Maia Sharp returns with Mercy Rising, her boldest, most confessional offering to date. After living in the Los Angeles metro area for most of her life, Maia moved to Nashville at the beginning of 2019, partly to be in an unapologetically songwriter centric town and partly as a personal life reboot. She reflects, “In the last 2 years, just about everything that could have changed has changed and it feels now like those long walks outside of all of my comfort zones were heading toward this album.”
Maia has always managed to play both sides of the songwriting field, writing for notable artists including Bonnie Raitt, The Chicks, Lisa Loeb, Trisha Yearwood, Art Garfunkel, Cher, Edwin McCain, Terri Clark and many more while still recording her own albums. Through the years, “I Need this To Be Love” (Hardly Glamour 1997), “Willing to Burn” (Maia Sharp 2002), “Red Dress” (Fine Upstanding Citizen 2005), “Death By Perfection” (Echo 2010), “Me After You” (Change the Ending 2012) and “Nothing But the Radio” (The Dash Between the Dates 2015) have all enjoyed Triple A (AAA) radio success. Her last two releases were with her duo Roscoe & Etta (with writing/production partner Anna Schulze) yielding another Triple A favorite, “Broken Headlights.”
Soon after arriving and settling in to her new Nashville digs, Maia started recording Mercy Rising at Resistor Studio, owned and operated by her friend Joshua Grange, an accomplished all-around musician and engineer currently playing with Sheryl Crow and Lucinda Williams. They tracked drums (Ross McReynolds), bass (Will Honaker) and electric guitars (Josh) there to get that real-humans-playing-music together energy and make the most of a sonically beautiful room full of great players. Maia then brought those tracks back to her home studio where she performed and engineered acoustic guitars, piano, Wurlitzer and vocals making sure to get friends and co-writers Mindy Smith, Peter Groenwald, PJ Pacifico, Anna Schulze, Thomas Finchum, Cyd Greenwood and Gabe Dixon in to sing and/or play on the album as well.
Combining recent influences such as Phoebe Bridgers and Jason Isbell with lifers Bonnie Raitt and Paul Simon, Mercy Rising’s first digital single release, “Whatever We Are” brings irreverence and a new production sense to a classic writing style that you could imagine George and Tammy covering. “When the World Doesn’t End” addresses the big “then what?” when pessimism doesn’t pay off while “You’ll Know Who Knows You” explores the wordless ways you can let someone know all the subtle things you’ve noticed about them. “Nice Girl” sets up the chorus with its deceptive title only to bring it home with a mean twist of a punchline (taken word for word from Maia’s life) and “Backburner,” the album’s first radio single, is a lesson in the futility of suppression set to a deep pocket groove reminiscent of Squeeze. Since the beginning of her career, Maia has put songwriting first and that care of the craft has become the thread that makes these seemingly variant genres all fit together easily.
Her love and dedication to writing has led to other unexpected opportunities as well. In 2017 Maia’s friend, Darden Smith called to invite her to be part of Songwriting With Soldiers, an organization he co-founded with Mary Judd, that pairs professional songwriters with active duty service members, veterans and/or their family members to help tell their stories. Maia notes, “I had no idea how powerful this would be. I knew music has a way of coaxing out a painful story and making it feel safer to do that. Some things are just easier sung than said. But I underestimated how the perspective shift and the requirement to be totally raw and wide open would change me. I really tried to bring all of that to Mercy Rising.”