"MUSIC IS A WAY IN," A Conversation with Maria BC

What is your recording process like? 

My setup is one mic, a preamp, and my laptop. Sometimes a four track too, but that’s less and less often these days. I try to keep things simple and pursue intense feelings. If I’m excited by something I’m working on, then I trust it’s moving in the right direction. Recording, for me, is more of a devotional exercise than a technical one. If my gear is on the fritz (it often is), I can’t help myself - I keep going, sound quality be damned. I never record because I want to make something “good” - I record because I want to make something.

How do you replenish your creative energy?

Reading, listening, taking notes, spending time with friends. Making a conscious effort to not think about art. Making myself available to unexpected desires and ideas. 

What fun rituals do you have before you sit down to create?

Unfortunately, before I can start working on something, I have to do literally anything else. Like, I can’t record until I’ve had two cups of herbal tea, stared out the window for twelve minutes, cracked a hard seltzer, screamed into a pillow, stretched, etc. Not a fun ritual, but necessary.

What strain does touring put on your life, if any?

I don’t make a liveable income from touring, and I haven’t been able to find a day job that can accommodate the amount of touring I do, so I’m always quitting my job, playing a few shows, then hunting for new work as soon as I get home, and that gets tiring. It’s hard to save money. I still haven’t toured with a band for this reason.

What do you do to try and stay healthy while on the road? Or, is it your time to let loose and eat some corn dogs?

I try to make time for real exercise because otherwise - between stage fright and the sedentary nature of touring - I just won’t feel hungry. Getting up early to go for a swim or do a youtube workout is generally worth it. That said, unhealthy habits prevail. I’m a low energy person and solo traveling activates me, so I relish the mania and end up sleeping and eating less than I should.

How does touring affect your emotional and physical health during and post tour?

Touring is cathartic, even therapeutic, for me. When I travel alone, I enter this state of heightened awareness such that a moment spent sitting on a park bench - the most mundane thing - takes on a luxurious significance. Everything is urgent and worth noticing. I come home feeling sharp. 

But physically, yeah, it’s tough. I took a red eye to the Netherlands last year and got in after sunset, and then the next day was overcast (of course) and, I don’t know, something about having to live without sunlight in a new timezone really messed me up. I thought I was gonna puke the whole time I was there… Fortunately the folks who hosted me couldn’t have been nicer. 

Do you feel like you’re seen as childish for pursuing music as a career? 

Every artist I know wants to become more childlike. 

What is your stance on streaming and the “future” of how people consume music? 

Streaming has fundamentally changed the way people relate to music whether we like it or not. Few people listen to music the way they might watch a movie or read a book - they give it a very different kind of attention. I’d like to change this, so I think it’s important that we share music we’re excited about with each other, intentionally and intimately. Music improves our lives in demonstrable, material ways, if only in the sense that within this world that depresses/represses us, music excites us. If we’re just using it to mediate our productivity or self-care rituals or whatever, we’re losing out on real joy.

Economically speaking… Well, in an ideal world, everyone’s basic needs are met and music is free for everyone, but until we’ve built that world, things like housing and food and healthcare cost money, and the streaming economy makes these already-expensive things feel more expensive if you’re an artist. It’s unfair that music - which should transcend the drudgery of everyday life - also costs money. I get that. But if we don’t do something to protect artists’ capacity to sustain themselves, we’re going to wake up in a culture over-saturated with commercially-minded, cookie cutter muzak. Jaime Brooks has brilliant things to say about all this.

Why do you choose this life? What do you get out of it?

I ask myself this all the time, like, Why spend most of your precious time on earth doing something you’re not particularly good at and offers no security, even to those who are good at it? And it’s hard to say. Maybe it’s the way sound brings me - and many people, I think - into contact with something bigger, the external world. I’ve made more deep, meaningful connections through music than anything else. It makes life feel like life. That’s it, I guess: music is a way in. Or a way out.

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