Welcome to Kick Acts. Tell us a little about yourself and were you can be found online.
Hellllo Kick Acts and thank you so much for having me! My name is Deja Mae, well my name is Deja Mae Howell, but I go by Deja Mae for music. My family and close friends have called me Deja Mae since I was tiny, and no matter what I told them I promoted my band name to be when I was starting out, they would all say “I’m here to see Deja Mae” to the door person. So I stopped being clever and made my regular ol’ name my band name.
Here are a few hundred places you can find me:
*Reason for the handle “wheresdeja” is because it’s what my family and close friends are ALWAYS SAYING “where’s deja?”. I disappear a lot, and run late a lot. I’ll hear my mom say it when I am just up in a different part of their house. I am merely a few walls and arches away, but still I am somehow deemed lost or missing.
Who are your musical heroes and influences? Why?
Hank Williams Sr., Patsy Cline, Nirvana, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Elliott Smith, Conor Oberst, Son House, Mississipi John Hurt, Nancy Sinatra, Modest Mouse, Kendrick Lamar, Tupac, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Etta James, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Ray Lamontagne, Mazzy Star, The Misfits… ahhh I could go on with this list for eternity, it seems. They all speak to the places inside of me no one else sees. It’s hard to explain, something in each one of these musicians/bands brings alive and soothes the pieces of me I thought broken, or even the pieces I celebrate. They are all extremely talented to say the least.
Do you have any advice for someone just getting started in the music business?
My advice would be to take it seriously like you would any business, because that is exactly what it is, a business. The work is never finished, I am never not working. It’s important I stay focused and give myself deadlines otherwise things that are important get pushed aside for whatever comes with a deadline. Boundaries and setting deadlines are not my strong point, so I have to keep a close eye on what I am forgetting about or putting off and at a certain point I have no choice but to will myself to do it then and there. I would also say to be strong in who you are, what you stand for and what or why you want to do music. Nobody can say what’s right or wrong in any of these departments but I truly believe it’s so important to know where you personally are coming from, so when a hard time comes you can remind yourself and keep yourself focused on the purposeful cause, not the set back or hard time. This has been the most important thing for me, and I answered those questions very early on. Being as emotional and sensitive as I am, I knew I needed to have a very, very strong and purposeful reason for being endlessly vulnerable on stages, and within my music E V E R Y D A Y! I always say it’s mandatory for my music to always be more important than the set backs or any less than stellar moments. The reason is what I’m working towards, not those rocks and weird wild animals I may have passed once or twice along the way.
What piece of advice did you ignore that you wish you hadn’t?
I wish I wouldn’t have been as shy as I was and sometimes still am. I wish I would have treated every situation like a learning experience, rather than focus so hard on my fears of being rejected. Truth is no matter what and no matter how hard you try sometimes you will be rejected, people are strange and sometimes you will feel strange and not deliver how you expected. Being rejected once or twice but continuing on and having all kinds of successes and breakthroughs (no matter how big or small), feels one trillion times better than hiding under the covers too afraid to dream. Also with my shyness I refused to work with other people from time to time. I wish I wouldn’t have isolated myself, but am glad because as of recently I have begun to work with more and more people and it has made me learn so much quicker than I had in the past, working solo or very selectively with others. I still am selective with who I work with, but I am not as afraid.
Do you have a greatest gig story or worst gig horror story you’d like to share?
Well ok, lets do it.
One particular show stands out as a pretty good/bad share. I have a hard time with stage fright, anxiety, and self-doubt, and part of what I do is to directly fight against and hopefully somehow conquer my biggest fears. SO that being said, I also play all by myself up in front of very close friends, family, and strangers, you know what most musicians do! This is leading somewhere, I promise. I play the guitar, and sometimes play the piano. Now let me tell you about the strangest force of shakes a ball of stage-fright-anxiety-self-doubt creates, my hand shakes and even literally knee shakes are catastrophic. At home that F chord or Bm is literally nothing not even a passing thought or concern. I even play blues with my finger picking champion teacher (NEVER AT MY SHOWS THOUGH), but on stage an F chord becomes the defeat of my existence!!!
