CMA Fest 2024: Chat With Mae Estes

1) Since we last chatted back at CRS, you’ve released “What I Shoulda Done.”  How important was it to you that your next chapter hit out the gate with a fiery honky-tonk flare to give definition to your here and now and what’s still to come from you and your new music?

We went in and cut four songs that we’re in the middle of releasing. They’re all vastly different, which is cool but also kind of hard to swallow if you don’t know who I am. So, we were trying to decide what was the easiest way to introduce myself to a vast audience that maybe has never heard my name, my music, my voice, or any of that.

We went with the honky-tonk heater. It’s pretty easy to swallow content, pretty relatable whether people want to admit it or not. We’ve all been in that spot in our life where you’re young, wild, and free and are making decisions that you know are not the best at the time but just feel right, feels good.

It was a good marker; we’re diving a bit in the shallow end. We do cover some heavier content in my music and we’re slowly leading you there. This next one definitely takes a bigger step in that direction.

2) Speaking of that new music….“Gettin’ Back Up To Heaven!” Tell us about it.

It’s a revenge song. It’s a story song. Those are a tale as old as time and I’m certainly not the first to tell a story about someone who deserves the ultimate karma. You know, something I grew up loving about country music was the stories and that’s where I turned to songwriting in general; trying to create my own reality when things didn’t actually go the way I wanted them to, or I didn’t feel like there was justice in a situation. This was a cool song to get to make up how I wanted to story to go with the bad guy getting his ultimate karma.

3) The song’s been hanging around for a bit. Why did you feel that now was the right time to unleash a tale of revenge amid all the summery vibed, feel-goods that are coming out?

Because that is feel-good to me, honestly. Like the rowdy energy of “Gunpowder and Lead” by Miranda Lambert or “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks;” that’s an any time of year kinda thing for me. And this song leans really bluegrass. This is the most bluegrass influence I’ve had in any of the releases yet. My family had a bluegrass band back in the day and so I have a big bluegrass background. It feels really cool to dip a toe a little more in that direction.

4) One of the many things that we absolutely love about you is how whenever you’re around town in between touring and recording, you still do play songwriter rounds. Why do you love to be a part of those types of rounds so much?

It’s the people that make everything important in this town. I have a lot of great friends, lifelong friends, no matter what the business aspect of it is. But I started in those types of songwriter rounds. That’s the route that I took. I didn’t play Broadway. I’ve not done the cover gig route. I just built my community of songwriters and kinda took that lane instead. I think it’s just part of who I am.

5) Something you’ve been doing on your socials for quite a bit of time now that might be brand-new to your growing new fanbase; MaeDay Monday. Tell us about that and why your new fans need to be tuned in.

I will say that I have slacked on this, but it’s a chance for me to check in and interact. It’s like a show where people can tell me what they want and I’m able to deliver directly rather than trying to guess what a crowd is wanting.

It’s cool and intimate; kinda like a songwriter round. We dig up covers and I love getting crazy comments on songs that I didn’t think about. I’ve gotten a lot less scared over the years, so I’m not scared to try a song for the first time and completely mess it up. I’ll change keys in the middle of the song…we stop to burp on livestreams (HA) so it’s just very real.

6) You made your fifth appearance on the Grand Ole Opry last month. Does that feeling of standing in the circle ever change for you or is it always the same butterflies as when you debuted on that hallowed stage?

It gets sweeter every time. You feel like less of a guest when you’re invited to be there and more like a member of the family…And I use the term member loosely cause there are actual members of the Grand Ole Opry. But I think anytime you play it, even once, you’re invited into this family. I walk in now and I see Ms. Lemonade, the women who runs the entire backstage and makes all the popcorn and lemonade and takes care of all the dressing rooms. Just getting to hug people like that, and then you never know what artists you’ll run into. I’m there a lot even when I’m not playing just to support my friends debuts and stuff like that. It truly truly just gets better every time you’re there.

7) CMA Fest is such a wonderful time of year for the artist and fans to come together as one big thank you note to each other. What are you most excited about with being a part of it this year?

I’ve been in Nashville for 9 years, and I actually worked on the production side of CMA Fest. This is my second  year of not doing that. I switched from the production side to the artist side, but I feel confident in saying that I know the ins and outs of CMA Fest more than most. I’ve just seen it from the ground up and how it builds for a month and a half before the event. I got a good crash course in what this event is supposed to be and how many people it takes.

I’m really grateful to get to be a part of it. I was talking to a killer artist friend of mine who applied for CMA shows but didn’t get them and it reminded me that I also did that for years and years and years and that’s why I was still working production. It’s not lost on me that I’ve wanted this for a very long time so to now get to say I’m a part of it means a whole lot. It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity, but of course, the most important part of it is the fans.

(Interview by: Jeffrey Kurtis/Photo c/o Big Machine Label Group)


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