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Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How MAUMAUMAU Is Helping To Change Our World

The motto and heart of this project are to encourage anyone that has ever felt like the underdog. That means standing up to injustice, even when it looks like it’s too big to tackle. BLM has been a big one this past year, and together with my good friendS Curtis Kelley and Devin Runco, we wrote a song advocating for justice because it was all-consuming. It IS all-consuming. Black Lives Matter shouldn’t have to be a movement, but it is, and we are excited to participate with sharing our artistry and our presence.

Showing up to protests and learning our place in the midst of it as a white Mexican immigrant, white native American, and white American. I am also a full-fledged advocate for mental health and how shame plays such a massive role in our society worldwide. It’s what my music is about, it’s what my conversations with fans and people nearby get to deal with, and it’s what I look for from my immediate group of friends. I’m still exploring how to truly get involved with an organization, and it’s something I look forward to as I continue to put out more music and affect more and more of my surroundings. I’ve always had it in my heart to get involved with homelessness, so I’m currently gearing up for an online fundraiser/festival called United Friends of the Children. The festival looks to raise awareness in the foster care system community and how it is currently failing the youth transitioning out of it. 36% become homeless 18 months after leaving.

As a part of our series about music stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing rising LA-based, Mexican singer-songwriter and producer, MAUMAUMAU.

MAUMAUMAU is a solo endeavor by Night Lights’ lead vocalist, Mauricio Jimenez, and at its core, the project strives to provide a soundtrack for the underdogs and a voice for the underrepresented. Imbued with a spectrum of influences ranging from 90s pop-rock to Mob Rich, Gorillaz, Oliver Tree, Tame Impala, and others, MAUMAUMAU’s distinct sound will stick with you and have you coming back for more.

Following two standout releases, “Heartbreak Police,” a commentary on current events, and “Mouth Breather,” a vulnerable, 90s-inspired song about the anxieties and identities experienced through social distancing, MAUMAUMAU returns with “B!L!NGVAL,” an alt-rock smash that examines the complexities of finding common ground with people of opposing political views.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I was born and raised in Mexico City until about age 6, at which point my dad got a job in Williamsburg, VA. My whole family moved to the small colonial town and lived there for about six years. I got a weird and colorful cultural upbringing because of it. I never really realized until I got older how much impact it would have on my two brothers and me, but it is blatantly apparent now that I have done a full circle and moved out to Los Angeles. Anyway, if it’s not clear by now, I also grew up with a clinically diagnosed case of ADHD, and it is what led me to write and live for music. Growing up, it was hard to find ways to express what I felt clearly, and I always felt misunderstood. It wasn’t until I wrote my first song and witnessed the impact it had on my family when they heard it that I got hooked on writing songs. Even if my words were clumsy and my voice was pitchy, I felt like they got what I was going through, and it was amazing. Since then, I’ve polished my craft and dialed in on my ADHD (somewhat) and have kept writing to try and help others process their feelings and hopefully also help them navigate the complexities of coexisting.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I love this story. I studied Mechatronic Engineering for a year, a mechanical/electrical engineering major in La Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. Although my passion was music at this point, I (like most people who go into music) feared I would struggle to make ends meet as a musician. After failing programming (twice), I decided to drop out of the major and told my parents I needed to figure out what I would do. They were very supportive, and I’m sure they thought I finally stopped fighting my desire to pursue music. Needless to say, they were surprised that I came back and told them I wanted to study industrial design. They slapped me on the side of the head and insisted I pursue music. My mom challenged me and asked me to leave it to God. She said, “apply to one school you think is the best of the best and if you get accepted, take it as a sign.” So I did. I applied to Berklee College of Music, and to my surprise, I got in. God, I still don’t know how. I’ve been finding my way ever since.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?

I was on tour with my other band, Night Lights, and everyone has to carry their gear and are responsible for it. I am renowned for forgetting things. The first night of the tour, I forgot the power adapter to my vocal effects pedal, which to me, is essential. It’s part of my appeal when I sing. It was not funny at the time, but now in retrospect, I can laugh about it. We ended up having to go around the city looking for a music store that carried the power adapter, which was specific to this pedalboard in a foreign city (I think we were in Buffalo, NY), 2 hours before showtime. The worst part is that thanks to that event, I was so anxious about losing stuff that I’m pretty sure it just set off the scatterbrained-ness, and I ended up losing a camera, a go pro, a microphone, and a lot of cables. I’m not proud of it, but it made for a good laugh. Also, it set in motion a checklist that my bandmates go through for me after every show.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

