Culture / Music

Artist Teejae Mai on connection, energy and speaking music

teejae mai

Teejae Mai first came onto our radar playing with Kye, as they opened for Genesis Owusu, at that fateful show where the floor at The Enmore Theatre caved in. Whilst others may beg to differ, it’s definitely something for which she and Kye can take the credit. Full of Leo charisma, warmth and free flowing words, we caught up with this DJ on the rise ahead of her playing the Acne Studios Store re-launch in her hometown of Melbourne to talk identity, energy and connection.

Mai reveals that she is an artist manager as well, “so I feel like in my life I’m a big connector, I meet a lot of different people and I love to say ‘hey, you should link up with this person.’ Starting out as a DJ is how I began everything, I just wanted to learn.” Mai began DJing with her sister as a way of connecting with her family and strengthening their relationship which led to a good four-year run of shows. Now she’s playing solo she tells me, “I just love music and just thought I should give it a shot. I didn’t see anyone else who looked like me doing it.”

Just as a gallerist may curate a collection, Mai feels that way about her career on both sides of the musical stage. ‘I feel like the music industry, is always changing, there is no rubric, you can’t really follow a rulebook […] You just get into it, and you do it. You learn as you go, and you curate your own career.’ Her DIY attitude rings true of early punk as much as it does Afro-beats (her current favourite genre).

Mai admits that her career has been trial and error in places, yet learns from these errors, developing to such extremes that she became Jack Harlow’s teacher. During Splendour in the Grass this year, one of Jack Harlow’s team contacted Mai (the lines of intention could have been blurred) however, she ended up teaching him how to DJ. Mai continues, “I got stuck at the festival so couldn’t make our initial meeting, but then I got a random message from an American number, offering for me to play both of his shows and come hang with [Harlow].” With earnest humility, Mai feels like it hasn't sunk in yet, laughing she says, “I’m still processing it! I didn’t realise how nonchalant I was, it was such a big opportunity. I was wondering, why me? But after all the hard work I’ve put in the past, I’m finally seeing some of the fruits of my labour.”

By following her gut, following her heart, and encouraging herself, Mai feels like she can transmit good energy through her mixes and onto the dancefloor. Her raison d’etre is good energy, “everyone speaks music, you can play a song from anywhere in the world and people will vibe to it.” Like all incredible DJs, connection is key and love prevails, “I’m not going to say I’m the best technical DJ, I’m still learning, but the thing that sets me apart is that I just love every song I play, and people can feel that.” Mai can feel and watch spirits lift as she plays her sets and in turn, it lifts her up. Mai speaks the undeniable truth, “If it wasn’t for music I don’t know where we would be.”

Even now, Mai acknowledges how hard it is for females in the music world and wants to make a safe space for everyone to come together. “I want [my gigs] to be a safe space where you can be whoever you want. Especially coming from my background, you always have to claim your space. You have to say, I’m here and you’re welcome. I’m here in this room, having the best time. And you should be too.’” We can wait to be ourselves, moving in our own way, sharing energy and lifting each other up at the next Mai show.

Stay inspired, follow us.