Breaking ‘dawn’ with mxmtoon: Learning to Be Alone, Taking Chances, & Writing Optimistic Music

dawn ep - mxmtoon 2020
dawn ep - mxmtoon 2020
Brooklyn-based bedroom pop artist mxmtoon confidently exits her comfort zone on her new, refreshingly hopeful EP, ‘dawn’. 
Stream: ‘dawn’ – mxmtoon

I knew when I started working on this EP that I wanted to be able to try and make a piece of work that could validate whatever people were going through, but also help them see the bright side.

Since 2017, mxmtoon has quickly sprung from a bedroom YouTube star to a bona fide pop star. An Atwood Magazine Editor’s Pick, mxmtoon (also known as Maia) is a California-born and New York-based artist who first started making music in her bedroom, on her ukelele. Maia has come a long way from recording cover songs at home, but the self-made musician will never forget her roots. The musical productions on her new EP dawn and her critically acclaimed debut album masquerade, which was released last year, are adventurous and polished. At the same time, her signature simple, acoustic sound is still intertwined with the larger production, in just the right dose.

dawn ep - mxmtoon
dawn ep – mxmtoon
Life’s a losing game
when you don’t play
Don’t hold your cards
too close is what they say
Now, love is just another
leap of faith
But I jump right in
I took the train, I took the car
I didn’t know just where I’d fall
Or where it’d take me
Another step, another stair
I’ll never know if I’ll get there
But just maybe

Released April 24, dawn is the first insightful installment of mxmtoon’s two-part EP project. The EP speaks of the shy, the sensitive, and the undoubtedly introverted in a way that mxmtoon’s previous songs have not. Maia is undeniably relatable, as is her entire discography. However, until now, she has written tracks that depict her own experiences and feelings, rather than those of others. dawn features Maia’s first experimentation with externally sourced songwriting, which has only strengthened her connection with her audience. Discussing the externally-facing nature of dawn, mxmtoon tells Atwood Magazine, “I hope people come away from it feeling like the songs belong to them too, like now there’s a piece of art in the world that speaks to their own experiences, even if they’d always felt like they were alone.”

mxmtoon’s dawn EP is full of dreamy pop sounds and soft, chatty vocals that have a piercing clarity and laid back melodies.

Twangy guitars wrap around themes of self-confidence and self-trust, and the uncomplicated nature of the EP creates a perfect metaphor for the theme of living in the moment, which flows throughout dawn.

Atwood Magazine caught up with mxmtoon to talk about dawn, how Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s Facing Future is helping her through self-isolation, and how to be happy in your own company.

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:: stream/purchase Dawn here ::
Stream: ‘dawn’ – mxmtoon


dawn ep - mxmtoon

Atwood Magazine: Firstly, congratulations on your new EP! What kind of response have you had so far?

mxmtoon: Thank you, the feedback has been incredible. It’s so nice to see how receptive my audience has been to me continuing to explore what my sound as an artist is. I had so much fun making the EP, and it seems like my listeners are having just as much fun listening!

Which song have you been most excited for your audience to hear?

mxmtoon: I’ve been super excited for them to hear 1,2, and almost home! They’re some of my favorite songs on dawn, and I think both are kind of polar opposites. 1,2 is so upbeat and poppy, and almost home is this mellow end to the EP, but I think they’re both lovely in their own ways.

On this EP, you’ve experimented with perspective, taking a more externally facing approach than we’ve seen in your previous work. How did that feel, was it liberating and eye-opening, or was it a scary thing to do?

mxmtoon: It felt really freeing, but the initial leap was scary! I think a part of me wondered if I made music that was more optimistic, would my audience care? I knew when I started working on this EP that I wanted to be able to try and make a piece of work that could validate whatever people were going through, but also help them see the bright side. It was daunting even for me to ask myself if I was capable of voicing that kind of optimism as an individual, but everything worked out, and I’m beyond proud of the final product.

