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Up-And-Coming Aotearoa Artists: Rita Mae

In this Rolling Stone AU/NZ series, we get to know Rita Mae, a rising Aotearoa artist looking to impress in 2023 and beyond

Rita Mae

Zara Staples

Earlier this year, Rolling Stone AU/NZ named Rita Mae as one of the eight Kiwi artists to keep any eye on, praising her music skills and saying she has a bright future.

Now, she’s released a special version of her impressive debut EP, Superfeeling, with two new songs, “The Nightmare” and a changed-up “Candy’s House” called “Candy’s House (Comedown Song)”. 

With soft vocals and thoughtful instrumentals, the EP effortlessly moves between indie melancholy and brooding alternative pop, showing the Muriwai singer-songwriter’s feelings in each song.

Mae thinks about her songwriting journey, knowing that some songs might inevitably fade away, while others like “The Nightmare” and “Candy’s House (Comedown Song)” always need attention.

As an independent artist, Mae likes having the freedom to release songs that mean something to her. “I may not always have the luxury of releasing songs that are begging me to be released, but currently, as an independent artist, I do. I am choosing to take advantage of it,” she says. 

Right now, Mae is in Los Angeles, putting her creativity into making and recording songs. With a slew of new songs ready to be shared, she describes her upcoming musical direction as clear, bright, colourful, and incredibly exciting.

Anxiously awaiting their release, she says, “I can’t WAIT to share them with the world. Right now, I’m more focused on writing and recording, gradually forming a plan for what comes next.

To celebrate the release of Rita Mae’s Superfeeling Deluxe EP, Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with the rising artist to find out more about her life and music. 

How did music influence you in your early life?

It’s hard not to sound cliche, but music completely shaped my childhood. I feel like all

my memories growing up are completely intertwined with the music that was being played around the house or that my sisters or friends showed me. I was just obsessed with it, so desperate to sing whenever I could, making up copycat songs of my own all the time. I think it’s just always been one of the main ways I’ve communicated. My dad was also a songwriter, so I feel like he made going off to write songs for hours seem like a very normal activity to me.

What artists influenced you growing up?

My parents definitely influenced my taste growing up because they were just playing music around the house all the time. Lots of Lucinda Williams, Leonard Cohen, Velvet Underground, Radiohead, Johnny Cash. hen my big sister showed me Avril Lavigne and I entered my first insane artist obsession phase. I LOVED her, tried to copy everything she did. Then she was replaced by Taylor Swift – that one hasn’t faded with time though.

Molly Payton has spoken highly of you with us several times this year. How does it feel when an artist like that thinks you have a huge future ahead of you?

It means so much to have anyone love your music, but the fact that Molly likes my stuff just means the world. I’ve been a huge fan since I first came across her stuff a few years ago and totally look up to her as a songwriter and artist. It’s like having a crush reciprocated! So epic.

Tell us about your debut EP. What themes did you try to explore in it?

Superfeeling is about the complete rollercoaster I’ve found my early 20s to be. I’ve honestly felt completely out of control. It’s like I’m at the mercy of my every emotion and every impulse, I’ve just found myself pulled in so many directions. I feel like this EP encapsulates that, these extreme highs and extreme lows… maybe that’s just life. This EP feels like the product of me processing all those emotions.

How have fans reacted to Superfeeling?

Everyone has been amazing! So many kind words and so many fun shows where everyone sings along. The songs seem to connect with people, which is the best thing you can ask for.

What are some other career highlights so far?

I’ve really enjoyed all the shows I played in the lead up to the EP coming out. A huge highlight was opening for BROODS for some shows of their NZ tour. It felt so magical to share the stage with a band I’ve idolised, and for their fans to be introduced to my music that way. That was a great experience.

What kind of personality traits and values do you believe it takes to succeed in the music industry?

I think you need to be a strange combination of extremely in touch with your emotions and vulnerable at the same time as being quite tough. Personally, I think the best art is often slightly soul-baring, or just honest. But it’s a very unpredictable industry and you may very well pour your heart out and have people tell you it’s shit. You need to be able to deal with that and trust the path you’re on is the right one regardless of what people around you are saying. Maybe you just need to be slightly delusional.

How would you describe your music to a potential fan?

Very emotional slightly folky alternative pop!

What are your goals for 2023 and beyond?

Make as much music as possible and tour the world baby!