$.25 from each ticket purchased will go to The Shout Syndicate, a Boston-based, volunteer-run fundraising effort who raises money to help fund youth-led arts programs at proven non-profit creative youth development organizations in Greater...More Info
$.25 from each ticket purchased will go to The Shout Syndicate, a Boston-based, volunteer-run fundraising effort who raises money to help fund youth-led arts programs at proven non-profit creative youth development organizations in Greater Boston. Housed at The Boston Foundation, The Shout Syndicate works in partnership with the Mayor's Office of Arts & Culture's creative plan, Boston Creates.
Spending her childhood in Syston, Leicestershire, Mahalia, similar to her geographical beginnings, felt like an outsider, particularly in school. “Obviously, I had friends and a social life, but liking music, or anything to do with words or poetry, people just didn’t really rate it,” she says sincerely. Naturally, she manifested an internal confidence in both her love of the artform, but also her participation with it as an infant. Armed with a protective and loving household, she was instantly granted additional support, and guidance from both her mother and father whilst performing at open-mics, navigating herself through the independent artist route as well as her youth.
Mahalia’s willingness to grow and shed her skin, led to her signing to Asylum/Atlantic Records at 13. “All of a sudden, I was back and forth to London at the weekend, in sessions and recording constantly.” That wasn’t the only relocation in her life, as she was enrolled into Birmingham Ormiston Academy to refine her knack for performing arts further. The years of building on her armour of confidence granted Mahalia the autonomy in deciding to pursue acting over singing during her time at the academy, and musically, to discontinue artistic ‘sessions’ getting to know producers — she quickly, during her early teenage years, created boundaries and development on her own terms. “I kind of got tired of the constant back and forth to London, and I just wanted to be a kid again, and experience life in that way, I wasn’t ready to be ‘out there’ [as an artist] yet,” she summarises.
The ability to pause activity whilst still being signed led to Mahalia embracing the multi-faceted, layered dimensions of being a teenager is exactly what informed her debut long-player project Diary of Me, released in 2016, when the singer was only 17. “‘Marry Me’ and ‘I Remember’ were some of the first songs I ever wrote about love.” Laughing as she remembers, she wanted to release the body of work closing that chapter of her life before dropping out of BOA and pursuing music full time. Across the nimble, but ambitious release, Mahalia’s concoction of experiences are beautifully put across neo-soul productions, her honest, Gen-Z references of Snapchat et al, helping to inform her societal, and romance-related ruminations.
Moving to London a year after her debut and flat-sharing — and occasionally crashing in between tenancies — with an array of friends and acquaintances, again proved foundational in Mahalia’s trajectory, they gave her the first glimpse of the realities of operating as a 9-5 musician in a metropolis like London. “I wasn’t used to it at all,” she says candidly. “But I just had to get on with it. I wouldn’t tell people my experiences, I was patient with it.”
Not knowing how she survived still, she recalls going back to Leicester, for her final time in 2017, and almost letting love intercept the fundamental breakthrough of ‘Sober’, which, upon its summer release of that year, and COLORS debut — now at 58 million views — went viral leading to a surge of DSP and social media growth in hours. “I was just watching the engagement skyrocket overnight.” Opting to return to London, with more informed insights and anointed with a Little Simz feature on the ‘Sober’ follow up ‘Proud of Me’, Mahalia let go of her previous relationship — even dedicating ‘I Wish I Missed My Ex’ to her sentiments around it — to prioritise self-love and her pivot towards stardom.
Mahalia has never been one to shy away from her emotions, in fact, it’s what heavily informs her discography to date. On Seasons, she thematically aligns different aspects of romantic entanglements to the concept of seasons or experiences. “It definitely was intended to explore all of my various feelings, experiences, and expressions towards situations in love,” she says. Latching onto and harnessing her young adulthood now, she challenges double standards around women on the spoken-word inspired ‘One Night Only’, but still wholly embraces that that’s not her in the realm of the opposite sex. “It’s such a taboo, but ‘One Night Only’ in particular was me finding my threshold of self respect and latching onto that.
