plum blossom (revisited): Q&A with mxmtoon
“Maia, aka mxmtoon, had the career come up most teen musicians could only dream of. At 17, the Oakland-raised multi-hyphenate artist began releasing music from the privacy of her bedroom and quickly acquired an online fanbase drawn to her earnest yet witty lyricism and no-frills production. Her instrument of choice was a ukulele and she wasn’t above using common household objects (a hair straightener, for example) as a percussive tool. After uploading a stream of one-off singles to various social media platforms, mxmtoon’s debut EP, plum blossom, dropped. It garnered the attention of a broadening fanbase with sold out tours and multi Platinum records, but also earned the stamp of approval from mainstream media outlets like The New York Times and NPR. Since then, mxmtoon’s output has been prolific. Last year, she released her sophomore LP, rising, which followed 2019’s the masquerade, all while maintaining a creative practice outside of music.” - Foundations Music
After an impactful time of self-discovery and tragic family loss and illness, Maia was inspired to release a 5 year anniversary edition of her debut, titled plum blossom (revisited), reimagining the music that created her. She recorded at Tiny Telephone studios in Oakland with Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs) as co-producer, Maryam Qudus as engineer. Mixing was done by Laura Sisk and mastering by Idania Valencia. While ukulele is still a present element, and was the backbone of the original plum blossom, the revisit will be filled in with more lush production. Following the November 10th, 2023 launch of plum blossom (revisited), mxmtoon will play a sold-out, seven-date tour, playing in the UK, US West Coast, Midwest and East Coast between November 27th and December 15th.
We asked mxmtoon, who is a Kala Artist with her own signature model, to share more about her longtime connection to ukulele, creative process, and her experience delving back into plum blossom.
At the bottom of this page: Enter for your chance to win an mxmtoon Signature Concert Ukulele! This giveaway closes on October 26, 2023 — winner will be selected and contacted by email on OCT 27, 2023.
What drew you to ukulele as a primary instrument?
Definitely the ease of learning how to play. There are so many resources online for people to start playing their favorite songs immediately, and it felt so rewarding to be able to learn a few chords and be off to the races.
Who were some of your biggest musical influences while working on songs for plum blossom (the first and second time)?
Oddly enough, I think I was mostly inspired by the TV shows I was watching at the time. So songs from shows like Adventure Time or Steven Universe made me really excited to try making my own music like it.
plum blossom was a solo experience the first time around. What were some highlights and challenges of recording this time with a producer and engineer?
Honestly, very few challenges. I was really lucky to work alongside women that I've admired and collaborated with in the past, so there was a great deal of trust and ease of communication. The experience was definitely filled with highlights of getting to nerd out on behalf of my younger self and mess around with any instruments in the studio!
Which was your favorite plum blossom song to revisit and why? Which was the most difficult?
"the idea of you" is hands down my favorite one we worked on. I knew when I wrote that song, there were so many sounds I wasn't able to put on the initial version, and it always felt like such a missed opportunity. I'm really pleased with how much bigger we made it feel. The most difficult was actually "feelings are fatal." I think because that song is loved so deeply by my listeners, I wanted to make sure I still created something that felt true to the original while aging it up a little more.
Has your songwriting process changed much since your early days?
It's definitely ebbed and flowed! For a while I don't think I was able to write the way I did when I was a teenager, because the pressure of having so many more eyeballs watching what I was going to create was very daunting. Nowadays, I think I trust my instincts a little more again and try to let myself go back to being that teenager in her bedroom that wrote anything and everything because it felt like no one was watching! I still use rhymezone occasionally, I still have my favorite chord patterns, and I still love the ukulele. Some things never change and that's totally fine.
Do you have any advice for those just getting started on uke or writing/recording?
Let yourself be silly! I started my songwriting career with some of the silliest songs ever, and while there were moments that I got so embarrassed by that, I think it's important for creatives not to take themselves too seriously. Music especially can be made about anything and everything, one subject isn't more important than another. Also know that nothing needs to sound "perfect." Some of my favorite songs I wrote when I was a teenager were recorded with my laptop microphone. Trust your gut and have fun!