Intoxicated with passion and ambition, R&B artist MAHALIA dials in to a woozy neo-soul groove that draws from the past but looks towards the future.
Mahalia’s latest single “Sober” might’ve buzzed from a booze-fueled drunk call, but the singer-songwriter doesn’t phone it in when it comes to her music. Growing up in a creative household, she was always predisposed for musical merit. “My parents are musicians, one of my brothers is into dance and the others are an actor and musician, so we all play music together–we even write songs together. That definitely helped my creativity as a kid,” she recalls. Destiny first rang in on her at the age of 12 as she began flexing her songwriting chops during middle school. “I had all these emotions inside me. There were loads of things that really affected me when I was young and I just had to talk about them,” she explains. And by the age of 13, she had answered the call. “What pushed me to pursue music is that I was signed really young. That in itself is a wakeup call, and I really wanted to do it,” she shares. “It may not be the most glamorous thing, but that’s what really pushed me to pursue music–and I take it seriously.”
To say that Mahalia started her career on the right track would be an understatement. Before even reaching UK’s legal drinking age, she has already signed a deal with a major record label, supported Ed Sheeran on the final leg of his tour in London and Birmingham, and collaborated with Rudimental. She’s even made her big screen debut starring as Thea in Noel Clarke’s Brotherhood. But come December 2016, the singer-songwriter was determined to show a different side of her as she released her full-length album, Diary of Me. Taking pages from her own book, Mahalia fastened her honest tales and chilled pop melodies with a pure soul energy. “I definitely found it hard, that’s why it was so important for me to include a version on Spotify that was the complete story, where you could listen to the interlude of me talking because I wanted people to hear where the story came from,” she explains of her record. “Essentially, I’m a songwriter as well as a singer, and everything that I wrote about is from experience, so that particular project was really important to me.”
“Playing for people is what I’ve always wanted to do, and for me, it’s a gift, and I’m just happy to be doing it.”
While her single “Sober” seems like a departure from the mellow acoustic vibe she developed in her last record, it only shows that Mahalia is all about upping the ante. After all, the arrow of time doesn’t stop or wait, it keeps marching forward. “The development in my music came from the fact that I wasn’t listening to the same thing when I was 16 compared to when I was 13. It was just me wanting to go outside of myself and be creative. I think that to me means I was ready to move on,” shares the UK artist. But while she’s flying high with her career, Mahalia still knows how to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground. “Staying normal is just staying in line to what kind of person you are. I love my home, I love my friends who I’ve known since I was a kid, I love my family, I love taking my dog to walk, and I have these things around me that keep me as your 12-year-old Mahalia,” she relates. “This is my job, and I couldn’t ask for any more. Playing for people is what I’ve always wanted to do, and for me, it’s a gift, and I’m just happy to be doing it.”