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MAWD Takes on SXSW: An Interview

MAWD has been an artist on my radar for some time now. Her folksy blues ballads, and gritty, Joplin-like vocals have seemed wonderfully out of place in the Los Angeles music scene. With me and MAWD both in town for SXSW, I thought I’d reach out and see how she was getting along in weird, warm Austin.

On the night of our interview, MAWD was performing for a private viewing party hosted by her record label, allihoopa.  and Planet LA Records . The singer was nice enough to get me in on the guest list. So for the first time that week, I left 6th’s streets Mobious strip of booze and bodies for Austin’s glitzy uptown.

I entered onto a club room packed with trendy sofas, chatty guests, and a band tucked tight against a wall. Think NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert – if Tiny Desk Concerts had a balcony-side swimming pool overlooking the Austin skyline.

Photo Cred: MAWD
Photo Cred: MAWD

MAWD’s performance that night was brilliant. Her charisma and control as a singer was really able to shine through in the stripped-back, acoustic setting. It’s rare you get to see someone doing what they were so obviously made to do. Watching MAWD perform was that experience. After her set I was able to pull MAWD away from the noise and learn more about the woman behind the moniker.

Didn’t you release your EP already? Where’d it go?

I released it last May. And then shortly after that, I was going to move to LA, get my band together and get things going. But then I actually had to have surgery for a grapefruit sized cyst so I had to put my life on halt for a little bit. I had to recover and finding a place to live in LA is crazy so I didn’t really do a whole lot in ways of promoting the last EP.

But the EP didn’t really get the attention it deserved so once I got to LA and got a backing band and started booking shows my label was like, “Okay we should take this off and get a publicist and kind of like re-release it.” So now we have re-mastered it because the quality just wasn’t as high as I wanted it to be. 

Will the new version have anything new to it?

It was mastered by Brian Lucey, he did The Arctic Monkeys, Beck, The Kills – some of my favorite bands.  And then we added some bonus tracks on their and some bonus songs. So the new EP has the “sexy” version of Dark Room on it. And it’s got Summer In A Dream but like a slow, folky, melodic version of it.

Any release date?

So I don’t know when the whole EP will be out again. Dark Room will be out tomorrow (by the time this interview is out) and then April 7th we’ll be playing at the Hotel Cafe and LA Weekly is gonna do a video premiere for the song which I directed and edited and DIYed the shit out of. It’s just a one shot type of video where I’m walking and singing.

So you’re band is from all over, how did you guys meet up?

I had a backing band in Chico which Kyle the violin player was a part of. He went to school for recording arts. Him and I met in college, we were both in the same major and when I moved to LA in August I had no backing band and I got pretty much my whole band from Musician’s Referral, other than Kyle. I got like 30 responses for each position.

How did you choose between them all?

I sent like a list of silly things like: “Must not be a diva, are you easy going, are you a goofball?” Like, are we going to get along because you can be a great musician but also we need to be buddies. I feel really lucky because all my band mates have become my really good friends. We just have so much fun!

And do you do all the writing in the group?

All the songs are written by me. Some are co-written by Roger Gisborne, he’s the owner of the label, he’s mostly like adding or rearranging songs here or there.

Did your music business degree help you navigate the professional world? 

It’s helped me a lot actually. I was actually interning for another band and I did all their social media and I learned a lot. I was in some higher up positions like I was the general manager in this event planning class. We put on mini festivals and did artist development through Chico State’s music industry program.

It just hurt my soul to go work for other musicians, like I felt like I need to just go do it for myself.

I learned about things that when you come to be a musician a lot of people are in the dark about. I can talk the talk and stuff. And a lot of it was self-taught too. Like I went and bought my own camera instead of paying a photographer. I also would do all my own posters and graphic design which helped a lot.

How did you realize performing was the right route?

I did a lot of internships, like at a radio station and small record label. I decided that I was watching all these other bands play and I’ve always loved writing music and playing music and I’ve played with other bands in Chico.

One of my bands was more of a Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Kills kind of girl-rock. Like my best friend played drums and I sang and played guitar. But I was also in a folk band so I kind of wanted to combine those two genres together. It just hurt my soul to go work for other musicians. Like I felt like I need to just go do it for myself.

Have you tried any of the food trucks at SXSW yet? Favorite one?

The food truck at Whistler’s was so good! Ok it sounds really lame but I’m gluten-free and I’m not vegan but they had this vegan bowl with deep-fried cabbage. I don’t know the name of the food truck but we were like all freaking out about it.

Follow MAWD @mawdmusic to keep an eye out for her EP release.

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