In Conversation | Maya Delilah
Maya Delilah is a singer-songwriter and guitarist based in London. Her music is a playful mix of lo-fi, jazz, pop, and R&B with some ska influences. Since being signed by Blue Note / Capitol Records last year, she’s toured with MELT across the US as well as playing gigs closer to home across the UK and Europe. We sat down with Maya to hear how she got into playing guitar, being a woman in the industry and her biggest fan, Idris Elba.
Did you grow up in London and what's your favourite thing about the city?
Yes, I grew up in Islington, in North London. As an adult living here, it's really nice being able to have spontaneous nights out – You can meet people at the pub or go see a movie, or a show or an exhibition. There’s just so much going on. The London music scene is interesting, it feels like everyone knows everyone, no matter what style you are. There’s a really strong London jazz scene. And it’s definitely the most supportive and collaborative of any city I’ve worked in so far. People just really want to work with each other here.
Why were you initially so drawn to picking up the guitar?
I started on the piano when I was little and found it really hard because I was learning in a very classical sense. I didn’t know I was dyslexic at the time so reading sheet music made the whole process of learning the piano difficult. But I knew I wanted to try something else. My big sister started playing the guitar which I thought was really cool and grown up. So, I started messing around with it, in a way that wasn’t theory-based. I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much: it became less about the academic side of music, and more about how I felt when I played.
What's the best thing about what you do?
I think that the best thing for me is getting to work with and meet lots of different people, whether it’s people who work in fashion, the arts or music. I think a lot of different creative fields tie into music so you get to do a lot of projects that aren’t just music-centred but seem to influence each other which I really enjoy.
Speaking of which, what’s it like getting noticed and supported by people like Idris Elba and Justin Bieber?!
Very surreal. It feels like the classic thing of when you’re a kid and you think ‘Is it real that people actually get to do this and become successful?’. When you’re starting out as a musician, going to open mic nights and stuff, you see how many people want to do this professionally and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There are these Dream Job moments that you fantasise about as a kid which feel so out of reach. So, when these things do start to happen it's crazy. Weird but amazing.
What attracts you to Folk?
I think Folk has found a great balance of casual and formal. You can dress the pieces up or dress them down which is something I really like to do. I also think its playfulness, with all the colours, resonates with my style – I can choose how whacky I want to go.
You’re looking great in the Cropped Gold Gilet by the way-
Thanks! It's so cosy and quilted, like a little hug. It's great having something like this for autumn when it's a bit still a bit warm so you don’t get too hot and you can move about.
What advice would you give to other young women trying to get into the music industry?
I would say work with as many people as you can, friends included, and create as much as you can. Build a network of people around you that you trust. I’d say that’s especially important as a young woman. Be confident with it. It’s easy not to be, particularly seeing as the industry is still so male-dominated. Sometimes it’s just a case of the more confident you pretend to be, the more confident you become. You deserve to be there so give your all to it and something will happen.
What is coming up for the rest of the year for you, do you have any projects you're working on?
I am slowly releasing a project at the moment: I have a song coming out in three weeks and then some more songs in the new year. Since I’ve been signed to Blue Note records there are now lots of people around me with ideas which is exciting and it makes me want to do more. Some people relax when they get signed because they now have a team to do a lot for them but to me, it feels like there’s more pressure to be creating. I want to keep up with the pace of this new level of the industry I’m in. It's an exciting mix of working harder whilst also having people working with me.
Listen to Maya Delilah wherever you get your music.
Maya wears favourite pieces from our Autumn Winter collection
Words & Pictures, Elsa Pearl. Guitar image courtesy of guitar.com