Interview: Mayda, a Korean-Minnesotan funk phenomenon

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Funk phenom Mayda has built a strong rep among Twin Cities industry insiders, working with the likes of, among others, premiere guitarist Jellybean Johnson (The Truth, The Time) and keyboard ace Chance Howard (The Truth, Prince, The Time). She’s performed on national television shows Good Morning America and The Rachael Ray Show, with local appearances on Radio K and WCCO-TV. So if you’ve got friends who listen to music so funky you have to open a window when they play the stereo, don’t be the least bit surprised if you find them bending your ear about her recording debut Stereotype, a 5-song EP tailor-made to make you want more.

Mayda recently spoke with me about what’s going on with her, just prior to gearing up for her next gig: opening for Soul Asylum at First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis on December 21st.

What is a Korean-American woman doing not only performing funk, but excelling at it?
You tell me. I just do it. Funk just speaks to me. It is funny, because I grew up in a Caucasian environment [among people] who are not music-heads. It is something in my blood, maybe?

How’d you wind up in the Twin Cities?
I was adopted from South Korea.

You named your disc Stereotype. Why?
There is a song on it called “Stereotype” that I feel is one of the strongest songs I have ever written. It made sense since I am just breaking through on the scene. When people meet me, they usually don’t think I do music. When they find out, they think it’s classical music.

You did a mini-tour, as you describe it, this summer in Seoul. Aside from “sweating gallons” in the humidity, how was it to go home?
My trip was amazing! I definitely felt like a tourist, but I also felt really welcomed by the whole atmosphere. Being around other Korean adoptees helped a lot, but when I was walking around the streets I had no feeling of regret, abandonment, or estrangement. I felt really proud and lucky with my past and identity! We left after only a week because everyone in the band needed to go back to work as well as myself…although I would have loved to stay longer! I guess the trip left me wanting more.

Do the audiences respond to your music any differently in Korea than in the Twin Cities?
I got pretty much the same reaction any good crowd would get. People were a little less surprised with my physicalities since everyone there is Korean-looking like me. Audiences here are more taken back because they don’t expect a small Korean lady to be singing the music I do.

You write, sing, and play guitar—and you are a producer. How’d you come by all these skills?
Since I was a baby, I have always been into music and movement. I feel like I have always had to explain or prove something to somebody. Music is the best way for me to communicate—fortunately and unfortunately—so in order to deliver my message I need to [make music] the way [it is] in my head.

Michael Bland produced Stereotype. Did you contribute to the producing end of the disc or leave it all completely in his hands?
We did the whole thing together, with other collaborators.

What’s next?
I am planning on releasing another disc in a few months and playing more shows.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He regularly contributes to the TC Daily Planet.

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