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Quality Time: An Interview with Maria Lane

Maria Lane is a musician and actress living in New York City. Her latest EP “35 Days” combines her signature dreamy pop vocals with deeply personal, emotional lyricism. We sat down with Maria earlier this month to chat about her musical inspirations, goals, and the lasting effects of the “pandemic skip.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Adriene Vento: What made you get into music?

Maria Lane: I always felt like music was the best way to express myself. I'm trying to think when I discovered that I was a singer, but I think that when I was 5 I would just babble and go to the piano and try to play it even though I don't know how yet. I always felt music and singing were expressive so I always knew I wanted to be a songwriter at some point. It really started off with breakup songs, which I think everybody starts off with, especially when you're 14.

AV: Yeah, I mean, what else have you been through at that point?

ML: No, literally, exactly.

AV: Do you play any instruments?

ML: I play guitar and I started on piano but I don't have access to a piano except when I go to a studio. So I've been playing guitar more. I definitely have piano songs I've written that are not out in the world.

AV: Are your parents musical?

ML: My dad [also] plays guitar and piano, and he sings so I think I definitely got that from him. One year I asked for a handheld microphone for Christmas so when my parents were not going to be home I would bring out the microphone and just have my own concert in the living room to Hannah Montana.

AV: How has your relationship with music changed over the years?

ML: I've always known that music is what I wanted to do but I think that lyrics became more important to me as I got older and more self-aware. I realized how cool lyrics are and the different ways they can flow. My lyricism is definitely something that I've been paying attention to more as I've been evolving.

AV: How do you practice or develop that skill? Is it something that you just dove into?

ML: I learned a lot from listening to other music that I like and I think reading is also a great way to pick up good storytelling. But it was never classes for me, it's just been writing a lot of bad songs before getting to the good ones.

AV: What's your favorite song you've written?

ML: That's such a hard question… it's a tie between “nashville” which is about my sister and then there's a song on the EP called “quality time” that I really love because when I was writing it it felt like a monologue and I thought that was really cool. Because monologues are very dramatic–

AV: I love drama.

ML: I've been trying to write about more versatile things… that's what's cool in “nashville.” It's about heartbreak in a different way.

AV: You said it's for your sister, right?

ML: Yes. I'm originally from Orlando, Florida, but I've always wanted to live in New York City. She moved here first and when I moved to New York, we lived together. She showed me around the city and taught me a lot. And I grew a lot because of her — it feels like we spent our 20s together in New York City. And then she moved out of New York.

AV: I think familial heartbreak is some of the hardest.

ML: I do too.

AV: When you write songs, do you consider the music? Or are you primarily focusing on lyrics and flow?

ML: It's depends… I've recently had periods where I will just get a lyric stuck in my head that's interesting and I'll jot it down in my notes app.

AV: I love a notes app song.

ML: Me too! And sometimes it all just comes to you too. I think in most of my songs, I did write the music first to kind of get the feel of the emotion. And then I would try lyrics on top of it.

Maddy Sutka (photo credit: Meghan Marshall)

AV: Have you ever found yourself getting stuck on one word where you're like, “I want to use this over and over and over again, across every song”?

ML: Yeah, I have seen that theme too. Especially [artists like] Taylor Swift, who [repeats] a lot of the same words in her songs. I did go back and I listened to a couple of my songs and I was like, there's three songs where I say the word city because I always talk about New York. It's funny how that happens. I don't think it's intentional, but sometimes you're like, “Let me talk about this thing again that I talked about in a couple of other songs.”

AV: What has it been like being a musician?

ML: It was definitely scary at first because you’re really showing people who you are. I'm also an actor, and I feel like when you're an actor, you can kind of hide from yourself a little bit but when you're a musician, everything is out there unless you're putting on a persona. But everything I write about is personal. It's like I'm sharing a diary.

I try to hide it sometimes, but I also love specificity in lyrics. I think it's so cool. you'll hear a lyric, [and think] “What the hell does that mean?” And then you're like, “But that's so interesting.” Phoebe Bridgers does that a lot. She says stuff you wouldn't expect but that are actually really beautiful lyrics. So yeah I think it definitely does tie into my writing a little bit.

AV: I can tell that you have a musical theater background from your songs just because they're so story-based. There's a lot of Information given within the song which is cool and it feels very rich.

ML: Thanks! That means so much to me. Yeah, I want my stuff to feel very cinematic and feel very like, we're painting a picture.

AV: What are your goals for the next year?

ML: That's a great question. I was looking at the goals that I created this year because the year is almost over. I really want to hit a thousand followers on Spotify because that's when you can actually promote your stuff on Spotify and get to use their features more.

AV: Gotcha.

ML: I want to be an opener for somebody, like some major artist on some small tour. Nothing big but I would really love to have that opportunity. So that's another good way to get exposure. I think it would be a really cool experience.

And also, I really have a small goal. I don't really know if it's a hundred percent gonna happen yet, but I want to start working on an album for next year, a debut album. I've written so many EPS but I really want to put together a whole body of work.

