R&B has found its new soulful star: Maeta.
Signing to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label a few years ago, Maeta’s career has been in demand ever since, and we’ve been following the success every step of the way! Following the release of her 2021 EP Habits, which featured the noteworthy jams “Teen Scene” and “Bitch Don’t Be Mad,” doors started to open for the 23-year-old in a major way. She performed on The Kelly Clarkson Show, supported her contemporaries H.E.R. and Jazmine Sullivan on tour, and even had Kylie Jenner lip-sync her song on her Instagram Story.
Delivering that classic quality to her sound, it’s clear that Maeta has been taking notes from some of the greats. Think Sade, ‘90s Janet Jackson, and Beyonce’s Dangerously in Love era mixed into one. The results? Her sultry new project, When I Hear Your Name. Relishing in the era, the 13-track body of work, released in June, was met with critical acclaim and saw the rising talent work alongside SZA, Demi Lovato, Kehlani, Ty Dolla $ign, Destin Conrad, and The-Dream, to name a few, to help bring her vision to life.
Now taking to the stage as the headline act, her stint of packed-out shows across North America was swiftly followed up by more sold-out performances across Europe. Her debut London concert at Lafayette, in particular, was so in demand, that she had to upgrade the venue to a larger capacity.
While embarking on a bunch of promo while in the city, Maeta participated in an exclusive shoot for Principle and sat down with the publication to discuss When I Hear Your Name, her next project with Kaytranada, working with Pharrell Williams, and what British musicians she’s got her eye on.
Let’s talk about your debut London show. How was it for you?
It was amazing. I was probably the most nervous for it out of all the shows on the tour, I don’t even know why. There was just a lot of pressure. We actually filmed it live, we had the camera here. I don’t know what or where that’s gonna go, but it was so good. It sold out so we had to upgrade the venue. The crowd was amazing. It was really good and I actually left wanting to relive it and do it again.
It must have been a huge confidence boost when the venue had to be upgraded!
Right! I was like, “Okay, good, that’s gonna be a good one!” Sometimes I’m like, “Is there gonna be people up there?” You know? But every crowd was really good. but London in particular was really special.
The shows have been in promotion of When I Hear Your Name. There has been a lot of discussion about whether this project is an EP or an album. Can you clear this up once and for all?
It’s technically an EP. It’s 13 songs, so everybody’s like, “Girl, this is an album,” but it’s technically an EP. And I just started working on my debut album a few months ago, but that’s gonna be next year. I have so much to think about with that, but When I Hear Your Name is an EP.
Now that the album has been out for several months, how have you felt about the reception?
Shocking. Not shocking, but I’m pleasantly surprised. We worked on it for years and I knew it was good, but I didn’t realise how good it was until it came out and people were really loving it. I haven’t really heard any negative reviews and I search my name on Twitter all day long, so I see what the people are really talking about and everybody seems to love it.
You say you’ve been working on it for years. Does that mean you started working on some of the songs before Habits?
Oh yes! There’s one that SZA wrote for “Anybody,” that’s like four years old. I’ve had it forever. When I first got signed, it was one of the first songs that I recorded and it never felt right to put out, but now it was like, okay, it’s finally the right time.
How did the opportunity for you both to collaborate come about?
That song was already written and I just had it and cut it. I was supposed to actually work with her because she heard it and loved it, but she wanted to vocal produce me on it. So, I was supposed to work with her years ago, but with scheduling it never worked out. And I just ended up re-cutting it years later, but I still haven’t even met her in person. I wanna meet her so bad.
Do you have a favourite song on SOS?
The one people don’t like, “F2F.” That’s my favourite and every time I say that, people are like, “That’s the worst one.” I’m like, “No.”
Do you think it’s because her core fanbase doesn’t technically fuck with that genre?
Yeah. I’m kinda over, well not over R&B, but typical R&B songs. I like the weird stuff right now. Doja Cat is doing kind of weirdish stuff and I’m into that too.
Do you think your music will maybe lean more into that in the future?
Yeah, I’m trying to kind of get there with my album that we just started working on. I wanna be a pop star one day. I don’t want to be an R&B girl forever. I love R&B to death, but I don’t wanna be stuck in that lane. So I’m kind of just kind of easing my way out of it. But I like to experiment so who knows where I’ll go.
What are your favourites on When I Hear Your Name? I know my top three.
