21 Days takes the form of an audio diary narrated by Mxmtoon, interspersed with interviews with her family, friends and creative collaborators including The Masquerade producer Robin Skinner, who performs under the name Cavetown. For the singer-songwriter, who describes herself as “a very private person,” it was difficult at first getting acclimated to always having microphones and recording equipment around as she embarked on her first-ever proper studio recording sessions in Brooklyn (her debut EP Plum Blossom was recorded in her parents' Bay Area home).
“It took a lot of adjustment,” she says. “But at a certain point, it became pretty standard. When I flew back home after the three-week period, I'm like, 'Oh my god, I don't have a mic wire attached to me. I don't need to walk somewhere and explain what I'm looking at.’”
For Mxmtoon’s young fanbase, getting an inside glimpse at one of their favorite artists as she goes about her day-to-day life and work is all but expected in the age of YouTube and social media, where access and a sense of authenticity are prized more heavily than ever. Those qualities are part and parcel of what drew people to Mxmtoon's music in the first place; with titles like “Falling For U” and “Prom Dress,” her songs dive into the Gen Z mindset in a direct and honest way that feels accessible.
“[I’m] trying to figure out who I am, what my story is, and what I want to do with my life,” she says. “And I think that's the reason people connect with my work. I just happen to be somebody who is exactly like them who ended up in this role where I am allowed to create for a living.”
For Gateley, the podcast format dovetails neatly with that sense of intimacy that young listeners have come to value.
“The rest of the world is truly blocked out," she says. “It's like someone's whispering and telling just you their story…I think that that's why more and more people are listening to this type of storytelling, because it engages the listener in a much different way than video does, where you're not allowed to interpret much.”
21 Days is just one small cog in Spotify’s recent podcasting push, which has seen the company acquire the podcast networks Gimlet and Parcast as well as the podcast-creation company Anchor (the latter of which is behind the “Create podcast” button recently spotted on the streaming service). Spotify has also been making some noteworthy hires in the podcasting space as of late, including former CBS News head David Rhodes and former Facebook executive Amy Hudson, who was brought on to lead the service’s expansion into sports programming (a vertical Gateley suggests will be a point of crossover with music in future podcasts).
As for 21 Days, Gateley says there are currently no further seasons in the pipeline, but notes discussions are already underway regarding future subjects, which could include more established artists. And thanks to the less-restrictive podcast format, they’re open to adapting the number of episodes and episode length to each individual.
“I wouldn't want it to be to formulaic, that's the beauty of podcasting,” she says. “You can do six episodes [of one] and 10 episodes of the next one. It’ll really be custom built.”
Mxmtoon, who notes she was not involved in the editing process and will be “listening along with everybody else” as 21 Days rolls out, says fans can expect future episodes to delve more deeply into her “family and where I come from,” including how her background (she is Chinese-American on her mother's side) influences her music. On a personal level, she’s also grateful for the time capsule it will provide in future years.
“It's one of those things that I'll be able to look back on who knows how many years from now and just listen to where I was at, at this point in time,” she says. "To have a snapshot that captures exactly what I was doing and my mindset and thought process throughout all of it is such a gift.”