Currently receiving great feedback at #TEAMw21 Towers from her inclusion on our "New Country" Spotify playlist is Mae Estes with her latest single "Recycled". With only four singles to her name it seems an ideal time to see why the Hope Arizona native now based out of Nashville has caused such a stir.
"Recycled" could not be more on message if it tried and the song works on a number of different levels and in this consumerist world that we live in it stands out like a beacon. Also in this world where many artists want to add more and more instruments and soulless electronica to tracks, this one uses remarkably little and simply lets the song do the talking. The theme of recycling even finds its way onto the cover, that serene lady staring out at you is Mae’s Great Grandmother from an old family photograph
The opening verse is almost like a recycling tips section - with an old coffee jar used as a money box and where a "Country Crock tub keeps last nights supper safe" and second hand Levi's praised for their fit. The songs scope though is much wider than that, as the chorus makes clear there are a number of things that can come around again and be reused like "a bit of good advice or the family Bible".
The song draws on family, we've already mentioned the cover and in the second verse Mae's sister wants her wedding dress to be the same one used by her mother. and "to get her hands on Grandma's recipes". This is not something new to Mae "Old's worth more than something new" is her family way of life. With a natural storytellers voice and a wonderfully stripped back performance Mae is surely about to start on a meteoric journey.
Mae has made something of a skill of songs that work on many levels, another such one is her earlier debut single "Naked" which apart from setting web browsers alight on many a country fans laptop, introduced us to those very talents. A more uptempo sound than "Recycled" although even with a drumbeat, it is still remarkably light on instruments. "Naked" is about much more than just being in a state of undress - this is about being emotionally naked, completely revealing who you are to someone, as Mae points out not just showing "the best stuff", but sharing lifes "bruises and scars" that go to make someone. The lyrics play with the theme of being naked so there are references to "strip me down to the bare bones". and "being exposed". This was a quality announcement to the world of an emerging talent.
Keeping that early run of early singles going is "Too Much" which sets the scene with a warning about the perils of whiskey - "you're gonna love that buzz for a minute but in the morning you're gonna wish you'd known when to say when", however that is all a clever lead in for the chorus which reveals the song is really relationship based "I used to love you now I got nothing but a bad taste" and that "I hate you cos I loved you a little too much".
It's another glorious piece of country pop music that is just that little bit smarter and better than a lot we get to listen to.The good news is that there is much more to come with songs like "Secrets" and "Third Wheeling" in her back pocket that may or may not eventually find their way out in recorded versions.
If by now you are craving for more Mae and feel it is a bit out of season for "Hard Candy Christmas" (although that is a little Xmas present in its own right ) then there is a fix to be found in the shape of Nate Botsford's "Common Ground", a lovely duet with a performer who seems to share a lot of Mae's ethos in terms of uncluttered production. with great strings and exquisite vocal performances from both.
It's a superior filed relationship song with lyrics so strong it hardly needs an expensive video it is all there for the listener to create from Nate in the kitchen finding that the "coffee didn't make itself" or Mae driving along with windows down on a sunny day Raybans on" The broken down relationship is painted as clear as any picture within the storytelling.
It's got a glorious chorus "How are you so close and still so far away" which ends with hints of reconciliation in the "Common Ground" of the title. It all makes for an excellent companion piece to Mae's solo career it would certainly be great to see Mae in the UK once normality returns to the world.