Reduced By Maylee Todd

Students of early hip-hop may be aware of the small print on the back sleeve of LL Cool K’s 1985 album Radio: “Reduced by Rick Rubin”, in homage to his pioneering minimalist arrangement. It’s with Rick’s same approach to musical minimalism that this series emerges: stripping sound back to its most transcendental, restorative and atmospheric textures to block out the noise and aid focus, attunement and relaxation. 

Discussions have come a long way in recent years, but there still remains a taboo around not being okay. To accompany each audio presentation, we’ll speak to the creator about their experiences with self-care and, if they’re comfortable sharing, mental health. We’ll unpack personal processes, explore the nuances of self-care across cultures and raise awareness of charities with a personal connection. We hope this will grow into an evolving resource of knowledge and experience to provide solace, inspiration, reassurance and company in difficult times.

Themes of identity, mental health and personal growth feed into Maylee Todd’s latest album, Maloo, which she dubs as a collection of “science fiction lullabies”. Taking its name from Maylee’s alter ego, a digital avatar called MALOO which was created during the pandemic when she found herself drawn to the field of VR, the LP dives further into the Canadian multimedia artist and musician’s passion for theatrics and immersive artistry.

It’s her debut release for the inimitable Stones Throw but her work has taken her to many other places and spaces before. Previous musings have come via Do Right! Music, Kawasaki Records and Love Touch, while beyond her solo projects she’s part of several groups including Ark Analog and Henri Fabergé And The Adorables. In the physical realm, her live performances and shows are just as enveloping as her music, including a multimedia show where people would walk through a large vulva installation, lie down and watch performances projected onto the ceiling.

Her Reduced Mix is a tale of two halves. The first part is a ‘natural and exploratory’ improvised piece of her own – recorded with Projected Visions in the Chilao Forest – that she intends for listeners to take in whilst lying down, while the second is a Terry Riley song to help you ‘slowly rise and get on with your day’. This is paired with a candid and open interview about how self-care fits into her daily routine, how a lot of her art is derivative of mental health issues and her hopes for a more accepting and supportive music industry.

First a nice easy one: what does self-care mean to you?

Self-care to me means prioritizing my mind and body. 

For my mind, I use a few apps like Headspace (Meditations and psychology helps me understand what’s happening), and Bloom (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). I also have a therapist that does talk therapy and Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a fairly new, nontraditional type of psychotherapy. It’s growing in popularity, particularly for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

For my body I like to move; yoga, dance, swim or bike around. It helps me stay present. 

What does your daily or weekly self-care routine look like? 

Every day I do my apps in bed and write out three things I’m grateful for. Meditation really helps with breaking up the momentum of my mind’s chatter. I’d like to prioritize one day where I can spend more time in the forest, but I just haven’t prioritized it yet.

Can you tell us about the self-care spot at home you’ve photographed and how have made it an optimum spot?

The bathtub. My favorite spot! Being submerged in water smelling Eucalyptus and relaxing is one of my favorite spots in my place.

Can you tell us about the outdoor location you’ve photographed where you go to find tranquility.

This outdoor location/performance was taken at the Los Angeles Forest. It was beautiful there! So tranquil, peaceful and gorgeous 🙂 

What benefits has self-care brought you over the years? 

Self-care reminds me of my motivations, my purpose, there’s more clarity in having intention and being able to reflect in a healthy way. Reflection has really helped me grow as a human, and have compassion for others, and myself. 

Are there any specific techniques you favour or come back to more frequently? 

If life gets really challenging I do need to talk to my therapist and use breathing techniques that help with being present and calming my nervous system. 

Are there any self-care techniques that are native to your community or heritage and how are they viewed in the global context of the self-care movement?

My mom is Filipino and my father was an orphan. So their concepts of self-care were very different growing up. Culturally and generationally depression and mental health was looked at as lazy. They really didn’t have the tools or were given the privileges that I have. But I will say they always found a way to find peace of mind.

My mother dabbled in all sorts of meditation, she never preached or pushed anything on use, she just had these manuscripts around the house. I found them extremely fascinating; the colors, the concepts, and the writing was beautiful and progressive. My parents have their day jobs, but they always made room for their art and that brought them the love and self-care they needed in order to process their journey. 

