Mumbai based Maalavika Manoj, who goes by the moniker Mali for all her musical exploits, is a singer songwriter with experience that belies her years. Having started out as an artist at a very young age, the Chennai born artist has already worked with a a plethora of big names with AR Rahman, Anirudh Ravichander and Dualist Inquiry being some of them. And she showcases this experience in her brand new five track EP Rush.
The entire EP boasts consistency, both musically and lyrically, which results in an intimate sense of personality. With this effort it feels like Mali lets you into her world and by the end of the five tracks, you get to know her better. The well structured songs supported by great quality instrumentation keeps the vibe fresh as you yearn for multiple listens.
One of the highlights is Mali’s soothing voice that flows through each of the songs. She beautifully explores different vocal ranges and combines them with a melodic pop appeal. The songwriting finds a perfect harmony using subtle guitar notes, bass lines and drumming patterns while keeping the artist and her voice at the creative fulcrum. A great example of this would be the opening track ‘Poor Girl’s Dream’. It’s bold and groovy and perfect way to get you hooked on to the EP. The title track ‘Rush’ is a treat as well as it sonically explores the feeling crafted out in the lyrics.
It’s great to hear a quality release so soon in 2017 and it gives me a rush to think what more she might have to offer in the future.
We talked to the young artist about a variety of things from her collaboration, to the EP and any future plans. Check it out!
Q) You’ve been writing and performing your songs from a really young age. What sparked your interest in music? How’s the journey been so far and what are some of the highlights?
It all started when my parents enrolled me in piano lessons when I was 5. I loved music but didn’t know I had it in me to do it as a full-time career. I used to write poetry as a kid, but when I wrote my first song, all my poetry precipitated to music and I haven’t turned back since. It’s been around 7 years since I started performing and doing music seriously. In the first few years I wasn’t sure of my sound or what I really wanted to do with music so I experimented with many different genres and collaborated with other musicians. I sing playback once in a while and I’ve had the pleasure of working with big names in the south like AR Rahman, Harris Jayaraj and Anirudh Ravichander. I was a part of a band called Bass-in bridge for a year and after the band disbanded I went solo and took ‘Mali’, my childhood nickname as my artist name. Moving from Chennai to Mumbai was a major step in my career and it has made me grow so much as a musician and a person.
Q) Tell us about your EP ‘Rush’?
‘Rush’ is the title track of the EP. It’s about getting a Rush from doing what you love. In the past few years I’ve been unsure about whether I’ve wanted to do music as a full-time career. Rush is about actually taking that leap of faith, throwing yourself in the deep end, accepting yourself and enjoying the journey.
Q) Which would you say might be your favourite song from the EP and why?
Each song is special to me. Each time I listen to it, I have a new favourite. The current favourite is probably Sooner or Later. It’s the most recently written song in the EP, and it still resonates strongly with me. I like that it’s the last song in the EP because it’s a great sign off track.
Q) What’s the songwriting process like for you? What are the things that inspire you to write?
I go through phases. My first lot of songs had to do a lot with understanding people and realising how complex people can be. These days I think I write more about change – both internal and external- and how we react to it.
Q) What are your main interests apart from music? Do you find them influencing the music you make?
I love animals and would love to work on something animal welfare related when I can. So far I’ve written just one song related to it. It’s got to do with rescuing a stray kitten.
I love food. I’m currently in the process of experimenting with cooking and learning new recipes. I haven’t written a song about food, but it might happen soon!
Q) Tell us about your collaborations with Jehangir Jehangir of Cotton Press Studios and Tejas, who are your producers and also live bandmates?
I met Tejas last year and we hit it off. Since then we’ve been performing together extensively. I met JJ at Cotton Press on one of my visits to the studio. When it came to choosing who to work with on this EP, it was an easy task. JJ and Stuart already work together and it’s important that the drummer and the bass player vibe well with each other. Tejas and JJ have a wonderful working relationship. So we’d all worked with each other in a way. JJ, Stu and Tejas have an unconventional approach to making music. They like to make things sound interesting without cluttering the track and for me that was of utmost importance. Less is always more, and we all shared this philosophy.
Q) Who are some of your major influences from the Indian independent music scene? What’s your take on its current position?
Tejas is probably my biggest influence only because we’ve worked together so much. I love Spud in the box, Short Round, Blackstratblues, Donn Bhat, the Fanculos, and many others. I think, as independent musicians in India, we’re on the brink of something huge. We’re slowly starting to get noticed and appreciated for the music we make without needing to make film music or world music. The world is flat now and the internet has made it easy for independent musicians like me to hold their own and market themselves the way the like. I’m excited for what’s to come!
Q) What message would you like to give young female musicians who might look up to you?
It’s not gonna be easy. Your parents are right. Music isn’t a stable career, but then again, what is? If you’re willing to take this step, treat it as a commitment and work hard at it. Unfortunately this job doesn’t come with a manual so be creative and go about it the way you want to.
Q) How does 2017 look like for Mali? Could you describe it in a lyric from your EP?
I see myself traveling a lot in 2017, both in India and abroad. My ultimate goal is to take my music to the world and I’m looking to do some interesting collaborations with fellow singer songwriters and music producers.
“There he was, there he was. And all the people stood before him. He strummed his guitar and the people, they screamed for him. He never thought that he’d be loved for just what he did best”
That’s a lyric from ‘Dreaming’ written about my alter ego who is a spaced out little boy.
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