I think success is a tough thing to pinpoint nowadays in the music industry. Of course, you can measure it in quantity and all that. However, I find that to be an empty response that doesn’t quite fulfill everyone in their pursuit. I know I still haven’t hit my benchmark, though, and it’s an ever-evolving concept. So, I think my first and most significant suggestion is to understand the responsibility that comes with choosing to share your opinion. Artists influence society. At all levels. And I don’t think people realize that that’s what they’re signing up for. Once you make peace with that, I think defining what success is to you is paramount. To some, it’s hitting Billie Eilish’s status. Others, it’s getting 1,000 streams, making millions with their music, headlining a bar gig, or being referenced as a sound for other artists. Whatever it is, it’s valid, and it will evolve. After that, it’s a game of patience and intention because it’s like any business. It takes an investment of money and a lot of time. You gotta chip at it. If something happens that helps you grow fast, take it. If not, you have to keep making what you love and keep strategizing and taking the thing seriously. Winded answer, but I mean it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many! Although people in the industry have bet on me and have pushed me and invested in me along the way, the people who have done it for me from ground zero (and it’s not always the case) are my parents. They have supported me when I was afraid of the industry’s climb and when I didn’t even think music was a viable form of a career. Hands down, my parents are the number one. It might not be an extravagant answer, but it’s facts. The list of people I am grateful for is extensive, and they all deserve to be named here. However, that would be cheating!

I will make an honorable mention to Gianna Vona. She’s not in the industry, but she has been the closest person to my music and my vision for the last three years, and her impact on my music and my mental health is without a doubt palpable. Thank you.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

The motto and heart of this project are to encourage anyone that has ever felt like the underdog. That means standing up to injustice, even when it looks like it’s too big to tackle. BLM has been a big one this past year, and together with my good friendS Curtis Kelley and Devin Runco, we wrote a song advocating for justice because it was all-consuming. It IS all-consuming. Black Lives Matter shouldn’t have to be a movement, but it is, and we are excited to participate with sharing our artistry and our presence.

Showing up to protests and learning our place in the midst of it as a white Mexican immigrant, white native American, and white American. I am also a full-fledged advocate for mental health and how shame plays such a massive role in our society worldwide. It’s what my music is about, it’s what my conversations with fans and people nearby get to deal with, and it’s what I look for from my immediate group of friends. I’m still exploring how to truly get involved with an organization, and it’s something I look forward to as I continue to put out more music and affect more and more of my surroundings. I’ve always had it in my heart to get involved with homelessness, so I’m currently gearing up for an online fundraiser/festival called United Friends of the Children. The festival looks to raise awareness in the foster care system community and how it is currently failing the youth transitioning out of it. 36% become homeless 18 months after leaving.

With B!L!NGVAL, the focus is on the mass manipulation that former president trump instilled on people and the frustration I’ve experienced confronting a brainwashed population. I don’t mean to insult you if you are reading this and you stand with Trump. However, as a professional communicator, I witnessed firsthand the language and techniques specifically used to manipulate people and the narrative his campaign tried to push. It’s the same language I heard used by the people who believed in him. As a resident alien in this country, my approach was purely observational and bore no interest in changing someone’s mind but instead to try and understand it. Even still, that was frustrating and confusing. So this song came from those frustrating interactions, and I hope it encourages people to seek that discomfort for the sake of our society. It’s also incredibly catchy and fun, so regardless, it’s something you can enjoy.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

Well, I think the trick is to find a way to make your dream sustainable. A lot of us think we want the rockstar life (and by no means am I living that) but don’t realize how lonely that road can be or how scary it is. I think for me, it was a “grass is always greener” scenario where when you realize the loop, you can decide to tend to your own damn grass. So I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t think the dream and responsibility are mutually exclusive. If you want to write and create or paint or build a farm or grow things or become a chef, I think there’s a way to live a wholehearted life where you get to pursue those things and also tend to your family or build up your wealth. There’s no reason you should stop. However, if that’s what you want to do for money, it’s an arduous and trying road.

For me, it was an all-in kind of thing. I didn’t just want to make music for me or those close to me. I wanted to write to strangers that feel stuck like I have. I felt the urge was enough to tighten the belt and sacrifice a steady, comfortable life. Pick your battles I guess.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I get a lot of DMs from people who feel affected by my music. It’s large in part what keeps me going and where I find success. The other day I got a DM from a fan that felt encouraged to come out to his parents. I was so deeply moved by somehow being involved in such an intimate moment of a stranger’s life. That one marked me. I got to connect with a fan who has had to deal with paralyzing amounts of anxiety, and we have talks about it now, but at first, it was just an effect from my music that got her through a tough time. I’ve gotten to listen to and support people going through depression and rejection and insecurities. I have gotten messages from fans about how the music I make has talked them off a ledge and into safety. I in no way pretend to be able to navigate the complexities of psychology, nor am I qualified to actually help them through that journey other than sharing my experiences with them, but it gets a conversation going that I think positively impacts them. It’s really special, and I’m eternally grateful for that. I get to live these intimate moments with people who have been affected by my intimate moments in music, and if they feel up to sharing, we get to talk about it and form some sort of bond. It’s awesome.

