You've probably heard Maia Sharp's music even if the name doesn't sound familiar. That's because in just a few years, the songwriter from Los Angeles has seen her songs released by artists like Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Art Gartfunkel, Edwin McCain, The Dixie Chicks, Paul Carrack, Cher, Mindy Smith and many more. And while she's been busy making a name for herself as a songwriter, her solo career has been taking off as well.
Maia Sharp will be returning to the area for a pair of shows including one at the Saint in Asbury Park on September 6th and one at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on September 10th. She's on the road to promote her latest release, "Eve & The Red Delicious".
This will be Maia's first show in the Asbury Park area, but she's somewhat a veteran to the Philadelphia scene thanks to the popular radio station WXPN. She says she's envious of the great Triple-A radio stations found throughout the Northeast - a format that many NPR stations fall under.
"The Northeast has some killer Triple-A stations!" said Maia Sharp. "I don't know how it worked out, but I live as far away as I can from the Northeast. Here I am in the west and 3000 miles away are these beautiful radio stations who have been only supportive and helpful and there are a lot of great places to play. It translates when a station plays you. People actually listen and they go see shows. It isn't always like that. Maybe it's just something you can't put your finger on; maybe it's not as saturated as it is here, or maybe people aren't so jaded as they are here."
Getting songs heard on the radio is just one of the problems artists face, but Maia was more than prepared to be an artist as her father (Randy Sharp) is a popular country songwriter with many hits to his credit. She says that he never pushed her to either follow in his footsteps or run towards a different direction, but by watching him she knew music was her path as well.
"I think I saw the way he felt the most by watching him struggle with something that he liked," said Sharp. "I saw that choosing music to pursue as a job was a very challenging thing. We didn't always know where the rent was going to come from, but then something huge would happen and he'd have a song on the radio. And even when it was really hard, I saw how he was enjoying the journey.
Knowing that he never had any second thoughts about it - even when it was hard - kind of helped me see that if this was something that I really loved that it's ok if it's a lot of work because I'll love it along the way. And that's exactly what's been happening. I work my ass off and love it!"
Her father not only provided the inspiration for becoming a musician, but he was her first songwriting partner as well. Maia calls her father a great songwriter and she tries to write with him whenever she can... But it was a little awkward at first - especially when writing love songs!
"I remember the first couple of songs we wrote together was a little uneasy," said Sharp. "It was like I need to write this next line and it needs to be something kind of sexy, but I don't know if I really want to talk about that with my dad! But it took maybe three songs and then it was totally at ease because he's my friend too."
Sharp has been picking up songwriter friends all over the place for the last few years. She believes that the songwriter side of her and the performing side have both worked together to further her career. Some people discover her from listening to her own records while others learn of her through her collaborations with others. Thanks to building a good following in the industry, she does get many interesting songwriting offers.
Her list of songwriting partners reads like a who's who list of great songwriters. The list includes names like Carole King, Jules Shear, Timothy B. Schmitt, David Wilcox, Lisa Loeb, Edwin McCain, Howard Jones, and Paul Carrack among many others.
"I have to be confident enough to not be surprised or shocked, but I do get those moments of just total reality like it's so surreal that I'm talking to Bonnie Raitt on the phone or it's so surreal that I'm talking to Art (Gartfunkel) - what's happening?"
Bonnie Raitt has gone from a hero of Sharp's to a friend. She's not only had songs of hers recorded by Raitt but has gone on tour with her and will be touring with her again in late October. Getting on stage with Raitt was more than a thrill for Sharp, it was a reality check of where her career was heading.
"I had about six months worth of 'what in the hell' moments with her," laughed Sharp. "The first time I walked into the studio she was like 'Maia come here' and gave me a big hug. I'm like you're Bonnie Raitt - what is going on?"
Her new record, "Eve & The Red Delicious" is a collection of seven acoustic songs - five brand new and two songs from previous albums. The stripped down record sounds the way her live show does with just Darren Embry on bass and Maia on acoustic guitar, keyboards, and saxophone.
The new CD is the first release on Maia Sharp's own recently launched record label. Initially the plans are for the CD to be available only at her live shows and through the website. Running a label has been an interesting experience for Maia.
"I don't want to say it's more work than I thought it would be because I thought it would be a lot of work," she said. "But it's like 24/7 because you have to do everything. It might make me have a little more sympathy for the labels in the future!"
No matter what happens, Maia will be sure to keep plugging away at her dream. After all, songwriting is in her blood.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.