Exclusive: Singer Bonn E Maiy on Her Career and Performance with Johnny Depp and Joe Perry
What would you do if a global pandemic gets in your way just as your music career is starting to blossom? “Quit,” some would say. “Adapt,” said Bonn E Maiy.
Although Bonn E Maiy, this talented singer-songwriter from Ontario, Canada, has been into music all her life, she’s been actively pursuing a career in the entertainment business for about three years.
A classically trained singer who started in opera growing up, Bonn E was discovered by Sound Business Recordings Creative Director Sean Sloan, co-producer of her latest album “Demands & Desires.”
“Why are you still up in Canada?” Sean asked Bonn E, encouraging her to go to Miami and do music full-time. Fortunately, she listened. Now, she has over 155,000 followers between Facebook and Instagram, an album out there, and two more coming this year.
In mid-January 2021, AmoMama exclusively interviewed Bonn E Maiy. We talked about “Demands & Desires,” how she adapted her career amid the pandemic, and her impromptu performance with Johnny Depp and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry.
First of all, thank you again for taking the time for this interview. I was scrolling through your YouTube channel to prepare for the interview and I couldn't help but notice… you have a beautiful voice! When did you discover that you wanted to make music and, specifically, Country music?
Bonn E Maiy (BEM): Thank you! I always knew that I wanted to make music. I think growing up, watching performers, looking at music videos, and listening to music, I was like, “Wow. This is what I want to do.”
And to say more specifically Country, I love Country music because it's storytelling. There's so much heart and soul and core values that come with that music.
Now, when we made my latest album, “Demands & Desires,” we didn't have a genre in mind. I just go with the feeling. I come from a background of listening to lots of styles of music.
My father listened to Classic Rock when I grew up. My mother listened to Country. I got all sides of that with Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and then Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, all of that. My music could be fused with Country, Rock, and Americana-style.
We usually hear musicians say that their parents didn't want them to get into music (or anything related to arts, really). What's your story? Did your family support your career? Would they have preferred to have something like a lawyer in the family?
(BEM): I am so blessed, I have the best family. When I was young and I said I wanted to do music, my mother, right away, was like, “Okay. Let's start. Let's see what we can do to make that happen for you.”
Right out of high school, my life took a turn, and I got scared of the, I guess, failure that could happen with music. So, I kind of chickened out and went to college for a trade [school], actually Woodworking; completely left-field on that one.
Still, my mom was like, “Okay, you want to do this? I support you.” So, it doesn't matter what I'm doing in life; my parents have always been there for me. And then, when I decided [to return to music], I was like, “You know what? I still want to do it.”
[My mom was] like, “Okay. We love you.” They truly believe in me. So, I think in anything that you do in life, no matter what it is, having that support from your family is really important just to give you that extra courage in yourself.
Apart from the guitar, which you appear playing in some of your music videos, do you play any other instrument?
(BEM): I dabbled in a lot, actually. Growing up, I used to play the flute all through high school. The first instrument I picked up was a bass guitar. I played the piano, as well, and you can hear all of these elements. I dabble in a few of them.
I don't do all the main parts in “Demands & Desires,” but I put a little bit of xylophone. I like to do lots of little different things because there's all these different elements that create music. And I'm always up for learning more, so, who knows what's next.
You have made covers of plenty of songs, from Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors" to Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black." Is there an artist you look up to? And who would you like to collaborate with in the future? Like, your dream collaboration.
(BEM): You named two of my top right there. Dolly, above all, she's just the kindest, most honest energy. As soon as you see her, she just puts a smile on your face. And again, the storytelling.
This woman has made so many albums, and it just touches your heart and soul. It gives you goosebumps. So, that's right there. Probably, for somebody [to collaborate with] in the future, that would be wonderful.
[As per my dream collaboration] even with people that aren't with us now, I would just go back in time and I would love to do collaborations with Janis Joplin or even Jim Morrison and The Doors.
If you looked at my [YouTube channel], maybe you saw that I recently did some of their covers. I did one for Janis, and her estate posted it on her [Facebook and Instagram] pages. The same with The Doors. I was very blessed last year to have a little recognition from some of my idols.
Let's talk about your album, "Demands & Desires." 16 songs, including "Echoes." Did you write all of them?
(BEM): Yes! I have like a tandem going on. I have the best producer that I could ask for. His name is Sean Sloan, and we co-produced all of the songs on this album.
Even before this album, we tried another album, which was more like a pop-style. That's when we’re trying to figure out the Bonn E Maiy sound of what we're doing, and I am so proud of this album, “Demands & Desires.”
I feel like it is a lot more of me. It's my own personal stories, and Sean was able to really help pull that essence out of me. Teamwork makes the dream work!
Could you tell us a little bit about your creative process? Do you write your songs based on your own life experiences or pick up pieces from people you know and put them together in a song?
