Maylee Todd is the kind of musician you love to love. Born in North York, the 31-year-old developed a passion for music from an early age. Her debut album, 2010’s Choose Your Own Adventure, received critical acclaim from publications like The Globe and Mail and NOW Magazine. Now hot on the heels of a tour in Asia and a nomination for the Prism Prize (for her super-swag music video for the single Baby’s Got It), Todd is excited to release her second record, Escapology, TODAY (April 2)! The album is one of soul and heart; its catchy melodies and groovy beats are sure to make you get up and dance. We spoke to Todd to get the lowdown on all things music, tour, and personal success.
Shedoesthecity: When did your passion for music start?
Maylee Todd: I was quite young. I can’t even imagine a time when I didn’t love music. I always knew I wanted to sing and perform. I collected and wrote music all the time but never really thought about it as a profession. The house I grew up in was filled with performers and musicians. My grandfather was an escapist, my father was an Elvis impersonator, one of my sisters fronted her own band, and my other sister and mom played piano. So it was all a very natural progression for me to take this path.
SDTC: When did it turn into something you wanted to pursue professionally?
MT: It’s so interesting and fun for me to make music that I guess I just made the choice. I understood and accepted that I would have to juggle other jobs to make this work. The fact that people are interested in my music is a huge compliment.
SDTC: What’s it like being an emerging Canadian artist in today’s music industry?
MT: Speaking only from my experience, it’s usually been a matter of limited budget, and even no budget in some cases. I find collaborating with other artists in the community seems to be an ongoing part of my process. We have limitations and those limitations have challenged us to be more creative, both as collaborators and as soloists. Though there are freedoms to it, no one will tell you that making music independently is easy. But in Canada we have funding to help artists along, too. The community vibe, the “it takes a village” aspect to supporting musicians, is pretty awesome. And during my recent promotional tour in Japan, I was blown away with Tokyo’s response to my music. I had no idea that it would be so well received. I’m thrilled, so thrilled, to represent Canada in this way.
SDTC: Tell us more about your Asia trip!
MT: Where to begin?! Being in the Philippines and getting to a better understanding my family’s history was amazing. While there, I traveled up north to the mountains to meet Wang Od, a 93-year-old tattoo artist of Kalinga, which is one of the last of the original practicing headhunting tribe. I can’t even begin to explain all the history of this beautiful and passionate country. Plus being in Japan, diving, and exploring a Japanese wreckage from WWII? So incredible!
SDTC: You’ve already received critical success for your first album—what can fans expect from your sophomore release?
MT: Escapology is built on soul music and mostly real life experiences. Overall, with the help of the amazing musicians I work with and respect so much, it’s an album built on feel good music. The connection even to the sadder songs in the album is part of that. Connection feels good.
SDTC: The soul and funk elements are really evident in your music, which isn’t something we’re seeing a lot of right now. Why were these styles of music ones that you wanted to explore?
MT: I was naturally making music that made me cry, and I was also interested in making music that makes me dance. I’m so influenced by everything jazz, to funk, to reggae, to commercial R&B, and of course hip hop. I love the warm sounds of analog. I love vinyl. Tropicalia and Bossa Nova are also genres that inform my work, for both albums, actually. Escapology is made up of bits and pieces of all of these. This is one of the reasons that I wanted to take on the producer role, so that I could round up all of these elements that I feel so close to.
SDTC: Like you said, you’re very involved in every step of the creative process: songwriting, production, music videos, etc. Why is that important to you?
MT: They’re important because my art is a representation of who I am, and what I am experiencing, and all things I’m interested in at that moment. It’s important for me to be honest in my work. Also it’s challenging. I love a good challenge.
SDTC: What is The Big Sound, the monthly Motown-themed event you participate in?
MT: This is a talented and fun group to work with. We’ve all worked with one another at some point in other projects, and we’re friends and fans of each other. There are 20+ musicians; a horn section, a string section, and multiple vocalists. The energy on stage is always so powerfully fun. And the crowd that comes to check out these shows are always so lively. They get it. They dance and sing with abandon. That’s the point, right?
SDTC: Can you tell us about MALOO, your alter-ego persona? Is she your Sasha Fierce? (Sorry, had to!)
MT: MALOO is still me, but instead of a harp or a funk band, I’m playing with an electronic medium. I’m excited for the MALOO project to continue growing. With MALOO, I get to find my way through a new process of songwriting and performing with completely different gear than when I play with a band. It’s an altogether a different process, which ends up exercising new creative muscles. Just like I’ve been collecting traditional instruments, I’ve now got so much electronic gear.
SDTC: How would you define success for yourself?
MT: I feel that so far I’ve been successful in love, music, career choices, friends, and community. All of these opportunities are informative in my human development. I’m pretty excited about life right now.
Celebrate the release of Escapology at the official launch party on April 25 at the Blk Box Theatre (under The Great Hall: 1087 Queen St. W.). Doors 10pm. Tickets are $8 in advance from Soundscapes, Rotate This, and mayleetodd.com; $15 at the door.