What advice would you have for anyone who is either sceptical about the benefits of self-care, or is new to it and feels intimated by the wealth of options available. 

When it comes to change, when it comes to the unknown, even if it is good for us we hesitate. One must measure where their window of tolerance lies and then be brave to stick a toe in that unknown, and then hopefully a foot, etc… 

Maybe the best thing to do for someone who is skeptical and a science-based person should consider the data and someone who is more spiritual-based, could try a practice and see how they feel afterward. It could be worth also exploring the hesitation – what’s behind that?  

What was the idea behind your Reduced set?

The first half is me improvising and it feels natural and exploratory, the second half is a Terry Riley song that I love playing in the background while I putter around the house. Polyrhythms I find deeply meditative. 

This is a photo of a live performance I did with Projected Visions (Ryan Griffin). We both improvised in our practices; I improvised the music and he improvised the live projections. We played off each other’s energy and art in the Chilao Forrest. It was magical! 

How would you advise listening to your set?

In the first half I’d love for the listener to lay down for 30 mins, whether that’s having a bath or on the bed, and in the second half if they’d like to slowly rise and slowly get on with their day. 

What does good mental health mean to you?

Self-awareness. Not to be confused with being self-conscious. 

Are there any experiences with mental health that you’d like to share to provide comforts or connections with others who are/have suffered? Dark times you’ve left behind you, or difficult moments you still struggle to overcome?

I probably won’t disclose my history but I will say my family had a lot of mental health issues and still struggle to this day. This last year was challenging, one of my cousins took his own life, another family member admitted themself into a program to help them with suicidal thoughts, suicide is actually a prominent theme in my family. I think people generally are struggling and don’t speak on it which only perpetuates the shame cycle and isolation. 

What advice would you give to people who are suffering from poor mental health and either can’t understand why or don’t know where to turn? 

Get help. Seriously the more you educate yourself on how your brain works, why you’re thinking these things, the tools to interrupt the momentum of unhealthy thinking habits are only gonna put the odds in your favor. Everyone needs help sometimes. We are human. 

Based on experiences where others have helped you, what advice would you give to those who are close to someone who’s suffering but doesn’t know how best to support them. 

Be a space. Listen to them, and validate their experience. Create a space without shame. 

Now if they are damaging you. I have a saying “Damaged people shouldn’t continue to damage people” it’s important for your own safety and well-being. Sometimes people aren’t ready for change, so you may need to love them from a distance. 

How is mental health viewed in your own culture or immediate surroundings? Have you faced challenges getting support if/when you needed it from your community?

Absolutely I have support from so many friends and family members. I am truly blessed! I will continue to destigmatize the taboo of mental health. I continue to show vulnerability and my friends typically feel safe being vulnerable with me. 

Do you think being part of the music industries has had any implications for your mental health? If so, what have you done to cope with it?

It’s part and parcel, on one hand, the music industry is so unpredictable and can be extremely challenging at times, which creates so much instability. On the other hand, music makes me feel calm and can be a form of help and healing. In fact alot of my art is a derivitive from mental health issues. I had a multimedia show where people would walk through a large vulva installation, lay on the ground and watch the live performances projected onto the ceiling (kind of like a musical planetarium), but there was a portion of the show where I would ask people to fill out what they do for therapy, I called it “Collecting The Collective Consciousness.” 

Are there any changes you’d like to see to help look after collective and individual mental health in the music industries?

I’d love for there to be more resources for people in the arts; pay artists what they’re worth, and we all need therapy regardless of our industry.

Are there any initiatives or sources of knowledge doing important work in mental health that have benefited you, that others should check out?

Yes 🙂 Apps like Headspace, Bloom (CBT), I also really enjoy youtube channels from “The Healthy Gamer” and books I love are Psychocybernettics, The Art of Peace, and Tao 365, just to name a few. 

Can you tell us more about your selected charity, the work it does and why it holds a personal significance? 

I was able to get a subsidy for my therapy and I found a really amazing therapist through this site.

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