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Maya Love Coppola releases debut How Coyote Stole Fire
helmed by acclaimed producer Robert “Chicken” Burke
Maya Love Coppola’s sparkling, soulful debut How Coyote Stole Fire is a valentine to heartbreakers, tricksters, even
tempestuous Mother Nature herself. With producer and fellow multi-instrumentalist Robert “Chicken” Burke (The Duke &
the King), she mixes classic pop melodicism, slippery funk, and edgy rock, weaving tales borne of hard-won experience, as a lover, a beloved,
and citizen of a world given to both beauty and chaos. Coppola’s remarkably versatile voice is whisper-soft one moment, confiding and tender,
then brazen and dizzyingly powerful the next, elemental like the “Summer Wind” she sings of in the first track, carrying listeners to a distant
shore, a boudoir, or the dance floor. Through it all, she and Burke wrap everything in uncommonly lush harmony, part Beach Boys, part P-Funk.
The CD title comes from a Native American trickster tale. Coppola, part Blackfoot Indian, found several levels of inspiration in the account of an
underestimated animal ushering humankind into a New Age: Long ago, Humans had no fire, and many perished in the winter. Coyote, distraught
for his friends, decides to steal fire from the selfish Fire Beings, who look down on both him and humans; he enlists help from Frog and
Chipmunk, and with cunning, they succeed. But in the melee, the enraged Fire Beings singe Coyote’s tail, carve a black stripe down Chipmunk’s
back, and burn off Frog’s tail forever.
This myth resonates in “The First Ones (How Coyote Stole Fire),” in which Coppola sings of humankind’s abuse of the power given them by
Coyote. Over a rock n’ roll waltz drenched in epic echo, she longs for a simpler time; “How do we make our way / From castles of steel with
wheels made of clay?” The love song “Trixter” also references Coyote, as Coppola both yearns for and resigns herself to the charms of a
fleeting but powerful romance: “He tricked me once, he’ll trick you, too.” And like Coyote’s burned fur, Coppola proudly, even joyously,
brandishes the scars that mark her experience, evident in songs like the wry, rollicking “Double Negative,” and Beatle-y funk workout “Apology
Although this is her solo debut, Maya Love Coppola has been working toward “How Coyote Stole Fire” for quite some time. Born into a hyper-
musical family of six kids, all whom play at least one instrument (Maya plays guitar, piano, and cello), she grew up biracial (black mom, Italian
dad) and poor in a Long Island town with its own KKK chapter. As her middle name suggests, when faced with cruelty, she says she learned to
“kill ‘em with kindness.” Before long she made her way to NYC clubs The Village Gate, Tatou, and many others, singing everything from jazz
standards to Abba, fronting bands Wish and Elemental, making ends meet by waitressing and modeling. Marriage and motherhood took her to
Woodstock, NY, where Coppola divorced and devoted time to raising a daughter and designing jewelry, recording songs along the way. Nothing
clicked musically until she aligned with producer Robert “Chicken” Burke, of The Duke & The King, Toshi Reagon, and many others. After
producing The Duke & The King’s 2009 CD Nothing Gold Can Stay (“the most tasteful record of the year,” The Guardian) Chicken’s skills were
ripe for the picking and he and Coppola, with a little help from P-Funk’s Michael “Clip” Payne, crafted a sonic adventure packed into eight cuts,
an old-school album with an arc, but grounded in radio-ready songs rife with fun, celebration, experience, and most of all, love.
There was a big picture window in my bedroom in the house I grew up in that faced the Great South Bay. Every morning I'd watch the clam
diggers head into the expanse to reap the water's harvest. Their blue-gray boats matched the moody blue of the bay and I often wondered what
they thought about out there all day, with little more than the water's rhythm to distract them. Did they talk to themselves? Sing songs?
Contemplate the Cosmos? I'd often follow one single boat with my eye until I couldn't see it anymore, making up my own thoughts for the various
captains. Every day, I'd build on their stories. I had created poets, and astrologers, and some were just grumpy old men that liked to sit on their
boats and mutter complaints to themselves about their wives, children, or even the clams they were trying to dig for. The first song I ever wrote
was about the grumpy old captain. I was nine years old.