(BEM): Every song is different. There are certain ones on the album… “I'm Alright,” for example. That is my strong song. It's about overcoming being in a mentally, somewhat-physically abusive relationship and coming out stronger from it. Finding your personal strength.
Something like that... it was a story I didn't want to tell, but Sean is there to be able to help me. He’d be like, “no, you need to tell this story because it made you strong, and people need to know that so they know that they can also get stronger.”
I think the connection with music is what's so important. Then, I have other songs, also in “Demands & Desires.” “You're Never Alone” is a song dedicated to my grandfather, who right now is suffering from dementia.
I like to just pull elements from the heartstrings of just human emotion, because music connects us all. Whether it's my story or just somebody's story, I like to get that message across so we can all connect with that.
What has been the best performance of your career until now?
(BEM): A crazy moment for me – crazy cool – was back in October 2019. Down here in Miami, the Hard Rock hotel has this new [Guitar Hotel]. I was there for the grand opening, and I ran into Johnny Depp and Joe Perry of Aerosmith.
I don't know how this happened, but one thing led to another, and, next thing you know, we’re all just kind of jamming out. We just did this impromptu jam for a crowd of, like, 50 people, and it was so spontaneous.
Just thinking about it right now, I got goosebumps. Just because it was so wild. It seems like it was a lifetime ago now, but that's probably my biggest “Ahh!!” kind of moment.
What is your favorite place to perform in?
(BEM): So, being here for three years, I feel like I haven't really found that kind of place. Everywhere that I go, it's about the people. No matter what. But, as I said, all of last year, pretty much all live shows were canceled.
Like any other entertainer, I had to adapt, and I brought everything over to social media. I have found a great love for doing live shows or just like the online community that I didn't utilize before [the pandemic] started happening.
There's a great value and appreciation for that because you can talk to people in real-time whereas, if you're at a concert, it might be dark and you don't really get to see people. Now, I can call people's names out, and I get to know them a little bit better, and there's just something really magical about that.
Speaking of your music, what do you have prepared for your fans? What can we expect in the following months?
(BEM): I'm always doing live content. Every week, actually, on my social media. So, if you're not there yet, you should tune in Bonnemaiy.com. Or just Bonn E Maiy, and you'll find [my Facebook and Instagram profiles].
What I've been doing apart from that is, I've got two albums that are going to be released this year. And again, going back to what you said before about where you find your influence in music, this next album is just another emotion, like “Demands & Desires.”
It's really about the human emotions during the last year (2020) of what we're all feeling. I can't wait to share that with you. And then, we're also looking to tour in the U.S., probably mid-year. I'll be posting stuff about that on my social media. Lots of stuff.
Now let's talk about Bonn E Maiy as a person. What do you do when you're not making music?
(BEM): When you do music as a career, as a profession, it's 24-7. I've been asked this before, like, “What do you do?” and I'm like, “Nothing. This is literally it.”
I’ll say this: if you want to become a musician, but you can see yourself doing other things, you should go do that instead because to do this as a career... it really takes up all of your time.
You are married to this because there's just so much background work that people don't realize, and if you don't 100 percent love it and are invested, you're not going to have fun with it, and if you're not having fun, that's going to translate to everybody in your audience, and I love what I do.
So, when I'm not actually making music – recording it – I am on the back end. I do all the editing for my videos. Even the sound stages, I did Woodworking, so I built all the sound stages, I'm doing everything I can do to just better my craft, better my person, really.
How much did COVID-19 impact your life and career?
(BEM): It's so crazy because, like I said, I've been down here for three years, and I've been grinding away, just trying to, like everybody else, get a little recognition and notoriety. I feel like the first time that kind of happened, when people just kind of turned their heads [towards me], was that performance I did with Johnny [Depp] and Joe [Perry].
We started putting that out there to the masses and all this, and everyone started looking my way, so that was great. And that was before all of 2020 happened. We started getting more notoriety now.
At the beginning of last year, my Facebook page had like 2,400 people. Today, we have 125,000 followers. In one year. Just looking back on that, it is like, “wow.” During COVID, and because I didn't stop the races, I just changed my perspective and how I was going to address my career, I never gave up.
I got to thank my team for that, Sound Business, because they're go-getters, too, and were always problem-solving. If there's something in our way, what do what we can to make it work for our advantage.
I just worked extra hard building a stage, editing – learning to edit all my videos – talking to all my fans. When you see on my page that I've talked to people, I’ve spent hours every day to comment to get to know my audience.
There's value in that. People like authenticity. You could say that COVID, of course, made people really scared and made them isolated at home, [but they] were very interactive people.
We need that connection, so that's what we did! We connected with people! And even though we weren’t out and about, I think I was able to get to know my audience a lot better during this time because of social media.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, Bonn E. We’re looking forward to hearing more of your songs. Way to go!
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