Maeve Steele discusses her journey into music, her new single “Shimmer”, finding her style as an artist and what’s next

For California-based pop artist Maeve Steele, music has always been a part of her life and was surrounded by the sounds of folk, Americana, and country music growing up.  She began classical violin lessons before kindergarten, and by the time she was in elementary school, she was learning guitar and writing her own songs.  Writing songs that were incredibly personal for her made her nervous of being an artist and performing her songs for others.  That all changed when she went off to college.  With desire to learn the business side of things and be surrounded by likeminded people, Steele headed off to college in Nashville where she studied literature by day and honed her craft at night.  Studying English, and more specifically creative writing, allowed her to be amongst other writers and receive feedback and a different perspective on all different styles of writing, and applying those different perspectives to her songwriting.  Although she initially envisioned herself as more of a behind-the-scenes songwriter for other artists, a real taste of being on stage at there age of 19 allowed her to realize she wanted to be a songwriter and performer for herself.  In 2019, she took a leap of faith and released a 2-song self-titled EP with the songs “Real” and “Tourist”, and in 2020 she released her EP Barefoot, a similarly adventurous four-track EP captured in Nashville with the help of guitarist Cole Phillips (Colt Ford, Canaan Smith) and GRAMMY-nominated engineer Robert Venable (Twenty One Pilots, MuteMath).  These early stages of being an artist allowed her to experiment with her sound and find her style as an artist.  Right as things were taking off for her, Covid hit and the industry came to a halt.  Not knowing what was gong to happen, Steele initially did not have the motivation to write.  She eventually did use the time off to begin writing new material, with “Shimmer”, her latest release, being a product of her writing.  She also released an accompanying music video for the song.

“When I wrote ‘Shimmer’, I was in the process of really learning how to be happy as I was entering a new stage of life. Overall, this song was born out of the mindset that to a certain extent, I can find joy or excitement in most situations depending on how i look at it…anything can shimmer,” shared Steele. “This song represents opportunity and optimism about the future, both creatively and in my personal life, as trying to establish my voice as a songwriter has come in hand in hand with finding out who I am as a person.”

You can connect with Maeve Steele via the following links.  Photo credit: Joelle Rosen.

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You were born and raised in San Francisco and were surrounded by music growing up and have said that your parents always stressed that music was a crucial part of your education.  What can you tell me about growing up in San Francisco and finding your love for music, as well as what you have learned from having music as a part of your education?


I started playing violin when I was, I think, around 4 years old.  Within my household, classical music was just part of our…like you said, it was part of our education and part of growing up.  It really established a strong foundation of knowledge with classical music, and how music theory works and just being able to play vague instruments and to harmonize and understand music theory.  That was huge later in my life when I started exploring with writing my own music and trying to learn other instruments.  I always had that foundation to fall back on.  That, mixed with the Bay area in general, which has such a rich history of folk music and hip hop and all of these different types of genres.  I think growing up with those two different kinds of music surrounding me definitely forced me to find my way between all of it!



When you were younger, you have said that you loved to write anything, from stories to poems to lyrics, which all eventually kind of merged for you.  How would you describe the development of your songwriting process and were you influenced growing up by any particular poem, literature, or song lyrics?


Yeah.  I mean, Joni Mitchell was always huge for me.  I loved Amy Winehouse.  I personally discovered Amy Winehouse in, like, middle school and she just blew my mind because she was just so unapologetic and gritty in her lyrics, and I loved that.  I also loved a lot of Joan Didion and more memoir-style writing.  It’s just really, like, almost flowery and a really poignant writing style.  I think that, even though a lot of it wasn’t poetry or songwriting, definitely found its way into all of the styles that I write in, and especially in my songwriting.



You have said that because your songs are so personal, that the idea of being an artist and performing your songs terrified you initially.  What do you feel it was about going off to college that allowed you to realize that sharing your music was the only way to grow?  What can you tell me about relearning how to write in a way that allowed you to feel comfortable sharing your music?


I think a big part of it was going to school in Nashville and entering the Nashville songwriter world.  So much of it was people writing songs and then just giving those songs away or writing songs that were kind of, like, generic enough for other artists to sing them.  I had a really hard time with that (laughs), so I was just like “I’m going to have to get over this if I want to make songs that I genuinely feel are moving and important to me.”  So it was kind of the trade off with “Am I going to write stuff that I care about and that I like, even though it’s much scarier, or am I just going to have to adapt to songs that I don’t really care about?”.  At that point, what’s the point?  The point of songwriting is to express what you want to say.



What can you tell me about your college experience in Nashville where you studied literature by day and honed your craft at night ?  What led you to want to move there and what do you feel like Nashville taught you about songwriting and just being an artist in general?


I was a creative writing major, within the English major in college, and was constantly in workshops even though none of it really was songwriting specific.  I did a lot of poetry and a lot of non-fiction.  But just the process of being in a workshop with ten people and having everyone really tear your writing apart, in the best way, and being open and vulnerable enough and trying to write in all of these different styles really forced me to grow as a writer and in the way that I see the world.  And I mean, that’s what college really is for, even if I wasn’t doing something that was so specific to what I wanted my career to be.  Just seeing different points of view and being exposed to different styles and mindset was huge for becoming a songwriter.



You have said that you initially envisioned a behind-the-scenes career writing for other performers but that changed when you were 19 and you got your first real taste of being on stage.  What can you tell me about the songwriter rounds you took part in in Nashville and realizing that you didn’t just want to churn out songs and give them away to other artists?  


