As an artist, it’s important to be aware of what you want to put out into the world and how you hope to make an impact. In the case of up and coming, singer/songwriter/actress Maya Jenkins, Maya J for short, she hopes that she can give the world a strand of positivity through her art and honesty. Last December, Maya released her first single, a ballad titled “Symptoms of You,” and with more music on the way, Maya is ready to introduce herself.
“The inspiration behind ‘Symptoms of You’ comes from a personal experience of course (as with any songwriter who writes from the heart),” she explains about the song. “It has a lot to do with inner strife and a need for something (or someone) that is so wrong for you because of more than one reason.”
About a week after coming up with this concept, the melody came to her. “Chords and a melody are usually first for me,” she explained, “and I put poetry to it when I feel like the melody is at least almost complete.”
Being the first song she fully wrote on her own, the draft of “Symptoms of You” was written in one night with Maya and her guitar in a dark living room, “It was such a journey from the first demo to the final product that everyone is hearing. It was a tedious, but fun and rewarding process.”
“I specifically chose ‘Symptoms of You’ as my first single because I wanted listeners to feel depth behind me and my music,” says Maya about her how the song has introduced her as an artist. “I wanted to represent myself as chill and vibey; and my music as something smooth, moody, and beautiful. I wanted my first single to be from the heart. This definitely is.”
Now working on her new music, Maya finds herself shifting from the slow ballad to an uptempo feel. But, ”Symptoms of You” still connects with their shared, “moody [but] minor tone.” “I think I have a style that’s interesting, I really hope people like it,” she adds.
Her next single is called “Come Find Me” which she can’t help but be extremely excited about sharing. “‘Come Find Me’ is minor but up-tempo and the music is very fun but also dramatic in its own way. The lyrical content in comparison to ‘Symptoms’ is pretty opposite so that’s cool.”
Giving more hints about the single, which will be available for pre-order this Spring, she says, “‘Come Find Me’ has lyrics that did surprise me because I never thought I’d feel that way about someone.” Teasing also that there’s another song she can’t share whose lyrics she’s excited for listeners to hear and in her best Forest Gump voice adds, “That’s all I got to say about that.”
“I definitely feel the need to censor myself when it comes to music. Not only because we all have something personal we don’t want to share with the world, but I like ambiguity in my songs,” Maya says about the honesty in her music. “I want every soul to be able to relate tot he song in some way. i want them to find their own meaning within the words. In my opinion, if I say everything explicitly, I’m limiting the poetry to one meaning instead of letting everyone ponder and decide for themselves.”
Having a love for music from a very young age, Maya began taking music lessons when she was five years old. “I think it’s just in my nature; my whole mom’s side of the family has artistic talent and my aunt is a musician,” she started on how her journey to music began. “Music is in my blood and I was singing notes before I was even able to talk. The piano was the first instrument I learned about and then I started playing violin when I was 8. Aside from that, I’ve always looked at Britney Spears music videos in awe like, ‘Wow, I want to be a pop singer.’ I realized recently I just had to make it happen already.”
As an actress, Maya has worked on a few projects including, currently, a comedy pilot that’s in pre-production where she plays the lead. “Most actors and musicians like storytelling in some way or they wouldn’t be doing it. The realization that acting, singing, and writing music is all ‘storytelling’ is what made me love it,” she explained. “I continue to gain so much empathy for people with every character that I play. From that, came the love of telling a compelling and entertaining story. I realized this world would be nothing without those stories; whether it be movies, tv, or music—all of this storytelling gets people through the day,” Maya adds.
Being an actress has helped Maya with her music through her understanding of emotion. But, although she hasn’t been able to involve her music into her acting, one of Maya’s dreams is getting the opportunity to do a show or a movie that incorporates music.
“I used to think I had such a clear picture of what I wanted to do acting wise, but through this business, I’ve realized that loving the craft is all that matters. Your role will come.” Maya shares that she hopes she can one day work with Lee Daniels, the creator of musical dramas Empire and STAR, “Every story he writes makes me feel every single emotion (in the best way) and I can only dream of being one of the actors that help bring his scripts to life.”
Aside from her artistry, what makes Maya a person to watch is her personality. Going by the mantra, “Stay Sparkly,” she focuses on positivity and optimism as a part of her message. “Part of my positivity is convincing myself that everything will be okay, even when it seems like the world is falling apart,” she answers when I ask her about how she keeps her positivity. “As more people watch me and follow me, it does get scary at times. I try my hardest to stay sparkly, you know, even when I feel like breaking.”
“Life will try you,” Maya exclaims as she continues. “Struggles in life are real and they’re not going anywhere. So we just have to throw the glitter and move on.” Preparing to close out the interview, Maya shared what she learned about herself in the past year, “I can definitely say that the past year has made me realize that I am tougher than I ever knew. That’s empowering.”
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we asked Maya who were the women that helped inspire and shape her:
Maya J: My mother and sister are the strongest, smartest women I know. They are the ones that raised me, shaped me, and inspired me. I’m glad I can give them a shoutout during Women’s history month because those are the two reasons I’m still standing. My maternal grandmother is probably still kicking butt up in heaven, so I come from a long line a strong, no-mess women!
You can listen to Maya’s single, “Symptoms of You” here. “Symptoms of You” is available on iTunes and Spotify.
(photo cred: N/A)