On her debut single, Pray, rising artist MAYAH contemplates if the thing she really needs is “that simple life”. If this track is a predictor of things to come, it seems likely she’ll have anything but.
Raised on her older sisters’ record collection in the tiny rainforest village of Kuranda, Queensland, the soundtrack to MAYAH’s childhood merged their love of Lauryn Hill, Janet Jackson and TLC with their mum’s favourites, Moby and Massive Attack. Throw in years of playing music in school and it seems inevitable that inventive melodic song structures fusing R&B, hip hop and electronic staples would be in her future.
But for years music took a back seat when MAYAH committed herself to studying medicine. It didn’t take long for it to re-emerge as a priority, though. “I know it sounds cliché, but I felt like there was something missing in my life and I didn’t know what it was,” she remembers. She took a leap into the deep end after completing her university exams, moving to New York City to pursue any possible musical connection. “I thought, ‘I’m going to do music over there. In a small or big form, I don’t care. I don’t even know how. It’ll be rad though.”
After shifts at “shitty waitress jobs”, she’d visit studios to get her voice heard. Through an incredible series of events – that involved a ride in a NYPD car to Long Island where she ate hummus in Shaggy’s kitchen while he rapped and watched his producers work on a G-Eazy record – pieces began falling into place.
The pros recommended she train with legendary vocal coach Craig Derry, whose past students include the likes of Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Mary J Blige and D’Angelo. “His classes are so high energy. I felt honoured to be part of them and I met some of the most talented people I’d ever come across at the time. And even now,” MAYAH says, remembering the belief these classes instilled in her. “I was just so inspired and genuinely excited. It made me think I could do this as something more than just a bit of fun.”
In-between shifts as an Emergency Doctor, she was killing time at an airport when a melody struck her. She took her idea into a session with Melbourne producer Rob Amoruso as soon as the wheels hit the tarmac. By that afternoon, Pray was fully formed.
Over its stylish, syncopated trap beat, MAYAH’s treacle-smooth voice emerges to ask the question underlying every social media user’s daily insecurities: “I got friends but are they really friends?”
On her Instagram, where she shares glimpses inside her musical life, she recently questioned the reality of what we see in the scroll, and emboldened her followers to “share the struggles as well as the successes”.
It’s an idea she’s exploring in Pray, a fresh and thoughtful take on R&B. “The song is about how we often show a curated version of ourselves on social media but it’s not always the full side; it’s the highlight reel.”
“Everybody’s got their big dreams, cos everybody’s tryna be seen … Pray we don’t drown in it all,” she sings, aware of how easy it is to fall into the trap of self-criticism. “It’s hard to not question or compare your own happiness, but it’s more important to stay true to yourself and what you love and want to do. Forget about what the fuck anyone else is doing.”
Far from critical or judgmental, the song is uplifting and encourages a more honest approach & a deeper connection under the surface.
It’s a message you can dance to.