Bay Area Pop Star Designs Custom Ukulele with Kala Brand Music

A frontrunner in the ukulele industry for more than 15 years, Petaluma-based instrument manufacturer Kala Brand Music has released untold numbers of ukuleles and other music makers, but none look like the forthcoming Signature Concert Ukulele designed by Bay Area artist mxmtoon.

Born and raised in Oakland, self-made singer-songwriter mxmtoon—who also goes by Maia­—catapulted to the forefront of the indie-pop sphere with her 2018 self-recorded and self-released EP plum blossom.

An artist who specializes in the ukulele, mxmtoon teamed with Kala and created a celestially inspired, hand-drawn design that is etched into the instrument’s wood body.

“The cornerstone of what an artist collaboration is for us as a ukulele manufacturer is identifying with the artist what they would like to see out there in the world,” says Joe DeMars, artist relations coordinator at Kala.

While Kala works closely with the artists to achieve their vision for these collaborations, DeMars notes that mxmtoon approached the project with a specific creative drive.

“She had such a clear view right away of what she wanted this instrument to look like,” DeMars says. “It blew us away, the design she came up with. We don’t have anything like that.”

On the instrument construction side, Kala designed the model based on one of its flagship designs that mxmtoon regularly plays.

“We had that opportunity to combine a sound and a feel that we knew that she liked with a design that was very new and personal to her,” DeMars says.

Now reaching an audience of over 6 million monthly Spotify listeners, mxmtoon often gets personal in her lo-fi pop music with candid, introspective and witty lyrics set over ukulele chords.

“One thing that I’ve continuously tried to remind myself of as I’ve gotten older is the importance of a cycle,” mxmtoon writes in a statement. “That no matter how hectic life may be, the one thing that ties everything together is that the sun will rise and fall and the moon will follow each day. With my signature ukulele, I wanted that message to be represented in the engravings! I think oftentimes as creatives we can be very hard on ourselves when we aren’t able to produce art at a constant rate. So, I designed this ukulele in hopes of reminding people that even if one day is difficult, there is always the next.”

“Maia is a person who developed her ability to express her thoughts and emotions though the ukulele,” DeMars says. “What we were most hoping to accomplish with her and this instrument is developing something that is an accessible piece of inspiration for somebody to start their own personal journey with music.”

The mxmtoon Signature Concert Ukulele is listed at $99.99 and available for pre-order at Kalabrand.com.

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Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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