So with you all semi caught up on the premise, let me begin this particular shows interesting series of events. I play at a smallish, intimate venue that comes with a running stream of water sound radiating from the back-bar. While playing, my brain magically pretends I am in a Japanese Garden, other days it sounds like a homeless man peeing in every corner of the room. In my brain, this was the homeless person scene set up. I started to play and people hadn’t quite settled yet, in particular a group of unknowns sitting directly beside the stage. They were on one- catching each other up about all their super awesome shop purchases, and male crushes they have. I tried so hard to keep my composure and to not A) Pass out or B) Start hysterically crying. I fumbled through a song, and all my insecure thoughts flooded in. I told my self it was my fault for their poor manners, and if I was “better” they would like me and listen. Sucks to feel that way, to feel like I am some how defected or not enough because of one set of girls, who most likely just got off work, were there to see the guys they had crushes on play, and were dying to catch up. To them I didn’t even really exist but still I can’t help but think if I was better I would have. My least favorite trait, the constant need for acceptance from others, tending more towards desiring it from those who do not have any interest in caring or accepting what I am doing, my inner battles. So I completely lost my focus, I felt defeated and lost. I had a panic attack and I literally was traveling out of my body. I cried a little during my next song, because of my over flowing frustrations with myself for losing it. All of this was happening privately, show goers thought I was just getting warmed up and perhaps was in a subtle shyer mood that evening, they had no idea how truly upset and crumbly I felt. I finally spoke up, I looked directly at the girls beside the stage and told them how I felt, hoping maybe to evoke compassion or understanding by reminding the show goers I was simply a girl singing and playing the guitar all alone on stage trying my hardest to not get lost and trapped within the small talk conversations flooding the stage. It didn’t pan out as I hoped, as these things often do not. I finished a few more songs and right before I was about to play a deeply personally effecting and favorite song, Hank Sr.’s “Lonesome I Could Cry”, the chatter was so far into my head I abruptly pulled out the guitar cable causing a very loud screech of feedback, someone yelled “does this mean one more?” and I said “No, this means I am done”. I was wearing my docs that evening and unintentionally, in those moments, I became this rebel musician as far as the crowd was concerned. It was and still is a favorite and definitely my most discussed show.
Do you have any other hobbies other than playing music? Collect stamps? Collect hats from off the side of the road? Draw pictures of peckers or boobs? Make sock puppets? Sit in the dark and eat Cheetos?
I absolutely have other hobbies! One of my favorites is playing my Xbox. I don’t know if saying “sadly” is appropriate or not, but sadly I haven’t had enough time to play lately. I have been too busy to even consider it. My dream day or evening, if I am not playing music, would be playing GTAV or COD Black Ops all night long while my latest favorite record plays. Xbox Live is awesome and I enjoy it immensely, but I can’t play it as often as I’d like. I get creeped-out, from time to time a person will try to pick me up because of my speaking voice, which is weird on so many levels. I mostly opt to either play friends or stay offline completely. I am an extremely anxious and awkward person at times; I just don’t have time for that.
What do you think about the current music scene or lack of? Care to address that?
I am very fortunate because I live in Los Angeles and near by many different venues with all different types of music. I get to see new bands and established bands. To me the music scene is beautiful, seeing all the eclectic energies coming together and working hard. I just hope the hard work pays off for us smaller bands. But with publishing and the movie business being in Los Angeles too, there are a few different opportunities. It is definitely tough as nails at times, at least for me. But all I can do is be grateful for the opportunities I receive and keep on, keeping on until I have nothing left to give.
Do you think reality shows like American Idol, X Factor and The Voice have helped or hurt the music industry as a whole?
I am not too sure. I think it allows people who may have otherwise never been seen or heard to have an opportunity. I do think of it as different than a regular musicians journey. To me they are reality TV stars that can sing. I haven’t seen X Factor or The Voice so I can’t speak absolutely on those shows, but I assume they are similar to American Idol. I don’t know if it helps or hurts the music industry. I think things change and the masses enjoy watching people from all around the world sing and accomplish their dreams because it gives them the hope that they too can reach high and grab their dreams. I think if anything has directly affected the music industry it would be technology.
What is your opinion of unauthorized music downloads?
I am not a fan of unauthorized downloads, but am a big fan of authorized ones! I think most musicians try to give away as much as they can to the fans! I also think that if a person enjoys a musicians music they have to understand that if they keep getting their music for free, the bands they love aren’t going to be able to make a successful living and will ultimately have to stop making music. So it’s hurting the fans, and the very people who are stealing the music. It’s a shame because of course I want everything I do to be free and enjoyed more than anything. If the world worked based off of trade, that system would work. Make me a quilt, I’ll sing you ten songs. But unfortunately the world works because of getting paid for services rendered, that kind of sounds a bit different than I had it intended it to… You do work, you get paid.
Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t expect to hear.
