Meet Maye, a Songwriter Who Transfixed YouTube With a Bolero

6077

Several years ago, the singer-songwriter Maye penned a track titled “My Love.” “I was playing it locally in Miami, and every time I would play it, I would get a reaction,” she recalls. The key was a downshift into the hook: A sudden drop in tempo just as the single surges into a shimmering chorus.

Maye spent years working closely with her collaborators, Fernando Belisario and Patrick Howard, to perfect a recording of her song. “Then ‘West Coast’ by Lana Del Rey came out,” Maye remembers. “I was like, fuck! She did it — she did the fucking tempo change.”

Three years later, Maye still hadn’t released “My Love,” when Luis Fonsi put out “Despacito.” “Fernie called me like, ‘Maye, they did it.’ They did what? ‘They changed the tempo in the chorus.’ Fuck!”

Luckily, her worries that these high-profile songs would blunt the impact of “My Love” proved unfounded. Maye’s single helped her earn a publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music, and after the track was released in March, it went on to earn more than a million streams. 

Born in Venezuela and raised in the United States, Maye comes from songwriting royalty: Her father is Fernando Osorio, a major-label solo artist who came to fame as one-half of Eighties pop duo Fernando y Juan Carlos and a longtime writer whose songs have been recorded by giants like Celia Cruz and Ricardo Montaner. “My earliest memories are of him singing to me,” Maye says. She had her first co-writing session with her sister at age eight. The result was “a terrible song I hope no one listens to,” Maye says. “But we still know it all by heart.” 

Her father would bring home “piles of CDs:” Shakira, Juanes, Juan Luis Guerra. Maye listened intensely, without regard for genre — Pink Floyd, the Backstreet Boys, Aaliyah, Tribe Called Quest — or country of origin: Venezuela, Colombia, the United States. “I would sneak into clubs into Miami with a fake ID when I was 15 to go see a J Balvin show,” she says. 

Maye also learned guitar in high school and started writing music more earnestly. “I wrote probably 100 songs before I got to ‘My Love,’ songs people will never listen to,” she says. “I remember watching an Ed Sheeran documentary and hearing him say songwriting is like opening a faucet — you have to let all the fucking dirt out, then clear water will finally come through. For me, that first drop of clear water was ‘My Love.’” 

Both “My Love” and Maye’s follow-up single, “Tú,” are wistful and elegant, dripping with resonant bass and airy clouds of vocals. They sometimes seem ready-made for a retro rom-com: As one dazed YouTube commenter put it after listening to “Tú,” “this is the type of song when you see the love of your life for the first time, wind blows over her head, and everything starts to move in slow motion.” Another commenter countered with, “this sounds like a song that would play in the elevator to heaven.” (Maye explains that “‘Tú’ is a tribute to all old boleros.”) 

If “My Love” was “this weird fucking monster that was so hard to tame in the studio,” Maye’s newest track, “Moody,” was the exact opposite: “I smoked a little weed, picked up my Epiphone [guitar], and wrote the song in like 20 minutes,” Maye says. “I went to the studio with Pat, played it, and he said, ‘let’s record that shit right now.’” “Moody” is Maye’s snappiest effort, with sharp clusters of drums and a flowery keyboard solo before the final hook. 

There’s not much music like Maye’s on the charts at the moment. But Lazaro Hernandez, senior director for A&R at Warner Chappell Music, is betting that will actually help her. “There’s a lot more room now for Latin artists that are not in reggaeton,” the A&R says. “C. Tangana is a perfect example, it’s a little bit different [relative to the mainstream].” 

When Hernandez heard Maye at a showcase two years ago, he found her music “so different from what was going on in the Latin music space.” And, he adds, it’s “something that we knew was needed.”

Fernando Osorio