It’s on the singer's debut album Love and Compromise however, that she stylistically blooms in experimentation and presents to the masses a holistic crème brûlée of approaches, an assortment that leaves listeners guessing as Mahalia sheds a new layer by the end of each song. The project also birthed the release of Mahalia’s highest charting single to date ‘Simmer’. Cracking Top 40 on the UK R&B Chart and Top 50 on the main UK Official placements, the Burna Boy adorned number, presents Mahalia amidst a dancehall-laced, enchanted universe, where she’s commanding consumers, elevating enunciation and overall delivery. “Everyone loved it, and that was such a relief to me,” she says.
Christened in many Grammy, BRIT, Soul Train and MTV Push nominations, as well as two MOBO-wins for for Best Female Act, and Best R&B/Soul Act, Mahalia still proves that beyond the accolades, an overarching dedication to persistence is what’s driven her to look inward, grow and ultimately challenge herself with each and every release to date. Her upcoming EP, Letter To Your Ex, is a bonafide example of the artistic development she sometimes inherited, but other times self-initiated under her years at Asylum/Atlantic.
“I’m so much more present now, I had to reconnect with everything and I just wanted to do this concept, really toying with my ‘partners’ ex dynamic and storytelling.” An elevated conceptual piece than Seasons, Mahalia wrote the majority of her release with her current partner. The project's second track ‘In The Club’ particularly places Mahalia on new ground, a footing she was placed into by her partner also. “His favourite song is 50 Cent’s ‘In The Club’ and I never thought I could rap or convey hip-hop’s energy and character in a song. Without him I would’ve never thought of, let alone had the confidence to do something like that.” Interpolating the number, and half-singing, half-rapping, Mahalia’s vocals are realms away from her inaugural tape — fuller, garnished in rasp, and extended runs, she’s a cocooned offering in 2022, ‘In The Club’ eloquently conveying this alongside her rap alter-ego. “I’m really proud of that song,” she notes. “I had a lot of fun recording it.”
Mahalia leans into other sides of R&B’s expansive ecosystem, this time infusing a smokey version of neo-soul, on ‘Whatever Simon Says’. Heavily conversational in her approach, Mahalia toys with her tone here, making the song feel as close to a direct response to someone as possible. “I wanted the songs, and especially the last part of the EP to feel looser, more authentic.” This intention is a direct manifestation of Mahalia’s school years — part of the reason she avoided studying music was to avoid the strict conventions of songwriting that schools can frame their courses around. “It doesn’t reflect how music is written today,” she explains. The EP’s closer ‘Letter To Your Next’ centres the woman, and follows in the conversational framing lyrically, across a minimalist piano, Mahalia’s pure and passionate execution, is a potent example of her ascending into her artistic prime —
polished and centred mentally, she exudes the assuredness of a relationship therapist imparting self-help onto her fans throughout.
Not formally executive produced by JD Reid, he features on a large bulk of the EP’s credits, alongside additional talent such as Cadenza. Reid in particular forms a close part of Mahalia’s inner circle for her next era, which she’s loosely described as ‘Mahalia 2.0’. “I’m definitely in [2.0] phase now,” she affirms. “I’m not questioning anything anymore, I feel like I’m able to communicate exactly how I feel and exactly who I am now.”
Letter To Your Ex acts as the prelude to Mahalia’s official sophomore album, however, she’s all-embracing of what her next ambitions are as a musician, even with her legion of 3.8M monthly Spotify listeners and counting, there’s more territory to break. “I’m almost glad ‘Love and Compromise’ didn’t go completely sky high, it’s given me room to keep developing, keep growing and go higher than I’ve ever been before. I’m so ready to bridge the gap now, I feel like I’m absolutely playing the long-game.”
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