I honestly just had such a great time (laughs)!  I was pretty shy and have always been pretty private with my personal writing and don’t like being the center of attention and stuff like that.  There was something about being on stage and playing songs that made me feel really comfortable and at peace.  I just had a lot of fun with it and it didn’t feel like this terrifying thing.  It felt like I could just be the person that I wanted to be in these songs.  It was kind of freeing in that way.



You have talked about how in 2019 you took a leap of faith and released your 2-song self-titled EP, which had the tracks “Real” and “Tourist”, and then in 2020 your EP Barefoot.  What can you tell me about your early stages of being an artist and a songwriter and how you feel you have grown as an artist with each release?


Yeah.  It’s interesting.  It’s funny to look back at those songs and think about how little I knew about songwriting in general and also just about myself.  I think I was really trying to write songs that I thought sounded like songs that people would like listening to (laughs) and sounded like songs that I liked.  I think that with those first couple of songs, I was really just trying to make songs that sounded like songs.  And then with Barefoot, I started getting a bit more personal and was a bit more comfortable with finding my own style of writing and lyrical style.  I think that with Barefoot I was exploring bit more, but I was really just trying to learn who I was artist as I was writing those songs and making those songs in the studio.  I’m not one of those people who grew up like “I’m going to be a singer.  I’m going to sing on stage and sing in the studio.”  I was learning a lot about just how my voice works and what kinds of songs I’d like to sing and sounded good singing and how my voice sounded in the studio and all of that stuff.  It’s interesting.  I feel like I’m still figuring it out, but with these new songs it’s like “Ok.  This is how I write and this is how I sound and this is how I can make that better.”



You have said that the common thread connecting your songs on the Barefoot EP was about finding happiness through independence.  What can you tell me about finding your happiness through independence when you ventured off to live on your own in LA and how that experience has been for you?


I think a huge part of it has just been being comfortable being on my own and really learning how to find happiness internally.  I know that sounds so corny (laughs).  Just being content with who I am and finding my routines that I like and what I want my day-to-day time to look like or my solo time to look like.  I’m really trying to not compare myself to the people around me.  I think that’s been huge.  Just feeling really centered and really sure of who I am.  It’s so much easier to write about yourself when you feel like you know yourself.



Right when things were taking off for you, Covid hit and everything kind of came to a halt.  What can you tell me about that time for you and feeling the pressure to write songs all day and be creative and feeling frustrated with yourself for not wanting to write who quarantine first started?  Once you did start writing, how did that help you to think about the future you wanted to manifest for yourself once the pandemic is over?


Yeah.  When it all first started, I was just so frustrated because I felt like I’d been given this gift of time and solidarity and just sitting in my room with my instruments (laughs), so I should be writing great music.  I was pretty frustrated that I couldn’t.  I think the turning point was when I stopped trying to write songs and write for something and think I found a bit more of my passion that I had when I first started.  I had stopped writing for a project or for the studio and just had all of this time and was really just writing for myself.  So when I sat down to write a song, it didn’t feel like it was going to necessarily go anywhere.  That was really freeing and I think it kind of opened me up to talk a lot more vulnerably about things or to write in ways I wouldn’t have before.



You recently released your latest single “Shimmer”, which you have said that you wrote when you were in the process of really learning to be happy as you were entering a new stage of life.  What can you tell me about the single and establishing your voice as a songwriter while finding out who you are as a person?


I wrote this song because I was feeling very stuck and uninspired and going through this phase where I was like “I don’t know what to write about.  My life is really boring.”  I didn’t have anything that felt exciting.  I was re-reading ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’, which is one of my favorite books of all time and favorite Joan Didion books, absolutely!  I was reading and she was talking about the images that shimmer around the edges.  For some reason, that just like really resonated with me.  I love the idea that…she was kind of saying that as a writer you don’t have to have some profound knowledge or new take on the world.  You’re just observing and expressing the way that you see the world.  That felt so freeing to me, so I kind of wanted to do that and put that mindset into a song and I guess manifest some excitement that I wanted to feel (laughs), and also use that word shimmer to play off of, as a jumping off point.



What can you tell me about the idea behind and the process of filming the music video for “Shimmer”?  It looks like it was a fun video to shoot!


It was really fun and there was definitely some tequila involved (laughs)!  It’s a crucial part of the process when you’re dancing with your friends in glitter.  It was just awesome to work with Joelle and the rest of the team.  There were a lot of badass women on that shoot.  We really wanted to just lean into the idea that it’s a daydream and a fantasy to just dance with your friends and feel good around people that you are really comfortable with.  There doesn’t necessarily have to be a romance or anything like that.  It’s just about finding some little moments of bliss, especially because so many of us have not been able to dance with our friends and hang out with our friends in over a year now.  We were just leaning into that idea!





Aside from music, you also have a pretty distinct fashion sense, which is inspired by the Haight-Ashbury scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s.  How did that period inspire you?


I feel like with fashion, but then also with every part of that era culturally, there was just almost like this freedom and flexibility and acceptance of people showing their bodies a little bit more and moving a little bit more.  I think so much of the clothing just feels so freed and I just love that era and that style.



What’s next for you?  What do you have coming up in the coming months?


I have some new songs.  I have, hopefully, a new project with a lot of new songs and they all kind of play off of the ideas of “Shimmer”, of a new stage of life and all of the fear and excitement and sometimes sadness that comes with that.  And hopefully some live shows!



I was going to ask if you have any live shows coming up!


I don’t have anything planned but hopefully soon!








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