Maia Sharp

Interview: Maia Sharp “Reckless Thoughts” Shares The Value of Perspective


Maia Sharp photo by Anna Haas

Maia Sharp’s Reckless Thoughts Shares The Value of Perspective

Maia Sharp will be releasing her album, Reckless Thoughts, on August 18th, 2023 heralded by singles “Kind” and “Old Dreams.” It forms an excellent dialog with her previous album, Mercy Rising, which documented a commitment to writing from her life experiences during a time of big changes, including moving to Nashville from California, where she’d spent most of her previous life. She wrote during that time from the eye of the storm, capturing relatable details that would otherwise have been lost about experiencing dramatic changes.

Following Mercy Rising, while forming and building up existing connections in her new home, Sharp continued to write from life, and some of those songs became reflective, looking at tumultuous events from the lens of greater calm and deeper appreciation. Some looked back, like “Old Dreams” at the goals we accept when we’re young and forget to update to our modern discoveries of happiness. I spoke with Maia Sharp about continuing to write from her life, co-writing with friends, finding the fun and serious sides of songs like “Kind,” and why it’s much better to be a human than an angel.

Americana Highways: We’ve spoken before about your previous album, Mercy Rising, and I know that encompassed your experiences leading up to your big move to Nashville from California and significant life changes. My first impression is that the new album builds on those perspectives and has a more reflective feeling, but where do you think these new songs fit in that continuum?

Maia Sharp: Mercy Rising was written and recorded pre-pandemic and Reckless Thoughts was post-pandemic, though there are a couple of songs on there that were written during the album cycle of the last album. “Kind” and “Too Far Now” were the first ones. But you’re right that the perspective is a little more calm and it’s not in crisis anymore. [Laughs] Personally, that’s a good thing, but musically, I had to look a little harder for what I was going to write about. It wasn’t this thing I had to work through and I needed music to get through it, which was what most of Mercy Rising was. I had to ask myself what I could find about life now that was true and still interesting.

The fact that “Kind” and “Too Far Now” were the first songs written for it actually didn’t clarify things early on. Neither one of them pointed to an obvious, overall theme for the album. Because they were so different, I wondered if the next eight songs needed to bridge them.


AH: I recall that the perspective on Mercy Rising was like a person feeling totally inundated and looking around at that scene, which was so relatable to a lot of people. These songs definitely feel like they are not in the middle anymore, but they made me think of a landscape perspective. Sometimes when we look at the same events in our lives from the perspective of different time periods, we can get more clarity. Our perspective, close-up, at the time, can be limited. So maybe there’s more of a distance view on some of the same ideas here. It’s a higher ground perspective on the landscape of major life events.

Maia Sharp: I love that. That really connects the two albums. They are both connected, particularly through my loyalty to the truth now. I want to write songs about where I am in my life, which hasn’t always been the case in my life. It kicked in hard for Mercy Rising and I wanted to keep that going here. So that next stage is looking back from a different perspective, and you’re absolutely right that you can’t ever think that you’ll get even a fraction of the answers you want if you only look from one place, from one point in time. Especially if you saw things from the eye of the storm, like on the last album. This album is looking back on that, post-shift.

I think the song “Old Dreams” really hits on that, too, looking back on what I thought was my dream. It’s exactly what we’re talking about here. I had that old dream when I was in the middle point of another point in my life, but you grow, and you learn, and you need to remember to adjust the dream to fit who you are now. If you don’t, unhelpful things will happen. Garrison Starr and I wrote that one, and it was born out of a conversation about frustration. We were frustrated about something in both of our careers, but realized as we talked more that the thing we thought we wanted was something we only wanted because we always had. It had been there when we started.

Both of our first albums came out in 1997, which is 25 years or so ago. Of course, as you grow, from a more experienced place, your dreams will change. You have to remind yourself of that. You have to change the default settings in ourselves. We both realized that we had slipped into a default. I have the thing that I want, and it’s not what I wanted when I was 25, but it’s what I want now.

AH: I think this is a really huge and important subject and the fact that it’s not exactly obvious doesn’t change that. As I get older, I want to have this conversation with so many people I know. But it’s tricky and I don’t want to dole out unwanted advice to people. I’m sure I need this advice too, but I have friends who, I feel, live in the dream of high school or college days and haven’t moved on. They wistfully realize they can’t have that dream anymore, but they still think it was their best self.

Maia Sharp: Ugh! It’s so limiting! You’re not even giving yourself credit for all of the wisdom that you have gained since then. Aren’t you smarter, wiser, stronger, calmer? What does that person want, not the 18 year old. So often, it’s high school, or college, or in Garrison’s and my own case, a first record deal. So often that dream is like a template you have received, too, and you accept it at the time. You think that’s your dream at the time, and there’s a red carpet, and maybe it makes sense that you want it then. But I’m fifty-fucking-two! I don’t want that. The idea of being on a red carpet makes me squirm. I’m doing this whole other thing that I realize was even an option when I was that young. I didn’t know “this” is what my life could look like. Now that it’s here, I’ve realized, “This is actually my dream. It’s not what someone told me to want when I was 26.”

AH: I love that phrase, “What someone told me to want.” I was going to bring that up. What other source could we have at that age than looking at other peoples’ dreams? Or maybe it was something that was handed to us by someone that we looked up to. It’s just an idea. Ideas can be really motivating, but if they have no grounding, that’s destructive, eventually.

