At eighteen years old, Denver pop singer-songwriter Edwina Maben entered a national songwriting program sponsored by Guitar Center. Grammy-winning producer RedOne judged the participants, and Maben ranked in the top five out of 9,000 entries.
“It was the first time I had this shift in my perspective where I suddenly saw what came from a little extra effort and time and a little bit more belief in myself,” says Maben, who will be opening for DeVotchKa on Saturday, May 22, at Levitt Pavilion. “To see that result at first just sparked my motivation to be like, ‘I need to try this.’”
Maben, whose songs are inspired by Joni Mitchell and John Mayer as well as plenty of local artists, says music is one of the best tools she has to reflect on whatever she is going through in her life. But after COVID-19 shutdowns, she has also found inspiration from movies and TV shows.
“I think when the pandemic hit, you're not living out as many experiences, so getting to use movies and TV shows to kind of fuel my writing became really beneficial.”
For years, she has been involved with Youth on Record, a local nonprofit that works to empower youth through music, and is currently interning with the group's FEMpowered program.
“I was a recording-arts major in college, and in a lot of those classes, there's still only a couple girls and the majority are guys, so to find this program in the midst of me pursuing my major was just sort of this fuel and reminder: ‘No, you should definitely stick this out, even if it's weird or uncomfortable sometimes.’”
The fellow women in the group and local artists that she’s met through FEMpowered have inspired her, and she’s grateful for it. Those connections have also proved fruitful, and are in part why she will be playing at Levitt.
“This would be the biggest show I've ever played in Denver, which is pretty wild,” she says. “I was asked by Shawn King to open for DeVotchKa. I met Shawn through Youth on Record, so that's just another shout-out to Youth on Record.”
Maben will be playing all original songs with Ashley Nova on bass and Haleigh Bird on drums, and she couldn’t be more excited.
“To have graduation be [on May 18] and then have the biggest show I've ever played on Saturday has been a lot of feelings,” she says. “But I feel ready, and I'm very, very grateful.”
Raising awareness about social issues is a critical part of Maben's music. In addition to interning at Youth on Record, she works with Music Minds Matter, an organization creating space for conversations about mental health within the Denver music scene.
“Musicians and artists have this really cool ability to spread a message without directly saying it to someone,” Maben says. “I think sometimes when we are confronted with things that are conflicting, it can feel like an attack, but musicians and artists, we are able to convey these ideas in a manner that’s almost like you don't even know what is being presented to you initially. I think that's really powerful in the midst of trying to share ideas or convince someone of a new perspective.”
Maben wants people to feel seen and heard; she wants to acknowledge that no matter how isolating a situation feels, it is likely that “someone on the planet feels something very similar.”
Her drive, in part, stems from the lack of South Asian voices she’s seen in music. “When I was growing up, I really didn't see any Indian or Desi singers, and yet I loved music so much, and it was really confusing to see that.”
She encourages any up-and-coming artists who are scared about starting their music career to “write out your fears and really look at if the fears are actually something that is logical. A lot of times the fears that we have about beginning anything — in our head, they make a lot of sense, but as we say them out loud or have them on paper, they don't hold up as much. Write them out, and try to reassign that power somewhere else.”
“While I am very excited for live music again, I want to make sure I don't forget about how serious and heartbreaking this whole pandemic has been," notes Maben. "I am fully vaccinated, but as I start to attend concerts again, I plan to still practice social distancing when possible and wear a mask when I feel the need to. Live music can be incredibly healing, and as an artist, I am ecstatic to safely be in the midst of it again.”
After opening for DeVotchKa, Edwina plans to release singles toward the end of the summer and into the fall.
“Catching up with friends and family who have been so supportive of me in the last four years and following my curiosities is the number-one priority right now,” she says.
Maben opens for DeVotchKa, on Saturday, May 22, at Levitt Pavilion, 1380 West Florida Avenue. For tickets and more information, visit Levitt online. For more about Maben, follow her on Twitter and online.
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