Singer-songwriter Maty Noyes is not afraid of taking risks. At 15, Noyes convinced her parents to let her move to Nashville alone to pursue a career in music. By 17, she had signed with her first label and moved to L.A. She soon appeared on The Weeknd’s “Angel” from his hit album Beauty Behind The Madness and Kygo’s popular song “Stay.” Bringing to the world messages of “peace, love, light, and forgiveness,” Noyes looks to channel her creative talents in a positive way. The rising star just put out “Sunlight,” a song written at one of her lowest points but uplifting nonetheless. Noyes chats with us about her upcoming album (with sneak peeks!), the tension between the creative and business sides of the music industry, and the time she performed on the Nobel Peace Prize stage.
Let’s pretend we aren’t quarantined right now and that instead, we’re on a speed date. How would you start to introduce yourself?
I would probably be very awkward. But, you know, I guess if it’s one-on-one—I’m pretty good one-on-one—I would probably just say, “All right, let’s cut straight to the chase. Pretend like you’ve known me for your whole life and just act like I’m your really good friend and see what happens. Like just cut through the bullshit.” Yep, that’s what I would say.
That’s great, I like getting right into it. So, let’s get into it. When did you first start singing?
I’ve always had a deep love for music. I knew I always wanted to sing, but I didn’t actually sing in public until I was 12 years old. I kind of grew up doing choir and whatnot, but I didn’t know if I had a good voice or not. One time, my mom heard me singing in the car and she was like, “Wow, Maty, you have a pretty voice.” After that, I was like, “Maybe I should sing?”
Was there a specific moment in which you decided to make your passion for singing into a career?
I feel like a lot of times in life, for some reason, we just like to resist and fight the best things. And before I really got into music, I was in every kind of sport and every kind of other artistic activity, like theater, painting, and school arts. Finally, when I got that guitar at 12 it was kind of like alright, this is it from now on. And that’s when I started playing, starting open mics every week, or doing a four-hour-long cover gig type of things. Really anything I could do, I would take.
So you were born and raised in Mississippi and then you moved to Nashville alone. How did you convince your parents to let you move there alone?
Well, they gave me a long set of rules. They told me I had to find a way to pay for it on my own, I had to attend a school online, I had to drive home every weekend—they said they were gonna drug test me. They’re very strict, so I just had to prove to them that I could do all of that and could sustain myself. So, I just found a job babysitting and would play the street that night on Broadway, right in the middle of everything, with my guitar case open. It was just an adventure, it didn’t seem scary at the time. It was my first experience [out in] the world [alone].
Did the change in your environment change your mindset about what you can or cannot do? Did this location change and the new freedom and responsibilities that came with living alone challenge you or inspire/motivate you?
Oh yeah! Honestly, the person that I started off with in those early times, that’s the person I try to hold with me today because she was very fearless… When you do have a little success, it can be a little bit confusing, but you have to remember, to find that that person that you started off with that wasn’t trying to be anything. It was just a raw love for music and our raw love for exactly what was coming out of the guitar and nothing else. It was super uninfluenced, and it’s beautiful.
At a house party in Nashville, a few doors opened that resulted in you landing a major label deal at only 17. Can you tell me about that experience? What did that first taste of success feel like?
I really didn’t have any friends yet. I was pretty lonely, and most of the time I’d go to the same coffee shop and just sit and write in my notebook all day long. One time, this one girl I knew, she called me up. She asked me, “Hey, I’m going to this party” (it was like one in the morning) “You want to come?” I was like, I have nothing better to do, of course, I would love to come. So we go to the party and we walk in and see this guy playing the piano. I went up to him and started singing. He was like, “Wow, you’re really good. You should come back tomorrow because I’m really drunk right now.” I’m like, “Cool.” So I came back, and I sang for him the next day, and then they started managing me. They introduced me to all those guys.
And what do you mean by all those guys? Was it someone in particular?
At the time, that person was Jason Flom.
Wow, he’s huge. Often people think that once an artist lands a label deal, they’re on their way to stardom. Was there anything you didn’t expect with a label deal?
Oh yeah. It’s just crazy. I think the thing that blew my mind the most is all the songs that I got signed off of and that they loved about me, I never got to put those songs out. I think that’s what shocked me the most: I never even got to show the world the reason why they wanted me.
How did that feel? Did you feel like they stifled your creativity? How were you able to show the world who you are?
I kind of got thrown into like the thing that all artists should get thrown into, I think, which was like, figuring out my sound and writing for years. My sound has evolved a lot since then. But there are still elements of that original sound. I had so many different people in my ears saying, “Oh, you know, she should dress like this,” and “Well, that doesn’t make sense,” or “This doesn’t make sense about her.” It made me question everything at the time. I think it just took me really having to go through it to find out who I was and be solidified and sharing that.
How would you describe your image or singing career now? After coming into yourself a little more and being put through all that soul-searching?
I like to think that all music is kind of like an evolution, and you should never copy anyone. You should take all the things you love from the past to the present. You should take all those things you love and make them into a baby. I would say I’m like if Marilyn Monroe was a hippie that did music — that kind of vibe. It’s kind of like if Lana Del Ray was more pop or if Lana and Doja Cat had a baby. It’s kind of a big combination of all the music I love: rap, soul, and pop. I like to say there’s something for everyone. There’s a song that’s more folk, more R&B, very pop, but they all still kind of flow. It’s not about putting my music in a box. You’ll still hear my voice and think, “Oh, that’s Maty.”
Would you say producing all this diverse type of music comes from you being born and raised in Mississippi and living in Nashville?
100%. It’s also because my dad played so much 70s music growing up. He played The Beatles, Elton John — all the good music that you should have as a kid. That helped me a lot.