Are there three things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?

I think the immediate call to action for individuals is a call to be bold and patient in talking to people about these tough conversations. Listen to B!L!NGVAL if you need a little pump-up music before diving in! I wish to encourage you not to stop having them. I encourage you to learn about communication methods so you can go in untethered to an opinion and instead be encouraged by curiosity. I highly recommend reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown if you seek to learn more about vulnerability and hopefully empathy.

I think the individuals would greatly impact society. But just in case, I think society could be more okay with being offended. The fact that I can partake in ruining a restaurant through Yelp because I didn’t like the way a waiter looked at me is heartbreaking. We feel so empowered in our opinions and forget that they affect people, and it’s not fair to take out our shortcomings on others. Be less entitled, Society!

As far as the government goes, I’m curious to see how our new president does in unifying the nation and all the steps they’re going to take. I believe Trump being out of office is a HUGE step in the right direction that will allow for fewer conflicting (I hope) confrontations between family members and neighbors. But an active thing the government could do is to put more money into mental health. It would be incredible to have access to a shrink without emptying your wallet, and honestly, some of the toughest cases of mental health issues come from the anxieties of financial strain. So the lower-income population, among many others, could really use the government’s support in that.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  • People just want to connect with honesty, not with flashiness.

It’s easy to see people blow up overnight nowadays because of Tik Tok and to think that maybe writing what you think people want to hear is the quickest way to get noticed. Doesn’t work like that.

  • Being yourself and finding your voice is the best way to make art that people will want to hear.

Finding your sound is a weird one. The first step I think everyone takes is to imitate other things you like, and I think that process is incredible. However, there comes the point where the instinct starts telling you to mix things or to explore new horizons. I think those instincts and desires are what lead people to make new sounds and to stand out. Respect the process.

  • No one really knows how the industry works.

Man, this one is scary. I think no one at any level truly knows how to make an artist big. ESPECIALLY nowadays. It’s about trying new things and exploring your art. I think I’m still working on this one, but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with just throwing things at the dartboard and seeing what sticks.

  • It’s a really lonely road.

Pursuing something like music is a lonely journey. You can have a lot of friends and all that along the way, and a ton of people that mark and improve your chances. However, it’s a lonely journey where the person that has to believe in what you do the most is you. It’s a heavy weight to carry, and I think it’s worth it, but it will crush a lot of people out there, and news flash, making it WON’T CHANGE THAT.

  • Learn the business

Sounds obvious, but I think all artists want a magical man that will calculate and contact everyone to make things work. That a team of super lawyers will keep you from making mistakes and that the music is all that matters. Learning about the music industry’s ins and outs is essential, and it’s a lesson most of us learn through failure and trial/error.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think I’d love to do a movement where every day you have to do an act of kindness, however small. To start working that muscle in the brain to look for opportunities to intervene. It can be cleaning all your roomies’ dishes, paying an expired meter for someone who forgot, or buying lunch for a homeless person. Or something bigger like helping a family member or lover pay off their credit card debt and creating a culture of not only paying it forward, because I think that sets a limit but of just thinking of others consistently. I’m not sure that can be a movement or anything like that, but I think that would vastly increase people’s happiness, and if it spreads wide enough, you can create a new sense and meaning to community.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

My dad always told my brothers and me, “Life is good always,” which has always stuck out to us. It’s a lesson about gratitude and perspective. As we grew older, both of my brothers became writers and directors involved in Mexico’s film industry. My younger brother is a man full of wisdom that, in his musings, added to the quote, “life is good always, even when it’s not.” I love that quote. I believe in that quote. It’s a decision to see the good in your life. To acknowledge the bad and to keep going in gratitude.

Being a musician is not easy. Most months, I struggle to find a way to pay rent and balance all my checks and still maintain creativity. That’s the truth. However, if I can keep that mantra in the forefront of my mind, I can enjoy the path and confront these things from a place of gratitude for the opportunity I DO get to pursue. It makes life worth it because you are present every step of the way.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Wow, no pressure, huh? I know you asked for one, but on the off chance we can send a shotgun blast, I will name the top 3 people I admire that advocate for significant movements in the social, ecological, and economic fields in hopes I could meet just one of them. I could use some guidance, ha!

  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Brene Brown (DUH)
  • Daniel Ek

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

Thank you guys so much for what you do and for giving our stories a platform. It has a massive impact on our lives.

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.


Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How MAUMAUMAU Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.