Mahalia talks inspirations for ‘Love and Compromise,’ honesty, authenticity at ACL

Brooke Sjoberg

Since writing her first song at age eight and signing with a record label at 13, English artist Mahalia has been making music by and for the heart. 

Largely focusing on relationships, Mahalia’s discography features three EPs, Head Space, Never Change and Seasons, as well as two albums, Diary of Me and Love and Compromise. After being released earlier this year, her latest album Love and Compromise peaked at 28 on UK charts.

After her set at Austin City Limits Music Festival, The Daily Texan caught up with her to talk about her inspirations as a songwriter and the direction of her career. 

The Daily Texan: In all of your genres — R&B, neo-soul — what do you think you bring to the table that other artists don’t?

Mahalia: I would say my honesty. In my genre of music, particularly traditional R&B … I used to always feel like it was always so slick and so clean and so sexy, and I'm quite goofy. It's something that my fans have definitely pointed out. They use this term, “goofy-sexy-cool,” where it's like I'm kind of cool, but I'm not that sexy on stage. I've kind of grown into that as I've gotten older. I think it's just the fact that I'm a little bit more honest about who I am and I’m not afraid to shy away from that.

DT: Where did that “goofy-sexy-cool” come from?

M: Well, I think it has always been in me. I find it really hard to not be myself. I find it very difficult to lie about who I am. I'm from a really honest family and my family's super accepting, but also super real about who we are. As I've gotten older and I've gotten more confident in myself, I realized that it's not a downfall. If anything … I think it makes me slightly different, authentic.

DT: As a songwriter with that honesty, what are you inspired by?

M: I'm mostly inspired by how the heart feels. I just had a year of feeling amazing and being in this amazing relationship and feeling super loving all the time. And I just went through a breakup, and now I feel like I'm back in that place of real heartache. People say that I talk a lot about love, but the premise of love really inspires me. There's so much in it to talk about, and I don't feel like I'm ever going to get bored or I'm ever going to get lost for inspiration. I love the way that four days ago, I was feeling above the world, and now today my heart is broken. I love that, as much as it hurts. I'm really inspired by how humans feel and how we communicate.

DT: You were in “Brotherhood” (2016). Was that a one-off or will you keep pursuing acting?

M: I think at that time, it felt like a one-off. So much of it is about confidence, not being on a screen. Playing a role is so different than anything that I've ever done before. The acting that I was doing when I was young, I was acting on stage, which I think has completely inspired my stage presence and who I am now, but I hope it's not a one-off. It'd be nice to do it again.