At 12 years old – the age most of us are aimlessly riding bikes or avoiding homework – Mahalia was picking up a guitar for the first time and writing love songs.
With her entrancing, soulful tones, wise yet relatable wordplay and intuitive sense of melody, it quickly became clear she had a natural sense of musicality, and that she’d probably end up doing this forever.
It took one year before she was signed to a label and – once she’d completed college – a scattering of releases followed, from 2012’s acoustic dream Head Space to 2015’s gorgeous 4-track EP Never Change – which was premiered on i-D – and a genre-flipping mixtape Diary of Me, picking up praise from the likes of The Independent and MTV along the way. In 2015, she showed up on easy-going summer anthem “We the Generation” alongside Rudimental, before premiering her throwback R&B single “Sober” on The Fader – a track which received international acclaim, and has now been streamed over 20 million times.
Now 20 and based in London, Mahalia has evolved from ‘up and coming’ into one of the freshest and most definitive voicest in UK music right now. During the past year, she’s released collaborations with Little Simz and Kojey Radical, toured with Jorja Smith, sold out shows worldwide, and become a firm fixture on the radio, both here and over in America. “The world of R&B and black music is especially celebrated over in the US,” she says about her time spent writing and performing in New York, LA and Miami. “Here, we have 1Xtra and Capital Xtra – shout out to them, they’ve always supported me – but in America, you switch on mainstream radio and it’s all R&B. Out there, the love is great.”
With her talent for taking the stuff we all deal with – romance, drama, trying to keep it together in the 21st century – and spinning it into warm, syrup-soaked jams, Mahalia is well on her way to becoming an important musical voice of a generation. “I used to hate my voice when I was sixteen, but I’ve learnt how to love it. This sounds cliché, but it comes from learning how to love yourself; my body shape, my hair, my skin, my voice, my uniqueness. I do love it because you have to love it.”
Having first joined us in Dingle in 2015, Mahalia makes her return to the church of St. James this December.