THE MUSIC INDUSTRY BROKE MAYDIEN, UNTIL HE STOPPED WORRYING AND BUILT HIS OWN BREAK
His new EP Tea and Loveseats was chosen on BBC 1Xtra as number 1 EP of the week, a project with with Soulection’s ROMderful is on the horizon for next year, and he signed a deal with Parisian label Roche Musique. It’d be fair to say that Maydien is on the brink of stardom. Not too shabby for a guy who didn’t even have a mailing address two years ago, and it all came together once he stopped worrying about it.
“There’s been a pause of around a year and a half in which I barely released new work,” he says.“I only did features. I wanted to wait until my sound really stood on its own legs.” It’s breathing he room he desperately needed, after working on everything but his sound longer than he would’ve liked. “Beats are international,” the rapper born in the south of The Netherlands says, “and my sound is international, but I’m here. I’m one in maybe five guys who rap in English in The Netherlands, so I don’t really have a scene to fall back on. I really have to work to build connections.”
“I emailed Joe Kay 20 or 30 times,” he says, but it wasn’t until he met him in person when he had to MC at a DJ set of his that he had the opportunity to build with Soulection’s frontman. “You have to be there, to connect with people. But I started to focus too much on that. The music became second to my networking.”
Sinking all he had into appearing at every single event, Maydien didn’t even have his own address and was stuck couch-surfing among friends and family in Amsterdam for four months straight. “I went down the wrong path,” he says as he reflects on that time. “I made bad decisions regarding both money and music. I lost myself.” The frustration of it all started to leak through into his music, which became more electronic, and angrier. “I saw people doing this at my shows,” he says bobbing his head with a scrunched up glare, “but I didn’t see them smile.”
That certainly was a whole lot different when he started out in 2011, and captivated audiences with soulful raps, tinged with playful melodies. “With everything going on in the world, I wanted to bring a smile to people’s faces. You can only do that with love.”
So he went back to the lab, stopped worrying about putting enough networking hours in, moved back from Amsterdam to his quiet hometown down south, and built a modest studio in his attic. “When you have a studio at home, you have the space and time to get reacquainted with your own voice, learn from what you taped earlier. And I enjoy recording on my own. When there’s a producer present, I tend to stay on the safe side.”
One of those things he never would’ve found out if he didn’t fool around recording on his own, is his unorthodox technique for recording layered backing vocals. “I was recording something with [beat creator] Wantigga for his new album, and he said ‘What do you wanna do here?’ I had a chorus in mind. He said ‘Cool, record it layer by layer.’”
“So I tape one, and I start off with the most stable, steady one, the one I know is safe. And then I build from that. With the second one, he said ‘you’re off-key.’ I told him ‘I know, but I’m gonna do a third one that’ll be off-key too, and that’ll cancel it out.’ He looks at me like ‘Dude, what the hell are you talking about that?’ I lay my vocals, totally off-key. It sounded like there was autotune on it, but applied in the wrong key. He says ‘You can’t do this, man’, and I reply ‘Just play them all three at once.’ He does and he’s blown away: ‘Not a single note is off-key…’ ‘Told ya so.’”
“I never had singing lessons, I can’t read music. Everything’s done by feel. I’m not a singer, I’m a rapper who can fuck with melody.” That might be selling short the smoothness in his voice though. “If you fuck around a lot, you can learn quite a bit”, he cheerfully remarks.
And as like gave himself space to mess around with his voice, he stopped overthinking his lyrics and started writing much more intuitively. “I used to censor myself, thinking I couldn’t cuss if I wanted to have a song on radio.” Tea and Loveseats is his first project since he fully let that notion go, and ironically it’s the one BBC 1Xtra’s Jamz Supernovanamed number 1 EP of the week. “A sense of freedom just brings out a lot more creativity in me.”
Recording mostly at home, Maydien solicits opinions from a cadre of musician friends and beat makers he respects after laying down his tracks. “I’m working on a project with Soulection’s ROMderful, we’ve got eleven demo’s so far. Him, Rico Green, Mitchell LC Yard and Wantigga. I send it to them like ‘What do you think?’ and they give me feedback.”
It’s exactly that unworried, looser approach which has broadened his sound. His music sounds fresher, unforced, with a voice more confident and comfortable. A sound that is opening up those very same opportunities he clamored for earlier. “[Soulection’s] The Whooligan asked me to perform two tracks from the EP at their night in Amsterdam’s Social Club. A huge, but I’m not gonna do it.” He takes a moment to gather his thoughts after dropping that bombshell. “It doesn’t fit with a club night. It’s much too chill for that.”
Maydien the networker is dead. Long live Maydien the artist.