Our Campus: ‘I just knew what my piece of the pie was’ — Maia Wallace has always known she wanted to be a singer

Growing up, Maia Wallace was obsessed with America’s Next Top Model and wanted to be like the models on the show. That was until she discovered MTV.

Wallace and her mum used to sit and watch MTV together. Wallace was quickly taken by the women in the music videos, from Destiny’s Child to the Spice Girls. She just knew that one day, she wanted to be them. They could do so much more than models.

“I just knew what my piece of the pie was very young. So, deciding [on] community [and] music was always easy,” said Wallace.

No one in Wallace’s family was musically inclined, but she was determined to pursue music, so she taught herself how to sing. Although musical talent was not inherited, her family’s writing was, and that’s where she credits her ability as a lyricist.

Wallace had a unique childhood. With diplomat parents, she moved quite a bit, especially as a teenager. The UK native moved to Ghana with her family at seven, where she lived until she was fourteen. At 14, she moved to Bangladesh, and then Vietnam, where she finished high school. She moved to Vancouver in 2018 to attend UBC.

Moving around provided Wallace with a slew of interesting experiences to draw from in her writing.

“I’ve performed [in] weird places,” said Wallace. “I was singing for the Vietnamese government when I was in high school.”

Wallace’s experiences with other cultures and people don’t necessarily inspire her sound as much as the general characteristics of her music. Wallace said life inspires her music.

“There’s no inspirational story behind it. I find a lot of inspiration [in] a lot of mundane things,” said Wallace.

This is where Wallace feels her music ties in with her other work. Wallace, who graduated this November, works as an Equity and Inclusion educator for the AMS and UBC and as a consultant for other organizations. She views both her music and her work in equity as “people-centred.”

Wallace said she views music as more internal while her other work is external.

“So equity is output in the sense that equity is a passion that I derived from my life experiences in my childhood and the way I have to connect with people regardless of whether they’re my coworker or my classmate, or someone on the bus…” said Wallace. “I think music was something that was the one thing that came of me that I brought to the table.”

Right now Wallace’s days are spent like many other peoples’: sitting in her apartment on Zoom calls. She spends what free time she does have working on her music.

“I’m an independent artist, right? So I do everything myself,” said Wallace.

Working on two different careers and navigating post-graduate life keeps Wallace busy, but she likes it that way. She has always found ways to keep herself moving. When Wallace was a UBC student, not only was she spending time working on her music, but she was also an executive for multiple clubs, including serving as the Black Student Union president during the 2020-21 school year.

“Honestly, my constant state of mind is just like, ‘I’m so bored. let’s do something,’ … My friends hate me for it,” said Wallace.

Even though what little time Wallace does have now mostly goes to her music and all the behind-the-scenes work of being an independent artist, she is still always down for a good meal, even if it means travelling to Surrey or spending more than she perhaps should.

“I never regret spending my last $40 on a bomb-ass meal,” said Wallace.

Right now, she said she is focusing on her sound and “who Maia is” as an artist. She said she often wants to do lots of different kinds of music so right now she is trying to stay organized and create consistency.

Wallace was meant to open for Wizkid in January but the concert was postponed due to COVID-19. She will open for him at the PNE Forum but the new date has yet to be announced.

This article originally appeared in the February 1st print edition.