Emerging artist Maryland Lavon truly understands the meaning of “patience is virtue.” At age 19, the Maryland native was signed to Mary J. Blige’s Matriarch label as a member of R&B girl group Just’us. However, the group disbanded shortly before making a mark in the industry.
Even though Just’us didn’t get proper start, it didn’t stop Lavon from continuing her music career. Lavon kept her name on the lips of critics and listeners by covering popular songs such as “The Worst” by Jhene Aiko, “They Don’t Know” by Rico Love. She also remixed ILOVEMAKONNEN’s hit single “Tuesday” and Rae Sremmurd’s summer anthem “No Type.”
While Lavon’s remixes and covers were respectively great, they weren’t here own songs. Therefore, for over a year, Lavon worked alongside hitmaker Donnell Shawn, who has worked with Mary J. Blige (“Irreversible”), Marcus Canty (“Three Words), and Boyz II Men (“Flow”), to create her debut project, The Pretty Villain.
Set to arrive this summer, the EP will consists of original music by Lavon — no remixes or covers.
In February, Lavon released a sexy record titled “FMeWhenUrMad” as the lead offering from The Pretty Villain.
Before the arrival of her first official project, Lavon spoke with Rated R&B about various topics including how she became of member of Just’us, advice from Mary J. Blige, her musical influences and the direction of The Pretty Villain, among other topics.
What made you decide to pursue singing as a career?
I grew up on music. My mom can sing as well as my grandmother who is in a gospel girl group with her sisters. I decided to make the decision to take music serious at 16 when I was trying to figure out whether I was going to college or pursue music. Music of course is in my heart so I had to go with what felt right.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
I grew up listening to Michael Jackson, Usher, Janet, Brandy, Aaliyah and TLC. Then I had pop music in my MP3 player at the time like Britney Spears and Nsync. Then Cash Money and G-Unit during that time [when they] were popular. So it all plays a role in the artist I am today.
At the age of 19, you were signed to Mary J. Blige’s Matriarch imprint as a member of R&B girl group Just’us. How did you end up signing with Blige and joining the girl group?
At the time I had just got back from living in LA and I was working with a producer who was working with a girl group from out of Baltimore. One of the girls had a younger brother that needed a female lead for his music video. Long story short, through working with him, I found out they were looking for a fourth member. We set up one practice together and from there it was just dope vibes.
One night during the summer we were booked to perform at a club in Baltimore called Dubai and Mary [J. Blige’]s A&R Eddie Fourcell, who is now my manager, heard about it and came down to check us out and he enjoyed our performance. He told us if we could get to Miami around the time they were working with Pharrell on the My Life II album, we could sing for Mary. So we got to Miami and met them at Circle House Studios and sang En Vogue’s “Hold On.” She [Blige] loved us! It was an awesome experience.
What advice did Blige give you as an artist and as a young woman?
I remember this one night she was headlining at the Verizon Center in DC and had invited us to actually come out on stage and sing during “All Night Long.” At the time, everyone didn’t know there was so much going on internally with the group. Also, as a young woman not only was I nervous, I was extremely insecure. I felt like I had no control over who I was and just felt ugly. After the show we came back to her dressing room and while she was super excited telling us how great we did, she looked at me and I guess saw that something wasn’t right. She asked what was wrong and I just broke down and started crying. She then hugged and consoled me but it was an honor for such an iconic figure to embrace us and understand us no matter where and how we were feeling in our career.
As a member of Just’us, what did you learn about yourself before and after the group disbanded?
Before the group I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I just went in with an open mind and kept everything extremely honest. After the group, I definitely learned that being in a group was NOT for me [laughs]. I learned that sometimes with certain people you have to bring certain situations to them in a different manner.
Tell us about your debut EP, The Pretty Villain? What inspired the title?
Pretty Villain is going to be something for men and women who love to vibe out and turn up. What inspired Pretty Villain was just me growing up from being super shy and quiet to being the girl I’ve always wanted to be. It’s is all about that alter ego that you’re scared to tap into — that might feel “wrong” to others but it just feels right to you.
“FMeWhenUrMad,” the lead single to The Pretty Villain, is probably the fantasy of most men. What prompted you to discuss such a taboo topic on wax?
I meannnn…. Lol. It’s just a very true topic. I wanna motivate women to not be scared to say and do what they want.
What topics are you singing about on the new EP? What’s the direction of the project?
Some of the topics I cover are of course love. We touch on lust and definitely bad habits (drugs, alcohol, etc). Very true situations. The direction is something that I’d call “Trap Soul.” My voice is very soft but still soulful. It almost plays jump rope and is complemented with hard hitting electric hi hats and dirty snares. It’s the soundtrack for a Pretty Villain.
Have you decided on an official release date for The Pretty Villain? Are there any surprise collaborations or will listeners only hear Lavon?
People will hear the EP before the 4th of July! Rated R&B will be the first to know! If I told you the collaborations they wouldn’t be a surprise now would they?
Will you be releasing another track before the release of The Pretty Villain? If so, what’s the name of the track and details about the record?
I can’t wait for the world to hear “Climb.” It’s a very real song that just feel like a futuristic take on contemporary R&B. And I’m of course talking my shit.
If there were a dictionary for artists, how would you like to be defined?
As one of R&B’s sexy androgynous female soloist.
Keep up with Maryland Lavon by following her on Twitter and Instagram at @MarylandLavon. Additionally, check out her tumblr PrettyVillain.tumblr.com.