Maude Latour on Columbia, Summer in New York, and “Plans”

Michael Nascenzi

You know the moment: warm summer night, windows down driving through the city, coming home late from a party, the world seemingly has become your oyster, and the soundtrack to your life playing on the speakers is solidifying the experience into a moment you can and will relive over and over. Maude Latour wants to be that soundtrack.

The rising Indie Pop star is a self-described “baby artist” and knows full well that most of her life is still laid out in front of her. Her voice beams with enthusiasm, and she earnestly uses phrases like “oh my gosh” while at the same time deftly weaving metaphysics into her musical journey. Her music has been making waves, being featured on influential Spotify playlists, with joyous ear worms burrowing themselves into the hearts and minds of her listeners. But Maude is just getting started.

I sat down with her on a pleasant Friday afternoon with a weekend of summer bliss waiting just ahead of us:

 

I just want to start off by apologizing in advance, I know you sang on your track “Superfruit” that you’re not a fan of small talk, so I apologize if we get into the small talk territory.
[Laughs] That’s so fine.

But what is it you hate about small talk?
Well, I started Columbia, college, this year and it was just conversation over and over again. Like, “Hey, where you from?” Just the most boring parts of conversation in my perspective. I’m terrible at small talk. Everything I talk about instantly is my most vulnerable self, or it ends up being that. I wish I was better at small talk but for some reason I absolutely despise it.

So you’re New York based. Did you grow up there?
I moved around a little bit, but I grew up mostly in New York and Hong Kong.

What do you love about New York?
I don’t know..it’s like where all of my experiences have taken place. It’s where all my closest people live. It’s my playground and such a special place for me where I’ve had every important experience and helped me grow up kinda fast. Without it I never would’ve started performing. I never would’ve had the crazy inspiration. But I did have a wildish life in high school.

So you had a crazy high school experience?
Not in a wild party way. I just think when you’re a kid and you’re exposed to such a crazy city, you just fall in love with people and strangers and high energy situations. There was never a boring moment in high school. Meeting such interesting people from so many different backgrounds, so diverse, so many unique experiences, and such independence. I got to manifest a little bit of my own identity a little bit early. But of course I envy suburban life as well. They get to have a sense of community that I will never have, and I’m so envious of that.

Does that experience play out in your music?
Definitely. I mean there’s definitely songs where I’ve idolized the suburban life a little bit. Like the people I’ve dated who I’ve gotten a window into what it’s like to know how to drive, and feeling different in a car. I don’t know how to drive, and I have a totally idealized image of what it’s like to drive. I treasure those types of moments. There’s something reflective about being in a car. You get to have a moment to yourself or a moment with music blasting. But I think New York kids try to convert New York into that as well, like in your taxi or on a subway blasting music in your headphones. But I think it’s a different experience.

What type of music did you grow up listening to?
I think it was in a lot of places: Queen, Gwen Steffani, Prince, David Bowie. When I started getting my own music, the first people I fell in love with were Abba. And then I guess Amy Winehouse, I was a Lana Del Rey fan, and a Lorde fan. And then I went more New York: Regina Spektor, the Strokes. I think what ties them all together is they’re very lyrical, with emphasis on the words always as opposed to on the poetry, and accompanied by this very chemically satisfying chord structure that I think I try to bring with all my songs.

Was there a moment or a show you went to where you thought to yourself “Hey this is what I want to do” or “I can do this”?
Well, I don’t know if it was a moment. My first time performing, I was in the talent show in second grade and I always played violin in it. My mom always made me play violin. I decided I wanted to sing instead and fell in love with being on stage. And then I was in every choir. Singing just became my life. There wasn’t a specific moment. Honestly, every single concert, I treat going to concerts like my homework. That’s when I get the most inspiration, whether it’s seeing people similar to my size perform and what they do. I have so much respect for it. I’ve had so many influential concerts, and they’ve all just reinforced the idea that being on stage is so special for the audience and for the performer, and it’s just a magical art form.

Switching gears a bit to your latest track “Plans,” it’s kind of a classic teenage love song set in modern times. Is there a person or an event that inspired that song?
It was during a time when I had a lot of writer’s block, and it was right when I was getting into meditation and mindfulness. I had just gotten to California to stay there for a few months over my gap year. There’s not a specific person that it’s about, or maybe if there is then it’s a secret. But it’s definitely a feeling that I know so well and I treasure always. Like the first time you meet someone, eyes meet across the room, that feeling that I idealize to the max. And I began to realize that as the song was created, the song was way more about me and the patterns I have. I fall in love with someone and cancel all my plans for them. Picking up partners, whether it’s my best friend, I always have a sidekick kind of and we explore the world together. But it’s definitely a love song but focused on the individual. Because that’s a lesson I’ve started to learn: that even though love feels so much about the other person it’s really about where you are at the time and who you are.

Well I’m a big fan of the track. I saw that you released an acoustic version on Youtube recently. Who are all those people with you in the video?
Yeah, oh my gosh. So the two girls are Rachel and Morgan and they are my high school best friends and still are my best friends. We went to high school together in New York, and we were in acapella together. And that’s how singing became..I mean it was always a huge part of my life. It was what I spent time doing. It was my thing. But with them, a personal hobby that I used to have became the source and lifeblood of our friendship. We would harmonize everywhere we went. We always recorded covers and arranged songs. And every time we found a song we’d share it and spend the afternoon harmonizing. We were all in this acapella group together which became the best part of my high school experience and totally where I came into my own.

