18-year old Maris is a darling young woman from a small town in Missoula, Montana. Just last year Maris pursued her dream and career with a Carnegie Hall performance, an American Idol audition, and many more. She carries an old soul and has an infectious personality that pairs beautifully with her outstanding voice.
Check out Maris’ newest single “BOYS” below. She opens up about her sexuality and has ultimately created a pop-rock anthem for queer people.
Maris took the time to discuss her latest single “BOYS,” her love for Frank Sinatra, and the detour in her path from releasing her EP LOVELUST.
Music Existence: How are you?
Maris: I’m great, how are you?
ME: I’m doing great. What are you up to this morning?
Maris: I’m hanging out. I just woke up recently. I’m going to work pretty soon.
ME: What kind of work do you do outside of music?
Maris: I actually work at a focus group facilitation company. Basically we house market research and scientific research. I’m kind of like an assistant to whatever company is doing research that day.
ME: Very cool. I first off just want to say I love your eccentric personality and the amount of emotion you put into your music. You have such a unique voice.
Maris: Thank you very much. I appreciate that!
ME: Absolutely. Recently your single “BOYS” dropped, with the music video releasing just a few weeks ago. What can you tell us about that song?
Maris: It’s kind of… the song is pretty blatant. I’d like to think that it goes down an empowering route without being preachy. Basically when I was writing it, it was about this girl that I was madly in love with. I started thinking about it, when I was younger and even now, there’s very few songs for queer people about queer people that aren’t sexualized or really, really sad. I wanted… the feeling I got when I wrote the chorus was kind of my heart swelling with pride, self-love and acceptance. I wanted to write a song that felt like that to me, and I succeeded, I think. At least for me. So far the response has been pretty good.
ME: What message do you have for anyone out there who may be either questioning or insecure about their sexuality?
Maris: A big question I get asked a lot from the kids on Twitter that follow me and that kind of thing is.. their parents, they haven’t come out to their parents because their parents are very homophobic. Or they’re from a country where it’s overall just not accepted or okay to be anything but straight. Obviously, if you’re in a country where it’s dangerous to be out of the closet, definitely for your own health wait until you can move or be in a safe situation to be able to come out. In terms of worrying that your parents aren’t going to love you and that kind of thing… obviously, that does happen. I’m a firm believer in the concept of creating your own family. You get to pick and choose the people that you have in your life, the people that affect your energy, and the energy you let into your life. It could take 50 years to be able to build your own family that is truly going to be there for you through thick and thin and loves you through everything, but you’re still building this family that is truly your family.
ME: Take us back to the beginning. When did you first gravitate toward music and also learn to play the guitar?
Maris: My mom would always tell me about when I was little, before I could even speak, I would be humming along to the Barney theme song. Obviously I don’t remember. If I said I remember that, that would be outrageous. (laughs) When I learned to play the guitar, I did lessons after I initially got into it. The first couple of songs I learned how to play were from the internet… YouTube and different websites that would show you how to make the chords. I’m still not very good at guitar. Sometimes I’ll play something and I don’t know what the chord it is, what notes I just played were, but I just know it sounds good to me. (laughs) That’s kind of how I’ve been rolling it. I don’t read sheet music very well. I’m not super good at music theory, but it’s gotten me this far. Hopefully I can pick it up soon.
ME: Who inspires your music or you in general?
Maris: In different sections of my life…. Frank Sinatra is one of my favorite artists. He didn’t write any of his stuff. He did standards, which is great, because he made them Frank Sinatra standards with his undeniable charisma and class on stage. I’ve read a ton of books about him. I love Frank Sinatra. I just love how he could just get on stage and have an entire audience captivated without any gimmicky stuff going on. He didn’t need fireworks or gigantic anything. That stuff is amazing, but.. it’s…
ME: It’s all about the music, in the end.
Maris: Yeah! You gotta start with a base of “this is good music, and this is an artist that connects to people and captivates people with their art.” I really admire him in terms of stage presence. In terms of writing, I would probably say Donny Hathaway is a musical genius. I listen to Donny Hathaway a lot. As far as tones and emotions, I think Etta James has incredible tone and emotion. I listen to a lot of jazz stuff, but yeah, that’s just a few.
