While most teenagers are thinking about what to wear and talking about what the latest trend happens to be, 14-year-old Dublin, Ohio-native Maya Mougey is making beautiful music.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was nine,” said the eighth-grade middle school student, “but singing ever since I could talk, pretty much.”
Her interest in music, and the artists who music, goes beyond just listening to one song and moving on to the next one. She wants to learn their backstory; how did they get where they are and what makes them tick. She mentions The Beatles and Prince as artists she likes, but also enjoys the mainstream music of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
“We all listen to music,” said her mother, Ketki Mougey. “I play a bit of piano and my husband (Doug) doesn’t really play music, but really enjoys listening to music. I don’t know if we had any influence on her talent.”
Maya wrote her first song on the piano, but now writes most of her songs with a guitar.
She’s a member of the Columbus Songwriters Association, becoming the youngest winner of their annual Finale Showcase in 2015. She made it into the Finale Showcase again in 2016.
“She’s definitely confident,” her mother said. “But, she still questions herself more than I would expect. Ever since she was little, though, she’s been pretty confident.”
Her prize for winning the Finale Showcase in 2015 was free recording time in John Schwab’s (Columbus Songwriters Association) recording studio. This led to the release of her seven-song debut album, “Beautiful Days.”
“My songwriting process can be at any time of the day or anywhere,” said the diminutive songwriter. “I’ll get a melody in my head, and I’ll very quickly record it on my phone. When I have a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot, I’ll start writing some lyrics.
“Then, over time, I’ll start connecting the lyrics to the melody. Sometimes, it can take a few months.”
Her songs have a beautiful tone to them, evoking feelings of happiness and serenity. There are some songs that one would expect a teenager to think about, like summer vacations (Longboards and Sunshine) and looking for the good things in life (Night Walks).
But, dive a bit deeper and you will hear lyrics addressing themes of homelessness, body image and losing touch with those close to you.
Of Illusions, she says, “I’m in middle school, so I hear a lot about how people are self-conscious with their bodies or how they look. My inspiration for the song came from hearing people talking bad about themselves.”
The lyrics are poignant, with so many people struggling with the issue of having a positive body image.
She also tackles the national crisis of homelessness on the title track, Beautiful Day.
“I’ve seen homeless people before on a few trips we took to New York City. But, I remember walking through a park in San Francisco and all along the street were many homeless people.
“Seeing all those people, some with pets, made me realize that they were there, and not just invisible.”
The ideas for her songs come from daily experiences, or things she’s been thinking about for a while and can’t get off her mind. She has some new songs in the works, as well.
“I’m always working on new material and have five new songs,” Maya said. “We’re planning on recording a few songs in L.A. next month and planning to release a new album at some point this year.”
Her mother added, “George Schwindt (former drummer for Flogging Molly) is one of the people in L.A. that’s been working with Maya. He’s a music publisher out there (26F Music Publishing). He’s trying to get a set together for Maya so she can play in front of some of his colleagues.
“So, we’ll see what happens, but we’ll try to record a little bit while we’re out there, too.”
With things falling into place for Ms. Mougey, she still has school work to contend with. Consequently, she’s not playing many live shows during the school. Her next show for the public is May 13 at Java Central in Westerville, OH.
With her sophomore effort due out later this year, you can expect more beautiful music and thought-provoking lyrical themes from Maya Mougey, as she takes the next step in her musical career.