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Focus on your sincerity, and what makes you genuine. A character trait that is of more value than the finest gold.

Posted: December 23, 2022

Genuine individuals are also sincere, and honest. They are real, and are of more value than gold. However, some may believe that this gift exposes them, or makes them vulnerable. I liken a genuine person to having a heightened sense of awareness. They have the need to be considerate, respectful, and compassionate. Traits that are not often experienced in the music industry. You possess these qualities without vulnerability. Remember, you have a heightened sense of what is happening around you. This contributes to what you know, and how to respond accordingly.

To be genuine and sincere, can be rewarding and build confidence. It gives reassurance, that “good things” can come from being genuine. Yes, this requires trust as well. Which is not easy, nor should it be given freely. You could say that could say vulnerability is a life course leading to hurt and aguish. However, establishing expectations of what could happen will enable you to become stronger. Based upon my experience, allowing yourself to become vulnerable is an easy way to open yourself up for disappointment. The application of this topic can be used to improve your relationships with all sorts of people. Especially to those that you work with in the music industry.

I admire someone that is genuine and is ready to be considered vulnerable. Especially in an industry filled with sharks. Despite the warning signs. Honestly, you can’t move about the industry, without seeing the warnings. “Don’t swim with the sharks”, “No wake zone”, “No lifeguard on duty”, etc.”. All of the signs are visible. However, your design to be genuine in all things, out ways the possible danger. Remember though, you have a heightened sense of awareness of what is going on. You know the sharks exist, but you approach with extreme caution. Taking nothing for granted.

If you know my style of writing by now, I really like to dive into anything related to the music industry. Good, bad or indifferent. If it’s a topic, that can be applied, I will jump all over it. I think there is an advantage to living life “vicariously”. This is not a word that is used every day. You can define it as experiencing life in the imagination or actions of another person. So, you can live with presumed vulnerabilities, but not having to experience the pain that “can” goes with it.

In this interview we can experience the genuineness and sincerity of our guest Maya Azucena.

 

ABOUT MAYA AZUCENA

Award-winning Singer, Recording Artist and Humanitarian, known for her versatile voice which adapts to multiple genres and sports a soulful 4-octave range.

Cultural ambassador with a focus on Women’s & Youth Empowerment and Domestic/Sexual Violence, who has completed 12+ humanitaran tours sponsored by American Embassies and U.S. State Department to countries such as China, Tanzania, Suriname, India, Sri Lanka, Haiti and Turkey.

As a full-time touring Artist, has traveled under her artist name Maya Azucena and with her band to 40+ countries.

Diverse worldwide Collaborations including artists such as rock band Brass Against, guitar legend Vernon Reid (Living Colour), jazz greats Marcus Miller, Jason Miles, soulful house producers DJ Spinna, DJ Logic, alt-pop group Fitz and the Tantrums, international icons such as Croatian super-star Gibonni, and countless underground HipHop artists such as Immortal Technique.

Maya Azucena’s accomplishments are far more reaching and impactful then most. We could spend the entire interview just touching the surface of what she has done. Let’s dive on in, and see what kind of information we can discover about Maya Azucena.

Living vicariously through the eyes of Maya Azucena.

 

Interview with Guitar Thrills Magazine.

GT: We wanted to begin by thank you Maya for interviewing with Guitar Thrills Magazine. I extremely enjoy the unexpected from an artist that I interview. Often times, you can anticipate what you are going to get during an interview. Even if you change up the questions. So, Maya Azucena is somewhat different. I have never met Maya in person. From a brief conversation, I knew that I had to interview her. Even if I received the unexpected answers to my questions.

 

GT: Hello Maya, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview you today. I don’t ever find myself not having anything to talk about in an interview. Even if I was conversing with a stone. However, the interviews are very entertaining when the artist has established high expectations. By what you say indirectly, makes me aware of the type of interview you will be. The ground work has been set, in the introduction. Can you tells us who Maya Azucena is? What is your description of yourself, and what makes you who you are?

