It’s a powerful moment when your life’s purpose presents itself so clearly that it’s impossible not to take the reins and go along for the ride. For Maura Streppa, that moment was the realization that she could follow in the footsteps of her singer/songwriter heroes in crafting new songs and melodies for the world to hear.
She offered the first taste of original music while still in high school, and now, three years and five more singles later, Streppa is on the precipice of releasing her first EP, Singer and the Song, named after her latest single of the same name, a song she calls the most honest she’s written to date.
With a new single and her EP release set for release in the coming weeks, we chatted with Streppa about falling in love with music, transitioning into country music, the personal touch she put on “Singer and the Song,” new music and more!
Pro Country: Your bio mentions that you were heavily influenced by singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan, John Prine and Kacey Musgraves. What was it about their story-centric approach to songwriting that spoke to you?
Maura Steppa: Their stories are always something I can relate to, be entertained by, or learn from. These writers and artists have an incredible ability to connect through their music, and my goal is to do the same with my listeners.
PC: Your bio also mentions that your mother’s piano helped you to express yourself and your emotions. How soon after taking to the piano did you realize that music was something you wanted to and could pursue?
MS: I used to watch my older brother make up songs when we had extended family over. It always made everyone laugh, and he seemed so happy playing the keys. I’ve always looked up to my brother in many ways and tried to do everything to be like him, and piano was just one of those things. I’ve always loved singing and performing, and once I realized I could make new songs and melodies, I took it and ran with it. I knew right away that music was what I was supposed to do with my life, and playing piano was just another confirmation.
PC: At just 18 years-old, you were asked to play to Carolina Country Music Fest among several country music stars. What was it like for you at such a young age to be on that stage and bill?
MS: It was an insane feeling. It was definitely unique to balance high school graduation and Carolina Country Music Fest, but I am so grateful for that experience, and I’m excited to be back this summer!
PC: You released your debut single, “Battle Cry,” in 2019. As someone who had developed such a deep love of music and songwriting, what emotions were you feelings as you prepared to release music for the first time?
MS: I was honestly overwhelmed by the entire process. It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I was in high school at the time and was more nervous about my classmates’ reaction than the industry’s reaction. It was a surreal experience, and I am really proud of how much I’ve grown since my first single.
PC: “Battle Cry” has gone on to earn well over 60,000 streams on Spotify. What was it like for you to tangibly see the level of support you received on your debut single?
MS: I couldn’t believe it. It was really fascinating to see the different countries, states, and cities that “Battle Cry” was streamed in. It was a nice form of validation, showing that people like listening to my songs.
PC: You released your first marketed country single, “Paper & Pen,” in 2020. Can you talk about what drew you to make the transition away from a pop sound and more towards a country/singer-songwriter one?
MS: “Paper & Pen” was one of the first songs I wrote on guitar. I hadn’t even thought to play guitar until I moved to Nashville and realized it was the main instrument here. I didn’t have one at the time, so I would borrow my roommate’s guitar (shoutout Allison) and teach myself chords and write about what I was feeling. I reached out to Skylar Wilson, a writer and producer I had met on my first trip to Nashville, to produce it. He really opened my eyes to the wonderful world of Nashville music and it allowed me to make my song “country.” Moving to Nashville was the best decision I ever made; not only because it’s the best city in the world, but because the people here have been essential in helping me find who I want to be as a writer, artist and musician.
PC: You filmed a music video for your last single, “Line Dance,” which was your first video since “Battle Cry.” How much fun was it to shoot the video for “Line Dance,” and what was it about the song that drew you to film a video for the song?
MS: I absolutely loved the making of the “Line Dance” music video. The “Battle Cry” video was directed and shot by my team at the time, whereas “Line Dance” was done solely by me. It was really cool to sit in the director’s seat and create the video I had replaying in my head ever since Ben Wagner and I wrote the song. I consider “Line Dance” not only my “comeback” song, but my debut in the Nashville music community. I hadn’t really integrated myself in the community when “Paper & Pen” came out, but I had played a ton of shows and met a ton of people before the release of “Line Dance.” I’m extremely grateful for my friends who woke up at 6am to be at the video shoot, for Tyler, the videographer, and for Will, the photographer. It was an incredible process.
PC: You just released your newest single, “Singer and the Song,” at the end of April. What drew you to follow “Line Dance” with “Singer and the Song” and have it serve as your first release of 2022?
MS: “Singer and The Song” completely changed my music career. It has been the most honest song I’ve written. “Line Dance” was the song I knew people wanted to hear, and “Singer and the Song” was the song I knew people needed to hear. I wanted to set the tone of 2022, and “Singer and The Song” will be followed by “Pretend” and my debut EP also titled Singer and the Song. These songs are the ones that I didn’t write or record for anyone except myself. They’re the songs that resonate most with me and who I want to be as a writer and artist.
PC: You wrote “Singer and the Song” with Ben Wagner. Can you take us in the room and talk about the inspiration behind the song?
MS: “Singer and the Song” was my first co-write with Ben. Every first write is a TAD awkward, it’s inevitable. However, Ben and I are both from the Midwest, so we were able to bond over Spotted Cow and elongating our “a’s.”
PC: The second verse of “Singer and the Song” delves into a girl who plays in Nashville every night but works several jobs to chase her songwriting/musical dreams. How true to your personal story is that verse?
MS: EVERY TIME after I sing that verse, I whisper, “that verse is about me.” It is 99.9% true; the original lyric was “she gets a tip or two but works four jobs on the side” because that was the truth, but my producer said “three” sounded better. The interesting thing about this business is the people who do it really (and I mean really) want to do it. Songwriters who want to be songwriters don’t have a plan B, and they’ll do anything they can to make this dream a reality. That’s all I’m doing.
PC: You studied at Belmont University in Nashville. What was it like making your move to Nashville from North Carolina, and what was the experience like of being surrounded with the collective talent of the staff and students at Belmont?
MS: I have a theory that everyone in Nashville is the best of the best. It’s definitely intimidating and you can get lost in comparison. The advice I was given and the advice that I continue to remind myself of is “look forward, not sideways.” I’ve also noticed that Nashville is far from a dog-eat-dog type of environment. Everyone wants everyone to succeed, and the bad apples are there, but few and far between. It’s been inspiring to work and learn from my professors and peers, and I’m grateful to be a Bruin!
PC: You played The Bluebird Café in late March. What did it mean to you to play in such a sacred place where so many legends have played?
MS: Playing at The Bluebird Cafe is a spiritual experience. I definitely cried, more than once. The first time I saw a show at The Bluebird was in 2019. Playing there wasn’t even a thought in my mind. Little did I know that two years later, I’d have the opportunity to perform on that stage.
PC: Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of 2022?
MS: I’m releasing a single this Friday (5/6) and an EP on May 13th! I plan to play shows in Nashville as well as Athens, Myrtle Beach, Charlotte and Asheville. I’m really looking forward to releasing this new music and connecting with more people!
*”Singer and the Song” is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*