Name: Maylee Todd
Current Release: Maloo on Stones Throw
Recommendations: Inoyama-Land is a beautiful piece of timeless art/music. I love 3D mapping and creating visuals to it /Mati Klarwein’s art work, the amount of detail and work put into it is inspiring and psychedelic.
If you enjoyed this interview with Maylee Todd, visit her website www.mayleetodd.com for access to her music, art and more.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing music when I was a young kid. We had instruments around the house, my dad played guitar, my sister played keys and guitar and they both sang. So, they were a huge influence growing up.
I loved Astrid Gilberto, Bjork, Hole, Brand New Heavies, Michael Jackson and really got into obscure techno music. All of these influences shaped my views on how music is produced and how it can be perceived. I liked the freedom I felt listening to music and how it made my body feel. I liked the riot gurl feeling of breaking constructs of what it meant to be a girl, I like the experimental aspects of electronic music and how you can immerse yourself in that world.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
A little bit of both. Each record I try to learn brings a new instrument or piece of technology to the project. In terms of emulating others, my father was an Elvis impersonator, so impersonations were something I grew up with. Learning how other musicians sing definitely inspired my style. Currently I like to sing in different voices. I believe character has been a strong asset for each and every one of my records.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
This is a good question. Identity plays a huge role in how I’m perceived (which I always forget about in new spaces) and how I need to interpret my actions. This has influenced how I even exist in some spaces.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I think when shame and fear come into the picture it can be very limiting and take up a lot of creative space. In the act of doing without getting too much in my way, I’m able to grow my creativity and continue to take risks. Currently and for a while I believe I am creative through and through. The challenges are lack of resources, team, environment that has the most impact on my creativity. Honesty, the technical and administration takes 90% of my time. I’d love for that to change.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I first started with video cameras, VHS players, a guitar and my voice. I started making little films and wrote satirical songs. I moved onto tapes and techniques in my teen years. Then in my adult life I got into harp playing, keys, and writing songs. Each album was me learning something new for the album. Choose Your Own Adventure (2010) was me learning keys and harps. Writing songs that were in the world of adventure no matter what track you landed on. Escapology (2015) was about learning how to work with a band and synths. Acts of love (2017) I learned Ableton Software, MadMapper for immersive shows that paired with that album. Currently Maloo (2022) I used the Tenori-on for most of the record, 3D modelling and wrote a science fiction tale that will be performed live with my digital avatar.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I'd say software has opened up a world for me. It’s limitless, which can be overwhelming. But one step at a time and take it where your interests lay.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I typically file share. I am self-conscious about jamming, but that’s something I’m working on. I love chatting about ideas, I think it’s motivating to be excited with another creative and feed each other.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I wake up when I wake up and do 20 mins Headspace App, then light a candle, burn some incense, use my tuning fork, chant mindful meditation affirmations, read Tao 365, pull a tarot card for my day, read 1 page from the Art Of Peace, write down my gratefuls, thank the infinite program for the opportunities in my life, stretch and blow out that candle. This morning routine has been so helpful. It sets my day, it reminds me of the joy in my life, and reminds me to be kind to others and myself. This is so important to my practice and my life.
The rest of my schedule is project based, so I typically am glued to my computer until the evening. I block out chunks of a time for creativity, administration, technical troubleshooting and play within the technology.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I used to tour a show called Virtual Womb (2015). This first show was the most special. Audience members walked through a large vulva and laid on the ground taking in projections on the ceiling while I played music live with dancers, an orchestra, etc… It was an incredible, warm, experience! People wrote down what they did for therapies and these “acts of love” were a way for everyone to access what people did for therapy. I wanted to bring a psychedelic experience to an audience where they felt loved, warm like they were in a womb and safe.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
My ideal state of mind is having a studio, a dedicated space and dedicated time with all my tools.
Honestly all the administration and technical troubleshooting takes up so much time, but I know it's very needed to keep this ship sailing.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Music and art allow freedom. Freedom of movement, thought, expression, real freedom. I believe when we get stuck in “this is the right way,” or “not good enough,” it can definitely stunt our creativity. Music is a form of communication unto itself and language can be flawed. So, having an outlet in this form is very much needed for healing and expression.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
This is all case by case for sure. It depends on so many factors like who’s using what and how. I’d say observing and doing research is a good place to start.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Music brings so many memories and feelings back to my body. I think music has such a beautiful way to encapsulate an experience, a person(s) and nostalgia.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
My art has been influenced and speaks on mental health. My current record MALOO touches on themes of social media and digital identities; status, perceived realities, and their impacts on real life events. In the song ‘Dream with You,’ MALOO struggles with mental health patterns from Maylee Todd and has to break up with these aspects of themself that don’t serve them. In ‘Infinite Program,’ a programmable conscious planet thrives from the inhabitants' self-awareness and accountability.
What can music express about life and death which other forms of art may not?
The melodies and lyrics can bring overwhelming emotions. Songs can be tied to experiences that bring us back to remembering those events in our lives.