I used to have a pet Buffalo. Well two actually. My Dad decided after working with Buffalo on a film that he wanted to have one of his very own. I guess it had been a dream of his since he was a little boy. My father is third generation Cowboy, and was even one of the cowboys in the movie with John Wayne called “The Cowboys”, he played Weedy. My parents own a ranch, which includes horses as well. One afternoon my Dads dream came to be a reality when a friend of his told him about a person who was looking to sell their Buffalo. My Dad went and picked him up and just like that Mammoth came into our life. He was truly an amazing, strong, and kind-hearted creature. From that moment on, I was known as “the buffalo girl” throughout Middle School and High School. :/ It was definitely one of my more awkward times.
Hypothetical situation. You’re on Gilligan’s Island and you get to hook up with only one of the survivors… Which one and why?
Brb let me Google the cast for Gilligan’s Island…. I’m going to say “The Professor” only because he sounds intelligent, and I dig intelligence most of all. Intelligence and humor are my top two must haves in a person that I’m spending longer than 3 minutes with.
Do you know what a vinyl album is and have your ever purchased one? If so, what was it?
I definitely know what a vinyl album is and have purchased many. The one that i love the most was purchased for me from my cousin Linda. It is by Joan Baez, her self named album “Joan Baez”. It is beautiful start to finish, “Silver Dagger” being my favorite and most likely to be repeated, track.
You’re marooned on an island with Justin Bieber. Do you choke him out the first night in his sleep or what?
haha. I have no idea what I’d do. I literally do not have any feelings towards him; I don’t follow his music or follow the media. I’d probably try to talk his ear off about the universe and all the constellations we can see on the island. He’d probably choke me out. The closest I’ve ever gotten to him or his music was in DTLA when my car was parked in the lot he was filming his music video in. There were so many beautiful cars there!!! It’s all I remember.
What is your opinion of Miley Cyrus?
If I had an opinion it’d be giving her attention, and it seems like she’s getting plenty of attention so my opinion is null.
Which would you rather hear in concert? Lip-synching or real vocals?
REAL VOCALS ALWAYS!!!! If I wanted to hear my computer sing, I’d keep hassling Siri to sing me that song I have been requesting. Fake is boring. The point of singing is to relate and bring everyone’s soul into one giant mix bowl. Why do it if it is contrived? Singing feels too good, emotions pouring thru, emotions sneaking in. it’s the most beautiful.
Who, or what, is the next big thing?
I am not very good at questions like this, but i definitely think the use of the symbols representing the Elements (triangles, and lines for water, earth, fire and air) will start to be seen on clothing and all other means of expressions soon. I think as far as a collective consciousness all of us humans are gravitating towards things that make us feel connected to the world we live in and more so the feeling of oneness.. At least the people I am surrounded by feel this way, so maybe i have a jaded perception, but the reality of it all makes me feel very happy to be alive during these times. As far as Artists I really dig Kat Dahlia lately, and to be honest since I first heard her. I am not sure if The Front Bottoms are well known or not yet, but they too are outstanding and i definitely can see them gaining more attention.
One artist you can’t get enough of and can’t live without is… Why?
Fiona Apple. She is and has always been everything to me. As far as all the artists i have loved and enjoyed she is the only one who I feel absolutely speaks my hearts language. I love many artists immensely, and learn new parts of myself with each one, but with her i feel like i don’t have to force myself to feel different or be better, she gets me as i am.
Confession time. Share a secret about yourself.
I am terrified of crocodiles and alligators. It has been said that I have an irrational fear of them because I fear them in places they do not exist, but I heard they can move very quickly and swiftly on land and can swim far quicker than us humans!!!! It causes me much anxiety.
Favorite movie of all time and why?
I can’t name just one!!!! Here are a few:
Wes Anderson Movies
The Royal Tenenbaums
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Darjeeling Limited
Why? Because of the dialogue, character relationships, beautiful cinematography and use of colors.
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest- Milos Forman This is one of those movies that deeply effected me at a young age and every time I watch it continues to teach me something new about myself and my willingness to keep fighting against adversity.
2001: A Space Odyssey -Stanley Kubrick. I am big time into space, space exploration and the idea of machines taking over. Also films that explore our reason for existence really interest me.
Pierrot Le Fou -Jean Luc Goddard. Jean Luc is an amazing storyteller, using unexpected themes and concepts. While being a bit eccentric, the worlds of his characters still somehow have a level of reality.
Our last question is called “Shout It Out Loud”. It’s where you get to talk about whatever you want to talk about. So go ahead and “SHOUT IT OUT LOUD”!
I wanna shout it out loud about my amazing family and friends who have supported me from the beginning. I love them all with my entire heart and I couldn’t have gotten as far as I have, with out their endless love. I am forever grateful for them and also my beautiful and remarkable team who stand behind me even when I am in a not so happy and good mood. Each person in my life teaches me ways to be the best version of myself. I hope to give them all the joy I can create and for always.