Don’t get too caught up in what other people think of your path. This is something I still actively struggle with, and definitely appreciate hearing once in a while. When you decide to pursue an “unusual” path, especially at a young age, there’s constant judgement, at least in my experience. It’s important to focus on what you want rather than what other people do.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mae Krell.
Mae Krell is in the midst of a new era. Over a production backdrop of chirping birds, running washing machines and children playing, Mae expresses their introspective lyrics with a newfound maturity and understanding. Following a two-year hiatus, the 21-year-old made their return in 2020 with a string of soft, folk-pop singles. Influenced by revered singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Phoebe Bridgers and Gregory Alan Isakov, Mae writes intimate reflections about confronting past struggles, self-love and personal truths. “wash,” their most recent release, garnered over 500k Spotify streams in less than six months, with their other singles following close behind in numbers. In response to their gut-wrenching single “garden,” Indie Band Guru wrote, “There is truly not a voice quite like the one Mae Krell has.”
Mae’s creative endeavors stretch far beyond music. They originally entered the music industry through photography, traveling the country to take photos, writing poetry, and dreaming of the day they would muster the courage to become a performing artist themselves. Mae’s most recent creative endeavor involves the creation of a cottage-core Build-A-Bear equipped with its own pair of roller skates. A part of the LGBTQ+ community themself and a persistent advocate for mental health awareness, Mae is constantly finding ways to connect with the two communities — whether that’s via music, social media, photography. In their free time, Mae volunteers for Musicians on Call and likes to spend time outdoors — gardening, hiking, and camping.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you so much for having me! I grew up in New York City. I wouldn’t necessarily say I came from a musical or artistic family in the traditional sense, my mom was a stay at home mom and is now a teacher, and my dad was a mover; but there was a lot of creativity in the house. We did lots of crafts as kids, and I remember when my siblings were babies we had them paint by running around on a big piece of paper. In terms of music, I played a bit of piano when I was a kid, but started playing the guitar and writing music when I was sixteen.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was fourteen I went to my first concert and it completely changed my life. I remember looking up at the stage, and then looking at all the people in the crowd singing every word back and I had a moment where I realised: that’s what I want to do. I was determined. It’s funny looking back because I didn’t play an instrument yet, I hadn’t written a song yet either, I just knew.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
As a teenager, my friends and I started going to a lot of gigs around the city. Mostly smaller venues where local bands or smaller/unsigned touring bands were playing. One of the venues we always wanted to go to but never managed to get into was Joe’s Pub, since it was 21+ and they had properly good security. Pretty much right after I turned 21, I was invited to come play as a part of an event there. It was really cool to walk into a venue I had always wanted to go to as a musician rather than a fan.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This is hard! I feel like I constantly make mistakes, haha. I have a hard time thinking of a funny mistake, but a really basic mistake I made was not investing enough into promotion and marketing on my earlier releases. I think that’s super common though.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m working on a ton of new music! I try to change up the coloring and theme for each track I release (with the help of my friends who do graphics and photos). Since there’s a lot of new music in the making, we’ve had a ton of fun planning ahead and thinking of new ideas!
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I think that having representation of different cultures and types of people in the media is super important for kids especially. You’re so impressionable when you’re young, and if you never see a movie or show with someone who looks like you succeeding, how are you going to know that you’re capable of that as well? Education is another piece- hearing or seeing stories that aren’t exactly like yours gives you a wider world view. It’s important that those stories are told by people who experienced them as well, because it gives a voice to people who are or have been systematically silenced.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You should try to do the things you want to do regardless of if you believe you’re capable or not. When I first started out doing music, I wasn’t too sure if I was good or not. Honestly, i’m still not sure, but I made a conscious decision to continue because it makes me happy. Honestly, if I had listened to my own thoughts about myself, I wouldn’t be here.
- Write a lot, and finish songs even if you think they’re bad. I really love getting down on myself and deciding songs are bad before I properly workshop them. I’ve thrown out a lot of ideas because I didn’t like them at the moment instead of taking a step back and revisiting them or reusing them in a better way.
- Always get a second opinion. This one is a continuation! Having people to give you opinions, regardless of if they’re musicians or not, is always really wonderful insight.
- Put just as much work into promotion as you put into the music. This is so important! And is so often forgotten by musicians in the early stages of their career. What’s the point of perfecting a song, spending money on production, mixing, mastering, etc and putting it out if you aren’t going to try to reach people who will listen.
- Don’t get too caught up in what other people think of your path. This is something I still actively struggle with, and definitely appreciate hearing once in a while. When you decide to pursue an “unusual” path, especially at a young age, there’s constant judgement, at least in my experience. It’s important to focus on what you want rather than what other people do.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
A lot of the time I find that burn out happens when you aren’t passionate enough about what you’re doing. If I felt like I had a choice to go into another career and be fulfilled by it, something that is safe and stable and guaranteed, I would. But I know i’ll be unhappy in the long run, and I’m not going to let that happen. I’ve never felt burnt out by something I’ve truly loved. Tired, needing a break for a day or two? Sure. But I think at the end of the day I don’t experience intense burnout because I’m so grateful to be alive. To be answering these questions and to have this song released and be working on new music; being able to do something I love, what more could I ask for?
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think I’d want to help improve arts education in school curriculums and make it more accessible across the board. My high school had absolutely no art/music classes at all. I think art teaches people about themselves and about others in a very vulnerable way that nothing else can. Everyone should have some sort of art in their life, and I would want to help make that as accessible as possible.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My dad is my biggest supporter. He comes to every gig he can, asks me about new music and visuals to remind me to work on them when I’m slacking, sends my songs to all his friends, and does every other chaotic dad thing you can think of. He knows better than anyone that when I set my mind to something I’m going to put 150% of myself into it, and he’s never laughed at me or told me an idea I had was too extravagant or impossible. That support, to me, has been invaluable.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner”
I’ve made some huge mistakes in my life so far. Like, properly huge mistakes. But somehow, I’ve ended up in the right place anyway. There are lots of things I say that I’d like to forget. That i’ve done, or experienced, or seen. But If things would have been different, then who knows where i’d be. I love my life today. I’m grateful for everything I have. I wouldn’t change anything; except maybe getting here a bit faster.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Honestly, Taylor Swift. I love her music and songwriting. I think she’s absolutely brilliant. I think it would be way interesting to be able to talk to her!
How can our readers follow you online?
My social handles are all @maekrell ! 🙂
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thank you! It was a pleasure 🙂