I love “Sexual Love,” “Anybody,” and “See You Around” right now, but it changes. Like “ASMR” was my favorite at one point as well as “Control Freak.” What about you?
My top three are “Questions,” “Cool Cat,” and “Anybody.”
“Cool Cat” is interesting, some people love it and some people think it’s one of the weaker ones. That song was a last-minute addition. It’s just a groove, I love that one too.
The likes of The-Dream, Kehlani, and Demi Lovato also have writing credits on the album. Were you able to be in the studio with some of these people and were there any highlights while in the studio?
The-Dream? Oh my god. “See You Around” is another song that I’ve had for years, but I got it with him and he made that whole outro. He produced it on the spot. It took him like 30 minutes to write and produce it. The-Dream is amazing. We just fight and go back and forth the whole time. He just likes to talk shit and I like to talk shit too, so it’s a good match. Kehlani, I’ve done karaoke with her but we haven’t fucking recorded or worked together under the same roof.
In 2021, it was announced that you had signed with Roc Nation. What was it about that deal that felt right?
The man who saw me, his name’s Omar [Grant]. He wasn’t the president at the time, but he is now. But he was just very consistent and adamant about me being there. He flew to Indiana and met me a few days before Thanksgiving. Everybody’s very supportive but also very honest and blunt, we can say anything to each other. I trust them so much and it’s like we’re family. I know it’s business so you can’t really say family, but it just feels that way.
Did you always plan to sign a deal or did you think you would stay independent for longer?
Well, I’m from Indiana and I think that I was just dying to get out of there. So when the deal came I just was like, “Boom, I’m leaving… bye, guys! I’m going to LA and I’m signing this deal.” I don’t think that you have to, but I think as a younger naive artist, you think that’s what you have to do. So I wouldn’t say you need to do it, but in my head, I thought I did, you know? And I’m glad I did.
Your career has been levelling up a lot recently. What do you think was the main turning point?
Right now it kind of feels like this project is the turning point. I’ve had two EPs out before this one and I was going on tour. I opened up for Jazmine Sullivan and opened up for H.E.R., and those were all learning moments. I got to experience life from the outside and just see kind of what it’s like. But this project has really changed my life so far. I’m in Europe on tour and doing all these things for myself and I feel like my life is quickly changing a little bit, so I would say this project. I’m experiencing the shift right now, but it feels good.
You already mentioned that you’re already working on your debut album. You’ve shared on Instagram that you’ve been working with Pharrell Williams, how was that experience?
People think that his songs are on my current project but nobody has even heard those songs yet. They’re really good. I worked with him a few months ago on the album. He’s very inspired because we haven’t figured out the sound of the project yet. I think that he wants to kind of help develop that. We have a few songs but we’re supposed to be more sessions so we’ll see where that goes. But yeah, Pharrell’s songs have yet to come out.
What’s the plan for the rest of the year?
More live shows. Recordings of my album. I have a project with Kaytranada coming early spring next year. It’s six songs. We’re calling it Maetranada, I think! Obviously, Kaytraminé is a thing, but we came up with this shit before they did. I think we’re gonna do that, but I don’t want anybody thinking that I’m a copycat.
I can’t wait to hear that!
It’s so good, I’m obsessed!
Are there any UK artists you’ve got your eye on that you would consider collaborating with?
There wasn’t until this trip. Everybody keeps telling me about this artist, there’s a girl named Bellah that they were telling me about. Also Elmiene. Ellie Goulding DM’d me a few months ago because she had a show and she wanted me to open for her, but she didn’t know that I wasn’t in London so it didn’t work out because I would’ve had to fly over and I wouldn’t have made it in time. But I wanna still meet and work with her and maybe do some performances.
That’ll be quite interesting because that would lean more into the pop, alternative space.
I already wanna do that, so it’s maybe that’d be the right move.
When do you hope to have your album out?
I don’t wanna go too long without putting the music out. I wanna keep it consistent, but I also don’t wanna rush a good album because this album I just put out, even though I just put it out, took two and a half years to make. So I don’t wanna push it that far. So we’ll see. Hopefully next year. My team and I are very in the moment of “Let’s see how this goes.” So the Kaytranada project will come out and we’ll see how that goes. If it goes amazing, we’ll probably push the album a little bit back and give ourselves more time.