mxmtoon Leaps From Online To Make Her Debut | Prairie Public Broadcasting

mxmtoon Leaps From Online To Make Her Debut

Sep 17, 2019
Originally published on September 17, 2019 7:21 pm

With the ease of uploading music online, Internet sensations are made every day. But for one rising bedroom pop artist, it was truly accidental ... almost.

Until recently, mxmtoon — who otherwise prefers to go by her first name, Maia — kept her music a secret from the people in her immediate life. Now, with her debut album, the masquerade, mxmtoon is slowly peeling back the layers of her online persona.

Starting at 15 years old, the Oakland, Calif. native would post videos on YouTube from her bedroom under an old screen name, mxmtoon. She would play her ukulele and record covers and original songs quietly after her family had gone to bed. Naturally, mxmtoon sang about what she knew --- high school, angst, seasonal depression. One of her first songs, "1-800-DATEME," was about being single on Valentine's Day.

YouTube

Though she kept this part of herself a secret from loved ones — "I was just so terrified of my family finding out" — the 19-year-old remembers the sense of freedom she felt with each new upload.

"The internet, at that point, allowed me to have this space where I could create my own story and exist and be something other than what I felt like I was stuck as in my day-to-day life," mxmtoon says.

The teenager kept these two parts of her — Maia at school and mxmtoon online — totally separate for years. That is, until her videos started getting noticed by music publications. As she gained more notoriety, mxmtoon got worried her parents were going to find out about her secret life. It was time to come clean.

"So, I sit my room, take a really deep breath, open the door and walk out to the kitchen. I say, 'Mom, Dad, I have to tell you something," she remembers. "It was terrifying to make that jump from something that was so confidential to so public."

YouTube

mxmtoon describes the masquerade as a series of "rhyming diary entries to music" that act as self-serenades. One of the album's lead singles, "prom dress," for example, was inspired by her real life prom dress try-off that the artist says quickly divulged to a mini panic attack.

"So much of the themes and the topics of this album are just about, you know, being a teenager and being in that space where you have literally no clue who you are," mxmtoon says. "You're trying to figure it out. You don't know what your story is and how that's perfectly fine and OK."

mxmtoon's the masquerade is out now.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For 19-year-old singer-songwriter mxmtoon, processing the highs and lows of high school was something best done through song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY TED TALK")

MXMTOON: (Singing) My therapist once asked me if I wanted to be in love, and I told her, I don't know. I guess maybe, kind of. I mean...

SHAPIRO: She graduated last year, and her way of figuring out what love feels like or how to deal with prom led to a debut album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY TED TALK")

MXMTOON: (Singing) I write these songs singing like I'm an expert.

So much of the themes and the topics of this album are just about, you know, being a teenager and being in that space where you have literally no clue who you are, you're trying to figure it out, you don't know what your story is, and how that's perfectly fine and OK.

SHAPIRO: But until recently, she was a musician in secret, sort of.

MXMTOON: It would be this thing where I'd go to school during the day, and I'd get home, eat dinner with my family, and I would do homework for two more hours until it was, like, 10 p.m. And then my parents would say, goodnight. And I'd say, love you. And then I'd go to my room...

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "MXMTOON - STAY BY POST MALONE (COVER)")

MXMTOON: Hi, everyone. I'm sorry I haven't uploaded in a while.

...Turn on my computer...

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "MXMTOON - STAY BY POST MALONE (COVER)")

MXMTOON: I'm just here to play a song, a very unedited cover.

...And just start playing songs...

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "MXMTOON - STAY BY POST MALONE (COVER)")

MXMTOON: (Singing) It's true...

...With my bedroom door closed and, like, just super quietly.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "MXMTOON - STAY BY POST MALONE (COVER)")

MXMTOON: (Singing) ...That all that you know is all that you are. You said it's all that you want.

And if I was singing, I would be singing really quietly into the mic with, like, the gain on all the way at the top.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "MXMTOON - STAY BY POST MALONE (COVER)")

MXMTOON: (Singing) Tell me that it's all OK. Tell me it's all OK.