Maya: First of all, thank you for this opportunity to express myself. I enjoyed reading your perspectives and feel flattered that you’ve noticed my hard work. Thank you for this interview.

If you prefer the short answer, it goes like this: I am “me” when I am helping others. Helping makes me feel I am myself. I am a fierce fire and nurturing earth. I am a light worker. My voice is my superpower which I am committed to use as a tool for healing and empowerment in the world. Now, please indulge me if you don’t mind, because your question also made me wax poetic a bit with a longer answer…

I remember being a kid in Brooklyn and suffering great insecurity. I felt conflicted and even ashamed regarding aspects of myself. This led me to feeling awkward, ugly, foolish and I found myself hating me. It disturbed me that I didn’t easily slide into any category, which made me feel I didn’t “belong.” You see, one challenge I faced was being born mixed-race in America. Growing up in a Black neighborhood, I stood out very much and standing out made me feel very self-conscious. People demanded to know, “What ARE you?” A question which, the more I travel, seems unique to America. In America, people want to know if you are Black, White, Latino or Other…. They don’t ask much about your bloodline, your heritage, or the legacy of your family. People want to know where to put you in their mental bank of prejudices. In my case, my heritage is Half-Black and Half-White American, including African-American, Jamaican, Cherokee, Scottish, Irish, and English roots. Not quite a check-box on any of those census forms they give you.

Secondly, I was wildly intellectual and analytical for a kid. This almost felt like physical pain, often. I felt something was wrong with me, as many of my inner thoughts seemed more comfortable in conversation with adults instead of peers.

I dealt with my self-loathing by becoming a “chameleon”. In each social setting I easily adopted the lingo, the stance, the whole energy of the group in order to meld into it, rather than stand out. There eventually came a time, in High School, when I first embarked on personal spirituality and had an epiphany that I don’t need to fit in. It’s not a requirement for being alive. I came to the conclusion that when someone demands to know “what” I am, I accept that I simply am MAYA. That’s it. This comes with the whole mixed bag of me. I am Black, AND I am White. I sing Soul, AND I sing Rock. I act AND I write. I’m a tomboy from Brooklyn who absolutely loves to wear sexy dresses and stilettos. I am a strong woman AND I survived an abusive relationship. I am a soup with many ingredients, which only I can be. I came to believe that instead of becoming anyone else, if I am the best version of Me, then there can be no competition. I am the only Me that ever was, or ever will be. So, if someone rejects me for all that I am (or some that I am), then they are not really my friend. By being my true self, my life has attracted a world of people who accept me as I am, and probably has repelled the fake people. I believe, living in a genuine state of self-acceptance breeds a stronger foundation of people around me.

 

GT: I talked a lot about being genuine and sincere. Do you believe it makes you vulnerable? Do you believe that there is reason to be cautious? If so, under what circumstances?

Maya: I’ve come to some conclusions after being badly hurt by those I trusted.

(1) I won’t change who I am, because someone hurt me. If I become less open and more cold because of the trauma, then I’ve continued to give my power away to the person of my past. Choosing to be genuine is actually a power, not a weakness. It is a form of positive rebellion.

(2) Be open, yet not let everyone in. This means, you can operate without huge walls around yourself. However, you do need to be discerning and selective about who you let in. Imagine yourself as a VIP party. You won’t be charging the guests, everything is free, but people cannot enter if they are not on the list. You get to choose who you let in.

(3) Be Aware. It is an important tool for life and business. Pay attention. It is necessary to look around you and evaluate the circumstances and the people who collect around you. You have the power to establish and protect your healthy boundaries. This is different from being fake or closed off. This is simply about defining what is comfortable and healthy for you, and being willing to demand that.

 

GT: Can you recall when being genuine work out in your best interest? Also, can you think about a time, it didn’t work out as intended?

