Interview with Maya Malkin – Congratulations On Making Us Laugh and Cry At The Same Time

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I’ve been Malkinized!  I can no longer say congratulations out loud without hearing it auto tuned in my head, thanks to Maya Malkin.

Congratulations is also stuck in my head, and it won’t leave.  

Maya wasn’t always creating infectious pop songs with emotional depth.

In 2006, she was in the movie about my old neighborhood The Point.  We can’t call it Nepotism because Maya’s mom, who produced it, only gave Maya a minor role.  

Creative blood runs through her veins.

Origin Story

Growing up, Maya would hear the unattainable voices of “belting divas” like Christina Aguilera.  

When gifted Tegan & Sara’s The Con, it was the first time she heard “an album where maybe I could actually sing.  I had never heard voices like that.  I didn’t even know music like that could be made.”

Her connection to music further deepened in her late teens and took on an “emotional weight.”

“When I experienced heartbreak for the first time, that was when I turned to music to really cry and heal.” 

In high school, Maya learned a then uncool instrument, instead of the Cello, her first choice.

“When Lizzo made the flute cool, I felt OMG, I have never felt more seen.  I had to play the classical flute for 7 years at art school.”  

If Maya were to push air into her flute today, it would shoot dust out from a bygone time, but she may just let her inner Lizzo play again.

Maya Origin

Maya’s name has different meanings, depending on the original language, such as clarity, dream/illusion, water or good mother.

When you add Maya’s middle name: Kali, it’s a “goddess of war, death and time.  That is the one I’ve always connected to.”

Empowered by this identity of inner strength she exclaims: “I’m a storm!”

Music Origin

A girl walks into a karaoke bar with a ukulele sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s the beginning of Maya’s musical career.

“That’s how Motel (Raphaël) started.  It’s a happenstance meet, cute movie moment. It changed my life.”

Maybe Maya wielded time to make that chance meeting happen because the timing could not have been better. 

Maya, 19 years old, starts a new job at a bar, but her manager hasn’t shown up yet.

Not even knowing how to pour a beer, she spots Emily walk in, who had just quit that very job and Maya asks for help.

By the end of that encounter, Emily asks Maya to join her band and the rest is history.

The Writing Process & The Power of Feelings

For many artists, Maya included, the writing process is also a deciphering of emotions.

“I was a shy kid and sometimes I didn’t understand how I was feeling.  If I wrote a song, it would highlight that emotion.  When I started playing chords on the guitar and started singing things, that’s when I realized:  Oh…this is what you’ve been feeling.”

“Song writing is expressing something you didn’t necessarily know you were feeling.  But songs also take on new meaning after years of playing them.”  

Thinking about Motel Raphaël’s debut Heartbreak, Maya describes it as “all of our accumulated heartbreak.” 

Before the band took off, it was just “how we were feeling.  Because of that album, we were selling out shows, playing Osheaga, got signed to Warner Canada for distribution and even opened for Tegan and Sara.  All these sad negative emotions were turned into these happy moments for us.  These boys really hurt our hearts but look at what we’ve done with our feelings.  It didn’t feel like pain anymore.”

Hostage Video

“Should I be impressed or horrified?”  – Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle on Hal showing his roller-skating talent.   

Malkin in the Middle pays homage to Maya’s favorite episode in the video for Hostage.

Art imitates life, as Maya’s mom would rollerblade with her, teaching her a skill that would come in handy to shoot this video.  Let’s hope it wasn’t as awkward as the episode.

“The fact that I could rollerblade shocked the people I was working with for some reason.”  

Another lesson imprinted by her parents is “being themselves.  They are both in creative fields, so in my brain, it has never been:  Can I do music?  It’s a no-brainer.  I would either be in filmmaking, music or some other artistic field.”

Maya can appreciate now that for some, that path may sound “risky”, but it seemed completely natural for her at the time because of her parent’s example.

Social Media

Be yourself well describes Maya’s social media presence.

Funny faces intermixed with artful poses to exude this endearing quality that Maya oozes.  

Even her management can’t pretend to fake her written “voice”, so they refrain from captioning posts.

Congratulations on Fame

The video, from my perspective, speaks on two topics.  The first is fame and popularity.

“A lot of people don’t realize how hard it is to do what I do and keep up the momentum.  Not only is it expensive to be in the music industry, but it’s a lot of putting yourself out there.  It’s believing in yourself and ignoring mean or hateful comments and focusing on the good ones.”

When someone achieves a certain amount of fame, it’s easy for others to assume “you are full of yourself or that you’ve gotten it easy somehow, you don’t deserve it, you are not actually working that hard.”

You have to be “very selective on the people you spend your time and energy on because you can’t afford to have anyone doubt you.”  

It’s bad enough that we struggle with doubt, to surround oneself with those that add to that burden will only make the process harder.

“You have to be protective of yourself.”

In between releases, artists are hard at work on the next project, writing, going into the studio, networking for collaborators and even saving money to pay it all, sometimes upward of $35,000 to release a project.   

“You really have to want it.  You really have to work towards it.  You can’t get distracted because any sort of momentum can be deflated overnight.”

Congratulations on Toxic Relationships

The second topic the song explores is toxic relationships.

Many have reached out to Maya, expressing the healing effects the song had for them.  Others are blasting the song, bouncing on the bed trying to get better.  

“That’s the whole point of it.  It’s makes me so happy to get those messages, but at the same time, as soon as you start being open about trauma, toxicity or abuse…there are so many “metoo’s” happening that it’s frightening to see how many women are going through these situations.”

How can you tell if you are in a toxic relationship?  There is not definite answer due to the various shades of toxicity, but Maya recommends the following:

“You need to follow your gut and know what you deserve.  If you feel someone is abusing your time, your energy or not treating you properly.  It can also show up in a “positive way” like being so in love with you.  Even that can turn very dark sometimes if they want all of your time, your energy, your attention and they don’t like it when you are not with them.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If you want to talk to me, you can slide into my DMs.”

Of course, as a contrast, the video is playful and fun with Maya performing as different musical personas.  

When asked which persona she would enjoy while playing a whole show, it was the Gen-Z look with the snakeskin pants and green extensions. 

Being a Millennial, dressing up to fit in with the younger kids is a whole lot of fun for Maya.

The one that was the most Maya was the Black & White look with a simple dress, the coat and glasses.

Sugar Daddy

Maya spreads the sugar around, even helping good friends like Montreal’s What If Elephants on the track Sugar Daddy.

“It’s so fun to step into someone else’s creative world.  I sometimes get to try things with my voice that I normally wouldn’t.”

Fantasy Rock Band

When asked to build the ultimate band, Maya’s choice would first be an all-girl band.  Her first instinct would be to simply be in Josie and the Pussycats.  

Makes Mayasense.  It’s about having fun and being in costumes.

Kelsy Karter get some love, as well as RENforshort alongside Taylor Swift and Tegan & Sara.

In the end, Maya Malkin can create songs that bounce around in your head avoiding any and all exits.  She can take a serious topic, express it visually in a fun way, yet explore the feelings beneath the surface in a way that resonates with others.  

Her voice can melt the ice of a bad day, and give you hope that it’s OK to have a little fun.

Place Malkin in the Middle of your playlist today!


Writer: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube. His Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their days jobs with out of the box advice from Ted Talk Speakers, Best Selling Authors and other interesting Entrepreneurs and Creatives.

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