AV: Who are some of your favorite artists right now?

ML: Right now, Phoebe Bridgers, Lizzy McAlpine, and I really love Gracie Abrams’ new album. I thought it was really beautiful. Olivia Rodrigo also, she's incredible.

AV: What’s your favorite Olivia song?

ML: It’s hard because like, as a sad girl, “Making the Bed” really just hits but also “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl” is such an anthem.

AV: Yes. Are you a Chappell Roan fan at all?

ML: Yes, I love her. I didn't listen to the whole album yet, but she's incredible.

AV: I guess you'll be happy to know that one of the things we do in this interview is make a playlist that includes your songs with songs that we love, and there's currently Phoebe Bridgers, Olivia Rodrigo, and Chappell Roan on there.

ML: That makes me so happy. I saw two of Chappell Roan’s songs from the album on my artist radio the past few days. And I was so excited because I literally love her, she's great.

Maddy Sutka (photo credit: Meghan Marshall)

AV: What kind of advice would you give other women in the industry or young girls who want to break in?

ML: I would say it can be scary at first to release your music and share yourself with other people but it can be really freeing at the same time. It's okay to have inspirations but don't try to copy someone. I feel like I see a lot of artists trying to be somebody else and you can tell when there's not authenticity. And like I said, you can be inspired by these other artists but I think staying authentic to who you are is really important and that will make you stand out.

AV: Did you struggle with authenticity at all or trying to fit into someone else's shoes?

ML: I think I did a pretty good job at visually kind of discovering what I wanted to do. All of my cover art has been my idea. I would show it to a photographer friend and be like, “This is what I'm going for” and then they would create something from that. Everything has been my idea of how I see my vision. I think it can be hard though, because TikTok has shown me that everyone has the same thoughts. So you could have an idea for an album cover and then you could see someone else do it. And then you're like shit, I can't do it.

AV: I really love your album covers. Your whole aesthetic is very interesting and relatable, and I think it hits that authenticity that Gen Z really loves without feeling like you're trying to be Olivia Rodrigo.

ML: Yeah, I know. I don't ever want to try to be her.

AV: I'm interested in what some of your favorite movies and TV shows are.

ML: My favorite book is The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I felt like Charlie was like the male version of me…

AV: Love.

ML: I was like this is too real, and I just think it's such a beautiful story. It's so broad, it's so real, and it's dark — but the way it was written was just really beautiful.

AV: How do you feel about the movie?

ML: I love the movie. I thought it was cast so well. Logan Lerman is one of my favorite actors.

AV: I feel like you kind of look like a female Logan Lerman.

ML: When I went over the book and I saw the movie, Charlie just reminded me so much of me, but in another font. I was like, this is crazy. That's a good compliment.

AV: So you're 27, right?

ML: Yeah. Yeah. Sadly.

AV: How is approaching 30?

ML: It's so scary. I was just reading an article about the pandemic skip and I was like, wow, finally someone's talking about this? Because I've tried to talk to other people about it because it did hit me. I was 23 in the pandemic, so I turned 24 in the middle of it. And then we were still kind of like getting back into the real world a year after and it's kind of crazy how we just all lost two years of our life. It really sucks, and I mentally feel like I'm actually 25, not 27. I'm just a 27-year-old teenage girl, like what?

AV: I really wish it was acceptable in a work meeting to just be like, I'm sorry, I can't do that. I'm a baby.

ML: Yeah, no. Literally. When do we actually start to feel like adults? Maybe in my 30s, I will. But also, the teenage inner-child stuff is so fun. I feel like the adult stuff is so boring. I have friends that are 22 and I'm like, am I even allowed to be your friend? I don't know why it's so interesting to me. I'd say I'm afraid of my 30s because I've always timelined my life. I want to be at a certain point. My Broadway age was supposed to be 25, and I moved it to 28 and now, it's literally next year. So I'm like, that's probably not gonna happen. So I don't know. I think it’s weird how people timeline their lives, but I think it's just something about a number. It's the only way we know how to make sense of time.

AV: Did the pandemic give anything to you?

ML: Trauma. I mean.

AV: My favorite response yet, I think very relatable.

ML: I was in a really bad relationship. I moved out of New York for this guy, and he is bad. I did write a lot of songs during that time and there are a couple of songs during that time that I want to release because I really, really like the message of them. So maybe it kind of made me tap into my songwriting a little bit more.

AV: What is one of your favorite lyrics you've ever written?

ML: “You won’t get to hold me/we'll just see each other on a phone screen/say our good nights and good mornings.”

Because when you're in a long-distance relationship that's like all you have is the consistency of your good nights and good mornings. For me, that's the bare minimum. That's what I need. So iPhone good nights and good mornings.

When I wrote that I was like, this is poetry.

AV: Thank you so much for your time. We are all super excited, and you have a team of little weirdos rooting for you!

ML: Thank you! I'm so happy that I got to meet all of you [at Blossom]. You guys are all great.

Be sure to listen to Maria Lane’s new EP, “35 Days,” out now on Spotify! You can also keep up with Maria via the links below:

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