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The People Teaching People Podcast Episode 41: Heart-Centred Music and Songwriting with Mariya Stokes

041: Heart-Centred Music and Song Writing with Mariya Stokes

In this episode of The People Teaching People Podcast, I’m joined by Mariya Stokes, a talented and community-focused country music artist from Stavely, Alberta. Mariya shares her journey from growing up in a musical family to becoming Country Music Alberta’s two-time Horizon Female Artist of the Year. She discusses her songwriting process, the importance of community support, and the mentors who have influenced her career. Mariya also talks about the challenges and joys of being an independent artist, her passion for vintage fashion, and the excitement surrounding the release of her debut full-length album. 

I am above and beyond thrilled to have Mariya Stokes joining me as my guest on my 100th PODCAST EPISODE!

Mariya and I connected at a Mamas for Mamas Calgary event back in September of 2022 where I had the opportunity to see her perform and to sit beside her at dinner and have an amazing conversation. Mariya is not only incredibly talented but also heart-centred in her approach to music and in her connections and interactions with her community. 

If Kacey Musgraves and Lake Street Dive had a country-soul love child, the result would be Mariya Stokes. Known for her distinct retro style and quirky sense of humor, Country Music Alberta’s two-time Horizon Female Artist of the Year is on the cusp of releasing her debut full-length album. Her single, “You Want Me,” dropped in February 2024 and her single “One of Em”, was released in May 2024! Growing up in Stavely, Alberta, Mariya’s music reflects her roots: honest country lyrics seamlessly blended with pop-influenced melodies. Additionally, Mariya was a top-eight semifinalist in SiriusXMs Top of the Country in partnership with the Canadian Country Music Association in 2024. And – she is looking forward to performing on the main stage this summer at Country Thunder Alberta!

 

Listen in as we talk about:

03:00 Mariya’s story

05:16 Family and musical influences

07:03 Mariya’s songwriting process

09:19 The power of collaboration

12:09 Advice for aspiring musicians

14:14 Navigating the business of music

17:12 Mariya’s “pinch me” moments

20:48 Mariya’s upcoming projects and shows

23:07 Giving back to the community

24:54 Songwriting as personal expression

29:26 Mariya’s personal style and vintage fashion

32:33 The role of personal style in branding

37:28 Music and mentorship

42:30 What Mariya is most proud of

43:56 Mariya answers some rapid-fire questions

46:39 Mariya’s final thoughts and words of wisdom

 

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Today’s episode is produced by VOLT Productions, a full-service podcast production agency helping creators and entrepreneurs launch, grow and monetize their shows. You can learn more about the agency’s founder Simona, their work and their team by going to www.voltproductions.co

 

FAMILY AND MUSICAL INFLUENCES

Mariya shares that music was a significant part of her upbringing, heavily influenced by her family’s musical background. Her father was a drummer and singer in a family band, and her grandfather was a skilled keyboard player. On the other side of her family, her grandfather played bass in a rock band in the 60s and even opened for the Beach Boys. Growing up surrounded by music, Mariya found it accessible and was encouraged by her community in Stavely, where many local musicians supported her journey, including neighbors who taught her guitar and provided a welcoming space to practice and grow.

 
“There are no bad ideas. There just might be ideas that I don't necessarily chase. Or - it might not be the right idea for me but it could be right for somebody else.” ~ Mariya Stokes
MARIYA’S SONGWRITING PROCESS

“There are no bad ideas. There just might be ideas that I don’t necessarily chase. Or – it might not be the right idea for me but it could be right for somebody else.” 

Regarding her songwriting process, Mariya explains that creativity is like a faucet, where the flow of ideas improves with continuous effort. She maintains a “hook book,” recording phrases, melodies, or conversations that inspire her, either in her phone’s voice memos or notes app. Although many of these ideas may not develop into full songs, they serve as a valuable starting point for writing. This preparation allows her to approach solo songwriting or collaborations with a clear sense of direction. Mariya emphasizes the importance of capturing and organizing ideas to make the creative process more efficient and productive. 

