mxmtoon Discusses ‘dawn,’ Shares Her One-Album Social Distancing Soundtrack

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“my ep is out today.”

That’s how mxmtoon–the 19-year-old singer-songwriter whose music career took off after she began uploading her GarageBand-produced tracks to YouTube in 2017–promoted her latest release on Twitter

But don’t be fooled by the Oakland artist’s tongue-in-cheek nonchalance: her new EP dawn is her most ambitious collection to date, showcasing the artist’s range over seven tracks that touch on love, anxiety, authenticity, and self-acceptance.

dawn opens with birds chirping on lead single “Fever Dream.” The song’s chorus seems to frame the EP: “I want something more than / More than restless mornings,” mxmtoon sings over lush instrumentation. “used to you” captures the nervous excitement of the early stages of a relationship; “quiet motions” is guitar-driven and pensive; “1, 2” is the tightest and brightest track on the EP–an infectious, bubbly love song; “no faker” is an airy ukulele number; and EP closer “almost home” is a carefully orchestrated coming-of-age number that pairs mxmtoon’s sharpest songwriting instincts with gorgeous melodies and elegant production. Musically, the track transforms from something small and fragile into something confident and grand.

“You can write music that’s rooted in trying to untangle a personal battle, but making it about the acceptance of yourself or of the unknown can shift the messaging dramatically,” mxmtoon told American Songwriter in a recent interview, the full text of which is featured below. “dawn is my response to just that, and a push to others to allow themselves the space to explore, to struggle, but to also move forward knowing that the day has just begun.”

dawn is the first of two EPs that mxmtoon plans to release this year, following her debut studio album–2019’s masquerade–and her 2018 plum blossom EP. The artist has also released about a dozen lo-fi singles, such as her breakout 2017 track “Falling for U,” which was a collaboration with Peachy!

Though mxmtoon doesn’t disclose her surname (“my full name is maia mxm-none of your damn business-toon,” she Tweeted last week), one of the throughlines in her music is her confessional, diaristic lyrics. This commitment to vulnerability extends to her social media presence, where the singer-songwriter shares candid thoughts on everything from Animal Crossing to astrology to her own career.

“crisis averted…. i make pop music that sounds good to me and makes me happy thaT IS ENOUGH FOR ME,” she Tweeted on April 13 (her capitalization). With dawn, mxmtoon has officially crossed from bedroom pop to pop, opting for more fleshed out production.  

“I think dawn sounds more classically pop [than masquerade] but in the best way possible,” says mxmtoon. “So many of the elements that I liked in my music earlier on are still involved in these songs but they are much more produced out.”

mxmtoon caught up with American Songwriter over email about ‘dawn,’ what she’s listening to during quarantine, and how she practices self-compassion. Check out the interview and listen to the EP below.


American Songwriter: When did you write and record the songs on dawn? What are some of the themes that come up on it?

mxmtoon: I started writing some of the songs in August of last year and continued writing all the way up to January of this year. A lot of the themes came up because I was trying to keep a positive outlook on doing session work for the first time because I was really scared by it. I finally had the opportunity to write with other producers that could help me make more happy sounding songs. It helped me understand that positive songs don’t need to be classically optimistic in the way that people may believe. 

You can write music that’s rooted in trying to untangle a personal battle, but making it about the acceptance of yourself or of the unknown can shift the messaging dramatically. dawn is my response to just that, and a push to others to allow themselves the space to explore, to struggle, but to also move forward knowing that the day has just begun.

What made you want to put out two EPs this year instead of another full-length?

I knew I wanted to have two separate projects that could function on their own but also work together in one piece. Giving myself the space to do two things while knowing they could also be one cohesive project, at the end of the day, allowed me to focus on each part more in depth and really expand my writing.

Musically, how does dawn compare to your debut album masquerade?

It’s really different. I think dawn sounds more classically pop but in the best way possible. So many of the elements that I liked in my music earlier on are still involved in these songs but they are much more produced out.

There’s something so direct about the line “I only want to be with you” in “1, 2.” Was the song inspired by a real person / relationship? Would you say you’re that forward in real life, or do you think your music gives you a space to open up?

It is written about a real person, for my boyfriend. I’m definitely not that direct in real life but I give myself the space to do that in a lot of my music. I wish I was that way in real life!

I know you were planning to move to New York in January. Are you there now, or somewhere else? Either way, what has your social distancing soundtrack consisted of so far?

I did move to New York in January but I am not there right now. I came back to Oakland with my brother and we are here with my family. My social distancing soundtrack so far has been Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa on repeat every single time my family is in the kitchen.

Lastly, there’s a line in “no faker” about “Wasting my days on people who just don’t care / too hard on myself, I had to learn to be fair.” What are some mxmtoon-endorsed strategies for self-compassion?

Remind yourself of the small things that you like. I think we can get really caught up in all of the huge things that we feel like we are not good enough at. If you can take a second out of your day and give yourself a compliment for a small thing, I think that will make a world’s difference.

dawn is out now.

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