Meet Mariya, Our New Artist in Residence

1. Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am a country musician and songwriter based in Calgary, Alberta. I’ve been told that if Kacey Musgraves and Meghan Trainor had a country-soul love-child, the result would be my music, and I take that as a huge compliment. I was fortunate to be named the Alberta Country Music Associations 2019 Female Artist of the year and also released two singles, “Hands on My Body” and “Christmas, Arizona” in 2019. Currently, I’m working on my debut EP, which will be released in 2020.

2. How did you get started as a musician?

When I was growing up, my dad was in a bar band. I loved watching his band jam – seeing an idea develop into a song was exciting and inspiring, and I always wanted to be part of that. When I was 14 years old, I picked up my first guitar, and when I learned my first three chords, I tried to write a song. Since then, I haven’t stopped. It’s like a compulsion – I can’t stop writing songs and playing. I love music so much.

3. What got you interested in country music specifically?

I’ve always loved the stories in country music. The genre is very lyric focused – a great country song will hit you right in the gut. When I was growing up, I started imitating the singers I heard on the radio like Terri Clark, The Dixie Chicks, and Martina McBride. They were and still are unafraid to voice their opinions and tell women’s stories in a genre that can be very male-dominant and conservative.  I started with imitation, and then eventually, that kind of country music became part of me.

4. What is Calgary’s art scene like for women?

The scene is growing. It can be a struggle, but we’re aware of it and working on it. Country music, in particular, is an extremely male-dominated industry. Only about 11% of radio play are songs by women in Canadian Country music, and I know we can do better than that. Here is a link to a study addressing the inequality at Canadian Country Radio from 2015 – 2018.

That said, Alberta Music has an all-female team, and I would love to see more organizations with women in positions of power like that. I think we’re getting there.

5. What can our city do better to support women in the arts?

The community of Calgary could show up to women’s events, buy their art, and engage with them online on a larger scale. We need to continue to hire women. It’s also essential to keep having conversations with women and people who don’t identify with binary gender about ways we can support each other.

6. What are you most excited about for your residency at the Women’s Centre?

During my time at the Women’s Centre, I am excited to collaborate and empower women to tell their own stories through songwriting. Writing can be so cathartic and a great tool to process and capture experiences – both positive and negative.

I’m stoked to share a songwriting workshop where women feel safe to be uninhibited and creative. So often, I have felt pressure to make something “great” and spent too much time focusing on the end result and forgetting to enjoy the process. For me, this will be a huge opportunity to collaborate and create art because it feels good and not worry about outcomes.

7. Who is/was an influential woman in your life?

My mom. She’s been a rock for me; she was a single mom when I was born and built our family from the ground up. She’s an entrepreneur, sticks to her convictions, and never hesitates to lend a helping hand. I try to be like her.

8. What does feminism mean to you?

Equality. I’m an intersectional feminist, and I know there are so many challenges in different communities under the feminist umbrella that I don’t fully understand because I have never lived them. To me, feminism means creating equality of opportunity for everyone, and when we listen to each other, support each other, and work together, we rise together.

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