When collaborating and co-writing songs, sometimes Mariya will have an idea that she won’t think has anything in it but she will throw it out to the room just in case. Sometimes, somebody in the room will grab it and have something more to say about it. This can lead to a song or idea coming to life that wouldn’t have otherwise without that other person or collaborator.

 

LEARNING AND CURIOSITY

“There’s always more to explore. That’s part of the joy.”

For Mariya, the world of music involves a journey of ongoing learning. For her, the first step was discovering her own voice and message, honing her craft until she could articulate it just right. She emphasizes the importance of immersing oneself in the community, surrounding yourself with peers who are also navigating the music landscape. Collaboration becomes not just a tool for growth but a lifeline of support. Yet, it’s not just about the art; understanding the business side is equally crucial. Mariya recalls her early shock at the breadth of knowledge required, from branding to royalties. It has been a continual process of education and adaptation. For her, curiosity isn’t just a trait; it’s a cornerstone of her musical journey, propelling her forward into uncharted territories of creativity and knowledge, reminding her that there’s always more to explore, always more to learn.

 

Mariya Stokes is an award winning,  community-focused country music artist from Stavely, Alberta, is like the love child of Kacey Musgraves and Lake Street Dive, blending country and soul seamlessly.
SONGWRITING AS PERSONAL EXPRESSION

Mariya explains that songwriting is her primary form of expression, helping her process and externalize her emotions. She emphasizes the therapeutic nature of music, whether pursued as a career or as a personal joy. Songwriting can be a way for people to articulate their feelings and put them into words, thus unburdening themselves emotionally. Mariya finds that songwriting offers a unique way for individuals to connect with and express their innermost thoughts.

She further highlights that songs often resonate more deeply than spoken words. Sharing the example of Tenille Townes’ “Somebody’s Daughter,” Mariya illustrates how a song can reveal the humanity and depth of a story in a way that spoken words might not. She believes that the emotional impact of music can evoke powerful feelings, making listeners connect on a deeper level. This emotional resonance, she notes, is something that can’t be replicated by merely reading the lyrics out loud.

 
GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY

Mariya explains that her dedication to community involvement stems from her upbringing in a small town where community support was a norm. Fundraisers and collective efforts to help families in need were common, instilling in her the belief that you get out of a community what you put into it. If you want support when you are down, then you need to be supporting others when they are down too. 

Mariya highlights her upcoming involvement in the “Ride to Remember” fundraiser, an annual event supporting the Alzheimer Calgary, hosted by Devin Cooper. This event, now in its fifth year, has grown significantly, with a goal to raise $50,000 this year. Mariya has performed at the fundraiser every year, showcasing her commitment to community support. Mariya’s engagement in community activities, including being an artist in residence at the Women’s Centre of Calgary and teaching songwriting workshops with Girls Lead YYC. She has also done work with youth with the Calgary Board of Education, BAM! Camp Calgary, and the Calgary Drop-In Centre with their Shelter From the Storm program. 

 

MUSIC AND MENTORSHIP

Mariya holds Brian Farrell, her vocal and performance coach, in high regard, crediting him as a mentor from her early years into the present. Commuting to Bearspaw every two weeks for lessons in her tiny Sunfire, Mariya embarked on what she describes as a grand adventure, despite the nerve-wracking drive. Brian’s teaching style left a lasting impact on Mariya, emphasizing the importance of inviting audiences in rather than merely projecting energy outward on stage. His guidance extends beyond performance techniques; whenever Mariya feels unsteady, Brian reminds her to stay true to herself, encouraging her to find her own space amidst life’s chaos.

Brian’s approach to teaching went beyond traditional vocal coaching, offering a performance workshop called Turntable Creative where students of all ages could showcase their skills in front of mentors and peers. This unique opportunity provided a supportive environment for artists to confront their fears and receive constructive criticism while honing their craft. For Mariya, this experience underscored the importance of mastering not only solitary practice but also the art of performing, a vital lesson that has reverberated throughout her journey as an artist.

 

Mariya Stokes logo
RAPID-FIRE QUESTIONS

What is something that you would love to learn about or something that you would love to learn how to do?  Sewing

If you could sit down and have a conversation with someone that you would love to learn from, who would it be? Carolyn Dawn Johnson and Chappel Roan

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