“If you can’t control a situation the worst thing you can do is try to control it,” says R&B singer-songwriter and apparent sage Mahalia, as she finishes a fag out of her east London bedroom. “You just have to adapt to the new normal, even if it means queuing for the Co-Op.”
Catching up, via the medium of Zoom, two days before her 22nd birthday, the Leicester-born, BRIT-nominated musician (Best Female Solo Artist, no less) should have been celebrating the milestone by headlining a sold-out show at London’s Brixton Academy. For obvious reasons – those plans were recently called off.
But is Mahalia moping? Not in the slightest. Oh no, she’s taking corona-cancellations in her stride by dropping her fourth EP, Isolation Tapes, instead. The follow up to last year’s studio debut album Love and Compromise, the project sees Mahalia delve into her stash of off-cuts for a veritable triptych of honest and emotional storytelling.
“I found songs that I’d forgotten about, listened to them and fell in love with them all over again,” she explains.
Check the tape out below before getting the 100% low down, down there.
10%: Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
I was born in Leicester and raised there until I was 14. I spent the last part of my school time in Birmingham and now I live in London.
20%: At what point did you realise you’d be able to do what you love for a living?
I always wanted to be a singer and tell stories through music, but when I knew that I could do it for a living was probably when I got signed.
30%: What piece of advice has changed your life?
When I was 14 I did a few shows with Ed Sheeran, which to do this day is still probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. We were talking backstage and he said: “Above everybody else, listen to yourself when making your music.”
40%: What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?
Obviously love. First and foremost I am a complete romantic. I never say hopeless because I don’t believe being romantic is hopeless. Human connection has always interested me, whether that be friendships, relationships, partners or families. I’m really inspired by how people react differently in situations and how we cope.
50% What can you tell us about your next project?
When I was thinking about what to do, I was looking at loads of old music that didn’t make the album and that’s how we got to Isolation Tapes – going back to old music, cutting it and changing lyrics to make it better. It’s three songs that existed before this time but I got to finish in this time.
60%: Break down your typical day at work…
You know what, my days are pretty chill. I never block my days and fill them in because that just pisses me off. I hate if I’m constantly running around and if I’m late to one thing I’m late to the next. The majority of my days are mixed up – I’ll have meetings in the day and go to the studio later.
70%: What can artists do to help save the world?
Putting fucking music out. I forget how much amazing music can take you out of a shit mood.
80%: Love, Like, Hate?
I just got my guitar delivered to me and I forgot how much I fucking love my guitar. I made my first ever guacamole last week and I hate avocados to death, so I can now say I think I like avocados. Just because it’s here every single morning, I hate dust and dirt.
90%: What’s the last non-essential item you bought?
I bought a nail kit. I ordered everything from all the gel colours, the acetone, the take off stuff, the UV light, the files… everything.
100%: What’s the first thing you’re going to do when lockdown is lifted?
I’m going for a fucking pint. I need to go sit in a beer garden. I keep getting asked this and think maybe I should come up with an answer that doesn’t include alcohol but that’s exactly what I’m doing.