ME: How do you go about your songwriting process? Is it more like a journal or do you sit down one day and say, “Okay, today I’m going to write a song about ‘this’?”
Maris: I think it depends. One of my favorite songs that I’ve ever written was… I was reading a book one day and a phrase stuck out to me. I was like, “I think that does a really great job of defining how this experience was for me.” I started with a phrase that was kind of similar but fit my situation better. Off of that, I built the lyric…. I built the lyric on a subway, and when I got home, I figured out what that lyric sounded like to me musically. Sometimes I will think of a melody that I really like, or I’ll think of a bass line. That’s really been driving me lately. I’ll think of a bass line that I really like, and I’ll put it into Garage Band. I’ll put chords over it and listen to that. Whatever film I see in my head when I listen to it, I write about that. It depends, I guess, on the day and the time.
ME: I’m sure it’s different for every song, too.
Maris: Oh yeah.
ME: You debuted an album in 2016 that was self-produced, Of The Sea. How does your upcoming EP LOVELUST differ from that debut album?
Maris: Actually… there’s a little change in plans. (laughs) When I first wrote LOVELUST, I still love those songs and they still have a piece of me, but I decided not to release LOVELUST. In the time that I was supposed to release it, I had a bunch of management and life issues. I was moving from Missoula, Montana to New York City. It was a huge transitional period of my life. The release was so delayed. LOVELUST was originally supposed to come out in October of last year, and then it was just postponed, postponed, postponed. I’m not like super behind those songs anymore. I think I’ve grown since moving here and being handed my ass a little bit, in a lot of ways. I’ve grown exponentially not only as an artist but as a person. What I actually did was I made a secret SoundCloud, kind of. The kids that watch my live streams, follow me regularly, have made accounts in the username and stuff, they’ve taken to calling themselves “Smellies.” It’s so funny to me. When I end a live stream, my general departure saying is “Smell ya later.” So they’ve just started calling themselves “Smellies.” It’s the sweetest, funniest thing ever. I love it, it’s so cute. I’ve made it ‘secretsmellie’ on SoundCloud. That just has the demos that I did myself and a couple of extra little tunes that I’ve written but never pursued. Production in a studio is expensive…. so I figured if I can do a decent job myself and get across the feeling that I wanted, then that’s great. This album that I’m working on right now, with how things are moving, I’m thinking it’s going to be studio album. It’s going to be sick. I’m super stoked about that. LOVELUST was kind of canceled, but thank you for asking about it anyway. (laughs)
ME: Of course. At least we know there’s new music on the way.
Maris: Absolutely, yes.
ME: Going back to your fans… you’re definitely interactive with them, doing fan requests every week. What drove you to start the requests, and which request has been your favorite to perform so far?
Maris: I would just post covers because I love music. If I haven’t sang throughout a day, I sort of get this bubble in my chest. It hurts if I have it. Everyday I have to belt at least once. It started as a very natural thing. I don’t always record and post what I sing throughout the day. When I would record something I would like, or I had a YouTube channel of covers I would post on regularly for a while, people would request things. Requests are amazing and I love that I have so many more now… I started thinking, “Well, if I did that as a weekly thing, that’d be fun.” Then it feels less one-sided… I also get to make music. It’s been cool. I need to post a cover soon. I’ve been writing a ton, so I’ll be like, “Here’s something I wrote today! Hope to you like it.” I do need to get back on the cover grind. That’s how that unraveled.
ME: Has anyone ever told you you’re practically a doppelgänger of Shailene Woodley?
Maris: Oh yeah, I get that all the time. It’s not a bad thing, because she’s very beautiful. It’s hard for me as somebody who desperately wants to be an individual. I’m always like, “Yes, I know!” (laughs) But it’s not an insult by any means. I think she’s gorgeous. Thank you!
ME: What’s in store for you in 2018?
Maris: Hopefully… I don’t want to give too much away. Do you watch The Office?
Maris: I’m going to do a quote that’s actually accurate to me. “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.” I don’t like to jinx things, so I can’t say too much. I’ll get too anxious that it’s going to fall apart. Definitely new music and definitely more shows. More consistent shows. I’m super stoked about that.
ME: Maris, thank you for your time. Enjoy the rest of your day!
Maris: Thank you so much! I appreciate the chat.