Maia, aka mxmtoon, had the career come-up most teen musicians could only dream of. At 17, the Oakland-raised multi-hyphenate artist began releasing music from the privacy of her bedroom and quickly acquired an online fanbase drawn to her earnest yet witty lyricism and no-frills production. With another album on the horizon in 2024, mxmtoon is poised to premiere ‘plum blossom (revisited)’, a reconsideration of the early songs that propelled her to fame. She has released the first reimagined song from ‘plum blossom’, “feelings are fatal (revisited)” .
“A lot of change happens over the course of five years, and that’s especially true when you go from being a teenager to an adult within that space,” Maia says of ‘plum blossom (revisited)’. “I released my first EP when I was eighteen, and ‘plum blossom’ was comprised of songs I wrote when I was seventeen. I didn’t have the tools or vocabulary to effectively get every idea I had in my head into song at that point, so the music I was making never quite made it into the form I had envisioned.”
She continues, “Now, at twenty-three, I’m so grateful to say I do have the resources to make those dreams come true for my younger self. to honor and thank her for being brave enough to even make art in the first place, and make her songs shine the way she always wanted them to. ‘plum blossom (revisited)’ is my way of paying homage to where i started from, to thank everyone who’s grown up with me over the last five years, and encourage people not to shy away from embracing our younger selves.”
While Maia is only twenty-three, the amount of growth in the five years since ‘plum blossom’ debuted is unmeasurable. She came out as queer, moved to Brooklyn, and experienced a year of familial tragedy. Her grandmother, a visual artist who has inspired Maia throughout her life and encouraged her music career, died of cancer. In the aftermath of enormous loss, and in the midst of another close family member’s illness, Maia found a sense of wholeness by reimagining the music that made her.
Her instrument of choice was a ukulele and she wasn’t above using common household objects (a hair straightener, for example) as a percussive tool. After uploading a stream of one-off singles to various social media platforms, mxmtoon’s debut EP, ‘plum blossom’, dropped. It garnered the attention of a broadening fan base with sold-out tours and multi-Platinum records, but also earned the stamp of approval from mainstream media outlets like The New York Times and NPR. Since then, mxmtoon’s output has been prolific. Last year, she released her sophomore LP, ‘rising’, which followed 2019’s ‘the masquerade’, all while maintaining a creative practice outside of music.
Working exclusively with women on the production was incredibly important to Maia who tapped Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs) as co-producer, as engineer as well as Laura Sisk (Lana Del Rey and Lorde) for mixing. She spent two weeks at Oakland’s Tiny Telephone Studios. Garbus is a playful collaborator, and at one point, had Maia bang out a beat by slapping two books together, which wasn’t a far cry from the original techniques employed on ‘plum blossom’. “I wanted the production on this new version to be elevated, but I also didn’t want to lose the childlike sense of wonder that limited resources can produce,” Maia says.
Leveling up the promise of her 17-year-old self became the project, and in no place is that more obvious than on the remaking of “1-800-DATEME”, the first song mxmtoon ever released. In keeping with the old, the new maintains Maia’s charmingly self-deprecating interludes, but now she’s accompanied by rhythmic hand claps and vocal doubling that suggests she’s less lonely than she thinks she is. In the process of recording it, Maia chose to change the opening verse to better reflect her queer identity. “I wasn’t out of the closet yet when I wrote ‘1-800-DATEME,’” she says. She flipped the lyrics changing to “Girl after guy, crush after crush, never really figured it out with someone,” she sings, her voice gaining confidence as it goes. “I also had never actually been in a partnership when I wrote that song, or any of these songs, which definitely changes my relationship to them,” Maia says.