A Conversation with Mae Krell on Vulnerability, Career Accomplishments, Influences, and more
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
Mae Krell is an incredible talent. A one-of-a-kind storyteller and striking personality, their progressive and uplifting spirit exudes a level of passion and innovation that the music industry desperately needs at the moment.
The 22-year-old singer-songwriter born in New York City made a return to the music industry in 2020 after a two-year hiatus. The new era that they have just started to embark on displays a newfound maturity and high level of emotional depth in their songwriting. An advocate for mental health and self-love, their pop-folk style music makes the listener feel as though they are not alone with the relatable lyrics that seem to resonate with everyone. Mae’s song “Wash” is their most successful release to date, racking up over 600k Spotify streams in less than one year, and their other singles follow close behind with these numbers.
Aside from their young age, Mae has been involved in the music industry for quite some time, having built an eclectic resume over the years. Back when they were in high school, Mae pursued a career as a concert photographer for the likes of Sony RCA, and Rolling Stone. Having also founded the online publication Tongue Tied Magazine as well as developing the multimedia and PR firm Bitch Mgmt, Mae is extremely dedicated to creating opportunities for young people and new artists in the music industry.
Their newest single “Rest Stop” details a friend breakup, and the hard hitting lyrics about vulnerability and emotional reflection could resonate with everyone. The gut-wrenching tone that Mae portrays through her raw vocals adds to the song’s intimate themes as well. The song dropped just last week on August 20th, and is now available for streaming on all platforms. “Rest Stop” is a must-have on your playlists with its chill vibe and relatable lyricism.
We were able to sit down with Mae this week to talk about their newest release, the importance of vulnerability in relationships, their extensive career accomplishments, and more.
Read the full interview below and scroll down to listen to their newest single, “Rest Stop.”
The concept of “Rest Stop” is so intriguing to me. Could you talk a little about the story behind the song?
“I was going through a really difficult friend break-up with someone I've been friends with for a lot of years, and it kind of felt like it ended overnight. I was dealing with it in my own brain, and then I got a flat tire and had to pull into this rest stop. Then, I immediately had a complete breakdown about the situation that was on my mind and I wrote the whole song. I wrote the bridge separately from the rest of the song so it actually was a really interesting process for us to get it to blend together and work. I wanted to have the rest stop concept be a conscious part of the song since that's where it all came together and where all the feelings reached that point where I was just like, ‘this is too much.’ A lot of the time I'll write down a one sentence type of concept, and I won't get to it for a while. But, that was one where the second I wrote it, I was like, ‘I need to let all this out, and I have to write the song right now.’ Almost every song that I have out I can pinpoint the first lyric written for it whether or not it was a note."
Can you take me through what the process was like with writing and producing the single?
“So I wrote the song at a rest stop that I now know was in Maryland, and then when I got home, I think it was that night or the morning after the whole situation, I sat down and kind of put it together as much as I could. But, I couldn't get the rest of the song and the bridge to work together in a melodic sense, so I sent it to Jakob, who produces my music, and I was like, ‘I want the song like this. How are we doing this?’ ‘Rest Stop’ is a song that we did completely remotely, so I sent him everything, and he would send me a bass piano track back, and then I would send back a scratch vocal, and then he would send something back having added something else.”
Would you say that you had a vision since the beginning for “Rest Stop” that stuck throughout the whole production process?
“I think the visual identity of the track kind of came together as I was processing the emotions more and working on it. I knew for sure that I wanted the melodies of the bridge and the song to stay the same and so that's why connecting them in an instrumentation way was a love-hate process. It's been so different working with Jakob in person now. Colorblind is the first track that I did with Jakob, and I think it kind of symbolized a little bit of a turn in musicianship in the way that I'm now making cinematic sounding tracks, which I've been wanting to do for a long time. Before, I didn't know how to tell someone what I wanted and not feel dumb. To be totally honest, if I couldn't physically make whatever noise or instrumentation I wanted to, I just felt dumb trying to explain it. But with Jake, I have the type of relationship where I can just sound like a dumb ass and he like knows exactly what I am saying. He's wonderful, and I think that those types of cinematic aspects are consistent through “Rest Stop” and the new tracks that we are working on as well.”