Let’s talk about your long list of accomplishments… you’ve collaborated with Kygo, you closed out The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness album, you have a song on a Celine Dion album, and you’ve toured alongside Noah Cyrus. What has been the most surreal moment so far?
The most surreal moment was probably when I was playing a hotel cafe for like 100 people, and then a week later, the Kygo song came out, and literally a week later I was playing on the Nobel Peace Prize stage. That was crazy because I got to go to the actual ceremony and meet the winners and the Princess of Norway. It was crazy. The reason why that was so amazing is because, at the end of the day, all I want to be and represent to the world is peace, love, light, and forgiveness. So just getting to do that and knowing that that’s what I stood for and having it be from only playing small venues to my first big show being that, I think that was pretty surreal.
Can I ask a little bit about “peace, love, light, and forgiveness”? Why forgiveness?
It sounds crazy, but it’s not for me. I’ve never been able to fully love myself, and finding peace within is through forgiving all the things from your past and present, from anyone who has ever hurt me, and being able to let go of it feels like the most powerful thing to me. My perspective is not letting these negative experiences win over me. It’s about not holding any grudges or sadness in my heart. It’s being able to just move on, find new strength, learn things from it, be aware, and be better because of it. It’s not to wallow in it and let it sit around forever.
That’s very perceptive of you. Let’s move a little to talk about “Sunlight” and “Love Don’t Cost A Thang,” your newest singles. You posted on Instagram that you wrote “Sunlight” on a rainy day when you were at the lowest point in your life. Tell us about the process of writing that song.
“Sunlight” was a song written in an attempt to save me from getting dropped from my last label. They basically kind of said, “We need a hit. We’ll give it one more shot, but we need a hit.” So I thought, “I gotta make sure it’s a hit, then it’s going to save everything. It’s going to take all these problems out of my life. I’m gonna have another chance, it’s going to come out.” But it wasn’t meant to fix all those problems. Those problems were meant to completely break and fall apart and be disastrous and miserable so that I could put it out today with a new team of people who I feel really believe in me and have my back in a way that I’ve never felt before.
Did you find that writing it was cathartic/freeing in some ways?
You know, that’s a good question. I think that at the time it didn’t feel very good or freeing, but I really love the song. And it turned out okay. I didn’t like the reason why it was written, but I’m not mad about it.
Well, for someone who was viewing it without context, I feel like “Sunlight” is definitely a song we all need in our lives right now.
It’s the perfect time, actually.
Yeah, it really is. It was very heartwarming to see your Instagram feed with all the bright colors and smiley faces, it’s very uplifting. What do you think the power of music is in times like these?
That’s a really good question! For me, right now, the importance of music is hearing things I’ve never heard before. Especially in this time in the world today, music is therapy. Music brings us together, it gets us through things. If it’s great music, for me, there’s nothing better because that’s all my life has ever been. I think it’s really important right now.
So let’s talk about your forthcoming album. What can you share with us about it?
Well, there will be 15 songs on it. The first half of the album is formatted more towards my pop side. The second half is formatted more towards my soulful side. So it’s kind of a split of personalities on the album.
What do you hope listeners take away from your album or recent singles?
I hope that they give it a chance and open their heart to a new artist in their lives. People can be pretty critical, and I get it, I’m not the easiest person to impress all the time. I’m a Virgo, so you know, I love everything-music. I’m obsessed with it, so I’m pretty diehard when it comes to music, but I hope that they can feel who I am through it and relate to it. I just hope that there’s something for everyone on it.
What’s your favorite lyric you’ve written on or off the album?
There’s a song called “Alexander,” and it sounds simple but the meaning of it was so true. It says, “It breaks my heart just to know you.” Oh, that kills me! And then there’s a song in the album called “Time” and a lyric that goes, “I can be a sweet, sweet apple pie. You can be my sweet, sweet baby with the sweet face.” I just think that’s so cute!
Do you think you could break down one of those lines for me?
I feel like it’s really easy for us to become obsessed with people and say, “What is this? Who are we? What is love to me? Is it this?” I think that a lot of the time this gets in the way of the pure simplicity of love, and it kind of messes everything up. Everyone has their baggage and they don’t want everyone to deal with it, not actually wanting to better themselves and be someone that’s ready to be loved or that wants to be loved. For me, “Time” is about just truly appreciating the time you have and not freaking out about what comes next, just simply being cool about who you both are at that moment. That’s what that song is about. So, that lyric is really just as simple as saying we can be together for now and enjoy it and whatever happens I’ll always be grateful for this beautiful time we had together.
That’s really sweet. I also want to ask who your inspirations are. You have such a strong personality, and I’m curious who you look up to in the industry?
Without a doubt, 100% Lady Gaga. I think the way that she came in with a whole new look, a whole new vision—she was so bizarre, but she is so herself. It’s completely iconic. The way she played in bars, like I have for years and years and years, with nothing, you know? She’s been dropped and through it all. She’s been able to reinvent her sound for ten years and be a part of amazing television, movies, and some of my favorite shows—American Horror Story, my all time favorite. She’s gone on to just be such an amazing example of what I think a woman should be in this industry. I also really have a lot of respect for Rihanna, too. Not only does Rihanna also act and has been on top for ten years, she also has multiple fashion and beauty brands, which I also want to do someday.
Who do you go to for advice, when life gets crazy?
Honestly, I just write songs. I don’t know. I feel like I’m like the therapist to my friends. I have a few really close friends I can always talk to. But, I feel like deep down I always know what I need to do. It’s just, you know, doing it.
STORY MEGHANA PATNANA
PHOTOS DELANEY ROYER