Would you say it was a conscious decision to focus less on the self and more outwardly, or did your lyricism develop that way naturally throughout the EP?

mxmtoon: It definitely started as a deliberate choice. I got a little bit tired of making music that felt so sad. I don’t personally listen to the type of music I “normally” make. The doom and gloom type of songs I write on my own time aren’t something I would necessarily choose to listen to, so I wanted to write things that made me just as excited to sit down and choose to listen to them as my own audience is when I release music.

You’ve previously mentioned that ''fever dream'' is about your experiences while navigating a music career and taking chances. Do you think that, given the current global situation with COVID-19 and the new need for virtual interaction, the way musicians navigate their careers will change long term?

mxmtoon: I do think it’ll change. There are already so many new ways for musicians and artists to express themselves and share who they are with their audiences. I think some sort of shift was already happening in the entertainment industry even before COVID-19. Artists are having to become a lot more involved on social media, and now with social distancing, there really isn’t much way to avoid how things will play out on online platforms. Audiences are still going to want to connect with their favorite musicians, and so we’ll find ways to do so! Whatever happens during this period will probably become a standard going forward in my mind.

mxmtoon © Cesar Balcazar
mxmtoon © Cesar Balcazar

Everyone is coping with the current situation using different mechanisms, but music seems to be something a lot of people lean on in stressful times. Do you find yourself leaning on musical expression and music consumption during times of stress?

mxmtoon:  Lots and lots of music consumption. I’ve been trying to balance it out with some writing of my own, but as a person, I definitely look for comfort in music when things are hard too!

Are there any particular artists that you’re listening to during this strange time?

mxmtoon: I’ve been listening to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s album Facing Future. It’s really nostalgic for me because it’s what I listened to on repeat as a little kid, and so it’s been very comforting throughout all of this!

dawn focuses largely on optimism and hopefulness. Would you say you find it easy to create optimistic, happy music, or do you naturally lean toward writing melancholic emotional songs?

mxmtoon: If I’m writing on my own, I definitely drift to more emotional songs! dawn was made when I was in sessions with other musicians, so it was helpful to have people kind of pull me out of the place I would normally find myself in with writing. Writing optimistic songs is becoming easier for me, though! Practice makes perfect.

Your song ''quiet motions'' is about being ok with spending time alone and enjoying it. Right now, most people are spending more time alone than usual, what are your favorite things to do when you have time to yourself? Maybe people can try them when they’re at a loose end!

mxmtoon: My favorite things to do when I’m by myself are play video games, bake bread or cookies, watch The Office in the background of a Sims 4 house build, or meditate. These things have been keeping me sane as all of the craziness of the world ensues.

You also talk about learning how to live in the moment and stop over-thinking in your song ''lessons,'' have you learned any other valuable lessons during your musical career?

mxmtoon: Try not to let other people’s opinions of who you are get to you. This is something I’m extremely guilty of not following myself, but I’m working on it! Not everyone is going to like you, and the internet provides a space to give those people the bravery to say nasty things. It’s not a reflection on you or what you do, but instead on them. Just keep doing you, and unapologetically so!

do words lose weight if said too often
if not said enough are they forgotten
do i bite my tongue out of over caution now
thought i had it all just figured out
but i’m slowing down with questions now
it’s okay to step back and look around
it’ll just take time
be patient with yourself
there’s more room to grow
if you leave your worries on the shelf
don’t look back
just go forward like you mean it
say it if you feel it
life goes so fast
so, go live with good intentions
today’s another lesson

And finally, if you had to pick one track from the EP, which did you have the most fun making?

mxmtoon: The one I had the most fun making was 1,2! I remember being in the session and letting my co-writers know I just wanted to make the ultimate feel-good mxmtoon song. It came together so quickly, and the next thing we knew, 1,2 was there 3 hours later.

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:: stream/purchase Dawn here ::

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dawn ep - mxmtoon

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? © Cesar Balcazar

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