Lay yourself down on the grassy hill and look up the blue sky. The sky is your canvas, draw anything with the white clouds.
This is what Tamami Maitland has to say for everyone needing a dose of positivity in life.
These are also the lyrics to her original song, Sky Canvas, which she wrote during a period of sadness followed by a moment of healing.
The Burnaby-based jazz artist and songwriter remembers the moment inspiration struck for those lyrics. She was reeling from the loss of a friend, she said. As she sat staring ahead of her at nothing in particular, she became aware of the reflection of white clouds cast on a nearby glass table.
The white clouds rolled in, giving her company on a lonely day and prompting her to breathe calmly and slowly. Looking back, she credits those clouds with inspiring her and rescuing her from an abyss of grief.
Sky Canvas was written as a response to finding light on a dark day. Maitland encourages others dealing with their own struggles to do the same. She holds to a maxim: “Tomorrow will be a better day.”
Maitland was born in Osaka, Japan. Until 2011, her horizons didn't extend beyond the borders of her homeland. Shortly after the Great East Japan Earthquake, she found a home across the ocean, in Burnaby.
She was very young when she discovered her love for words, she said. By the age of eight, she had become a poet.
Over time, words started to sing to her. She became a singer-songwriter, and hasn't looked back.
While her early musical days included writing songs with Japanese lyrics, she later fell in love with jazz, which prompted her to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, and, closer to home, Capilano University for an extensive jazz education.
Maitland said the "complex chord progressions” in jazz first attracted her to the genre. “Then the harmony has more depth. Plus the ability of improvisation gives you more freedom than classical music,” she said.
After a decade of making Canada her home, she started writing in English, drawing inspiration from nature and people around her. Often, her songs are related to the seasons and love.
As an introvert, she explains, she is able to use music to form connections with people. And she hopes to spread positivity through her words and music — especially to people going through difficulties in life.
“It's very soothing,” she said. “When people are feeling sad, have bad health or something doesn't go well, then just play music and feel better.”
Her first concert of the year will be at Joanne Probyn’s art studio- at the Parlour in Vancouver for the 'First Saturday' open studio of the month.
Beyond that she has a couple of concerts lined up in January and February in Vancouver before she embarks on a musical tour back to her hometown in Japan in March.
Although she has visited her homeland in the past to see friends and family, this is her first musical tour there.
“It is exciting and scary at the same time,” she said.
Maitland is thrilled to be performing in Japan for the first time – and has been inspired to write more Japanese lyrics.
Being bilingual can have its own sets of challenges, and Maitland is no stranger to this — some languages have specific words or expressions that are hard to translate accurately.
“I had a word in Japanese —I tried to translate it into English and I couldn't find that same expression,” she said. “Then sometimes, I have a Japanese way of expressing my thought and I try to put that in English. When I check in with the native speaker if it sounds natural, they say no. I don't know what to say, but I want to stick with my expression, with a kind of Japanese influence. But sometimes it’s a lot. So it's a struggle.”
In 2022, she performed at five music festivals in Lower Mainland. She has released 21 singles so far and an album.
“Without music, I will probably be very lonely,” she said. “That music is giving me the chance to meet new people, opening so many doors to connect with people.”