BOSTON — Maya La Maya may be 22 years old, living in the big city and debuting her new rap single, but she’ll never forget her upbringing in small towns in New Hampshire and Maine – especially Brunswick, where her teachers and experiences set her on her path toward singing and songwriting.
“I really credit Brunswick High School for molding me,” she said this week.
Maya La Maya’s first single, “Keep on Fighting,” is available now on Spotify through the Hrdrv label. She said the track was an outlet for her concerns about racism in the wake of the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year.
“It was a very different song to write because of what it means to me,” she said.
She describes her first single as a rap song, perhaps an unexpected genre considering her upbringing. Born Maya Manzanero-Lopez in Goffstown, New Hampsire, a town of fewer than 20,000 people just west of Manchester. Both her parents were trained as concert pianists. Her father, George Lopez, has toured nationwide, as well as in Europe and Mexico, and is an artist in residence at Bowdoin College. Her mother, Aurora Manzanero, teaches Spanish at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham.
“We still have the baby grand (piano) in the living room,” Maya said.
Maya was homeschooled until seventh grade, when she and her family moved to Brunswick. She went to Brunswick Middle School, and graduated from Brunswick High School in 2016. From there, she went to Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she graduated earlier this year with a Bachelor of Art degree in songwriting and music business.
Maya can track her influences back to her parents, who taught her classical piano at an early age. She has fond memories of going to piano camp in the summer, taking instruction in classes from musicians such as British singer-songwriter Anna Dagmar.
It was Dagmar who was one of Maya’s first songwriting inspirations back when Maya was a freshman in high school. Maya had only written a few songs here and there for fun when her father arranged for Maya to show her work to Dagmar, who encouraged her to pursue songwriting.
“It was very eye-opening to see her reactions to the songs I had presented,” Maya said. “It was really great fuel to get me to where I am today.”
Another influence was Ashley Albert, Maya’s music teacher at Brunswick High School. From the start, Maya said, Albert helped nurture her talent.
“She was so encouraging,” Maya said.
Albert said Maya was an ideal music student, eager and willing to try anything, be it classical music, jazz or a cappella singing.
“She would always rise to the occasion,” Albert said.
Albert also remembered Maya as a gifted performer, whether in musical theater such as a school production of “West Side Story,” or in dramatic performances such as Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“She really just lit up the whole stage,” Albert said.
Most amazing of all, Albert said, was Maya’s positive attitude.
“She was never afraid to be herself or take risks,” she said.
Like all artists, Maya uses her music to express herself, including some of the racism she has experienced firsthand. A child of immigrants — her father is from Belize, her mother a native of Spain — she has become accustomed to speaking Spanish all her life, even in public, which has earned rude comments from strangers.
“There have been a few incidents,” she said.
Even in high school, she mentioned experiencing what she called “microaggressions.” For example, she remembered not having any classmates of color in her history class.
“I was the only brown person in the class,” she said.
That fact was made clear, she said, when subjects such as slavery came up. No one said anything, she said, but she could see her classmates’ eyes conspicuously turning to her.
“It felt very isolating,” she said. “I felt very alone.”
Maya wants the song “Keep on Fighting” to do more than just make a statement, however. She said all proceeds from the track’s sales will go to the NAACP legal defense fund. She has finished mixing her second single, “Subtly,” which she expects to release later this fall, and is working on a venue to record a third single, “Pray for You,” as a live track. She said she’s thrilled to be producing music through Hrdrv (pronounced, “hard drive”), an independent music label created by songwriters who have worked with artists such as Janet Jackson and Miley Cyrus.
“It’s more of a community than a label,” she said.
With more singles slated to come out this fall, it’s clear Maya La Maya is not finished expressing herself through singing or songwriting.
“Music has always been the air I live and breathe,” she said.
Sean Murphy 780-9094
Email: [email protected]