Q&A with supremely gifted artist Maya Rae - one of Canada’s top new Jazz musicians, with a soul that belies her age

"Jazz is definitely a specific genre and sound but something I love to do is cross genres by mixing various sounds. Jazz as a genre has definitely broadened over the past 50 years."

Maya Rae: A New Jazz Star Is Born

Vancouver-based, 17 year-old singer, musician and composer, Maya Rae, is an incredibly gifted artist with a soul that belies her age. Her musical journey has already seen the release of a debut album of jazz standards and originals with some of Canada’s greatest musicians. Maya’s development as an artist continues with her new album "Can You See Me" Available on Black Hen Music on April 3rd, 2020. Produced by multiple Juno winner Steve Dawson, the CD will feature acoustic originals recorded in Nashville with an incredible cast of musicians. Maya Rae is a true musical storyteller, who uses her influences and experiences as a young woman to inform a diverse presentation of soulful music to the world. Maya is inspired by musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and The Beatles, and modern-day artists like Jamie Cullum, Megan Trainor, Ed Sheeran, and Adele.

This is not uncommon with singers today – growing up in an iTunes or Spotify generation, young artists can find themselves listening to a compilation of hundreds of songs from dozens of genres, all in one session. It has led to a generation that is blind to genre or musical confines – the key is to find a balance in these influences, allowing the listener a musical experience and journey in concert that is entertaining and enlightening. In her short career as a performer, Maya has found that balance and is becoming a meaningful storyteller on the stage. She has shared the stage with prominent artists and musicians. As a part of Maya’s stories to her listeners, there has always been a priority to speak for youth and peers that have faced barriers and personal difficulties in their life.

Interview by Michael Limnios 

Photos by Mark Whitehead / Special Thanks: Sarah French

How has the Jazz music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Since I started playing Jazz, I’ve been able to travel around the world playing at various festivals and venues! It helped me to meet musicians from all around the world and make valuable, long-lasting connections.

How do you describe your music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I sing everything from jazz standards to recent pop tunes. I really just sing anything that I feel I can relate to on some level. As for my creative drive, I write a lot about various events that occur in my own life. A lot of what I write about tends to be about my journey so far as a young person in life and the many emotions both good and bad that I’ve felt throughout the past couple of years.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Music of the past was so carefree and timeless. Nowadays, a lot of artists make music with the mindset of what is trending in pop culture today. Although this is definitely a good way of approaching the music industry in some ways, it leaves a lot of pop music sounding the same; very generic and rarely conveying important messages through the lyrics. I hope that the music of the future can become more individualized and impactful, then becoming timeless music for generations to come.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would hope that musicians could become more supportive of one another and raise each other up rather than being so competitive.

"As a young woman starting out in the music scene, I definitely feel the constant push to act a certain way and conform to a certain norm in society."

(Maya Rae / Photo by Mark Whitehead)

Do you consider "Jazz" a specific music genre and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?

Jazz is definitely a specific genre and sound but something I love to do is cross genres by mixing various sounds. Jazz as a genre has definitely broadened over the past 50 years.

Make an account of the case of the Jazz in Canada. What touched (emotionally) you from the local circuits?

I have been lucky enough to have played with incredible musicians so far in my career. Vancouver has a very large Jazz scene and I have been supported immensely by many people throughout the past couple of years.

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

In the Jazz scene specifically, I have definitely noticed the gender separation between men and women. In Vancouver, there are a lot of women in the jazz scene which is amazing; however, men make up the majority of the music scene. As a young woman starting out in the music scene, I definitely feel the constant push to act a certain way and conform to a certain norm in society.

What is the impact of Jazz music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

In Canada, there are no socio-cultural restrictions really when it comes to Jazz. My main goal when playing my music is for others to connect or feel something when listening.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

There are so many places and music era’s that I would want to go to for a day! But I think I would want to go to Liverpool, England in 1969 to EMI Studios and listen to The Beatles record Abbey Road (one of the most iconic albums ever made).

Maya Rae - Home

(Maya Rae / Photos by Mark Whitehead)

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