"That Was Our Moment" May The Muse Interviewed
Berlin-based May The Muse communicates such emotion through her haunting vocals that conversations around the genre of music she makes fade into irrelevance. Simply put, the singer / songwriter creates art that’s both heard and felt. It evokes the colour purple and raindrops on windows and empty spaces where love once lived.
May’s early experiences tapped into the transformative healing power music can wield. “Right after my father left our family, my mom was really sad for some time. My sister was sick. Everything was very complicated and heavy. But there was this one moment where we listened to Simply Red - ‘Stars’ and we danced in the living room, like three friends. Crazy. Happiness. That was our moment.”
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Primarily, music is her way of processing her own inner-struggles. There’s a deeply personal, therapeutic aspect to May's songwriting. She tells Clash: “I need to make music, it's not really a choice. I like music. It's beautiful. But I really need to make music to feel better. There’s nothing else that makes me feel that way.”
Her mesmerising debut single ‘Islands and Waves’ caused a stir at the back end of last year. May followed this up with an unforgettable COLORSXSTUDIOS performance of ‘Awake’ in January; imagine Sade stepping out of the Matrix with a dose of futuristic, melancholic pop.
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‘Awake’ had been sitting in the vault for some time. “COLORS ask you to send over your music, all of it. And then they listen and pick the song. But ‘Awake’ is seven years old and I was not planning on doing anything with it. I wouldn't agree with the version they picked. So I had to travel to the UK to the studio to finish a different version. A week before the show, I was still recording backing vocals and stuff.”
May’s excellent debut EP ‘When Mercury Fades’ landed soon after. The project took form as May sought a way out of the darkness, living with depression, alone in a new city. She’d spent the previous six months after a breakup driving through North West Africa in a VW Camper with her Rhodesian Ridgeback. She came to Berlin to sell that VW, and ended up staying.
“I think there's just too much history going on here. It always feels heavy, even if the sun is shining. I felt very lonely. And I couldn't find an apartment because that's a Berlin thing. I ended up being very depressed. The apartment I was staying in, I think it felt like there was too much history there, as if something really, really bad happened within it. I just fell into a very dark mood. I spent two and a half weeks at home in the darkness. And I just couldn't figure out why.”
May looked inward for answers, and music provided a source of understanding. “I started writing again. I just set up my studio in my bed, computer guitar and interface, and just tried to do something. I wrote the EP in a couple of hours. Really, it was just something I needed to get rid of. And it really helped. I'm better now.”
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As the project’s four tracks progress, you sense May’s recovery. Her soulful vocals are the centrepiece, levitating above sparse, stripped back productions. “I’ve worked with different producers and figured out that's not the way I want to be produced. It felt like I was hiding behind the music. I don’t want that. I want people to really listen to me, because I'm recording my voice. Why would you not listen to what I have to say? I don't want anyone to get distracted because the production is overwhelming.”
She’s currently completing her debut album, and despite being in a much better place personally, it will be wrapped in the thoughtful, understated sadness that cloaks ‘When Mercury Fades’.
“That atmosphere is definitely going to be on the album, because I'm that kind of person. But the album is much more settled. You’ll see the progress. It's just better. I feel every song I write keeps getting better, which is nice. Because otherwise I would stop. I wouldn't continue writing songs if there wouldn't be any progress. I'm very excited. It's just beautiful. It's a different vibe. But it's still me, you know?”
May is in constant dialogue with herself. Her music is inquisitive and unashamedly vulnerable, and in that vulnerability lies its great strength. “Songwriting is a way of getting rid of energy, emotions and feelings and not being stuck in one thought. Basically writing down more than one sentence. It's almost like a riddle, where I want to know the outcome. And then I just answer my own questions while writing a song. Which is what a therapist would do, asking questions like how did you feel in that moment? How do you feel now? It's like an inside conversation.”
“But it takes time,” she insists. “It's not like I write a song, and I just get it. I often feel like complete shit after. And then a month later, I realise the answer was there. I planned my escape out of that situation, while writing that song. That’s interesting. It feels like magic, you know?”
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Words: Robert Kazandjian
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