them.


FOR FANS OF: King Princess, chloe moriondo, Frances Forever
SONG RECOMMENDATION: “Central Station”

This article originally appeared in issue 397, available to purchase here.