A Chat With Rising Singer Maty Noyes

Born in St. Louis and raised in the small town of Corinth, Mississippi, 20-year-old singer-songwriter Maty Noyes dropped out of high school at fifteen and immediately leapt into Nashville‘s music industry. She was then discovered and developed by industry veteran, music manager and Halogen Entertainment CEO Phoenix Stone, who signed and launched the Backstreet Boys, N’Sync and Este & Danielle Haim. Stone then signed Noyes to Republic Records through longtime friend and collaborator Jason Flom, the force behind Katy Perry and Lorde.

Noyes has continued fighting for an upward career trajectory, lending the vocals to Kygo’s “Stay” and garnering support from stars like Kesha. “I hope I will be able to empower even just one young woman with the knowledge I have now, so that my experiences don’t need to be hers,” she says, with songs that center around themes of heartbreak and self-reliance.

A self-taught musician, Noyes infuses her danceable single “London” and the mid-tempo “Say it to My Face” with lush disco instrumentals and 1980’s synth-pop beats, bringing retro style to contemporary pop. Below, Noyes shares insight into her musical influences and how she preserves an authentic message.

What was your childhood in Corinth, Mississippi, like?
I was born in St. Louis, and then we moved to a small town in Mississippi when I was a baby, where one of the Civil War battles was fought. There are a lot of stereotypes about the South. Like every stereotype, these are generalizations that don’t hold true for a population at large at all. The South has such a charm to it. I love going home [to Corinth] now because it’s peaceful, safe and everyone supports me and has my back. I’ve carried that sweetness with me, and a lot of people recognize it. The food I grew up on makes me dread every bite of kale salad I eat in California. And nowhere in the world will ever have a better chicken biscuit. Looking back on my childhood there now, I can see that it helped me try and make a career from my music, because I grew up in a place where I met encouraging, supportive people who gave me a stronger sense of self-worth and made me feel special.

When I was younger though, I was dying to get out and make it to a big city. I was always the oddball out. I didn’t fit in with kids my age, so I gravitated towards older friends. A lot of the older guys had garage bands and would play shows on the weekends. I feel like they really inspired me and opened me up—seeing seniors in high school writing music at such a young age. I used to be really shy, and like a lot of young girls I’d find myself saying “Yes” and getting into situations I didn’t want to be in, because I was too afraid of the reaction I would get if I said “No.” I drew from those memories, which were extremely painful at times, and was put through a lot more as I started writing my latest music. I hope that as I start to speak out more about my journey—dropping out of school at fifteen, moving to Nashville at sixteen alone, and then to Los Angeles in pursuit of my dream—I hope I will be able to empower even just one young woman with the knowledge I have now, so that my experiences don’t need to be hers.

What was your first performance?
I had my first public performance when I was twelve. A few weeks prior, my parents got me my first guitar for Christmas. To everyone’s surprise—especially mine—I just started writing a bunch of songs on it. My parents were really confused that I was suddenly writing my own music, teaching myself to play and to sing. I guess it came as a shock, as I grew up sporty. But to be honest it just seemed natural to me, and I found a way to express myself that I hadn’t ever had before. My mom was really encouraging, and even though we didn’t have a lot of money, she bribed me to play an open mic at the local coffee shop. I didn’t care about the money, but I knew that she believed in me. So I gave it everything I had, even though I was probably shaking like a clothes dryer the entire time. After that I was addicted, and started playing any chance I could get a gig.

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What’s been your biggest or most memorable performance so far, and what makes it stand out?
I’d say playing the Nobel Peace Prize Concert with Kygo was definitely one of the most memorable performances I’ve ever had. It was my first time playing in front of a really massive crowd, when just weeks before I was only playing for 100 people at the hotel café. It was like playing my first show all over again. I knew how big the opportunity was, and I felt every moment leading up to and during the performance. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be in that moment, you know? Your first time in front of a massive crowd gives you this high that you never forget. And I’m all about peace, so just being present at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert was an honor I can’t express with words. I got to meet the princess and prince of Norway and go to the actual [Nobel Peace Prize] ceremony. Jay Leno was hosting, and there were so many other well-respected artists performing. It was an incredible moment, and I am so grateful.

Who influenced you musically growing up, and who is influencing you now?
I was influenced by great music growing up. My first love was Elvis above all, then came Johnny Cash. My dad always played the classic stuff. I went through a very metal stage, and then [I was into] any hipster band there was—which basically meant I needed to buy a record player as those releases were all vinyl. Nowadays I listen to just about everything. Lately I’ve just been listening to this eleven-minute song on repeat called “Time for Us” by Nicolas Jaar. And I also really got into Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper, Lana Del Rey, Erykah Badu, and, of course, my friends Parson James and Kesha, whom I adore and who support me so much.

What was the process of recording and debuting your first EP, “Noyes Complaint,” like?
Debuting my EP was amazing, because it was finally a chance to show that I had a body of work that was bigger and more diverse than just the singles and features people had seen. Each year I learn more than the year before. I’ve really learned about this industry and how to hold strong with my own vision for my music, because it doesn’t matter if someone says “you’re a star” or that they want to help you—there are no free rides in this industry. At the end of the day they might have a million other things they’re working on, and their own life on top of it. So you can’t rely on anyone else but yourself. And it’s important not to confuse people’s intentions. Some people only want the best for you, and others have their own reasons and motives, which will often be solely self-serving. Sometimes you have to get burned before you can recognize that type of energy. And that’s ok. Having more knowledge in the end is always worth it.

How do you remain authentic and stay true to your own musical vision?
The music industry is complicated. But, to me, doing this job, creating music, is as essential as breathing. You have to know what you’re getting into and be okay with that before you commit to a life in music. At the end of the day, if you’re being completely honest and true to yourself, telling your own stories, people will recognize that, connect with it, and your music will speak for itself and find an audience. It’s hard on the way up knowing what lines are okay to cross and not cross. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to get to your end goal quicker or make money if you’re going broke. At the end of the day, life is so short.

You’ve said you want to “make songs that show love can triumph over hate,” which echoes the discourse that’s going on in U.S. politics right now. How does that come into play when you write?
I think in a lot of ways, love is honesty and acceptance with no boundaries. I try to stay connected to the people who support my music, so they know there is someone out there who genuinely does love and care for every single one of them. With my music I can attract the kind of people who are like-minded and share similar experiences that I’ve had. I don’t like the term “fans.” I’m just starting out in this and that term still sounds so pretentious to me. I want to call them friends and supporters.

With all that is going on in the world right now, we need to have each other’s backs. I’m tired of all the bullshit and fakeness—it leaves emptiness inside, and I want no part of that. A lot of my songs are brutally honest, and I find honesty so refreshing. I want my songs to make people feel like they can be honest about who they are. I want them to stand up and be strong. To love being different, embracing themselves and not being afraid of their honest thoughts. Hate is nothing compared to love.

Photographer: Michael Paniccia
Hair & Makeup Artist: Elayna Bachman
Stylist: Karin Elgai
Shoes by Bruno Magli.
Maty Noyes handled by Rhiyen Sharp @ Art and Fashion Group
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