Maria Alexa began singing at age four after being inspired by her father's infatuation with music. Throughout her childhood, she used journaling and writing poetry as therapy as she attempted to process traumatic experiences. As a cathartic process, Maria Alexa's writing began to tell stories that allowed her to heal. She now resides in NYC and performs shows all over Manhattan. Her latest indie-pop release, "Comfortable," was co-written with producer Wayne Wilkins known for working with Beyonce, Natasha Bedingfield, and Leona Lewis. This week Stef caught up with Maria Alexa to chat about her songwriting process and her track, "Comfortable."
Hi Maria, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us! We're so excited to chat about one of our new favorite songs, "Comfortable."
1. Can you start by telling us a little bit about your musical journey? How did it all start, and how did you begin writing your own music?
MA: It's hard to say; I feel like music has always been in my DNA & in my soul since existence–I don't have a memory without it…and I can remember my pre-school days. I was just having a conversation about memories with a friend of mine the other day and how strange it was to me that they couldn't picture as far back as I could. Then it hit me – I always had to recount my memories because of a lot of pain I went through at such a young age. What a cruel yet beautiful realization that was. To answer your second question, due to this, I began writing down my thoughts at a very young age (I have a journal with the first entry dated back to 2003) to help me get through some very tough situations. These heavy emotions slowly turned into songs combined with my eagerness and innate love for learning, singing, and listening to new music almost every day. My dad has a lot to do with that last part.
2. SJ: Let's talk about your track, "Comfortable." You wrote that song nearly two and a half years ago, yet it sounds so fresh. Can you tell us the background of this track and what it means to you?
MA: It's crazy to think about how long it took, and as much as I can get caught up in the 'timing' of things, I truly believe it came out exactly when it should have. With that being said, 'Comfortable' is also aligned with this theme of timing and how sometimes we hold on to things we shouldn't, things that have run their course. I fell out of love for the first time in my life. When I was writing it, we were actually still together, which felt therapeutic but also extremely painful at the same time because, at the end of the day, no matter who did what, contemplating ending anything is never easy. I got caught in this false sense of comfortability, in a love that wasn't deep enough for me, but I stayed anyway. On top of being a people pleaser, it was the first time I was afraid of what could come after. Like the song says, it took all of me to finally end that chapter, to finally choose me, to realize that staying in something not serving me was not only hurting me but was also doing a disservice to the other person in the relationship - we both deserved better. Someone had to do it so I did, and it was the best decision I've ever made. I went through some hard shit outside of the breakup and even still now, but at least now I can go home and be at peace knowing that I'm not stuck anymore. I truly believe I can handle most things thrown my way, but no one should live in fear that they can't love or be loved the way they want to. The way they deserve to.
3. You said you wrote this track back in a writing camp. Are those camps something that helps you write collaboratively and challenge yourself? Do you prefer to write this way (collaboratively) or solo?
MA: I've actually never done a writing camp, and it was honestly so much fun. Yes, the reason I did it was because I felt like I wasn't challenging myself enough creatively and wanted to throw myself in an uncomfortable situation (see the alignment here). It's also always great to meet other songwriters to bounce ideas off with, it was definitely fun, but it's not normally how I like to write. Recently, the best song ideas either come to me randomly late at night, in the shower or even when I'm listening to another song. Another way, and this is extremely true if I'm going through something which is often [lol], I'll light candles in my room, grab my guitar or keyboard, and play around with melodies/lyrics until something hits. It can take 5 min or 4 hours; I never really know.
4. SJ: What was the recording process like on this track?
MA: After we picked a production direction, we started chatting about my situation, sort of like a therapy session. We then each had our notes app out and would blurt out words/melodies, and if it hit, one of us would run to the booth and lay something down. We did this until we had something solid enough for me to lay down vocals. I remember going to my hotel room that night, getting in the shower, and blasting the demo for hours. I'll never forget how incredibly proud I was of myself in that moment.
5. SJ: What is one song you wish you wrote?
MA: The song I haven't written yet [that will break me] :)
SJ: So What's Next for Maria Alexa? MA: More music constantly, always. I don't think I'll ever stop writing music, whether it's for me, for someone else, or for no one. It's the greatest gift, and I'm eternally grateful for it. Other than that, when it happens, I'll definitely tour for as long as I can; I'd love to publish a few poetry books, travel the world, I'd love to act in a few movies, start a fashion brand, open a restaurant…falling in love is definitely in the cards but isn't that a given? Honestly, for as long as I'm supposed to be here, I'd love to try anything that makes me happy and aligns with whatever the universe has planned for me. The greatest thing about life is that it is constantly changing, and so are we, and it's a really beautiful thing.
Stream "Comfortable" below!
Songwriting: Maria Alexa Riordan, Kevin Anyaeji, Prince Chapelle, Shelley Segal, Wayne Wilkins
Production: Gamal Abdu