“I wanted ‘rising’ to feel like a project about loving yourself”: mxmtoon Shines Bright on Her “Fun Existential Crisis” of a Sophomore Album

mxmtoon 'rising' © Lissyelle Laricchia
mxmtoon 'rising' © Lissyelle Laricchia
mxmtoon dives into her beautifully uplifting and hopeful sophomore LP ‘rising’ in a candid, in-depth interview about self-love and personal growth, musical inspirations, her transition into young adulthood, and more.
Stream: “mona lisa” – mxmtoon




I have such visceral memories of dancing around in my room at the age of six to “Mamma Mia” for the first time, and I wanted to try and capture that joy in this project.

The transition into young adulthood is as turbulent and traumatic as it is cathartic and empowering: A smorgasbord of often conflicting, intense emotions build up inside as we slowly come into our own, discovering ourselves in a long and unapologetically arduous process of trial and error, introspection and growth. “It’s the panic of growing up,” mxmtoon sings at one point on her recently-released sophomore album, reveling in a moment of warm, nostalgic reflection. “It’s the fear of fallin’ down. And if life ain’t what you want, it don’t come back around…” A refreshing coming-of-age record filled with spirited passion and radiant energy, rising is a hopeful celebration of personal growth and learning to navigate life’s inevitable, unavoidable changes.

rising - mxmtoon
rising – mxmtoon
I’ve always played the part of Shakespeare
I hide behind the ink and pen
I build up worlds and choose a savior (savior, savior)
I write beginning, middle, end
I’m so tired of being a book on the shelf
Tired of stories for somebody else
Think that I’m ready to start a new chapter
I’ve been looking for some way to turn it around
Looking for someone to give me the crown
I wanna feel like I finally matter
I wanna be a Mona Lisa, ah-ah
The kind of girl that you can dream of, ah-ah
And I always had the words, but I don’t wanna say it
Wish I could paint a smile on my face
I wanna be a Mona Lisa

Released May 20, 2022 via AWAL, rising is as enchanting as it is uplifting: The follow-up to 2019’s debut LP the masquerade and 2020’s double-EP dawn & dusk finds mxmtoon, the moniker for Oakland-based singer/songwriter Maia, entering adulthood with grace and candor in an exceptionally colorful, rich, and captivating alt-pop soundtrack. Self-described as a “fun existential crisis,” rising is sweet and stunningly intimate; the artist holds nothing back in capturing the highs and lows of her past few years, taking audiences with her on this invariably personal, yet nevertheless universal journey.

mxmtoon 'rising' © Lissyelle Laricchia
mxmtoon ‘rising’ © Lissyelle Laricchia



“I think rising is really meant to hold a reflection on the changes of self that happen when you leave teenagehood and enter adulthood,” mxmtoon tells Atwood Magazine. “That’s what happened for me since releasing my first album, and it felt important to give that process its own moment. I’ve been around for a good while now and the music I’m making and releasing in this chapter feels so much more accurate to my own personal creative desires. I have so much love for the girl who made the masquerade, but I am so incredibly proud of the progress I have made as an artist. I want to honor the chapters that have come before rising, but to also let people know I’m ready for something new and fresh. Rising feels like a celebration of that growth, with optimism for what the future will hold.”

“I hope [listeners] feel inspired to know growth isn’t linear,” she adds. “I am still very unsure of who I am or who I will become, but the acceptance of that uncertainty is all we can strive for.”

rising is mxmtoon’s rebirth in more ways than one: A comforting record that sees her growing up, shedding her past skin and developing her new artistic identity in real time. She holds nothing back in these songs, enveloping our ears in stories of connection and reconnection – both to oneself, and to one’s surroundings – while diving headfirst into moments and memories big and small. Whether she’s dancing alone in her room to ABBA, fondly remembering bygone family dinners, or confidently asserting her desire and readiness to step up into a spotlight of her very own, mxmtoon opens herself up with astonishing honesty and raw vulnerability.

“I think a lot of my past work focuses a bit more on being able to blend into the background,” she reflects. “I think I’ve spent a lot of my life minimizing myself, my work, and largely not feeling like I am worthy of putting a spotlight on myself. I literally have a song called “wallflower” on my EP dusk, that is entirely about not wanting to stand out. I’m in my twenties now, and I feel ready to allow myself to fully appreciate the work and time I spent on this project. I wanted rising to feel like this is a project about loving yourself.”

Friday night and she’s bored at home
Her friends are gone, there’s no place to go
With ABBA on her cracked iPhone
It’s her own sad disco
Boys don’t call and the girls won’t stay
And mom and dad are in Half Moon Bay
She finds herself in the house alone
It’s her own sad disco
She got something deep down inside her
When she move, she walkin’ on water
Takes your hand when you’re bored and alone
It’s your own sad disco




mxmtoon 'rising' © Lissyelle Laricchia
mxmtoon ‘rising’ © Lissyelle Laricchia



Heartfelt, rejuvenating, and beautifully unfiltered, rising is ready to be an anchor for all who listen, just as it’s been an anchor for Maia for some time now.

