Ahead of Mae Simpson’s performance at First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2019 in the First Avenue Mainroom on Saturday, January 25, we got to ask her a few questions. Read what she had to say below:
Julia Dunnwald: You’re originally from South Carolina—what brought you to the Twin Cities and/or what attracted you enough to build a life here?
Mae Simpson: I moved to Minneapolis on a weekend whim with my best friend. From that weekend on, I haven’t left. I think it had a lot to do with the opportunity here. To grow not only as an artist, but also as a person. I’m proud to call Minneapolis my home. For the art, culture, and thriving music scene.
JD: When do you find yourself feeling most creative and ready to write? When do you find yourself the opposite, and how do you overcome that?
Mae: I find myself feeling most creative when I’m not thinking about it. It just hits me. A hook, a melody, being overcome with emotion whether it’s due to happiness, heartbreak, or any emotion for that matter. I always know when a song is going the most authentic, because it comes to me with little to no effort. Comparatively, I tend to feel less creative when I am overworking an idea. You can’t force art or genuine emotion. If I stay in one place too long, sometimes it can become difficult to write. I overcome those moments with setting the song to the side for a bit and coming back to it later. If that doesn’t work then it goes in the vault until it FEELS ready to resurface organically.
JD: The Mae Simpson Band is a collective of 7 musicians. That’s quite a large group to have, especially when decisions need to be made. Can you talk about each member’s role, and how the number of contributors influence songs being written/produced?
Mae: Everyone has a role in the band. That being said there are so many things the band members do to make sure we are heading in the same direction. For instance:
(Me/ Mae) – Band Leader. I have a hand in all things and constantly have something to work on.
Ricardo (percussion) – Website building.
Jorgen (guitar) – Our cool, calm, collective guy. Networks bands and leads our practice schedule.
David (bass) – Sound Engineer.
Keaton (Saxophone) – Transcribes the music.
Bri (friend turned manager) takes the cake for making sure we are all set. She handles a plethora of things that we no longer have to worry about and makes sure we are set up in every way.
With the help of Dani (our booking assistant) and myself, there are so many more things that are being done behind the scenes that take a lot of time and commitment. I am really happy I have a team that really cares about the vision I have. There is a lot of comfort in knowing that. As far as writing goes, I do believe it is a collective endeavor. I encourage the guys to be creative. I often come to them with an idea, an acoustic song, a melody, or lyrics. Sometimes they come to me with a guitar part, or we just decide we are going to make it up on the spot. They write their own parts and add some serious heart and soul. We have this natural instinct of knowing where to take the song. They complement what I am trying to do lyrically and vocally very well.
JD: You are the only woman in said large group. What are some of the challenges you face with this?
Mae: My band mates respect me as a leader, friend, and artist. Momma Mae; you might hear them saying that. I always speak my mind and stand firm for my vision and beliefs, but I also have the same respect and make sure everyone is heard, respected, and treated fairly. That is important to me and I am so thankful to have them with me as supporters, friends, and bandmates. As far as being a woman in the music industry as a whole, I think things are starting to change in the right direction. We—women in the industry, not limited to performers—are taking our music and making it exactly what we want. We are strong and resilient and refuse to back down. It’s really exciting to see as we rise up as artists.
JD: Your band formed around two years ago—where do you hope to see yourselves two years into the future?
Mae: Two years in the future. I don’t think any hope is too big. The Ellen Show? Bonnaroo? Touring our new EP. Opening up for national artists, being national artists. Waking up each day and my office is the studio, creating what I believe in. I guess my point is in two years I hope we progress more than the year before, and before that. That we stay humble and never stop. And if we do, it’s only to tie our shoes from coming loose, from running head on with our dreams.