Maia Sharp: Right, it’s not a young person’s fault. They don’t have any relevant experience yet. It’s hard to keep the dream a fluid thing that grows you.

AH: I will add that not everyone falls for this, thankfully. Some people I know seem to have intuited this, and welcome the developments in their lives, and realize the dream has gotten bigger. They know that their dream is still unfolding.

Maia Sharp: That’s an exciting life! I feel like I’m totally still unfolding. The people who I look up to who are older than me in their later 50s, 60s, and 70s, are people who feel that it is still unfolding. Don’t you want that to be true until your very last breath?

AH: “Kind” is also an amazing song that distills so much that all of us could use hearing again, as well as being really fun. It has so much carefully balanced language in it, I imagine it was quite difficult to write.

Maia Sharp: Because it’s so fun, and I don’t have a lot of those in my set, I started playing it out really early. I would close my shows with “Kind” and it always got such a great response. At first, it was exciting, and then it was kind of frustrating because everyone was asking, “Where can I get that song?” I knew I needed to have it on the next album. The writing of “Kind” was with two people who I’ve written with a lot, Mindy Smith, and Dean Fields. Mindy and I wrote “Mercy Rising” together and I have a song with her on one of her albums, “You Know I Love You, Baby.” Dean and I also wrote “She’ll Let Herself Out” on this new record.

We all got together, and Dean had the line “My kind of people are kind people” already. That’s the crux of it. We rolled that around to find the form of it, and realized that we wanted something in the middle that lyrically lathered things up. We came up with “rich or broke, drink or smoke, to me it’s all Pepsi/Coke,” but it took so long to find that! Does everybody know about the Pepsi challenge? I don’t know, but I haven’t heard anybody tell me that they don’t know about that. But I have to give them the credit. “Jalapeno peppers in your ice-cream,” was either Dean or Mindy. We were really just trying to say that there are things about me and things about you that, to me, aren’t important to a friendship.

The first things that we addressed in our conversation together were the most obvious things: the color of your skin, who you love, what your religion is, where you came from. Then, our next conversation was to move past the expected, since those things get talked about a lot. How could we say those things without coming right out and saying them? The closest thing we got to one of those was “you have 27 letters in your last name.” I ∞think maybe that was mine. I wanted to glance at those concepts without coming right out and saying them.

3e¢We’re hoping that, in general, with the language of the chorus and the extreme examples in the verse, people will understand that these are not things that will keep me from being your friend. If you’re kind, then we can be friends. Hopefully the extreme examples bring to mind the obvious elephants in the living room we’re not addressing: race, religion, sexual orientation, and all the shit that has a whole new fight going on right now. We actually wrote that one in 2019!

AH: I love the fact that you all take so many specific details of human life and put them all into one songs. It does give a sense of the cross-section of humanity without having to go super-heavy. But one thing it made me think of is that I’ve encountered many people who would say, “I think I’m kind.” But hearing this song might challenge that. Would they really be this tolerant of difference? If they hear this song and get pissed off, they know they’re not!

Maia Sharp: [Laughs] Right! It’s telling.

AH: It’s a challenge to live up to, at least.

Maia Sharp: We talked about that, too. We don’t want this to be language someone would write on a pillow. You see “Be Kind” everywhere. It can be a platitude. 99% of the population would probably identify themselves as being kind, but what does it mean to them?

AH: I wanted to mention how much I like the upcoming song “Fallen Angel.” It has really thought-provoking lyrics and doesn’t let you assume anything about the relationship in the song.

Maia Sharp: I had a line for that song for a long time and I didn’t know what to do with it. But then I was writing with a friend who referred to herself as a “fallen angel.” She felt like there had been a lot of expectations on her, and when she missed that mark, she felt like a fallen angel. It reminded me of this song line that I hadn’t finished. Later, I found myself getting a serious crush on my friend, which we have since talked about. So I just took the crush, and the feelings of a crush, which I had not had in a very long time, and applied it to the song. What if we had this conversation?

What if, when she told me that she felt like a fallen angel, I responded the way that I wanted to, and let her know how much I cared about her? And told her how much I appreciated her not trying to be an angel, because isn’t it a better thing to have your feet on the ground? To know that you’re human? I think my favorite line of the whole song is, “You with a halo is like me with a crown. That’s not how we make a joyful sound.” Thinking that you’re an angel, thinking that you’re a king, is not the ideal relationship. How about two, sometimes broken human beings, who are standing on the ground? It was me putting myself in this imaginary place. I told her about the song and I played it for her. She loved it.

AH: It’s a dialog between two very different people, but it skews towards realism, making you wonder, “Is she going to listen?” There’s a link here to the “Old Dreams” concepts, of dispelling unhelpful personal mythology, too.

Maia Sharp: Yes! You’re totally right. “Fallen Angel” and “Old Dreams” are from the same lens, because to think you’re a fallen angel means that at some point, you thought that you were supposed to be an angel! The realist is just rejecting the premise of that. Let angels be angels, if they are there. Let’s be humans.

Thank you for speaking with us, Maia Sharp.  Find more information and tour dates here:

Enjoy our previous coverage here: REVIEW: Maia Sharp “Mercy Rising” is Formidable


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