Maya: I’d like to say, “being genuine,” as in being real and living your honest expression, is not synonymous with vulnerability and weakness. If you develop yourself and live your healthy truths out loud, this form of honesty is power. Being genuine while being naïve can also go wrong. I can honestly say or do something without being fully aware of the facts. This will cause me harm.

Example: I remember early in my music career trying to speak with industry executives who might help me. I sat there and announced how important I thought it was, that my music can touch people’s heart. This was perhaps the biggest goal for me personally, but I look back now and understand the ambivalence on their faces. I did not understand that their biggest goal was to make money. I came unprepared for the meetings by assuming we shared the same goal. I learned that being genuine, in and of itself, does not help. You must also be aware of the language of the person you’re speaking to. It took me time to reframe my business pitches to be in a language that industry gatekeepers can get behind.

It sometimes feels like a risk being genuine about struggles I’ve gone through. I’ve found ultimately, being sincere and genuine about my past gives a feeling of safety and emotional permission to others, to also be open - and this can promote healing.

Example: I was a guest at a town hall community gathering in Arusha, Tanzania. Many people spoke and told personal and local stories around the subject of domestic and sexual violence. Their goal was to address the subject and seek solutions for domestic violence as a community. I was then invited to speak, as a foreigner and a guest, which made me feel nervous and shy. I didn’t dare to point my finger into the crowd and tell them all what to do. I felt the best approach was to share my own personal story of overcoming a painful and secretly abusive relationship, and simply shed light on things I’ve learned in my journey. My hope was that someone would see themselves in my story and feel encouraged that there is possibility, healing and hope on the other side of darkness. What stood out for me was that the event curator, a stately woman who was an elegantly reserved leader, sat by my side and whispered privately into my ear, “I was like you. I’ve never told anyone.” My own openness, and vulnerability, gave her the courage to share, for she saw herself in my story.

Last thoughts on the subject: Please take into account that honesty and wisdom can be two different things. For example, honesty can be saying what you truly think. Wisdom is knowing WHEN to say what you truly think. If one’s goal is to be received when they speak honestly, then it is important to consider who you are speaking to and if they are in a position to receive your thoughts constructively. Ego says, “I’m being honest, so tough luck for you if you can’t receive what I’m saying.” In my opinion, this is honesty expressed in a way where one’s Ego is more important than being understood by the listener. If you actually want to be honest AND understood, then patience and kindness also need to be in the room. ALL of this falls under the umbrella of “Genuine” – in some cases harmful, some helpful.

 

GT: I believe, that if you are going to be genuine and trustworthy in your relationships, personal or professional, than you are going to be that way all the time. It speaks highly of a person’s character. Not everyone is worthy of your trust. Especially within an industry filled with “sharks”. We are very selective with those that we interview. So I believe there is every reason to believe in your authenticity. How long have you been in the music industry, and what are some of the challenges that you had to overcome?

Maya: Thank you for that kind vote of confidence. My first solo album appeared in 2004. Can you believe it? I’ve been an indie artist on this strange trail for many years, finding my way as an entrepreneur and humanitarian-based artist.

Challenges abound. One such challenge is navigating as a fulltime artist, without the help of commercial agencies, record companies, or manager. It is discovering that there are ways to make a living as an artist outside of the primary structure of the music industry. I have a hybrid tapestry of income that comes not only from the traditional Music Industry means; night clubs, festivals and the occasional $1 check from Spotify (Soundexchange). I’ve found that organizations, grants, conferences, schools, and U.S. State Department also provide work for musical artists.

 

GT: Would you suggest the pursuit of a career in the music industry? What is your advice as someone that has been there and done that?

Maya: I will say, I do not suggest it. In this industry, to succeed, you must feel compelled to be here. You must have an inner-drive, a vision, a dedication, a burning desire. Otherwise, this career will chew you up. And it will feel thankless. The rewards for me, when finances are intermittent, are in my soul. I am doing my Soul’s purpose and this brings me peace and joy. When I get a message from someone telling me my music “helped them out of a depression,” or “gave them strength,” then it is the fuel I need to keep going. For me, it is a mission as much as it is a business.