It was so much fun to make that video because when the business part gets going, it’s easy for it to get carried away and not be related to the music as much. I’ve spent so much time doing this type of interview stuff or marketing or talking to listeners and growing the project and brand or whatever. Doing that was exactly how we started, and for them to sing it and know the words and sing the parts that I wrote, it was just so full circle. And the guitarist is Destiny, she’s a new friend I’ve made at Columbia, and she’s just like a gifted musician beyond..she hears the song once and knows it. She’s helped make me feel so much more comfortable on stage, and I feel such a spiritual connection to her. And it was just so fun to make that video. It was nice to keep music as what it started out as.

And as you’ve grown and gained fans and gotten more attention, how has that changed your life and your relationships and who you are as a human?
I mean it’s something I’m so struggling with still. I’m still a very baby artist, but it’s difficult to have this passion that used to happen completely naturally. I would go through an experience and start singing about it because that’s how I had to go through the experience, not because I was trying to get a song. So I really have promised myself that will never force myself to write a song. I will only move when I feel the inspiration try to be the conduit for the passage of lyrics and melodies to come in through the divine. But I don’t know..I’m still trying to regulate and find the balance of keeping social media as a small part of my life and focusing on the songs themselves. Just the writing and sitting in front of the piano. I’m struggling with this so much. In high school I used to dream about being on tour and having my songs known and being famous, but I’ve never wanted something less than I want that now. And that is such a struggle because I envy my friends who can keep their private lives so private. It’s definitely the hardest thing in my life right now and..whoa..that’s a blessing

Yeah, I know in one of your tracks on your debut album High School High you sing about how you don’t want to be famous at all. So you still feel that way?
Ugh, I don’t know. There’s still a part of me, as much as I don’t want the model of this career path, I can’t stop writing songs. I have to just keep focused. The reason I’m doing this is because of the moment when I start having flow, when I’m writing. It’s just my happiest moment of having inspiration, and I try to be as honest about my hesitation as possible. I really, really try to make my instagram presence..whenever I feel questioning and down about music, I post about it on my story. And I feel like my followers understand my struggle with it so much, and they understand that I’m not doing this to become anything special. I’m doing it because I love these songs so much, and I can’t not write them. And I look up to people like Regina Spektor who have stayed so out of the press. I’d love to be like Lorde how she’s so undercover, that’s the goal.

Speaking of Lorde, I think anyone that listens to your music will inevitably draw some comparisons and similarities. There’s a bit of movement right now with artists like her and even, to a certain extent, pop sensation Billie Eilish.  Do you feel comfortable being grouped with them or not so much?
Well, I look up to Lorde so much, I mean, she was the soundtrack to my high school experience. Her lyrics were the words that I didn’t know how to say. So I think it’s natural for young artists to emulate their inspirations. And I’ve gone through phases sounding like Gwen Steffani, but slowly through all of it, I’ve started to cultivate what is truly my own sound. I think that’s inevitable via being influenced. Lorde’s one of my idols and it’s definitely cool, but I’m still growing so much that my sound in a year is going to be so different than what it is today. I think that the most valuable thing on this project for me is that it is my truly honest journey sonically and emotionally and character wise. So if this is who I am now then this is who I am now, and it will evolve with me at the rate that I evolve.

I’m curious what your writing and production process looks like. You have a very polished sound both lyrically and in the production of your music. Can you talk about your process?
I’m a huge fan..all the artists I initially named..I’m a huge fan of the clean, warm sound like a Telecaster on a warm setting. That is my taste for sure. My older music didn’t fully..I was just starting out. I didn’t know how to work with producers to influence every single facet of the production itself. But I start everything on a piano, sometimes guitar more rarely. With melody and lyrics, it’s always the idea first. I always try to explain to my management when they’re like, “Do you have another song written?” I’m like, “Yes, it is written in the ether. It doesn’t exist yet, but it’s there.” When I say I’m in writer’s block that’s when I don’t have any songs in the ether. But then suddenly I have a different idea and it’s written but in a different realm. And it’s just a matter of minutes before it can manifest. It’s just about to be tapped into. I don’t know if that makes any sense..

But when there’s a concept, a title, a song..oh I can’t say the titles..but “Superfruit” for example. This word “superfruit” gave me exactly the feeling, exactly this color of summer Pop Rocks. Just finally yelling about how I was so tired of being cooped up and kinda done with boyfriends and everything and didn’t want to write about love. It was this feeling that I knew so well, and it was just a matter of seconds until I ran to the piano suddenly when I felt it come over me. I wrote it in like 20 minutes tops. That’s flow for me, when the lyrics are just “Boom! Boom! Boom! Yes here it is!” And then it’s gone. I live for those moments.

Is there an anchor or one thing that you find yourself coming back to that inspires you?
Yes, it’s totally summer in New York vibes. I’m trying to explore other feelings, but that’s when I listen to music. To get that exact feeling that is emulated by being in New York City in the summer and like walking down the street with your headphones on. It’s like that same feeling every single time, this transcendent feeling, that’s why I turn to music. And I don’t really turn to music in a lot of my lower moments. So I think that’s definitely something I’m working on. I’ve never written an angry song before because I don’t really get angry, and I don’t turn to music when I’m angry. So, definitely summer in New York is the feeling, and I feel like you feel that in every song. Or like: windows down, driving, best friends. Someone texted me last night that they listen to more music when they’re coming back home from a party on the West Side, and that they are in a cab, and they’re playing that music alone finally at the end of the night in the middle of summer. I was like, “Yes! That’s exactly what I’m writing about. That’s exactly what I’m writing for. You understand it!”

Well, it’s summer right now, so it’s your time of year, enjoy it!
It is my time of year! [Laughs] Thank you so much.

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