With instantly memorable lyrics and charmingly irresistible melodies, rising moves its audience to dance, let our guards down, and get to know ourselves a little more intimately. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, mxmtoon has absolutely outdone herself on her sophomore LP, delivering a wondrous and warm record filled with love, light, and hope.

Dive deeper into this inspiring album via our in-depth interview below, and listen to rising wherever you stream music.

I’ve been penned as the “relatable teenager making songs in her bedroom,” but I haven’t been that for some time now. I’m turning twenty-two next month. I’m ready for something new.

— —

:: stream/purchase rising here ::
Stream: ‘rising’ – mxmtoon



A CONVERSATION WITH MXMTOON

rising - mxmtoon

Atwood Magazine: Maia, thank you for your time today and congrats on your sophomore album release! This one feels particularly special, though I’ll leave that for you to share; how does this album release compare to that of your debut album?

mxmtoon: Thank you so much! It feels very different. I’ve been around for a good while now and the music I’m making and releasing in this chapter feels so much more accurate to my own personal creative desires. I have so much love for the girl who made the masquerade, but I am so incredibly proud of the progress I have made as an artist. Rising feels like a celebration of that growth, with optimism for what the future will hold.

It’s been three years since the masquerade and two years since dawn & dusk. How do you feel you’ve grown as an artist in the time since their records?

mxmtoon: I’ve become a lot more comfortable in myself. I think that has to do with just growing up as well! I started mxmtoon as a seventeen year old, and I’m in my twenties now. It’s surreal to think about how the time has passed and how I’ve changed. I know myself more as a writer now and I have a clearer vision for what sort of music I love to make as well!



What was your vision going into this record? Did that change over the course of recording it?

mxmtoon: I really wanted to make an album that was reflective of the very first time I discovered my love for music. I have such visceral memories of dancing around in my room at the age of six to “Mamma Mia” for the first time, and I wanted to try and capture that joy in this project. I think I knew that would be the emotional thread for the album, but production was definitely something that became more solidified as I worked on it.

This record is exceptionally buoyant and sonically colorful: What were some artists and/or other sources that inspired your sounds this time around?

mxmtoon: I was listening to so many incredible female artists. People like Lily Allen, Japanese Breakfast, Regina Spektor, or Feist were huge inspirations for the record. I love how colorful their music is, and trying to see how I can bring that same quality into my own music project was such a fun challenge.

rising feels like quite the coming of age, and you even have a song named as such. Can you share a little about the story behind this record?

mxmtoon: I think rising is really meant to hold a reflection on the changes of self that happen when you leave teenagehood and enter adulthood. That’s what happened for me since releasing my first album and it felt important to give that process its own moment. I want to honor the chapters that have come before rising, but to also let people know I’m ready for something new and fresh.

mxmtoon © Lissyelle Laricchia
mxmtoon © Lissyelle Laricchia



Can you describe this record in three words?

mxmtoon: Fun Existential Crisis

Why the title “rising”?

mxmtoon: I think it really helps encapsulate progress and the realization of self! I wanted the name to be reflective that I’m growing into a different person than the previous version people may know from past music. I am “rising” into a new chapter, stepping up into something new.

How do you feel rising reintroduces mxmtoon and captures your artistry?

mxmtoon: I think it continues to open doors for mxmtoon and allows me to continue keeping creative freedom. My goal with my project is to always allow myself the chance to try new things, whether it’s a new genre or something entirely new.



You open with “mona lisa,” a song that admits, “I'm so tired of being a book on the shelf… Think that I'm ready to start a new chapter… I wanna feel like I finally matter.” Why start your album with this statement?

mxmtoon: I think a lot of my past work focuses a bit more on being able to blend into the background. I think I’ve spent a lot of my life minimizing myself, my work, and largely not feeling like I am worthy of putting a spotlight on myself. I literally have a song called “wallflower” on my EP dusk, that is entirely about not wanting to stand out. I’m in my twenties now, and I feel ready to allow myself to fully appreciate the work and time I spent on this project. I wanted rising to feel like this is a project about loving yourself, and “mona lisa” and its lyrics felt like the perfect way to introduce that.



Do you feel that rising is in any way a record of your own blooming, or the comeuppance into your very own “mona lisa”?

mxmtoon: Absolutely. I wrote a lot of the songs on my frist record when I was 17 or 18 years old, and while that wasn’t that long ago, I can definitely say I’m a much different person now. I’m a much more confident individual. I want to help other people feel that they’re worthy of celebrating their growth in life, so I felt it best to try and make a record about celebrating my own growth to help inspire others to do the same.

I’m in the moment i know where I’m going cause I’m living life in the fast lane,” you sing in “learn to love you.” “don’t need a reason when you’ve got a feeling, you’ve just got to do it your own way.” I love the drive and pure confidence of this song, especially the imagery of getting stuck in the clouds and choosing to stay. Can you talk about how this song came about?

mxmtoon: I was having a particularly rough day where I woke up and felt like garbage. My brain was being really mean to me, I felt out of place in my own body, and I needed something that could help me get out of that feeling even if I didn’t believe it fully on the day I was making it. “Learn to love you” was made because I needed a pick me up, but it’s funny to me that I was feeling exactly the opposite of what the lyrics say on the day I wrote it, but that’s what music is for. Sometimes it doesn’t reflect the current state of mind we find ourselves in, but it’s there for us to fall into when we need something to lift us out of a rut.



