Maya Vik is a solo artist signed to Oslo Records. She’s a singer, songwriter and bass player, and has previous played in the bands Furia and Montée, winning a Norwegian Grammy (Spellemannspris) with the latter. Last year, she also co-wrote the song Not Above That by Dawn Richard, which was voted 3 rd best song of 2016 by Time Magazine, only beaten by The 1975 and Beyoncé. Maya has a strong love for the 80s and legends like Prince, something she expresses both in her music and in her funky style. Besides being extremely talented, she’s also uncompromising when it comes to following her own path in a tough music industry. In other words: a true doyenne. We had a chat with Maya about life as a self-declared funk noodle.
Can you tell us a bit about what a normal work day is for you?
Yes, absolutely! 80% would be e-mails, because you are selling something. The product is your music and the brand is your name! Of course, making music is also a huge part of the job, but it’s not like I can just say: ”allright, I’m gonna spend three hours making music now!” I mean, I do, but 80% of that will end up in a pile of unfinished stuff that never turns into anything… When it comes to music, I’m also dependent on the producers also being able to be there, it has to work for their schedules as well, I never finish 100% of the job by myself. So it’s mails, paying bills, working in the studio…. It’s hustling!
When did you know that you wanted to be a musician?
I’ve been a musician since I finished high school, really. I was a little insecure back then, I wanted to travel for a year, but then I just jumped right into Furia when they moved to Oslo and asked if I wanted to join. It became a full-time job already then! We got signed to EMI in Germany, toured a lot and had booking and all that in Oslo. I went to NISS (The Nordic Institute of Stage and Studio, ed. note.) for half a year, but we ended up touring too much for me to be able to study on the side. So I dropped out, and from then on, it was just rehearsing and touring. We all worked part-time in bars, like everyone has done, to earn enough money to live! I’ve worked with music only since 2008, when I quit the bar job.
Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve done from your Furia days till today?
I toured with Savoy for a year, it was the first time I did something other than Furia, which I kinda had grown up with; we’d learned to play instruments and all that together. So with Savoy, it was the first time I had to learn someone else’s songs and become a good musician in that way. Since then, I’ve done a few other projects as a bassist, and started Montée with Erlend Mokkelbost and Anders Tjore. I also started doing some solo stuff in 2011, and quit Montée in 2012. I wish I could have done both, but it became a bit difficult both for me and them. Then I did Otto Jespersen’s humour show a few years ago, as a bassist in residence. The kinda job
where you go to work from Wedneday to Saturday and play maybe two shows per night, laughing at the same jokes every day, haha! It was really fun to have a job with regular hours. And then there was Bård Tufte og Harald Eia’s show for a season, and some events and stuff. It was really fun, because when you play with different people, you learn and you become good.
"... the term “you’re good for being a girl”is very negative… "
A classic question: who or what inspires you?
I can get very inspired by old music that I want to make now, if you get what I mean! Or new music of any genre. A sound or text piece I like in the moment. I send so many e-mails to myself with movie quotes!
What’s the best part of your job?
That I get to travel a lot!
What are the biggest challenges you meet in the music industry, and is there
something that’s particularly challenging for women?
Maybe I’ve been really lucky, because I haven’t experienced discrimination directly. In Furia, we were pretty against being called a girl band. I mean, you do get extra attention being five girls in a band, but the term “you’re good for being a girl” is very negative… Other than that, I’ve mostly played with guys, and never felt like I was there just because I’m a girl. But there has been a couple of sound technicians who’ve been like “so, this is the bass amp, plug it in here, that’s the on-button…” so there are still people who think women can’t play as well as men, and you do meet those people out there.
Related to that: every festival season, we hear that there are way more male
than female artists that are booked. Why do you think that is, and what can
we do about it?
This may be the wrong thing to say, but I’m very much against gender quotas in festivals. It should be about quality, what’s in and what fits the overall programme. On the other hand, we should start somewhere when it comes to getting girls into music in the same way as boys. So instead of quotas, working on getting more women into music, in the cultural after-school programmes and things like that. It might be easier for boys to sit in their rooms and play instruments and think it’s cool, so maybe get girls to play other instruments that the piano and singing. Make them want to play the bass and drums, and also to produce and become DJs! I did an interview with P1 (Norwegian public radio channel, ed.note) on the instrument subject: I can’t remember the numbers, but there’s a very small percentage of girls who play other instruments than the piano and do vocals. I think that’s a good place to start!