Nfld. & Labrador·Parkway Sessions

Finding her voice: Rea on her 'pretty personal' approach to songwriting and music

Maria White says she puts a lot of her own life into her music, but that wasn’t always the case.

‘No one else is going to make music like you,’ says Maria White

Maria White, who performs as Rea, says her songs are 'pretty personal.' (Lukas Wall/CBC)

Maria White says she puts a lot of her own life into her music, but that wasn't always the case.

The St. John's singer-songwriter, who performs under the name Rea, started out putting her own spin on other artists' music, but grew to use that as the foundation for her own songwriting.

"I started doing covers and rearranging them ... all the '90s hits. It's really fun," she said.

'Then I started writing my own music as well, and using influences from that … a lot of different artists' influences, for sure."

Rea went on to hone her craft at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she said she was encouraged to strengthen her voice as a songwriter.

I feel like that song really defines who I am.- Rea

"My mentors said, 'Don't worry about anyone else because you've got your own thing and that's what you want to do and that's your sound,'" she said.

"'Go with that because no one else is going to sound like you and no one else is going to make music like you.'"

Rea says many of the songs on her latest album are about relationships with other people and her mental health. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

Rea completed a diploma in songwriting at the school in 2019, and said much of the inspiration for her most recent album came from her time there.

"My songs are pretty personal. A lot of the [songs] I wrote on the album that I just put out, called Safe and Sound, they were about all of my experiences that I had in Boston with interpersonal relationships with people, about my music, about my mental health," she said.

"Some of the songs that are on there I wrote a few years ago, which have a lot to do with that, but I've reworked them and made them into what they are today. I'm pretty proud of the stuff I've written, because it means a lot to me and people seem to really connect with that, too."

WATCH: See Rea's performance of Safe and Sound, as part of her Parkway Session:

The album's title track is one of those reworked songs. Rea said she wrote the song in 2014 and recorded it with a simple, acoustic arrangement, but felt it was important enough to deserve some more attention.

"I thought it was kind of like my anthem so I decided to rearrange it, release it again [with a band]," she said.

"Then I went with the idea of making my newest album [called] Safe and Sound, because it kind of defines me, and I feel like that song really defines who I am."

Parkway Sessions: Discover more music

Every two weeks, CBC Newfoundland and Labrador will bring you new performances from local talent, recorded live in Studio F in St. John's.

Tune into more Parkway Sessions, and other performances of music from Newfoundland and Labrador on our YouTube channel.

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