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INTERVIEW: Maz O’Connor

Hi Maz, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you, I’ve been great- busy getting my new singles and videos together and really excited they’re finally getting out into the real world.

Can you tell us more about your single “Young Hearts”?

I’ve loved this song for years, like loads of people I’m sure, but it’s only when I properly listened to the words I realised there’s a story there that maybe people don’t hear because it’s such a good song to dance to. The lyrics of the verses are heartbreaking; a woman saying that she wishes she hadn’t gotten married so soon and could be free to love herself. I thought if I slowed it down in a cover, it could give the meaning of the song new light, and might surprise people, too.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

I had been wandering about London in the winter, and one day re-visited one of my favourite poets, T.S. Eliot, and the song kind of fell out from there. I have a love/hate relationship with London, particularly in the winter. In some ways it’s the most exciting, beautiful place, full of amazing people, in other ways it feels like it’s dying, and like everything that made it unique is slowly being replaced by soulless empty apartments that very few Londoners can actually afford. But it gets into your soul…I’ll probably never leave.

How was the film experience?

We filmed the videos for both songs at my friend’s house in Kent. I was incredibly lucky to be lent such an amazing location for the day. It was bloody cold though. Shooting outside in early February wearing only a thin dress. We did the video for ‘Wasteland’ in just a few takes, trying to get as much of it in one shot as possible. It was largely an artistic choice, but I did say to the guys from Neuron Hub (the film makers I worked with on the videos) that they probably had about half an hour before I started visibly shivering…

How was the recording and writing process?

The way I work is to have the bones of the song–all the melody and the lyrics and the song’s structure–written before I go into the studio, but to leave things open to change once production comes into play. ‘Young Hearts’ was a simple voice and piano job, which didn’t take very long because I’ve been playing it live for a while, so it’s in my bones. ‘Wasteland’ was much more of an unknown. I put down a vocal and guide chords, then Nosa (the producer I worked with on these singles) and I worked through from the top, adding beats, metallic sounds, harmonies, bass, changing the chord inversions around. It was a really exciting process, to hear the track gradually come to life. Then I leave it with him to finish and send me a draft when it’s ready. We go back and forth for a while via email and phone before it’s ready to be mastered.

What was it like to work with NosaApollo and how did that relationship develop?

We were introduced when we were looked after by the same management. I loved working with him right away because he’s a great musician as well as a great producer. He has very broad-ranging taste, and he’s really good and getting what I mean when I send him references for drum ideas, vocal quality, and even more vague things like references for ‘atmosphere’. We’ve worked together on a few tracks now, and each time it’s a lot of fun, we really enjoy bouncing ideas of each other. It’s just a chemistry which works really well, and when you find a creative collaborator who really values your ideas and makes you better at what you do, they’re the ones you want to hold on to.

How much did he influence the singles?

Well as I said, the songs are already written when I go into the studio with him, but in terms of creating a sound together, he’s been crucial. The main note we keep in mind is that, because I have a high soprano voice that a lot of people can find sweet or soothing, we need to undercut that with production. So we’re always looking for ways to create tension between the pure soprano voice, and what’s going on underneath. That’s the sound we’re going for, so that the idea of what a voice like that might make musically can be subverted. In simple terms, I ask him to add grit. To work against my voice’s sweetness. He gets that, and I’m really delighted with what we made together.

Does the new single mean we can expect a new material – how’s that coming along?

I’m always writing, and have some more studio sessions with Nosa booked. It’s all exploratory and speculative at the moment though. I’m waiting to see how things go, and just concentrating on making as much great material as I can. No plans to make an album as yet, but there will be a time later this year when I’m sure I’ll need a longer form than singles. Until then I’m just going with it til I run out of money…

Any tentative release date or title in mind?

No plans for an album at the moment, but I imagine there will be at least an EP release early 2018, if not before.

Any plans to hit the road?

The only shows on sale at the moment is my residency at The Harrison in King’s Cross on June 14th, June 28th and July 12th. Each one features a different special guest and is an opportunity for me to play my new material live for a home crowd. I can’t wait. The first 50 tickets sold get a free download of my cover ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ a month before the release date, too. There will probably be a tour later in the year, all being well.

What else is happening next in Maz O’Connor’s world?

I’m enjoying being fairly stationary in London at the moment. It’s so lovely once the sun’s back. I’ve been away for a few weeks so am enjoying being back in the city and catching up with friends, getting back to my contemporary dance classes, and going to see dance, theatre, gigs, whatever I can. I’m right by Regent’s Canal, too, so I love going for walks, reading, writing and coming up with ideas by the water. I’m writing more new stuff all the time, and have some more sessions booked with Nosa to hopefully release a couple more singles during the Summer.

Watch here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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