Though she may reside in San Francisco now, Maryam Qudus aka Doe Eye is Union City’s hometown hero. The indie singer-songwriter’s smoky, at times chilling, vocals are carrying her to the top. And big time music industry leaders have taken notice.
Already one of Billboard magazine’s 2012 Battle of the Bands finalists and a Fuse TV artist of the month, Qudus landed a video premier on MTV.com on Tuesday.
But despite her recent success, Qudus says she’s still just “little Maryam.” We caught up with Qudus briefly to talk about her newfound success, staying independent, and her show tonight at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill.
Congratulations on the MTV.com video premiere. That’s huge! How does that feel — to have your face right there on the homepage?
I didn’t know I would be on the homepage. So I was like, “Holy crap!” I couldn’t find the video at first, so I went on MTV.com and there it was. It’s just cool to have support from such a really huge music website and be just me, little Maryam.
How’d you and director David Dutton connect?
I’ve seen him do music videos for some of my friends, the Limousines and Geographer, and I really liked what he did. I shot him an email about myself and my music. He said he’d already heard about me. We met up one or two times to talk about the ideas… but a lot of it happened on the spot, and it all kind of came together.
How’d you come up with the concept for the video?
The inspiration for the song came from when I lived in Boston. There was a hotel fire next to my apartment that caused a blackout for days. I had no electricity, I didn’t have candles, I couldn’t talk to my family. I was also going through a hard time in my life at the time. I was just avoiding my problems, and it forced me to reflect upon everything. I wanted that same feeling to come out in my video, that feeling of loneliness. In the video, there’s a party going on and everyone’s dancing, but I’m by myself.
We shot the video in the apartment building I lived in (in San Francisco). Two of the rooms were vacant and the doors were unlocked. We didn’t even tell the apartment manager. Now the building’s being renovated so it won’t ever be in that state again.
Are you still keeping it indie? Have you been submitting your work to any labels, or are they scouting you now?
I’ve had labels reach out to me, and I have interest in labels but it’s very rough for any artist out there. It’s just scary because I hear so many great stories about being on a label and I hear so many horror stories about being on a label. The benefit of being an indie artist is that I have total control over everything I’m doing. I love that power. My art and my music are completely free and there are no boundaries.
If I were to sign to a label, I’d want a label that would let me be free as an artist. At the end of the day, what’s important to me is music and art. I’m not so concerned with making a crap-ton of money. I just want to express myself and connect to people. If that naturally goes viral and people like that, that’s great. But I’m not going to be something I’m not for the sake of being wealthy or being more well-known.
You have a show tonight, part of San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival — another big honor. What can we expect?
It’s going to be me and my six-piece band. We have a 30 or 35 minute set. We’ll be playing new songs and old ones. We’ll also be giving away a remix EP. It’s free, and the only way to get it is at the show. I think the show is almost sold out, so if anyone wants to go, they should get tickets soon.
What’s in store for the rest of 2013?
I’m working on my first full-length record. It’s produced by John Vanderslice, who worked on my last EP. We’re about halfway through; we’re finishing the second half in April, but I don’t know an exact release date yet. I’m also being patient … sometimes artists rush their work and their music, so I’m just taking it slow. Hopefully it’ll be out this year.
Catch Doe Eye in concert tonight at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill with Family of the Year, Psychic Friend and Rin Tin Tiger. Tickets are $12. Doors open at 8 p.m. See concert info here.
For more info on Qudus, visit www.facebook.com/ilovedoeeye.