Over a career spanning more than twenty years, the hugely talented Maysa has remained ahead of the curve with a sound that is both sophisticated and soulful When recently I talked to her from her home in Baltimore, MD I was interested to learn more about the exciting ventures she already has lined up for 2011. However, before doing so I wanted to take Maysa back to her early days in music and how she first got started.
“I still had a year of college remaining when I auditioned to sing with Stevie Wonder’s vocal group Wonderlove” she said. “Just like that, I was given the chance to become part of the line-up right away! In the event I stayed on at Morgan State University to complete my degree and joined them a year later. It was an exciting time for Stevie who had been asked to write the music for Spike Lee’s movie ‘Jungle Fever’. I got to sing on that album and, while in LA, Steve Harvey recommended me to Bluey Maunick who was looking for a female vocalist for his band Incognito.”
Looking back, that was a milestone moment and as Maysa explained, “I came in from work one day and took a call from Bluey who was in the UK. We talked about the music we both liked and which inspired us. He asked me to sing something for him over the phone. I chose ‘Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing’ and it must have been OK because the next day his manager rang me to say I had got the gig. That was in 1991 and being part of the Incognito family led to me live in London for four years, in the docklands, long before all the development that in recent years has transformed it. I have huge respect for Bluey. Over the years he has written some amazing songs for me.”
I was interested by Maysa’s comments about Maunick as I was aware that her 2008 solo release ‘Metamorphosis’ included her own composition ‘Let’s Figure It Out’ which she sub-titled ‘A Song For Bluey’. “I did that” she elaborated “because I wanted to recognise everything that Bluey has done for me. I wanted him to be proud. ‘Metamorphosis’ was a very special project for me and it got me noticed as a writer.”
Two of her songs from the ‘Metamorphosis’ collection feature guitarist Nick Colionne and I wanted to know how Maysa had become acquainted with him. “Nick’s a really lovely guy, a real showman” she disclosed. “I had worked with him before and as I was writing ‘Let’s Figure It Out’ I could feel Nick’s sound running right through it. His three minute twenty second instrumental introduction to the tune was just what I was looking for and in fact it’s given me the appetite to write more instrumentally based tracks.”
‘Metamorphosis’ also includes input from the Jason Miles – DJ Logic collaboration, ‘Global Noize’ and again I was interested to discover how this liaison had come about. “I worked with Jason on his ‘Tribute To Grover Washington Jr’” Maysa told me. “I enjoy the intensity he has for what he does. Right now that whole ‘world music’ thing that Global Noize has going on is very special to me.”
For Maysa, 2011 has started with a bang. ‘The Very Best Of Maysa’ was released in early February on the N-Coded label and adds a couple of all new tunes to treasures taken from the three CD’s she recorded for them between 2000 and 2004. “To my mind,” she revealed, “a ‘best of’ compilation such as this is a landmark in any artist’s career. I’m flattered that N-Coded should consider my work to be worthy of such treatment. It feels good.”
I queried what else might be on the way. “Well” she replied “I released my recording of jazz standards, ‘A Woman In Love’ in 2010 but for the last three years have been working on a live CD that I expect to complete in the summer and which will be titled ‘Live At The Birchmere’. The Birchmere has been such a great venue for me over the years. I’m producing the album myself, the tracks are all in the can and I just need to have it mixed. I’m also working on an idea for a Christmas collection which will be a blend of traditional songs done in my own way and some new compositions.”
With all this going on I speculated that some live appearances may be on the agenda. “As it happens” she clarified “I am touring now with Angela Bofill. As you might have heard Angela recently had a massive stroke but is now recovering really well. The show, named the Angela Bofill Experience, is based on her life story which she narrates while I do the songs. It’s going incredibly well. In May I will be going out on the road with Jonathan Butler and Eric Darius on what we are calling the ‘Soul Of Summer’ tour. There are already some dates scheduled and more are being added all the time.”
Amidst all this success I wondered what continued to drive her. “Writing and making music is where I want to be” she told me with enthusiasm. “The business side of things is a whole different thing and for that I surround myself with experts.”
One thing is certain, with talent to burn and a focus that is astounding, Maysa can only go from strength to strength. Here’s to the next twenty years.