I’m fascinated by the phrase, “victim of nostalgia.” What does that mean to you and how do you balance looking forward with looking back?

mxmtoon: I honestly thought about the phrase one day and thought, “dang, that sounds so sick,” so I wrote it in my notes app on my phone and held onto it. I’m definitely someone who chronically lives in the past and always feels nostalgia for the things I’ve already experienced. I think I’m probably just ridiculously anxious, so it’s harder to look forward to things when I have no idea how they’ll go! I don’t have a balance quite yet, but I’ll get back to you when I do.

“growing pains” feels particularly meaningful: I resonated with the lines, “First impressions tend to last through adolescence and she still hates everyone…” and “A couple years spent learning how to disappear, a couple more spent learning what i could be.” It seems like an active conversation with a past version of yourself! What inspired this song and why did you want to write a song to your past self?

mxmtoon: A lot of the songs on the record feel like a natural letter to the girl who made the masquerade. “Growing pains” feels like one of the more obvious examples of such. As someone who grew up with thousands of people watching her from ages 16 to now, I feel like I’ve always thought very deeply about the concept of past, present, and future selves. My songs have always been like diary entries for me, so a lot of the lyric material is going to naturally follow what I’m thinking about.



I want to hone in on that line, “a couple years spent learning how to disappear…” Can we talk about those lyrics and what they mean for you? How do you feel this imagery captures who you used to be (and maybe still are in some ways), and I suppose, what prompted you to break out of your shell? Do you still feel you are that person, or do you feel like you’ve truly changed?

mxmtoon: I started my journey online with the intention of being about to disappear in the void of content uploaded everyday. I didn’t have the goal of people finding my music, videos, or anything. I thought I might get washed away with the waves of other things people posted online every single day. Being online served as an escape from my daily life growing up, and allowed me to be myself in a way I didn’t feel comfortable doing offline. To my surprise my attempts to disappear online yielded the opposite results and tens of thousands of people ended up listening to what I had to share. It was terrifying, but it also helped me understand what was possible for me. I still have days where I wish I could disappear, but I also feel so thankful for the chance to build a community of people and a space online that other can feel accepted and understood.

I really love your finale, “coming of age.” Why end with this song, and what is its significance for you and for the album?

mxmtoon: It feels like a fun way to wrap up the chapter of teenagehood for me. I started mxmtoon when I was eleven years old and posting my cartoons on Instagram. It became a music project when I was sixteen. mxmtoon has always existed centrally around my identity as a teenager, but now I’ve had my “coming of age.” I’ve grown past that version, entered into this next chapter of my life, adulthood. It felt important to express that. I’ve been penned as the “relatable teenager making songs in her bedroom,” but I haven’t been that for some time now. I’m turning twenty-two next month. I’m ready for something new.



Do you have any definitive favorites or personal highlights off this record outside the ones we’ve spoken about?

mxmtoon: I love “dizzy.” I wanted to capture the feeling of spinning aimlessly with the lyrics and the production, and I’m so happy with how it turned out. I feel like it really captures the core of the whole album and what it’s all about. It’s about the uncertainty of growing up, the exhaustion of understanding yourself, but also finding confidence to claim your experience and sense of self even if you don’t have it all figured out.

Standin’ in crowds, wearin’ pretty pink dresses
And puttin’ myself on display, livin’ through filters
And shakin’ the hands of adults who have too much to say
Sharpen my pencil and check all the boxes
That other people have made
Ooh, spinnin’ around the sun twenty-one times got me dizzy
Ooh, changin’ makes me afraid, I would give anything to feel my age



As a lyrically forward artist, do you have any favorite lyrics in these songs?

mxmtoon: “Will I always be the words I wrote when I was 17” (from “Victim of Nostalgia”). I feel like it strikes right at what I want people to understand with this project. It’s a scream for acceptance as I am, not who I was.

Now that you’re on the other side of this album, do you feel that rising is a rebirth, as it’s been billed?

mxmtoon: Yes! I think people’s responses have been so encouraging with this project. I’m so happy people seem to love it and understand what I was hoping to convey. I think it truly does open the door even wider for me to try out anything my heart may desire within my music.

What do you hope listeners take away from rising? What have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?

mxmtoon: I hope they feel inspired to know growth isn’t linear. I am still very unsure of who I am or who I will become, but the acceptance of that uncertainty is all we can strive for.

In the interest of paying it forward, who are some artists you’re listening to these days whom you would recommend to our readers?

mxmtoon: I have been obsessed with Rina Sawayama. I think she is an icon and that feels like an understatement.

— —

:: stream/purchase rising here ::



— — — —

rising - mxmtoon

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📸 © Lissyelle Laricchia

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