Although Maxine Ashley has been toiling in the music business for a while, her work this year is different than anything she’s done before. As other young New York artists have found recent success by adopting intonations of Southern hip-hop, Maxine is unapologetic about her mission to revive the East Coast sounds of her childhood while continuing to push the envelop. The songstress has been working steadily on her music in the studios of New York City, L.A. and London, where she has developed a heady combination of her Latino roots with the contemporary mix of hip hop, R&B, electronic and soul beats that is undoubtedly from the city that never sleeps but ready for the world.

Maxine was originally discovered on her YouTube channel, way before YouTube was a popular hub for discovering new artists. At age 13 she left to live in London to work on her music career, writing and singing daily. When she turned 17 she returned to America, as Pharrell and Interscope came knocking on her door. She’s worked with artists ranging from the aforementioned Neptunes hitmaker to Alicia Keys and Keyshia Cole, and is now back with a brand new single, "Happy".

Born and raised in The Bronx to Salsero parents, the New York City-based singer and songwriter Maxine Ashley has outdone a distinct narrative on her brand new song "Happy". The track showcases elegiac lyrics that takes on a journey on trying to find true happiness. Her compositions are melo-dramatic, combined with hypnotizing vocals. Bonding semi-experimental pop music with deft song writing, Maxiné Ashley is sure to build a reputation. Her voice, soothing and substantial, is filled with an aching that suggests she was born to counsel the world’s suffering. She is a powerful songwriter, too, able to convey immediate intimacy in her work. Content-wise, "Happy" lands squarely in the love-anthem genre, but Maxiné delivers her lines like a sonnet, and when her words intertwine with the beat’s restrained synth melodies, the effect is mesmerizing.

Maxiné carries herself with an uncanny confidence—not the bravado of youth so much as the grace of someone with four or five decades to lean on, someone who understands how less can be more. As a female artist trying to match lyrical honesty with the commercial demands of an industry largely lacking in imagination, Maxiné is reinventing herself in her own way. With a full project due this coming year, the path she is taking is one largely of her own making.

You can check out “Happy" below, and read an interview with Maxiné Ashley about the video and more.

You've lived in London, L.A. and New York. How has living in different cities impacted your music, who you are as a person, and the way you view the world?

Well it made me realize that a lot of things are the same in different ways. But it also expanded my mind and a lot of things gave me a lot of inspiration, you know? I've moved around a lot in hectic cities. I'm very inspired by the big city life and the different boroughs and the different things that go on in it.

Do you feel like L.A. was any different?

Honestly, I didn't even get culture shocked in London, I got culture shocked in L.A.! I didn't even expect it to be that different and different in a way that it's like... living there, I had a car, I didn't even know how to drive and I bought a car like... I gotta get around!

"Happy" dropped yesterday, how does it feel?

I worked so hard... I was so happy that I finally got something that I had full control over. I feel reborn in a way. Because this is literally me as an independent artist getting everything together, putting out my vision of who I am. Raw. No gimmicks. Barely any make up, just boom, just walking around.

What have you learned now that you're on your own independent path?

Well the best thing about it is that it's like school. Being in the industry for so long, I've learned a lot about other things but I've never truly changed as a person or as an artist. My morals never changed. I always wanted to sing things that I feel, things that I love... because it would transcend over to people instead of just singing something for a hit.

You had total creative control over this video, right?

I did everything. I edited the videos... I just hired someone to take the footage, you know Jesse Heathe he was the director, but I took it, I edited it...

Watching the video, it seems to me like you're not telling a story of heartbreak necessarily, you're sort of torn between this idea of love and how it affects you.

So it's like a battle in your mind. You know someone is doing something that you do not like, but you know you're not making it any better yourself. It's more of like growth mentally and admitting it to yourself like yo, I'm not fucking with what you're doing to me right now. But I'm also not handling it as well as I should be either. So it's both of us. Instead of it being like "It's not me, it's you" or "It's not you, it's me" it's like, it's both of us. And this is why we're great for each other. But also, I'm great to myself. You know? It's like that love for yourself, but also that love for the person. It's that constant battle.

How have you been able to develop and strengthen that sense of self-love?