If you come to this for only business, it is rife with disappointment. This may be the only industry where you labor to produce a product which you cannot sell. Imagine this: Spotify pays the Artist $0.0033 per stream. You have to have 303,030 streams in order to make $1000. In America, $18,000 per year salary is considered poverty. An artist needs to have 5,454,540 (almost 5 and half MILLION) streams in a year – in order to reach only poverty status! I looked it up, at the Spotify company a Product Manager (who manages the product created by Artists) gets a yearly salary of $163,285. In order to achieve this salary, an Artist would need to have 49,393,890 streams in a year (almost 50 MILLION streams). The Music Industry, in most areas, is not designed to support the Artists who make the product which is sold.

We then go about seeking alternative means of income such as my case, being a live touring artist, or starting a merch line, or becoming an influencer and attracting brand-partners. I think in life, if we can combine what gives us joy into our business then we are more likely to succeed. This Joy gives us power to handle the hard edges and also the will to come up with creative solutions.

 

GT: That is insightful. It is important for all artists to be aware of the downside of a music career. No one is immune to the consequences of shady business practices. What is the one thing that you suggest to all artists, that want to avoid the pitfalls and traps within the industry?

Maya: Remember that the Music Industry is not just friends making friends. And, being talented is not enough to “make it.” You must understand some business logistics, or have a consultant who you can come to, when questions arise. There are also a lot of available tools and information on the internet to teach yourself. One suggestion I have is, assume nothing. Be sure of the expectations when you are co-creating with others. It is okay to ask questions before you offer your talent. Never let someone pressure you to sign something without giving you time to read it and share it with a lawyer. Generally, I’ve found that when someone is pressuring me to do something too fast, they are trying to scam or hustle me in some way. Real people, who can actually help, tend not to pressure you and are not intimidated if you ask questions or make plans to consult with a lawyer. For my Women, remember that “Attention is not equal to Respect.” A person in power who makes you feel he is pursuing you sexually does not guarantee he respects your work or your ideas. It does not guarantee he will deal your business honorably. Being sexy is awesome, but do not mistake this as a serious business tool. You will likely find a lot of dates and not a lot of legitimate work in this case.

 

GT: I have to ask you about current projects you are working on. You are so accomplished already, is there anything that you haven’t done, that you are finally getting around too doing?

Maya: Woo! Thanks for asking. I am most excited about my new 6-song EP, “I AM ENOUGH.” It’s largely produced by Timo Ellis a multi-instrumentalist who has a diverse background in Rock and Soul music, from collaborations with Mark Ronson, to Yoko Ono and Japanese punk band Cibo Matto. I wrote most all of the lyrics and vocal melodies and am proud to have produced the final track myself, “You’re Not Alone.”

The EP is also accompanied by an “empowerment movement” that includes many interesting people sharing their “I Am Enough stories”, as interviewed by me. The stories live at www.IAmEnoughWorld.com.

I want this movement to inspire people and invite more people to join in by sharing their own stories. Fans can upload their own selfie “I Am Enough Stories” on IG along with the hashtag #IAmEnoughWorld, and these will automatically stream on IAmEnoughWorld.com live feed.

Another thing I’m excited about is to do some more acting in the near future. I’m working on a short film based on my song “Warrior,” directed by a woman named Merve Yildiz, and have also been invited to act in an indie film in 2023.

 

GT: Excellent. We look forward to hearing more about it as well.

 

GT: I want to thank you for being candid. Your honesty, is highly valued. I could tell that you were genuine and authentic before we started this interview. It is refreshing to see an artist back up their description of themselves. Unique is another word that is thrown around. However, you have a strong sense of what it’s like to be unique as well. I believe that these are some traits that will enable you to go far in the music and entertainment industry. These are the things that draw fans to you. I think the many readers of this interview will continue to support you through thick and thin. Excellent job, we look forward to speaking with you soon.

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