Christchurch teen a rising star

VICKI ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 01/08/2014
SUPPLIED: Rush Jopson

From a humble internet release, teenager Maya Payne's song Fragile went to No 1 on the RDU Top 10.

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Vicki Anderson talks to Christchurch teenager Maya Payne about recording in the same studio as Lorde, working with Grammy Award-winning producer Dru Castro in a garage and having her song played on the BBC.

Christchurch teenager Maya Payne is attracting international attention with her music.

The year 13 Burnside High School student says she has always been drawn to music.

"I started singing when I was 6, I started songwriting when I was 11. It has gone from there," Payne says.

On March 7, GO ran a review of her single, Fragile, a song about youthfulness, which had a low-key release on the internet, and described Payne as "destined for greatness".

That same day her dad, Matt Power, received a call from Paul McKessar from CRS Music Management.

McKessar, who manages top New Zealand band Naked and Famous, flew to Christchurch to meet Payne and in April she spent four days during her school holidays at Golden Age studios, where Lorde recorded her Grammy-Award winning album.

On the studio walls were Lorde's awards, "50-odd Tui awards" and gold and platinum records from the likes of Bic Runga, Scribe, P-Money and Brooke Fraser. In amongst it all was a Silver Scroll award.

"I went into Golden Age with producer Josh Fountain [Kids in Space]," she says. "I spent a couple of days in there and I got some demos out of it. I'd never really been in a proper studio before, it was quite different for me. It has cool artwork and was quite a chilled environment."

She recorded Fragile at the end of last year with United States-based Grammy Award winning recording engineer and producer, Dru Castro, while he was in Christchurch.

The connection came about through Payne's vocal coach, Nathan Phillips and Elly Hanssen, of Moorhouse Dance Studios who had a connection with Castro from her time being a hip hop dancer in Atlanta. Phillips also manages The X-Factor finalists, Moorhouse.

Payne, 17, performed at his school, via the Majestic Church, for "two or three years". She got involved in doing some Moorhouse Dance Studio productions and took part in her first show there at 15.

"They put on shows every couple of months, it is really fun. It is where I started to find myself as an artist," Payne says.

"I wrote Fragile because Dru Castro was coming over from America and my singing teacher wanted me to have a song ready for that. I wrote it in a couple of days in my room."

From there, she went to the CPIT Jazz School and met up with students who played on the track including Daniel Hitchens (guitar), Cameron Burnett (drums), Nick Dow (keys) and Joe Vaiese (bass). It was recorded by Barnaby Coxon at the jazz school studio before Payne and Castro took it into a garage studio to mould it.

"Yes we worked with Dru Castro in a converted garage," Power laughs. "There was a bit of duct tape holding the mic in place."

Payne didn't end up using Castro's original arrangements, describing it as "a bit too jazzy".

She drove the song, having the final say on everything from key, to chord changes and the final mix. All the instrumentation on the album is performed - there are no samples.

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Her dad says she was "firmly" in charge and wasn't fazed about altering the Grammy Award-winning producer's ideas.

She now has a new vocal coach, Ravil Atlas, and says that stylistically, she's a fan of music by Chet Faker and Broods.

"I think you feel the music more, because of the whole beats vibe. If you get the audience moving, you connect more and that's the goal with my music, to get people connecting with it."

From a humble internet release, Fragile went to No 1 on the RDU Top 10. Dan Aux from George FM picked up the track and made it his track of New Zealand Music Month. bFM Auckland playlisted the track, so did Kiwi FM and this week it has been playlisted on George FM.

It has also been selected to go on New Zealand On Air's August Kiwi Hit Disc.

Payne said the song took on a life of its own, with requests coming in from a British producer and a Harlem-based rapper wanting to collaborate.

"I've been in touch with lots of different producers. One British producer, Someone's Enemy, his name is Will Gibson, got in contact and did a remix. It got played on BBC over there, which was quite exciting."

The remix was also included on a Mercedes Benz mixtape, which seeks to introduce 10 of the best new talents around the world every 10 weeks. According to Mercedes Benz it has a "couple of million downloads" a shot.

"I am noticing that a few DJs are now picking it up and it is getting played at some events in the United States," Power says.

She is currently "totally indie" and managed by her dad but Power says he is talking with some "top managers" and while a large international label has shown "keen interest" he says it's early days and the pair are simply taking one day at a time.

Payne is purely focusing on her music.

"My dad has been dealing with that, I haven't really been involved in that stuff."

She recently received two $10,000 funding grants from New Zealand On Air to record and make videos for her next singles Submerge and Falling.

"I got funding for my new demo, Submerge, and that is one of the songs I did in the Golden Age studio. It was exciting to get funding because now I can finish it and do a video with Candlelit Pictures."

Her goal is to release an EP before the end of the year and she is in contact with different producers - mostly from New Zealand but also some from Britain - at the moment.

"It's about finding the right one for me, it's about experimenting. I hope to get the songs finished, hopefully by the end of the year, and see what happens from there."

Her dad laughingly describes her as the "Singstar champion" of the family. "She won a talent quest early on at Redcliffs primary school, singing Vanessa Carlton's A Thousand Miles," he says. "I knew something was up then because I came into the hall where she was auditioning and thought they had the original track on, but then saw her up there singing."

There's an opportunity to take part in a large concert this summer and also the chance to take part in an industry showcase for Outward Sound.

Payne's dream is to perform for people and to become an artist, and to write her own music, but most of all she wants her music to connect with people.

"That's the dream."

Check out Maya on bandcamp.

- The Press

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