Well, I always loved myself but I realized that I have to -- I know, this is so simple -- treat others the way you'd like to be treated, you know? And it's kinda hard, it's very hard. Because as soon as somebody does something you do like, you automatically react to it like, nah. You cut it off. But instead trying to deal with a situation you wouldn't normally, you kinda develop a new growth within yourself, you learn from it, you grow from it, and you learn to love yourself even more through trying to handle situations better. But also, we're not perfect. We're definitely not perfect! I feel like everything comes with a consequence, even with you just being real with yourself. I just made that decision of like, am I gonna take that consequence of being fake and it hurts even more, or just being myself. Nothing ever comes easy. Not even trying to be yourself. Because everybody has something to say about it. People are not gonna like shit... They're gonna be like, "Oh, I don't like those jeans you're wearing ... they don't appeal to my eye enough, change it". But like nah, I like it. So just being that, everything comes with a consequence. But I'd rather deal with those consequences because I love... being myself! Also, I think it's good to show people that not everything is cookie-cutter perfect. You have to allow people to grow.

That's what really stood out to me on the track, it shows us that not every relationship is perfect, that sometimes you have conflicting feelings that aren't easy to fix overnight.

Exactly, it's like confusing and you're always changing your mind!

The video also shows us different types of love, aside from the romantic form, like when we see the love shared between a mother and a child, for example. What were you trying to portray through these visuals?

So all the people in the video are people in my family. I wanted to show the beautiful family I have. Two, it's not just a sexual relationship where you go through this particular situation. It's every relationship, you know? So the video is me, waking up, feeling some type of way about my own relationship in my home, so I leave and as I take myself through the journey you see different forms of that journey, "with or without you". Like a single mother, it may seem like she's going through a lot, but she's also got that love from her child. And then you see a couple, it looks like they're arguing at first but then you see them smile... so towards the end I reach my love and I'm like, let's just work it out, let's just go with it...

Your family is beautiful! How have your latino roots, your family and the Bronx impacted who you are as a person and as an artist as well?

Well it molded me, to who I am. My morals, my personality even the way I speak, I write. My family is such a big part of who I am and I'm so blessed to have that that I show it to the world. Because I'm so happy to have it, no matter how crazy they are. And I love my city. This is where I grew up! Like you said, I lived in London, in L.A. and I can live there for a year or maybe a couple of months but I always felt like that missing piece in my heart like... so every time I went back to New York, it just always felt better.

Yeah when you walk around different boroughs in the city, no matter how different they might seem, the experience kind of reminds you that while everyone is different, mad people are going through similar experiences, you know? These stories bring us all together, no matter where in the world we are.

Exactly! It's always good to be in that melting pot, you know what I'm saying? To be a part of that. It's like look, it's happening to us all, it's happening here too, we can all relate, even though we're probably from totally different areas of the world.

What can we expect from the upcoming EP?

You can expect familiarity from my other stuff, let's say like Mood Swings. I worked with different producers on this one, so you hear a difference in the production and how I go about it really. It's hard to explain because it's also still developing. The producers are a mixture of people I've worked with. Some were people that I worked with a long time ago and I hit them up like yo, what you doing, I need some music. And then I've been dealing with Sony for a long time so they also set me up with people sometimes that they think would be a good fit. And it's crazy because you also learn a lot from these people as well. You're always gaining a lot of knowledge from working with all these different people. It's still gonna be my own sound because I know who I am, I write it, so it's gonna be my own sound, but collaborating with different sounds is really dope.

When did you start writing your songs?

I started writing like at the age of eleven. My writing just really grew and progressed as I grew and progressed as a person. When I was eleven years old I wasn't writing about no "Happy without or without you" because I had never experienced that in my life. I was more like, "Oh I got a crush on this boy" and it still comes to me now, but it's more intelligent now, it's deeper now. It's like a diary, it's more personal. It's literally me exposing myself... and that's really scary.

How so?

Because you know, if people don't like it you're just like damn. It's like being with a boy you're with and they like "ehh"...

On the flip side, don't you also feel like it's cathartic and freeing in a way?

Yeah, that's literally the only thing that makes me happy man. Imma be doing this forever. Imma be an old ass lady looking poppin as fuck making the best music. Because this is what makes me happy, you know? I cannot wait to reach the point where I can see people being happy because of the music I make. Like, nothing is a better feeling. Bringing people into your world and them appreciating it and fucking with it... it just feels good.