Brilliant, brave, and bold are just some of the things that the B in Maya B could stand for. As an artist, Maya contains multitudes, and her extensive range of influences is especially exemplified in her latest single and music video, “Selenas.” With a genre-bending melody, the song appropriately delivers a message of independence and ambition—two values that play an important role in Maya’s life. Taking a hands-on approach in her creative process, Maya both wrote and produced “Selenas” herself, drawing inspiration from her frustration with a guy who couldn’t take a hint. Today we’re happy to premiere a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the “Selenas” music video, which perfectly captures the song’s assertiveness and frenetic energy through vivid, eye-catching imagery.
Earlier this week, I sat down with the 19-year-old artist to discuss her sound, her passion for making art, and the importance of not caring what anyone else thinks about you.
SOPHIE HAYSSEN: One of the things I love about “Selenas” is how unique it sounds and that you can’t quite place it in any one genre. How did you come up with that sound?
MAYA B: I grew up on a lot of different genres, and I had a period of exploration where I listened to a lot of alternative music, christian music, and choral music. Now when I create, I don’t think about any one thing. The different genres flow out of me, and it comes out as a cluster. So, for me, when people ask me what genre “Selenas” is, I never know what to say, because it has Latin beats and an agressive, alternative bass.
From writing the song to producing it yourself and then shooting the video, did you have a favorite part of the creative process behind “Selenas”?
My favorite part would probably be the photoshoot because it was just such a beautiful day and a great moment for me since it was my first shoot as a signed artist. That was a really big deal for me.
Your video has a very strong anarchic aesthetic that coincides with the way the song refuses to be categorized. Did the visual concept come organically while you were creating the song or was it developed after the fact?
Everything I do is visual. I doodle when I write songs. So I had an idea of where I wanted it to go. I know that listening to it, it sounds like chaos, and the first time some people hear it, they don’t know what to think of it. I wanted to play off the idea of controlled chaos. Alan, the director, had some really amazing images to pair with that, and then Diego, who edited it, kind of went crazy. It just turned out exactly like we wanted.
You once said that growing up you were “stuck between breaking the mold and being cemented into the cracks.” Can you speak more on the pressure to conform and how you’ve navigated through those pressures throughout your life?
I was just at a party last week where some guy assumed that I sounded like SZA and made R&B music like SZA just because I was an African American artist and based on how I look. I was like, “Yeah, no…” When it comes to getting cemented into the cracks, I feel like I have conversations like that every single day where either people want me to go more pop with the chorus or an idea that they have, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t me. I’m constantly just speaking my truth and saying where I’m comfortable and where I want to be. I think it’s really important to have a voice and stand by it no matter what.
In addition to music, you also make a lot of visual art. Would you say the nature of your creative process and what you receive emotionally from that process differs depending on the medium?
Yes. I will listen to my own music sometimes if that’s the only thing that connects to exactly how I feel, whereas with art, I get my emotions out. When I feel really strongly about something I’ll put it in a quirky funny art piece that makes a serious point. Both of them help me get things out, but I think my music is where I zen out the most. I get the most lost in it. I can escape a bad day when I make music, but with art it’s just like, AHHHH. Hella aggressive.
What are your first memories of making music/art?
When I was little, my mom put me and my sisters in a girl group and that was my first introduction to making music. I was playing drums at the time and also singing with my sisters. I started writing songs when I was really little, like five years old, but they were really bad. At seven I started getting slightly better. I would take songs that I liked and chop them up. I’d take lines from different songs and make my own. As I grew older, I just started being completely original with my songwriting. I think my mom helped me a lot because she was always force-feeding us different genres, like Erykah Badu, Kirk Franklin, and Keyshia Cole. Of course she was more into the soul side, but it made me want to discover what else is out there. When it comes to creating, it really helped me have a lot to pull from.
How has your approach to making art evolved since you were younger?
I’ve stopped caring as I’ve gotten older, and I think that’s helped a lot. When I was little, I would write songs not only for myself but for other people and change things based on what I thought other people would like. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that no one else’s opinion matters other than yours, so I just stand by that now.
Now that you’re signed to a major label and your work is generating buzz, how do you maintain your personal connection to your art as it becomes increasingly more high profile?
I value alone time so much. I’m one of those people who genuinely like to be alone just because I feel like I learn something new about myself every day and I like that growth. That time allows me to reconnect with myself and what’s important and what I think and feel instead of focusing on what other people think and feel. At the end of the day, if I put out something that I truly think is dope, there’ll be one person—I’ll be one person—in this big world who feels that way.
As your music career kicks off, are there any key goals that you want to accomplish?
I really just aim to create art and put art in a commercial space. I would like to hear meaningful songs on the radio about deep stuff. That’s what I aim to do: dress meaningful songs up as pop songs, like a secret agent. In that sense, I just have a goal of reaching as many people as I can, creating beautiful art, constantly meeting like-minded people who love my music and love art, and just keeping the ball rolling and hopefully getting bigger and bigger. ♦