Sydney-based artist, Peta Mai, paid a visit to Stingray's Australia office for an exclusive performance and interview. This is what she had to say about her career in music and her upcoming debut EP, This Is Not About You.
Something that jumped out at me when reading through your bio is that you use your music as a vessel for storytelling. Can you take us through that process?
Funnily enough, as a child I used to write poetry and creative stories, that was the way I expressed myself, through writing it down. Later on, when I was about 8, I discovered that I could sing so it became the perfect combination for me to really identify what I was feeling. I usually start with the lyrics or write a poem, and if I can convert that into a melody and a song then that’s what I’ll do. That’s my process, and that’s where I find some relief and clarity around what I’m feeling and the things that I experience in my life.
In such a young career, you’ve already shared a stage with some big names like Lady Antebellum and Keith Urban, and you’ve performed at gigs like CMC Rocks - this must have been a highlight for you. Can you share a moment in your career so far, that made you realize “Things are happening for me; I could do this for a living”?
Luckily for me, I’ve had a few moments like that now. I think the one that stands out is when I was able to open for Hunter Hayes at the Metro Theatre here in Sydney. It was the first time I had ever played the Metro Theatre, it was one of those coveted venues that I had on my bucket list. With that being said, I tried to keep my expectations low and thought of it as a great learning experience, even if no one was there to watch the support act, but it was actually a full house. I hadn’t really known what I would be like under that kind of pressure, I had the question at the back of my mind, “Can I handle it?”. I feel like I rose to the occasion! It was a multi-faceted experience because I got the feeling that, “Yes! I can do this”, and the audience response to my performance made me feel confident in the direction that I was taking. This was one of the highlights of my music career and my life.
That must have been an incredible feeling. I’m sure having that direct audience response to your music must be motivating; you can see and hear that your music is working out!
For sure. We’ve worked the covers scene and it’s a different kind of magic to have that reflecting back at you when you’re playing your own songs. It’s such an energy!
What I love about your music is that it seems to be inspired by a variety of music styles. Can you tell us about your influence, the music genres and artist that you admire?
Well, growing up, I had two CD’s that I would listen to in my parents' car and that was, The Dixie Chicks, ‘Home’…
Ah, so that’s where you get your country flare from.
Yeah! …and the other was Linkin Park, ‘Hybrid Theory’! John Meyer, Paramore, and Maren Morris - who’s a country girl as well - are probably my main influences right now. Even though they are all so different, in a genre sense, they manage to push the boundaries of what’s expected and they all do such a good job of making you feel something. That’s always been the main goal through everything; to make music that’s emotion-filled and to let people feel something. I think that’s really present in country music, the story telling aspect and being able to make people feel.
Where do you want to take this? What’s the next big stage you would like to conquer?
I’m in the midst of releasing my debut EP and I think that will determine the next step, but I would love to play festivals and tour Australia. I would love to do a Canadian and US run too.
Speaking of your EP, what can listeners expect from your upcoming release, This Is Not About You?
I am really excited about the journey that the songs take you on. The songs that I selected for the EP were all created during the same era of my life. I guess it’s a part of growing up, but I was quite confused and I wasn’t clear about the direction that I wanted to go in at that time and writing those songs gave me clarity. A lot of my relationships during that time really transformed too so you will hear a lot of songs about relationships on there. I’m excited about the ending track of the EP because it gives an empowering feeling and a sense that you’ve dusted yourself off, you’re ready for the next thing and you’ve gotten new confidence back.
Image credit: The Peak Agency 2018. All rights reserved.
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