Badass Babes: Maiah Wynne on Using Music to Promote Awareness of Violence Against Native Women

maiah wynne

When we first interviewed Maiah Wynne last year, she had just wrapped up competing in Sound Off! and was preparing to go on tour with Portland Cello Project. Since then, a lot of exciting things have happened, from collaborating with the guitarist of Rush to playing for Buzz Aldrin at the Apollo 11 Homecoming Dinner for astronauts in Alabama.

I sat down with Maiah to catch up on all this and talk about her latest single, “Fearless Girl,” which was released on July 24th. A #metoo era song, “Fearless Girl” encourages strength for survivors and 10% of all proceeds from the song are being donated to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Coalition (MMWI) to stop violence against Native Women.

maiah wynne

So, let’s start with the question everyone is probably wondering: how did working with Alex Lifeson from Rush come about?

That was crazy, I met him through a contest I won in 2016 and my mentor and I had a Skype session. We didn’t really know what to talk about or what the mentorship was supposed to be like, and he ended up talking about a project that he was working on and that they were looking for a vocalist for. Obviously I was like, “well I’d be happy to sing on anything,” and so he sent stuff my way and it was really cool. It was different than anything I’d worked on so far and I’m really excited about how it turned out. I don’t even know how to describe it, it’s just really cool.

So, I added vocals and some lyric ideas to it, and he loved it. He called me one day and was like, “I showed this to Alex.” At first I wasn’t sure who Alex was, and then he went on to explain it was Alex Lifeson from Rush which was just insane to me and my mind exploded. He said that he loved it and he wanted to add some guitars to it. It was just an amazing experience. I got to Toronto after that and add some more vocals and met all of them. They’re all incredible people.

Alex is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He’s just genuine and kind and a wonderful human being.

 

I’d love to hear the story of the song “Fearless Girl.”

So, that song I wrote – I hadn’t seen my best friend from middle school in a really long time. I recently saw her about a year ago, and we had this long conversation in her car about how much we were going through in the time frame that we were friends but didn’t really talk to each other about. It was just this emotional experience of talking about all these things that we hadn’t had time to process that we were going through that time we were friends.

She said something about wishing she hadn’t had to let that fearless go, that fearless girl that she used to be. That stuck in my head: that idea of losing faith and innocence, and it really resonated in my head for a long time and I wanted to turn it into a song. So I sat down and it went through a few iterations—it definitely wasn’t one of those songs that came out all at once.

I spent time with it since it was important for me to get it right, to really capture that emotion and connect with other people who could understand that and feel that. And that was sort of the journey for writing that song; it was about my experiences, but it was also about my friend’s experiences and those around me. It was something I wanted other people to be able to relate to—that journey, and that emotion, and that longing for strength again.

She said something about wishing she hadn’t had to let that fearless go, that fearless girl that she used to be and that stuck in my head.

maiah wynne

How did you decide on doing this song in collaboration with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Coalition?

Growing up in Montana I have a lot of indigenous friends and also, in my family, that was a huge part of growing up and I didn’t really realize how pervasive the issue of native women going missing and being trafficked and murdered was until recently. I had a friend here who told me a lot about it, and I played for a couple benefit concerts to raise awareness, but it’s a huge problem that isn’t talked about much in this country.

Indigenous women, I can’t remember the exact statistic, but they’re like four times or more likely to be murdered or go missing and the problem is that the law isn’t protecting indigenous women because they’re living between governments. If they’ve living on a reservation, there’s differences in governments and there are these loopholes that allow people to hurt them and get away with it.

It’s really terrible and there aren’t enough people doing something about it. And so, I really connected with Simona, who is going to be in the music video. She’s doing a lot to make a difference in this with this project, and I wanted to do something to give back to the people who are trying to help women and women in these situations.

It felt like a really cool way to celebrate Simona and all of her hard work in this area and try to make a difference—that’s my goal at least.

I didn’t really realize how pervasive the issue of native women going missing and being trafficked and murdered was until recently.

maiah wynne

How did you decide to get Alex Lifeson and the Portland Cello Project involved?

I toured with them about a year ago or a year and a half ago, and this was one of the songs that I performed with them. I had always wanted cello in it, but hearing it live with like 20 cellos and drums and a bass—it was amazing. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had, and I definitely wanted them to record on it.

After singing on their Radiohead album, they had offered to play on one of my songs and I knew immediately I wanted it to be Fearless Girl after hearing their arrangement on it. I’ve been a huge fan of Portland Cello Project for years now and getting to tour with them and having them record on my song has been awesome.

When I met Alex in Toronto he said he was open to playing on some of my songs which, of course, was mind-blowing to me. This was a song I was working on at the time and he had talked about working on music that is meaningful. This song is of course meaningful to me and so I told him the story behind it and sent it to him. He’s just been super kind and supportive of the message behind the song and just awesome to work with.

maiah wynne

Since we interviewed you last, have you had any “Aha” moments as far as how you’re approaching music?

I definitely think, even in just the past week, having gone to Alabama really changed me. It was a pretty enlightening experience. I’m about to partner with a nonprofit in Seattle called First Aid Arts and they’re all about emotional healing through the arts and people who have suffered so terribly in this world; Syrian refugees, survivors of human trafficking, veterans—anyone who has been through something traumatic in their lives. They’re there to help them heal through the arts. They’ve been doing a lot of research and studying on how music and art can help people in ways that talk therapy can’t.

So, I’m going to be partnering with them and using that knowledge to try and help people during my shows and community outreach I’ll be doing in the next couple of years. My trip to Alabama was enlightening in that it was just very—everyone was very kind and I connected with people on a very emotional level, and I think that’s what I hope to do with my music as well.

So, I think my approach to music right now is to find a way to connect with people and to help people heal and to make friendships and that’s kind of my goal right now. Before, I think I was kind of looking at it from a distance and thinking how am I going to continue growing as an artist and get to the top of this hill. Now it’s more about making connections and finding people I really resonate with and helping people.

You know, there’s a lot of suffering in the world and I want to make the world a better place and now, more than before, I have an idea of how I can really do that and where I am headed with my music.

Fearless Girl is out now! Help support Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA by streaming and downloading the track. You can learn more about MMWI at https://mmiwusa.org/.