Interview : Maiko Watson

25 Jan

Though you may not equate a reflexive, personal and multi-dimensional album with an artist once renowned for her stint on the reality series, Popstars, artist Maiko Watson has garnered acclaim and attention for her debut album, Sweet Vibration – a record she describes as her “life story in a nutshell”.  Already well-acquainted with the Canadian music scene (Watson was previously a member of the pop group, Sugar Jones, and was once married to Canadian musician, Remy Shand), the Winnipeg-based artist chose to pen, produce and release the album entirely on her own (with the exception of one song she co-wrote with Shand), using the label she shares with her sister to release the record last November.  Together with talent, determination and insight, Maiko Watson is sure to bring independent soul to the forefront, helping to break boundaries in the process.
DJ: Your music embodies the nostalgic elements of ‘70s classic soul. How did you work to establish a sound that straddled both the old and the relevant? Which artists did you look to for inspiration ?
MW: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what influenced me in making this album, because everything in my life influenced me. The music I’ve listened to, the experiences, love, heartbreak, marriage, divorce. I appreciate the reference to classic soul and can’t deny its influence, but I listen to and am still influence by all kinds of music. To me, it’s less about genre and more about honesty, and the truth is always relevant.
DJ: What do you think is the biggest difference between R&B and funk and soul? What are your thoughts on the way the genre’s evolved since its origin?
MW: R&B, funk and soul and all different ways of labelling black music. We need to do away with those labels and boxes. It’s time to se music free. People like to decide for you where you’re going to fit in before they’ve even heard you, or that a certain audience won’t like you before you’ve even been given  a chance. Let’s relax a bit and just listen.
DJ: You chose to release Sweet Vibration on the independent label run by you and your sister. Do you think the indie genre tends to overlook soul?
MW: A lot of people assume rock when they hear the word indie. I suppose it has become a genre in a way. But it started out as just meaning independent. These days, there are so many artists doing music that defies boundaries. I think people are becoming more open minded, and the importance we place on categorizing music needs to reflect that.
DJ: Though the album is finely produced, it maintains an organic feel as a result of live instrumentation and your own music and lyrics. What prompted you to include live musicians as opposed to using a pre-recorded or electronically produced track?
MW: I knew I wanted real players on the album because I wanted to hear sounds made by actual human beings on these songs. I appreciate the beauty of imperfection. Don’t get me wrong, I love my drum machine and synth sounds, but not for this album.
DJ: Sweet Vibration is also an extremely personal record, taking listeners on a journey that includes an array of emotions and experiences. Do you find you’ve gravitated toward specific songs on the record or do they work together to tell a story?
MW: There was an obsessive phase I went through with each song, I have to admit. Listening to them now, it feels a little wistful sometimes. Sometimes I have to find a way to make them feel relevant now because they’re a part of my past. But yeah, definitely my life story in a nutshell.
DJ: Do you find the Canadian music scene is supportive of up-and-coming independent musicians? How do you and your fellow artists band together to offer support?
MW: I think we’re living in the age of the independent musician. We’re seeing a lot of really exciting things happening because people are free to make and put out music on their own terms. I try to get out and see shows as often as I can to hear, support and be inspired by other musicians. Recently, I’ve come across this innovative collective, 88 Days: a politically aware, unapologetic, experimental bunch that are making some really strong statements with their music. It’s a great energy to be around.

Posted by : Anne T Donahue

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