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Maia Friedman By Kathryn Vetter Miller

The quiet radiance of Maia Friedman

14 March 2022, 09:11

There is something poetic about Maia Friedman’s demeanour.

Sitting in her minimalistic New York apartment she seems illuminated when speaking, her quiet radiance penetrable through the grainy picture of a Zoom call. A pensiveness joins this disposition: even when asked about the array of plants that adorns her backdrop, she speaks slowly, pondering over every sentence carefully, before speaking aloud. “I have a goddaughter. She and her mum stayed at my house recently, and they counted all of the plants in the living room. I think they counted something silly, like 43,” she smiles.

It’s a manner that allows for instant comfort, as she fills me in on her day-to-day doings. “I'm definitely feeling the effects of winter, but I’m starting to get ready to emerge,” she confesses. “I live in New York, and we're being teased with the springtime. This is always the way in March, it's like a mind game between yourself and the weather.”

Alongside her settling presence, the artist's careful musings allows her musical expertise to shine through. A member of Dirty Projectors, and an extensive number of other projects, it’s apparent that Friedman's extensive career has allowed her to gain a particular knowledge into both the industry and the art of creation.

“When I was little I used to have this toy plastic recording device that had a microphone attached… This was in the ‘80s or early ‘90s,” she describes. “I would just record a million things as a kid. That's sort of where it all started, alongside piano lessons and writing songs in high school. They were very emo and dramatic!” We laugh at the stark contrast of this and her current style. “I studied music in college, and I have a very distinct memory of going to see Dirty Projectors while I was studying – I was totally obsessed – but most of all, I remember having a gut feeling that I would play with them one day. It was like a weird intuition. Then it happened!” She laughs. “Even throughout my time with Dirty Projectors, I was always writing music of my own and now it’s finally being released.”

These foundational experiences have paved the way for Friedman’s first offerings as a solo artist; her debut album Under The New Light. A work curated over a number of years, the album offers bedroom-pop bliss with an underlying grounding in themes of resurgence, new-found strength and the ability to prevail. “In 2016, I had a writing retreat with Tom and Peter Lynch, who are in my band. A lot of the songs that are on the record came from that period of writing. Then, we started to record it in 2017.” she spills. “As we were recording together, we were experimenting with sounds at the moment, so it was all about finding what felt the best for each song.”

This free-thinking approach to the craft allows for tracks that feel expansive in their nature, and allows for a myriad of elements to crowd themselves into the album. The title track “Under The New Light” relies on a rocking guitar line and synth adornments littered throughout, which come together to form an atmospheric foundation that plays beneath Friedman’s brooding vocals. The closing track “A Sleep in the Garden” is a new perspective entirely, filled to the brim with electronic leanings, prevailing drum patterns, and delayed melody lines.

However, despite these sonic differences, the album still feels united in each track it offers, predominantly thanks to the album's overarching subject matter. True to her philosophical nature, each track has an underlying theme of prevailing – whether it be dwelling on lessons learned from past mistakes, or simply the nature of pushing through dark periods. “When listening to the album, I want people to feel a sense of knowing,” she grins.

“I hope that it allows people to have a moment to connect with themselves, and maybe investigate a little bit about what they're experiencing in their lives. I think it's comforting to know that there are other people in the world that experience similar things to you, and I know that when I listen to music that I relate to, it makes me feel like I'm not alone in my experience. I want people to have a moment to catch up with themselves, and maybe investigate a little bit about what they're going through passively in their lives.” There's a brief moment of silence, before her most illuminating statement yet: “To be able to reflect, is when we have an opportunity to heal.”

A debut is always a daunting, exhilarating feat. But with so much insight condensed down into her sonic offerings, it’s clear this is only the beginning for Friedman. She seems unfazed by the grandeur of releasing such a pivotal set of work, instead grounding herself in the pockets of joy such an event contains.

“I have a release show in New York, and I have a bunch of new songs written already for the next record. I think I’m going to spend my time in the near future just getting the plans together to figure out the next album. It’s very exciting and really different from anything I’ve done before”. Her last words are almost a promise; a pact that no matter where the future leads, she'll do something to catch attention. There’s no doubt in believing this. With an outlook built on practice, and endearing wisdom, Maia Friedman has already proved that she is one to be listened to.

Under the New Light is out now.
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