Maia Sharp: A Fine Upstanding Citizen

For Maia Sharp, writing solid song lyrics is in her bloodline. Her father, Randy Sharp, wrote songs for such country crooners as Clay Walker and Patty Loveless.

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley of California in the ’70s, Maia didn’t follow the country roots planted by her father. She gravitated more toward other significant musicians such as Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones. As a pre-teen, Maia played many instruments, including guitar, piano, saxophone and more. By her college years, she was playing acoustic venues in Los Angeles and would perform her own jazz/folk -inspired numbers that won over a fan base.

Off the stage, Maia turned to her writing skills to lead her way. She eventually collaborated with Carole King, Jules Shear, Lisa Loeb and Jonatha Brooke.

“Singing on other people’s albums and tours is just a treat,” she said. I am more than happy to work with a lot of musicians that think the songs I write are worth recording. On top of that, the people that are recording my songs are musicians who I have been fans of long before.”

Her songwriting gained the attention from many in the music industry, and prompted Maia to sign a deal with manager Miles Copeland, who just started his own Ark 21 record label.

“I never thought about giving up,” Maia said. “This is all I have – music and songwriting. I don’t have a safety net or back-up plan.

“With Ark 21 being my first label, I see that as a learning experience. I let them control too much of everything. Since I was new, I thought that was the right thing to do. Now, I get involved more with all aspects of where my music is headed.”

In 1997, Maia released her debut album, Hardly Glamour, and was nominated for Triple-A Radio’s Artist of the Year. She also shared the stage with Bruce Cockburn, Vonda Shepard, and David Wilcox, among others.

Her album didn’t find its place in the mix on any charts, but her songwriting was skyrocketing. She was now penning lyrics for Cher, Kim Richey and Amanda Marshall.

Maia gave recording another shot and put out another album on the Concord label. She again took to the road and toured with blues newcomers Keb Mo and Jonny Lang.

Recently, the majority of Maia’s time has been spent jet-setting from Nashville to New York to Austin and L.A. She spent much of 2004 on tour with Edwin McCain, singing their duet “Say Anything.” During that time, country singer Trisha Yearwood picked one of Maia’s songs to record for her new album and asked the songwriter to join her to record backing vocals.

Things only got better for Maia from there. In 2003, she signed with the New York-based label Koch for her latest effort, Fine Upstanding Citizen.

“I am finally aligned with a label that knows what they are doing,” she said. They make all right decisions and work close with me.”

Fine Upstanding Citizen picks up where Maia’s other albums left off, only with a more seasoned flavor.

“I have been asked about my progression over the years a lot. But it is hard to explain from my viewpoint,” Maia said. “I write all the time, I am getting stronger with my writing and singing, and I hope that this new album will show where I am.”
With a new year and a new album, 2005 will offer still more opportunities for the singer/songwriter. “Every year has it its own plan,” she said. “I am starting off by doing some satellite radio shows, and I will go to Nashville for a couple weeks to do some more writing. Then with the new record, I will tour and see where it goes from there.”