Maya Hawke Sets a Few Things Straight on ‘Chaos Angel’—“I Feel Like I’m Happier Than I’ve Ever Been”

Off-duty from filming the fifth and final season of Stranger Things, Maya Hawke is perfectly content. “It’s a beautiful day here in Atlanta,” the 25-year-old actress tells American Songwriter via Zoom. “I’m off work on Stranger Things. I got to box this morning and went for a beautiful walk. I had a great salad bowl with some tofu, salted nuts, and avocado, and I have no complaints. Life is really good.”

This positive reinforcement is perhaps a byproduct of Hawke’s third album, Chaos Angel, a collection of songs dissecting the wrongs and rights of relationships. Hawke considers her first two albums—her 2020 debut, Blush, and follow-up Moss from 2022—more of a collective test run. Chaos Angel arrives closer to where she feels she’s meant to be; it’s more introspective, and determined to set a few things straight.

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[RELATED: ‘Stranger Things’ Star Maya Hawke Releases Introspective New Single “Missing Out” from Forthcoming LP ‘Chaos Angel’]

“I love my first two records, but for various reasons, they both feel more like characters, and experiments,” says Hawke. “And this [Chaos Angel] feels, in many ways, like my first record. When I made my first record, I felt like a freshman. On my second record, I felt like a sophomore, and now I feel like a junior. I’m taking the SAT. I’m getting good grades. I kind of know where I want to go to college. I got my vibe going.”

On Chaos Angel, Hawke owns up to her faults and offers reparations around relationships with friends, family, foes, and loves. “Each song is a story about a mistake that was made, and trying to recover from it,” says Hawke. “They’re each about a different kind of relationship. There are some songs about a lover, some about a friend, and familial songs.”

Hawke, who previously called Chaos Angel an “Amelia Bedelia spirit of accidents, miscommunications, eruptions, and good intentions going bad,” sees the album as a collection of “snapshots of all the different most-important relationships in my life and trying to be self-reflective about how I could be better at them.” She adds, “How I could be a more honest communicator, a more loving partner, a more consistent friend, a more determined child. Each one is almost like a self-improvement wish, a story about a mistake made in a relationship that I value a lot.”

Chaos Angel also marks familiar artistic territory for Hawke, who reconvened with longtime collaborators Benjamin Lazar Davis and Will Graefe, along with producer Christian Lee Hutson, who co-wrote several songs on Moss

Within the album, Hawke lays her mishaps bare, singing, I was born with my foot in the door / And my mind in the gutter / And my guts on the floor on thefrolicsome“Missing Out,” which also features vocals by her brother Levon. On “Wrong Again,” Hawke ponders giving love a second chance and “trying to maneuver through the different phases of a relationship.” “Hang in There,” the final song added to the album, centers around expelling a toxic individual from her life.

[RELATED: Willie Nelson Responds to Actor Ethan Hawke and Daughter Maya’s Cover of His Song “We Don’t Run”]

“I felt like I was making a happy record,” says Hawke. “Where my first two records felt more mournful to me, this felt more celebratory. But in the process of re-listening to it, there was a dark undercurrent. There’s an unexplored secret in this record that I want to tell more explicitly, so I wrote ‘Hang in There’ to try to do that.”

This confident streak as a music artist will no doubt inform Hawke’s acting, and vice versa. Before jumping into the final stretch of Stranger Things in 2023, Hawke starred in Wildcat, a drama about the late American writer Flannery O’Connor and her struggle to write her first novel. The film was co-written and directed by her father, four-time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke. Father and daughter also teamed up to record a 2023 cover of Willie Nelson’s 1996 song “We Don’t Run.”

“They come from the same place for me,” says Hawke of acting and making music. “And I’m always better at one when working on the other. I write my best songs when I’m on set. I get deeper and learn more about myself when making music; that makes me a better actor.”

In 2024, Hawke is set to appear as the voice of Anxiety, a character in the upcoming Inside Out 2. Butit’s Chaos Angel she’s understandably most excited about at the moment.

I feel like I’m happier than I’ve ever been and in a better place,” shares Hawke. “I just hope to keep getting stronger. I don’t feel in any way done, but I definitely feel like when I look at my life right now, I see something that I’m proud of in a way that I never had before.”

Photo by Alex Ross Perry and Robert Kolodny

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