On Maya Hawke’s new song “Coverage,” out today (April 22), she blows through like a gentle morning breeze, breathing into your ear a diary entry of a pending existential crisis. “If I were really here / Looking at you beamin’ / If I were really alive / Could I make it through every day dreamin’?” she meditates, her ideology far from the nonchalance of Robin Buckley, the fan-favorite Stranger Things character she portrays.
In a bit of irony, Hawke revealed to MTV News over the phone that the meaning of “Coverage” comes from playing this role and the handful of others she’s explored over the past few years, like Jo March in BBC’s Little Women miniseries and Linda “Flower Child” Kasabian in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood.
“As an actor, you navigate and spend so much of your life and energy living in other people’s stories,” Hawke, 21, explained. “Living in other people’s imaginations, love affairs, and the lives of the characters that you’re playing, it can become confusing to your own sense of reality. And if you’re comfortable with your own sense of self, such as living in these dreams of fantasies, are you really ever fully alive in your own life? So that’s fundamentally the place that the song came out of.”
Hawke, who counts Fiona Apple and Lucinda Williams as inspirations, penned the song while working on a movie. “I wrote it on set in a little trailer about that kind of loneliness and confined sense you get when you’re doing this collaborative art form.”
“Coverage” is the second song that Hawke has shared ahead of her debut album, Blush, that arrives on June 19. She says that her first excursion into music is inspired by her fascination with words. “Poetry has been my main love and a thread that has connected both acting and music to me throughout my entire life,” she said. “My greatest heroes are poets, and I love music as a form to transmit poetry because it can really add blood to the words. It can allow the poet to have so much control over the way that the words are received and the meaning behind them.”
Blush’s title alone — which her mother, Uma Thurman, helped pick out — has two important meanings pertaining to its focus. The first harkens back to “Coverage” and the idea of losing yourself in an acting role. “It’s very difficult to pretend to fall in love with someone without almost actually falling in love,” she said. “It’s very difficult to keep your own natural instincts out of the equation so it’s about feeling. No matter if a situation is fake, your body has a real reaction to it. You can really blush.”
Its other definition is equally personal, inspired by the performative nature of gender. “I exist in such a state of constant embarrassment and shame,” she said. “And 'blush' is such an interesting word to me because it’s a feminized, romanticized version of shame. When you’re blushing, everyone’s like, ‘Oh it’s so sweet, she’s blushing.’ But it’s really a reaction to shame and humiliation. It’s kind of seen in young women as being charming, sweet, and effeminate. I was interested in exploring the underbelly of that feminized feeling of shame.”
Blush started off as a sole collaboration with Grammy-winning guitarist, singer, and songwriter Jesse Harris, who previously worked on the soundtrack to her father Ethan Hawke’s directorial debut, The Hottest State, and has been a family friend for decades. “As a teenager, I used to bring him all the songs that I’d written so that he could listen and give me little notes and advice,” she said. “When I was 19, I suggested that we work on a song together. We wrote one song and, by the time we went to record that one, we had three. When we got around to record all three, we had five. It kept going until we had an entire album.”
Hawke’s diaristic and cathartic style on previous standalone releases “To Love a Boy” and “Stay Open” preview the quiet intensity found on Blush. “A lot of these tracks are love songs and messages to people that I've had feelings for in one way or another,” she said. “I had the biggest love affair of my life in the year that I wrote this record, and it’s now over. But a lot of those songs kind of track my journey through that relationship.”
Outside of Blush’s romantic trek, other relationships will be explored on the album, such as the one that she has with her father. “You know when you have a really important relationship in your life and you keep on having the same fight over and over again?” she said. “People can't get their words out in the right ways and you can’t express the feelings you’re trying to express exactly right, so you just keep tripping over the same feelings over and over again. There’s a song on the record about me finally being able to put into words a feeling that I’d been trying to express to my dad for a long time.”
This feeling, along with the others that exist on Blush, contributes to experiences that define Hawke. She wants Blush to open up these experiences for others to relate to. “With all art forms, you hope that someone hears a phrase, or a feeling, or a melody that makes them feel less alone,” she said. “That feeling is so cathartic and powerful. It’s why you cry at the theater. So if anyone could have that moment when they’re listening to Blush, I would feel beyond vindicated.”