Photo Credit: Olivia Rose
It was a 2012 tweet by Ed Sheeran that rising R&B artist Mahalia attributes to changing everything for her career. The post was an integral part in Mahalia being signed by Asylum/Atlantic at just 13 and getting the opportunity to showcase her music to new audiences.
Seven years later, the 21-year-old singer/songwriter is now a prominent name in the underground UK music scene through her unique blend of “psycho acoustic soul.” Based out of Leicester, England, Mahalia has steadily built her reputation in the industry with the release of a a string of EP’s and a trio of excellent singles from her upcoming project.
2019 seems to be the year of the singer-songwriter with artists such as Lewis Capaldi, Tom Walker and Freya Ridings all coming to the forefront, and Mahalia is next in line with the release of her debut album ‘Love And Compromise’ next month. Pop Crave caught up with Mahalia to discuss her new album, collaborating with Nigerian Afro-fusion singer Burna Boy and her journey on #TheRoadToLoveAndCompromise Challenge.
How does it feel to be releasing your debut album ‘Love and Compromise’ in September, and what can we expect from the record?
God! It feels amazing first and foremost, I am actually really nervous for it. I just submitted everything, like all parts, everything that is in the music so I feel that I have lost something in my life. It’s amazing, I am actually really emotional about it. I am really excited, and hope people love it as much as I do.
What you can expect is kinda more what I am already now, and what I have been doing. The album is definitely an extension of where I’m at right now, and I feel like people will get that. It’s totally about all the trials and tribulations of me being in love, being out of love, falling in love. It’s like my diary I guess, but just like 13 3-5 minute songs.
You are documenting the album journey with fans on social media, by sharing content daily under #TheRoadToLoveAndCompromise. What was the inspiration behind this?
I wanted to create engagement. Sometimes I think promoting an album can actually be really difficult. I didn’t ever want to come over not genuine or a bit strange. I didn’t just want to be on my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook every day going “buy my album!” I was just thinking of a way to actually possibly make people want to buy it, but in a way that felt real to me. In starting it like that, it meant actually less about that and more about giving people different pockets of me every single day.
Now I am in full swing, I really like it as I feel it challenges my mind every single day around the same time. By day 10, I definitely regretted it a little bit and thought to myself “oh my god what have I done to myself?” but all in all it it’s great. What’s been nice is I have been having people message me like “where’s your post?” I feel it’s really nice to let people know and say to people “this is what time I’m going to be on here at night!” I was trying to regulate it for myself too, I’d make sure I only really use those websites at that time. At the minute, purely for my sake and my mental state, I get a little bit weird if I spend too much time on my phone or laptop on social media so I think I was was trying to regulate that time for me, but as a person.
Who are your musical influences?
Ooh, I’ve got loads! I think mostly I was always kinda influenced by really strong female singers and songwriters so I loved all the greats that I mention a lot – Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, India Arie, Jill Scott, Angie Stone, Amy Winehouse, Billie Holliday – there’s a long list of all the incredible women I grew up with.
I’m also really into guys playing guitars – I think that’s how I got in to playing guitar. When I was younger, I was into Jack Johnson, Bon Iver and The Arctic Monkeys who were a band but just Alex Turner, his writing and vocals I just find so exciting. I had this weird blend of these two huge worlds and they kinda just cross over for me ,so I can go from listening to Sunshine Anderson “Heard It All Before” to Bon Iver “Re Stacks.” I have a massively weird eclectic music taste and I think that is why I probably I don’t feel scared to go anywhere, and in a new direction.
How did the collaboration with Burna Boy on “Simmer” come about, and what was it like working with the “African Giant?”
It came about in a weird way. At first I didn’t even know If I wanted a feature and after a few months of going to and fro, me and my producer talked about it and I think we both collectively decided that a guy on it might elevate it in a different way. It was a friend of mine who I work with came to me and was like “you should hit up Burna Boy.” I knew about Burna Boy for so long but I think maybe in my head I thought “there’s no way that if I slide in Burna Boy’s DM he is going to respond to me.” So we had a little joke about that , then it turned out that somebody in my team had info on his team. In the end I went to my label and I was like listen this is what I really want to happen. I dropped him a line and I just wanted to them to try and navigate it, it took a couple of months but it worked.
We shot the video in London, and I think he’s incredible, and it’s so amazing to to see what he is doing. He IS the “African Giant” and his new album just dropped and it’s incredible. I just felt so privileged to work with him so early on and I’m just really happy about it.
Describe your sound in three words?
I’ve always said psycho acoustic soul. It’s one of those things I think if you listen to my music now, you will have a whole different feeling from if you listened my music 4 years ago. When I think of my music from 4 years ago and now, both is still really intense. I think it’s important that I hold onto to that thing I’ve always done. For a long time it was just me and my guitar. It was literally just me with guitar in my bedroom trying to record songs. So I think it’s important that people know that side of me as well as the side they’ve seen now.
How have you managed to keep your mindset in check, in what is such a competitive industry?
I think just having really good people around you. I have a really great team, got really great friends and the most supportive family. When you have parents like mine, it’s really difficult to fly off the ground so I think honestly it’s the people around me. I think the fact I’ve been in the industry for so long has really helped me out, because I think I’m a lot more robust than I was a few years ago, and I think I’m just much better at handling certain situations. I know what I don’t like, I know what I do like. I know what events I don’t want to go to because of how it makes me feel. I know what things I do like going to. I feel I just know myself better and that made me be able to have the tools to fight anything negative away.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by whom?
I think it would be from my mum who always said “You gotta do what you gotta do, in order to do what you want to do.“ I’ve always had that thing in my head. She did this say to me when I was 11, she just meant I had to do guitar practice before I could go out with my friends. I just feel it’s really really transcended into my adult life and it’s really interesting now. I have this discipline and sometimes I forget where I come from but it comes from my mum and my life deed lived in that way.
I’m actually really grateful for all those things because I am older, I have a different way of looking at things -It’s definitely discipline. I have a really great level of discipline where I just know it’s really important to get shit done and then I will be able to do whatever I want to do. I think that’s going to be my favourite piece of advice for my whole life.
What does the future hold for Mahalia?
I don’t even know! I am so bad at thinking ahead, other than my relationship. I think definitely loads more music, I do think I want to do music for my whole life. When you really think about it, it’s quite a hard thing to think about because there’s so many artists who do it for a while then stop, or do it for a little bit then stop. I would like to think that I’m going to do music for my whole life but then I’m a normal homey girl. I’m probably going to have 4 kids, I’m probably going to have a dog and I’m probably going to and do all the stuff that I can go on and do. I’m just going to really work my ass of for the next 10 years and see where I can get. I am excited and I think I have loads more to give which is the exciting part about it.