As the child of divorced parents, grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Maiysha split her time growing-up between Chicago and Minneapolis. It wasn’t easy, but her two-city upbringing seems to have added immensely to her musical vocabulary. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Maiysha earned her vocal chops in the backseat of her mother’s car, where she belted out her best imitations of the likes of Chaka Khan, Donna Summer and Natalie Cole. But, she insists, “I don’t consider myself a diva.” Her dad, meanwhile, exposed her to his collection of vinyl, including jazz artist Gil Scott Heron. “My father wasn’t a musician himself, but he showed me what can be communicated through music.”
All the influences come together in Maiysha’s first album, “This Much is True,” which has been described as a skillful blend of old school R&B, funk, and soul. Just to mix it up a bit, Maiysha also offers up a punchy cover of “Sledgehammer,” a rock classic from Peter Gabriel. Maiysha, who now lives in Brooklyn, calls this unique blend “progressive soul.”
Still, some people make assumptions about the origins of her singing. “When you’re a black girl, people always ask, ‘Oh, did you sing in church?’ And I’d answer, ‘No, I went to Catholic school, and there’s not a whole lot of that kind of singing in the Roman Catholic church.’”
Maiysha says she grew up as a "Cosby kid...I have no shame about it. To the extent that my parents even nicknamed me Denise, because I was a little quirky, with weird outfits and big hair."
At 12, she starred as Dorothy in a school production of The Wiz. "I was really shy," she says. "But something would happen to me when I'd get onstage, inhabit a character and sing those songs...It was something that was easy and really joyful for me."
In college, she learned about singers Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. "Those experiences really opened me up in terms of my musical taste," she recalls. "They made me braver in exploring my sound. And because I was writing so much, I also gained confidence in expressing myself."
After college, Maiysha auditioned to be a back-up singer for a local band. She was soon the lead singer. "It wasn't a serious band, but it was an important step for me," she recalls.
A brief stint as a model helped pay the bills while launching her musical career. "Some people waitress," she says. "I modeled."
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