CENZINA- New Project Release, "Atmosphere"

I sat down with Maria to talk about her new project, "Atmosphere." Her presence and passion that surrounds her shines through her songs and it was refreshing to chat with someone so authentic. She talks about some of her musical influences, developing her sound and some of the struggles she has faced.

Q: Where were you born and where do you currently live?

A: I was born in Toronto but I lived in Mississauga for most of my life and now I currently live in Vancouver.

Q: When did you start singing and playing guitar and piano?

A: I've been singing ever since I can remember. I learned to play piano around age 5 or 6. My mom had put me in the royal conservatory of music and so I took piano lessons growing up. I actually quit when I got to level 9 though because I thought it was uncool to have to practice for 2 hours a day. I didn’t learn guitar until 2014 when I went backpacking in New Zealand. I’d originally bought a piano on my travels and tried to lug it around but it was way to heavy. I eventually traded it for a guitar and started to teach myself in the hostels. I fell in love with it and I’ve been playing ever since.

Q: How did you get involved in the music scene in Vancouver?

A: I got involved through a friend of a friend who had me perform at a party. One of our mutual friend’s at the party (artist name Somethin’ Like That) was about to start a tour for an album he had just released. Immediately after playing he asked me to join on his tour and open for him at both Fortune here in Vancouver and Habitat in Kelowna. Through those two shows, I met Teon Gibbs who was on the bill both nights. He approached me after the second show and asked if I was recording. I told him didn’t have any equipment and couldn’t afford to go to a studio and he welcomed me into his studio. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him on this album for the past year now. He’s the reason that this project is even out! I got really lucky by meeting such awesome and talented people.

Q: Has your family always been supportive of your musical endeavors?

A: Yeah absolutely! My mom put me in my first music class and my sister and I made music all the time. I joke about it because growing up I had lots of energy and so when I played the piano I played loud and fast and they were always telling me to sing and play softer. When I moved to Vancouver, I made a point to live alone so that I wasn’t disturbing anybody and I could write and sing freely. But yes they have been hugely supportive of my music career, especially now that I am out of the house.

Q: How would you define your sound?

A: I struggle with that one a lot. I’m definitely alternative- I’m inspired by a lot of Soul, R&B, and Hip-hop. I'm currently working on my sound and developing it as I go.

Q: You’ve just released Atmosphere. Can you talk about some of the themes throughout the EP and the process of creating it?

A: Atmosphere was written in over a span of 2 years in total. Most of the songs came from a point of heartache, learning or as a means of navigating a world in which I felt I didn’t belong. I first started writing the songs after a breakup that had really negatively affected my sense of self. The break up was followed by a tough time with my health. I developed an autoimmune condition where my muscles were essentially attacking themselves from an inflammatory condition. It got to the point in 2016 where I couldn’t walk, stand or do anything. I had to leave my job and everything here to fly home to Toronto to see doctors and be in the care of my family for 5 months. Over that time I was pretty immobile, in all those months with no where to go I’d really reconnected with my music, my poetry and my sense of self. When I’d recovered enough I moved back to Vancouver and decided to go for it with my music. Writing the songs was my way of emoting everything I had been through and learned. It was a way for my battle cry to be heard and to make sense of it all. From heartache to healing to what everything ultimately boils down to: self-love.

Q: How do you prepare for a set?

A: Mostly I want to make sure that my muscle memory is in check for my instrument playing and that my voice is warmed up. I just try to be as chill and open as possible and try not to think about it too much.

Q: Who are your musical influences today?

A: My biggest would be Jhene Aiko. She inspires me and has such honesty in her lyrics and such a beautiful song bird voice. I truly admire her. Jessie Reyez is also a huge one for me. She just blew up in Toronto which is really exciting to watch as an up and coming artist. I also love Lana Del Rey, SZA, other female powerhouse artists like that. I am also heavily influenced by alternative, etheral bands like Alt-J, The Shins and M83.

Q: Who are some people that you would like to collaborate with- Big picture and realistically?

A: I definitely want to collaborate more with the artists I've been working with on the album. So far we’ve been working on my songs but I would like to create something original with them in the future. Big picture- it would be really cool to eventually work with artists like Calvin Harris, Galimatias, Chainsmokers..etc. Ones who work with vocalists on electronic tracks.

Q: Do you find it hard to stay original in a time where everything has been copied and done before- how do you stay current without blending in?

A: I’ve never even thought of it like that. When I'm going through my songwriting process I do go back and re evaluate, but I try to stick with the feeling, sound and the moment when I'm writing. I try not to overthink it and just let the songs come out. For me it’s about staying authentic to the moment, the feeling, and who I am as a musician. I think as long as you are awakened to the times and can add your own unique lens or perspective, you’ve got the ticket.

Q: What have been some of the main challenges in developing your career in music?

A: Definitely money and time. The hustle is no joke. It’s challenging balancing a 9-5 with a full time passion project and finding the energy to reinvent yourself or be inspired at the end of the day when you’re exhausted from work. Also, it can be challenging gaining visibility as an artist. You have to be constantly putting out content and networking.

Q: Do you find it hard to market yourself on social media?

A: Absolutely. It can be really challenging posting engaging content on a consistent basis. I’m not an egotistical person and have a hard time posting a million photos of myself or what I’m doing, but I understand that I need to be posting content regular to have people gain interest in who I am.

Q: What is the meaning behind the name of the album?

A: I named the album Atmosphere because the album is like a little time capsule of bits and pieces that glimpse into my internal atmosphere over the past few years. I also find it fascinating how we all are in our own world and yet we share atmospheres literally and energetically. Our worlds are our own and yet connected. Everything is affected. The album also has an ethereal, atmospheric feel and so the sound also ties into it.

Q: How do you prepare yourself mentally to get into your music after a long day at work?

A: Usually I will just smoke a joint, take an hour to check out and then get back into it. Sometimes throughout the day I will be so inspired (especially in the morning) so I will make little notes on my phone or in my notebooks. I will then go back and look at them after work and remember that feeling and hopefully reignite it so that I can continue even though I'm tired.

Q: Do you have anything else you want people to know about you?

A: I just hope people connect with my music the way that other artist’s music has connected with me. Listen to the album. I hope you can relate to a lot of the topics and emotions expressed in it. I hope for people to connect to the challenges and struggles that I've gone through, and that they feel less alone. That’s ultimately what I'm attracted to about music. When you hear people telling their stories with real unwavering honesty, you can really feel it. That’s all I hope people get from me as an artist.

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