I was just so terrified of my family finding out because, I mean, you know, I would tell my mom I wanted to be a famous YouTuber when I was younger, but she'd laugh a little bit and be like, sure, sweetie. Like, you're going to college, right? And I'd be like, yes, mom.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "MXMTOON - STAY BY POST MALONE (COVER)")

MXMTOON: (Singing) Tell me that it's all...

The Internet, at that point, allowed me to have this space where I could create my own story and exist and be something other than what I felt like I was stuck as in my day-to-day life.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "MXMTOON - STAY BY POST MALONE (COVER)")

MXMTOON: (Singing) Call me in the morning. Tell me how last night went.

I just never told anybody. I guess it felt like this routine thing for me to just kind of keep it to myself, and then all of a sudden, I couldn't.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "MXMTOON - STAY BY POST MALONE (COVER)")

MXMTOON: (Singing) Stay.

Oh, God. I don't remember what day it was. It was a day in October of 2017. I woke up, as I do, and I checked my phone, as I do. And I went onto Twitter that morning, and I got this tag from someone. And I was like, what is this tweet? Then I read it, and it said, Hypebeast list - new bedroom pop artists that you should listen to. And I was like, wait, what? And then it's tagged me, and I was like, oh, my God. This is, like, a no-joke publication. Someone is going to find out about this and tell my parents.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE IDEA OF YOU")

MXMTOON: (Singing) I mean, I used to feel so sure, but I might just be immature.

So I sit in my room, take a really deep breath, open the door and walk out to the kitchen. I say, Mom, Dad, I have to tell you something. And I'm sure in my mom and my dad's mind, they were like, oh, God. What did she do? She's been so perfect up until this point. And I told them. I was like, I make music. My mom goes, what? And I have to tell them, and I show them all these links. And I - they deep-dive into what the world of mxmtoon looks like, and so it was, like, watching my videos on the kitchen computer...

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

MXMTOON: Hey, everybody. If you're wondering...

And I have a lot of thoughts about high school, and...

If you like this video, please give it a thumbs-up.

...Or listening to my songs out in the living room on the stereos.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEASONAL DEPRESSION")

MXMTOON: (Singing) Seasonal depression's got me sleeping off the days, and I've wasted all my time feeling gray.

It was terrifying to make that jump from something that was so confidential to so public...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEASONAL DEPRESSION")

MXMTOON: (Singing) Been locked up in here with the rain coming down. I tried to fool myself...

...Which - it seems counterintuitive because so much of what I did existed online and was available for the whole entire world to listen to. But I think what really made me understand the impact and the process of putting things out into the public space was when my parents and my family finally knew about it. A lot of the topics I talk about, I think, are just emblematic of moments where I had realizations of - OK, this is going to be something that shapes who I am.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROM DRESS")

MXMTOON: (Singing) I'm nearing the end of my fourth year. I feel like I've been lacking, crying too many tears.

I would say the best way to put it is basically rhyming diary entries.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROM DRESS")

MXMTOON: (Singing) But did I miss out? Was it a huge mistake?

"Prom Dress" is basically about my high school experience as a whole. I had eaten In-N-Out with my family for dinner at this one point. Like, I just had eaten this huge amount of food, and I thought, you know, yeah, I could definitely fit into my prom dress right now. So I went to my room, and, like, I tried to zip it, and I, like, collapsed on the ground, started tearing up, like, having a mini-panic attack. And my mom walked in and was like, are you OK? You know, I was like, I feel so ugly, and prom's going to be a disaster.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROM DRESS")

MXMTOON: (Singing) I'm sitting here, crying in my prom dress. I'd be the prom queen if crying was a contest. Make-up is running down. Feelings are all around. How did I get here? I need to know.

I'm extremely happy to be done with high school. There's so many expectations around experiences, especially when you're a teenager and a young adult, about what sort of life experiences and stories you're supposed to be having. And that's just something that happens to everyone, and it's not something that you should feel bad about. It's just human.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNSPOKEN WORDS")

MXMTOON: (Singing) That I love you, you know it's true.

SHAPIRO: That's musician mxmtoon talking to producer Kat Lonsdorf about her debut album "The Masquerade." The album is out today.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNSPOKEN WORDS")

MXMTOON: (Singing) And I get it now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.