Chatting with Canada’s Pop-Country Star – Mariya Stokes

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Mariya Stokes
       

Canadian country artist Mariya Stokes recently released her third single, “Rebound,” a song about falling for someone still in love with their ex.

Mariya Stokes
Mariya Stokes

Mariya shares, “Recording this song was terrifying and freeing at the same time; I’ve never released a song as raw and honest as “Rebound”. To me, the vulnerability of the lyrics are its core – I have rebounded and been the rebound. This song explores both sides of that situation without judgment, and it’s very close to my heart. I hope when you listen to it, you know that if you’ve been in a relationship like this you’re not alone.”

With the release of her debut single, “Hands on My Body,” which immediately exploded into the Top 10 of iTunes’ Canadian Country Chart, Mariya’s volcanic arrival on the pop-country scene made an impression. Last year, the ACMA baptized her Female Artist of the Year. Mariya has shared the stage with Trixie Mattel, Jann Arden, Doc Walker, and Jocelyn Alice.

Guitar Girl Magazine caught up with Mariya Stokes to find out where she found inspiration for “Rebound,” what her dream guitar is, and her advice for young women who want to be music artists.

What three things can’t you live without?

My family, my guitar, and morning coffee.

What inspired your new single, “Rebound?”

If you’ve ever been in love with someone who is hung up on an ex, “Rebound” will probably make sense to you. This song was inspired by a relationship I was involved in like this and it’s an exploration of both sides – the experience of the “rebound” person and “reboundee.” It was written from a place of reflection and compassion for everyone involved, instead of anger and frustration. That’s the space it lives in and I hope when you listen to it, if you’ve been in this situation, you know you’re not alone.

What’s your songwriting process? Melody first, or lyrics?

Melodies occasionally come first, but for me, it’s usually words. When I have a lyrical idea or hear an interesting phrase, I write it down on my phone and eventually try to flush out a song with my guitar.

What do you hope your fans/listeners take away with them when they listen to your music?

I hope when you listen to my music, it moves you in some way; either your heart, mind or feet.

What kind of guitar do you play?

My electric is a red ’95 Fender Telecaster and my acoustic is an Alvarez that I’ve had for about 10 years – it was my first guitar. I’ve had the pickup replaced and the frets are wearing thin so it might be time to look for something new!

If you could have any guitar, which would it be?

I’d love a ’65 Fender Stratocaster in Olympic White.

What does your practice consist of?

When I’m not playing live, it’s a lot of finger strength and agility exercises, scales, and challenging myself with songs and licks that I’ve struggled with in the past. My guitar teacher, Cory Bitner, has an amazing online practice program that I love. When I’m playing live a lot, it’s less about chops and more about learning songs and focusing on getting on stage.

How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?

When I was a kid, my parents owned the local bar in my hometown of Stavely, which is about an hour south of Calgary, Alberta. I used to sit on the stairs right outside the lounge and watch bands come through town. They captivated me and made me realize that I wanted to spend my life doing what they did: telling stories through music. When I was eight, my parents snuck me into the bar to sing during a jam and when I was on stage, I felt like I’d found what I was supposed to do with my life. After that, I picked up a guitar and started writing songs. At 18, I moved to Calgary and have been pursuing music ever since.

Which musicians/vocalists influenced you the most?

When I was little, country radio was always playing in my house. I’d sing along to Faith Hill, the Chicks, and Terri Clark through the airwaves and try to imitate their voices. All the little phrasing and vocal inflections from Nashville country music eventually worked their way into my voice. As I got older, I started listening to Taylor Swift’s early records and Kasey Musgraves’ work and fell in love with how a great song could paint a poignant story with just words and melodies. From a guitar standpoint, I’ve always loved Warren Haynes from Gov’t Mule; he’s such a soulful, thoughtful player.

Which artists are you listening to right now?

Lizzo’s record Cuz I Love You has been on repeat for the past year. It’s so positive and hooky and I can’t get enough. I’ve been devouring Taylor Swift’s new record, Folklore as well. It feels almost country, and I dig the throwback vibe. When it comes to indies, I love Lu Kala and Rett Madison.

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?

Tone to me is a sound that makes you turn your head and say, “What the heck was that?” in a good way. When I started playing electric, I was just trying to make the notes ring out enough to sound musical. Now my ears and hands have developed enough that I can play with different sounds and I think my tone will continue to evolve as I put more time in.

Do you have a guilty music and/or entertainment pleasure?

I’m not sure if I believe in “guilty pleasure” music – I’ll listen to anything that makes me feel some type of way, regardless of genre. Whatever feels good, and I don’t feel bad about that.

Any advice for young female artists just getting started?

If anyone tells you not to pick up a guitar (or any instrument for that matter) because you can “hire a guy to do that” and you should “just focus on singing,” please don’t listen. Pick up the guitar. Learn what keys your songs are in. Figure out how to lead and communicate with a band. It’ll make your music stronger, and you’re absolutely beyond capable of doing all those things and more.

Why do you make music?

Making music is almost a compulsion. It’s how I process my life and stay grounded, and it allows me to connect with complete strangers on an emotional level instantly which is pretty rad.

What’s next for you?

My last single before “Rebound” was called “Christmas, Arizona” and I am re-releasing it to Canadian country radio in November, just in time for the holidays. In 2020, I have a few more songs that I can’t wait to share with you. For the time being, I’m focused on writing and working my guitar chops and I’m thankful for the time to focus on my craft.

Thank you for having me!

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