Your music is extremely personal, and I think that is a huge reason as to why it resonates so well with people. How does that vulnerability affect you as a person and an artist?
“I think a lot of the time, I write songs without any intention of doing something with them. I'm just like, ‘I need to figure out why I’m feeling like this.’ I think vulnerability is something that's very natural to me at this point. When I started writing and playing music, I was a lot more of a closed off person, and my music was the only way to figure out how I was feeling for anything. Now, I take the vulnerability and the emotions and put them into my music so I don't have to carry them all of the time, and I think that has been a big difference. People connecting with my music is the most incredible thing to hear. I get messages from people who say, ‘this is exactly what I need to hear right now,’ and anything that people say reminds me why I put all this effort into everything. Being an independent artist can be really exhausting sometimes, and people don't really talk about that, so it is rewarding to know that it's worth it.”
"I think vulnerability is something that's very natural to me at this point. When I started writing and playing music, I was a lot more of a closed off person, and my music was the only way to figure out how I was feeling for anything. Now, I take the vulnerability and the emotions and put them into my music so I don't have to carry them all of the time, and I think that has been a big difference."
Do you feel that you strive to achieve something or communicate a specific message with your music?
“I think I want to express that vulnerability is a strength. Sometimes emotions are looked at as a weakness, and being open means people can hurt you easier. These are all things that people have said to me over the years, and it's true on one hand that if you're vulnerable, people know what button to push. But also, the most incredible and loving relationships that I have in my life are because of the capability of being vulnerable. I think urging other people to establish vulnerability in their relationships and be honest about what they're going through is something that's really important.”
"The most incredible and loving relationships that I have in my life are because of the capability of being vulnerable. I think urging other people to establish vulnerability in their relationships and be honest about what they're going through is something that's really important.”
Along with your advocacy for mental health, a large part of your journey that you have spoken about has had to do with being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, do you feel that this is something you actively try to express and connect to your music?
“I want to say yes, but actually no. In a way, being someone who is visibly gay kind of takes away the need to be open about it, so I think it's more of a representation thing. I've heard from from a handful of kids that are younger and just coming out that they don't really see people who are visibly gay making music. There's a handful of gay, lesbian, or however you identify musicians, and that's wonderful, but you would have to look into them to find that out. There's been people who have said that it's nice to see someone who looks like me that's doing this. That's how I'd say I interact. And yeah, I guess I wrote a love song about a woman, but I think of myself as a musician who happens to be a lesbian.”
I'm curious as to what kinds of music you listen to and what artists may influence the sound of the music you're writing.
“The first show I ever went to was Ed Sheeran during the Plus era. I had a moment where I figured out that I wanted to make music back during the time when he was making his older music. I also make a conscious effort to listen to the type of music that I'm making while I'm writing, so I've been listening to a lot of Noah Kahan. I love Donovan Woods as well, and I love Bear's Den. Then I've recently been vibing to some serious pop punk and proper punk music.”
What kind of music was playing in your house as you were growing up?
“I grew up around completely different music. There were a lot of songs in Hebrew because my parents are Israeli, so a lot of more classic Israeli folk music. My dad grew up on a kibbutz, which is a little community type of town. And a lot of the famous musicians that are now very well known in Israel would tour around the kibbutz and play to the kids, which is very different from how things are here and are now over there. Then my dad loves Janis Joplin and Santana and a lot of stuff in that era. My mom always liked Elton John and older Coldplay, but those bands are all that I remember hearing in English in my household. It was very minimal.”
Earlier in your career, you had worked as a concert photographer. Can you talk a little about your experiences with that?
