Rising R&B artist and Indianapolis native Maeta is out with a new EP titled “Habits,” released April 30 on Jay-Z’s Roc Nation record label. The EP, featuring production credits from Grammy-winners Kaytranada and Skrillex, shows off Maeta’s high-power vocal talent. We caught up with the 21-year-old phenom for an interview about her Indy background, artistic vision, and randomly meeting the Beach Boys.
Where did you grow up, and what memories do you have of your childhood?
I loved my childhood. I’m really happy that I grew up in Indianapolis. I grew up in Pike Township. I went to New Augusta North for middle school and Pike High School for a little bit. So I just claim Pike as my family I guess. I went to Zionsville for like a year, but that wasn’t really a big chapter of my life.
During my childhood, I spent a lot of time outside. I had a big yard with woods and hills, and I was always barefoot. I’d go to the Riviera Club all the time with my cousins and would just have a lot of fun. I miss summers in Indiana — lightning bugs, Fourth of July and all that stuff. I miss it so much.
When did music come into the picture for you? Was your family musically talented at all?
Music was always playing as I was growing up. My dad played the drums. He had a band in high school but nothing serious. I sang in church. I was always in the choirs and stuff. When I was 7 years old, though, I remember watching the show VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown, and every morning they would just show music videos. Leona Lewis came on with this song called “Bleeding Love,” and I just wanted to be her so badly. That’s when I was like, “I’m going to be a singer one day.” I never had a plan B. That’s what I always wanted, and it’s ended up working out.
Who were some people that played a key role in your maturation as an artist growing up in Indianapolis?
I had a piano teacher named Mrs. Schwein. There was a man named Mr. Keys who worked at Pike High School. He did a thing called Recording Corral. He was a producer, so we would all write songs. At the end of the year, we had an album and had to perform. I also had a vocal coach named Robin Henry, who I love. She was a mentor to me for a while.
When did you move to L.A.?
When I was 18, I moved to L.A. from Indiana. I knew nobody here. I found this really small apartment in Koreatown, and I was so lonely. It was really, really hard. I barely had enough money to pay rent, but everything for music was in L.A. so it just made sense to leave. It’s been about two years since then, and I’m just now getting comfortable. But it was a risk that needed to be taken, and I had to be uncomfortable to grow.
Did the pandemic make that adjustment even more difficult?
Yes. I’ve never been more depressed. I was in this apartment that I hated. I didn’t really have any friends here. So I was just dealing with all of it alone and tried to work on myself and my mental health.
While it was really, really hard, I do think a lot of good came from it. I ended up making good friends. I had a lot of time to sit with myself and adjust things within myself. I grew spiritually. So it was a good time, but it was really, really hard. That was probably the toughest time of my life so far.
How did you eventually come in contact with Roc Nation, and what has their support meant to you?
Omar, who is my A&R, found me on Instagram. He ended up flying to Indiana. We met at the Eagle’s Nest. We ended up getting dinner for two hours, just talking about my dreams, my goals and what I wanted. I honestly didn’t think anything was going to come of it because I’d been meeting with labels forever, and I never got signed. So I was kind of just over it, but two weeks later he ended up signing me.
I’m really grateful that happened. I’m grateful to work with them. I love Roc Nation. They’ve helped me so much.
You teamed up with some noteworthy producers and guests on “Habits,” your debut EP with Roc Nation. I’m especially curious to hear the backstory on how you and Skrillex connected to make the song “Toxic” together.
Omar actually introduced me to Skrillex. I ended up just going to a session. I wasn’t working with him, but I went to meet him. I also ended up meeting the Beach Boys that night. It was just a random night. It was at Rick Rubin’s house.
A few weeks later, Skrillex invited me to a session. He was working with BEAM, who’s on “Toxic” with me. He [Skrillex] is really, really nice. He just invites me to work on music, and everything is very casual and relaxed. So Omar introduced us, but we’ve started working a lot since then.
Speaking of noteworthy collaborations, your single “Teen Scene” was produced by Kaytranada and features a guest appearance from rapper Buddy. Can you elaborate on what that song is specifically about?
“Teen Scene” is about me leaving Indiana for L.A. and having to become an adult. I had to leave home and left all my friends behind. When I came to L.A., I really had to start being an adult and pay rent for the first time. So it’s kind of just about leaving my teenage self and the times where I didn’t have to worry about the things that I do now.
Are there any other songs on the EP that hold particular significance to you personally?
I really love this one called “Gift.” I poured my heart out on that song. At the end of it, I go crazy with my vocals. I was emotional and almost started crying. I just let out all of the things going on inside of me when I recorded it. So that one means a lot to me. It’s also one I listen to when I’m going through things or am sad, and it gives me hope or makes me feel better.
You mentioned going to Rick Rubin’s house. Have there been any other surreal experiences you’ve had since being signed to Roc Nation?
A big one was the Roc Nation brunch. I met Jay-Z. I met Rihanna. I love her to death, so that was crazy. Moments like that are crazy, where I’m around all these people that I’ve looked up to. I’m still not used to it. The next brunch, I’ll probably still be in there star-struck.
Now that the EP is out, what comes next?
I really want to go on tour. That’s my dream right now. I’ve never been on tour before. So once shows start happening, I’d really just love to go on tour and perform these songs. I’ve been rehearsing a lot, and I’ve done some online shows. But I can’t wait to do in-person shows and see the people that listen to my music in front of me.