Young musician reflects on Bennington summers in new single

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BENNINGTON — For 16 year-old Maria Elena Little, music is a comfort she can always return to despite her international lifestyle.

Born in Iowa, Little's mother is a U.S. citizen from Ecuador; her father is American. The singer moved abroad before the age of one, and has lived in both the Netherlands and China due to her parents work as teachers in American International Schools.

Still, Little considers Bennington her home town, spending most summers in the green mountains.

"All of my childhood memories are of being in Bennington surrounded by great people, both friends and family," said Little. "It's my home."

Bennington has been Little's primary connection to the U.S. since the age of four, when her aunt Lynne Little married Peter Green. The couple purchased the Inn in which they were married, Bennington's Four Chimneys, and Little has continued to return to Vermont each summer.

During one of those family visits two years ago, the singer's grandmother Helen Little requested that her granddaughter write a song for her 80th birthday. In response, Little composed "Think Of," recently released on July 28, as a tribute to summers spent in Bennington.

"The first lyrics of the song are `green mountain state,'" said Little. "This song was really inspired by my spending summers in Bennington for the past 12 years."

With a childhood that was anything but simple, Little has turned to music as a source of comfort and continuity.

"I always loved to sing since I was small," said Little. "My parents like to joke that I could sing before I could talk."

After writing her first song at 13, it was her parents that encouraged her to pursue her dream of becoming a singer-songwriter. Last summer, Little worked for her aunt at the Four Chimneys Inn to save up enough money to buy recording equipment. As summer drew to a close, Little returned to her family's apartment in Guangzhou, China to work virtually with producers from around the world.

"I was really motivated to write songs, they've been a kind of emotional outlet for me," said Little. "When my parents found out about it, they really encouraged me to share. It was a little scary to share something that personal, but I started to work on an album."

In the past year, Little has begun to work with Jared Anderson of Evergreen Productions in Nashville, Tenn.. The artist is also working with music producer Matthew Tryba of Denver, Colo. who was worked with OneRepublic, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, and The Fray as well as serving as an assistant on Taylor Swift's album "1989." Additionally, Little is working with Aubrey Whitfield, a female producer from London who was previously worked with Little Mix and Kelly Clarkson.

"I've been trying to release one single each month, and work towards growing a fanbase," said Little. "I worked to pay for the first half of my album, and I'll be doing some crowdfunding to complete it."

Little's first single, appropriately named "Little Light," was released on May 20, and was featured in the online entertainment blog Sommagazine.com. Alongside her singles, "White Lies" and "Control," the song has played on radio FM 100 the Radius in Tel Aviv, Israel and are featured on some Spotify playlists.

"Maria Elena's songs capture the imagination, and leave the listener humming tunes filled with vivid images and heartfelt themes that are at once deeply personal and highly relatable," said Michael Ludwick of Near West Productions.

The artist, who speaks multiple languages including spanish and chinese, has been uniquely influenced by her jetsetting childhood. Her acoustic musical style incorporates elements of indie pop, folk, and a hint of country. Little is currently recording her first song in Spanish "Verdad," with Latin Grammy winning producer Sebastian de Peyrecave.

"My background has really encouraged me to explore different genres and try to write some songs in Spanish," said Little. "I really enjoy incorporating different cultural sounds, and making music out of it."

This summer, Little plans to continue recording in addition to performing more in the Bennington community.

"I've played around at open-mic nights and with friends and family, but I would love to perform more in Bennington," said Little. "Bennington is my hometown; Vermont really means a lot to me."

Little's music is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and iTunes among others. To learn more, visit www.mariaelenalittle.com.

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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