“I was super shy, and I had thought, ‘Well I want to do that, but I can't. So what's the closest I can get?’ The closest person to the stage was the photographer, and that was where I decided I was going to do photos. The more immersed I got in the photography world, the more I realized that I didn't want to spend my career advancing someone else's. I wanted to make music, and that's kind of where that transfer came from. I got a really old camera on eBay, and the quality was so bad. I shot some gigs from the back by sneaking it in a tampon box, and that was typically my setup. Once I had a couple of shots that were good from a couple of different shows, I emailed this little publication and the guy over there was nice enough to give me a chance as long as I wrote reviews. This was before there were any young people in the pit, and it wasn't even that long ago. From there, it escalated very, very quickly. Within three years of getting my first camera, I shot for Rolling Stone.”
Did you ever think about pursuing concert photography as a permanent career?
“I think I wanted to be a musician, but in my head I thought that I couldn't do it. So I was like, ‘Okay, well, if I can't do that, I'll try to have a career in the closest thing possible.’ I think I thought that I did want to do photography, until I got to a level where I was doing it every single day and it became clear that I wasn't happy. I think how you know that you're doing the right thing, is if you're doing it all the time and you're still happy. It could be hard, and it could suck, but are you still happy with what you're doing? I just wasn't, and that's when I decided to try to just do music anyway.”
"I think how you know that you're doing the right thing, is if you're doing it all the time and you're still happy. It could be hard, and it could suck, but are you still happy with what you're doing?"
You also founded the multimedia and PR firm Bitch Mgmt, and I was wondering what the most important entrepreneurial aspects and goals were that you kept in mind when creating your own business in the industry?
“My friend Carrie does all of the visuals for Bitch Mgmt and I do the PR, so we kind of run it together. It was a quarantine project from when we were both unemployed. We both had experience in the separate things that we were doing for long enough that it made sense to put it under a name, so we figured we might as well collaborate and put it under a company. It was a very quick thought process in my head. I thought, ‘Why don't I share my resources with people who can't afford the higher level of what those resources are? What would I have wanted before I got any press for myself?' We work with all indie artists, which has been really fun, and we are trying to make things as accessible as we can while still having quality work being done.”
You also run the online publication Tongue Tied. How did you get involved in this?
“At the time, the only semi-relevant magazine run by a young person was Rookie Mag. At every show that I went to, I was 20 years younger than everybody in the pit in New York City. An unnamed publication had hired me and essentially was about to put me on contract until they found out that I wasn't 21, and then canceled the whole thing. My friend had been in a position with fashion companies very similarly, where they didn't want to work with her because of how old she was, but her work blew them away before they knew. So both of us said that we would just set something up that we can work under, and let more people work under, so that these older people can't just undermine us all the time.”
"So both of us said that we would just set something up that we can work under, and let more people work under, so that these older people can't just undermine us all the time.”
Do you think that it's important to understand things in the industry from different perspectives in order to be more well-rounded regardless of what side of the business you're on?
“I think that it's helpful. I think some people have done wonderfully being only songwriters or musicians, but in the new age and social media world, knowing how to market yourself while also knowing how to make music, connect with fans, and be creative helps you connect better with people. The people that I have supporting my music are very dedicated, and I love that more than anything in the world. I think having those people is a result of knowing how to reach the right people, which comes from having experience in the marketing and creative aspects. There's a niche for literally anything you decide to do. If you know how to reach people, there's always an audience for it.”
"There's a niche for literally anything you decide to do. If you know how to reach people, there's always an audience for it.”
What are your plans for the future?
“Jakob and I are just pushing out music right now. I'm writing songs, and we're making them this year, so we are doing as much as we can. There will be one or two more singles out before the end of the year, and then I'm planning on continuing to put out as many tracks as I can, while still putting out quality tracks. The hope is to take that and continue to build and reach more people who listen to my music so that I can get to a point where I'm touring as much as I can. I love touring and connecting with people during shows, so the goal is really just to reach a point where I am touring as often as possible while still making records.”
Learn more about Mae and keep up to date with all their newest releases by visiting their website.
Scroll down or click here to watch the full lyric video and listen to "Rest Stop" on all platforms!