A storyteller at heart, Mahalia’s unassuming songwriting manages to express an instinctively innocent gift for melody with a mature complexity in composition and a natural affinity for imaginative narratives. This is subtle and delicate music emboldened by exultant choruses and a vocal that is both sparingly
sweet and refreshingly raw. There is nothing forced about Mahalia’s music and it is testament to her innate talent that she has been championed by Ed Sheeran and Rudimental, while enlisting esteemed producers including Supa Dups (Rihanna, Bruno Mars), 1985 (Drake, Nicki Minaj) and Steve Fitzmaurice (Sam Smith) for her forthcoming EP and debut album.
As a child growing up in Leicester-where she lived until moving to Birmingham two years ago -Mahalia’s mum would drive her to and from school to the sounds of Etta James, Floetry, Aaliyah and Tweet. But it was hearing Corinne Bailey Rae’s self-titled debut album that immediately captivated the then nine year-old’s creative imagination, and at 12 she picked up the guitar and began playing open mic nights in the Midlands. Her break through song was the utterly arresting Let The World See Your Light, which captured the attention of platforms such as SBTV, and Amy Wadge, a little known writer who later found success with Ed Sheeran on the #1 single Thinking Out Loud. Wadge took Mahalia to see her friend Ed play in Wolverhampton, much to Mahalia’s delight. “I was such a huge fan, so I was really excited not just to meet him but to see him perform,” she remembers. “We talked for a little bit, he wrote a really lovely tweet about me and it all kicked off from there.” Ed invited Mahalia to join him on several dates to perform a duet of Goldrush; with his own star in the ascendant, record labels were keen to find out more about the14year-old guitar playing songwriter able to hold her own alongside Sheeran.
Earlier this year Mahalia went into the studio with Rudimental; the result was the title trackfromtheir#1album,We The Generation, co-written and sung by Mahalia. “That was huge for me, to be involved in the process and then to see the record do so well. It’s been so fun to go on the journey with them; they’re become like big brothers to me.” Mahalia played with the Hackney quartet at Lovebox over the summer and on Jools Holland (“the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done”), earning such a distinguished live reputation that she’s since been asked to support Leon Bridges, Kwabs, Frances and Lianne La Havas.
With a debut album set for release soon, Mahalia closed last year with the EP Never Change, four tracks of sublime songwriting. The one thing I want people to take from my music is a sense of honesty,” Mahalia points out. “I always aim to be honest, real and relatable. My biggest fear is for someone to listen to my music and think I’m not being truthful.” It’s what makes Mahalia such a truly exciting prospect; like Adele, Amy or Ed before her, Mahalia doesn’t attempt to chase hit singles or court the cool crowd. She’s a real teenager writing real music that’s relatable regardless of age. “I’m a17 year-old girl from the Midlands who likes to sing and write songs,” she says simply. “I know I’m still young and I’ve got a lot to learn about life and love, but I want to evolve through my writing like artists before me have done. Even though I’ve been singing for five years, I feel like my journey is just beginning.”