"This is my first project and I've been doing this for 10 years!"
Maesu is 25 years old, born and raised in Alabama, currently living in Los Angeles, and he's been juggling jobs—a lot of jobs, including photographer at JCPenney, phone technician, photo booth operator, radio jingle writer, and brand ambassador for Mountain Dew, Coca Cola, and Doritos—while working on music for the past decade. "I honestly went through it all far as discouragement and re-encouragement," he says. "There have been times when I'm like, 'Yo, you could just do videos or radio instead.' But that's not where my core is. I'm more afraid of regret than I am of failing. That's why I haven't stopped. I never want to say, 'What if I kept going?' Through that, I find peace that this shit was gonna come when it's time."
Short cuts are tempting, especially for artists triggered by the diminishing attention span of the modern music consumer, but Maesu's patience has been tested time and time again, and he hasn't flinched. We've seen artists adapt to the speed of the internet, emerging out of nowhere with a flurry of activity and noise, but some of the most compelling introductions have been ones that are the culmination of experience, missteps, and the one precious thing that seems more valuable than ever: time.
Before artists like 6LACK and Frank Ocean had the momentum, they had setbacks and time—time to reevaluate, time to recalibrate, and time to think. For artists like that, the road to success is often complicated and difficult, but when things finally do start coming together, they're ready. We call that good timing as if it's some lucky break, but it has nothing to do with luck.
Maesu's debut project, the deSerVe EP, has been 10 years in the making. He's an independent artist still dabbling in fashion and other fields, and this might not be his big breakthrough moment in the industry—his music is challenging, unorthodox, and a little rough around the edges. But there are moments on this project, like the moody "OG," that showcase artistic maturity and hint at massive potential. When that potential fuels new opportunities, Maesu will be ready.
First off, can you introduce yourself and give some background?
I'm a vocalist and producer from Birmingham, Alabama currently living in Los Angeles. I'm 25, been recording and making music for 10 years. I want to write music that approaches situations from perspectives that's not heard everything day but felt often. I was just on a US tour this summer and my EP deSerVe just dropped. Currently I'm independent, working to reach as many people as I can.
I see the EP on Spotify is your debut. After working on music for so long, is this a big step toward taking things to the next level?
This is definitely going to the next level for me. I've spent alot of time supporting other artists through songwriting, features, filming and directing music videos, all while honing my craft. So when I moved to Los Angeles last year I felt ready to go further and drop a project.
A lot of people want that microwave success, but I've seen the value in the slow build.
Do you see yourself signing a record deal or needing more resources in order to take things further?
Far as labels, I understand the power of the right team and a machine behind you so I definitely can see myself signing to a label. But it won't stop me if it doesn't happen.
Has music been a full-time thing for you or have you had to keep other jobs to maintain?
Music was more of full-time thing when I was radio personality some years back. But I realized that this takes more money than I was making at the time so I saved money from music video shoots and a 9 to 5 to move out here. Right now I'm a photographer and director on the side.
It's interesting that you've been making music for so long. I feel like these days, most artists want instant payoff, or they simply can't afford the time to build for that long before going all-in and releasing a debut project. Do you think that process has helped you get better and understand who you are as an artist?
Yeah, a lot of people want that microwave success, but I've seen the value in the slow build by looking at people like Kanye and FKA Twigs. It's helped me for sure. I went through so many phases but I feel my sound has matured.
Who are some of your influences, or what music are you a fan of in general?
FKA Twigs, Travis Scott, Toro y Moi, and Frank Ocean are heavy influences for me right now. I'm a huge fan of Sade and Frank Ocean vocally.
Your music can be pretty challenging. Is that important to you, to make music that's forward-thinking and different, as opposed to just making something you think people will like right away?
Yeah, making something progressive is top priority to me. If I can't see how my writing touches a rare perspective I won't do the record. A big goal of mine is to be able to write songs people like off top but can dive in and dissect if they choose.
making something progressive is top priority to me. If I can't see how my writing touches a rare perspective I won't do the record.
Can you tell me a little about "OG"?
"OG" is a record produced by Rvdical the Kid. I mostly freestyled when I first heard the beat. It's about feeling frustrated that you can't get what you want or need out of a relationship by being yourself. So you revert to flashiness or portraying what you think the other person likes to get it. I thought the conflict was interesting. And the phrase "on God" is something we grew up saying in the South when you wanted someone to know you ain't playing. I like sneaking hints of my background into my records like that.
What is your main goal with music?
My goals with music are really the same as any of my other outlets like clothing or film. I want to add to the spectrum of creatives, there's so many vibes and waves you can be on and if I can come up with my own unique hue I've done my job.
What do you want people to take from your music?
That it's okay to express different ways of thinking. Hopefully that can bring someone else to finding their own creative outlets.