To make it in the music biz it's always good to have a helping hand. So the fact that singer and songwriter Maia Sharp has a dad with industry savvy certainly didn't hurt her own career prospects. Randy Sharp penned songs for such country icons as Clay Walker and Patty Loveless. When he relocated his family to Southern California in the heady '70s, Maia's exposure to the artists who also called that area home helped nurture an appreciation of what it meant to write and record. At age twelve, she was noodling around on piano, oboe, sax, and guitar, and by the time she was in her early 20s, she was already a fixture on the L.A. club scene.
"Dad is a great songwriter," Maia says of her old man. "He loves and respects the craft and from the beginning, he's been a big influence on me. He opened the DIY door for me right away. He started showing me around the studio when I was still in high school. And he and mom were also very supportive of any instrument I wanted to take on. I'm very lucky to have his experience on my side."
Still, it would be misguiding to suggest that Sharp owes her success simply to family connections or the place she happens to call home. Her work has won the respect of some pretty impressive icons with Carole King, Bonnie Raitt, the Dixie Chicks, Lisa Loebe, folkie Jonatha Brooke, pop pundit Jules Shear among them. Likewise, with six albums to her credit -- including one that teamed her up with Art Garfunkel and fellow songwriter Buddy Mondlock -- she boasts all the experience necessary to affirm the fact she's come into her own.
Nevertheless, she credits her publisher Miles Copeland, the same man who helped pilot the Police to eventual fame and fortune, with helping her secure initial contacts.
"I connected with those artists at a songwriting retreat Miles hosted at his castle in France," Sharp recalls. "It was a crazy and fantastic thing. I was intimidated, but I think that was a good thing. When you get in a room with Carole King, you should be on your best behavior, on highest alert and at your most prepared. I connected with Bonnie Raitt when she recorded my songs on her album Souls Alike. She was so sweet and easygoing that it made me feel like we had been friends for years, even though we hadn't met yet. And of course, it's the ultimate thrill to hear an artist like Bonnie or the Dixie Chicks record one of my songs. What a complement. When another artist records one of my songs before I do, I often borrow some little twist or added harmony. That's okay, right?"
Who are we to disagree? Sharp certainly shows an affinity for recasting a classic Brill Building sensibility, offering up an affable sound that recalls the Carole King classics of the Tapestry era. Many of her songs convey the quiet yearning and soaring passion that made those '70s standards so lingering and indelible. And while her fixation with relationships gone wrong sometimes seems an overriding obsession, her melodies are infused with sweetness and a saunter that keeps things upbeat and optimistic.
"Sometimes I have a phrase or story that sends me into the writing room," she explains. "It's different every time which I think helps keep it fresh."
That attitude has stayed with her all along, from her first album Hardly Glamour in 1997 through to her recent release Change the Ending, which has her settled in the producer's chair, allowing her dad to do the mix downs. "I really enjoy wearing all the hats -- writing, producing, and making my own records," she admits as she looks ahead to the future. "Ideally, I'll get to just keep doing it all."
Maia Sharp performs with Bonnie Raitt at 8 p.m. on Sunday, October 21 at the Mizner Park Amphitheater. Tickets cost $32.50 to $92.35, visit ticketmaster.com, or call 800-653-8000.