When Maalavika Manoj aka Mali started strumming her own tunes she found inspiration in long-lost friendships, memories of home and the city with a whisper of a promise to make dreams come true - Mumbai. Her five-piece debut EP Rush is marked with brisk beats and breezy swells with hints of acoustic pop, folk and country. Her life turned around when she decided to drop everything and move to Mumbai from Chennai to find her sound. After releasing her single Dreaming late last year, she started shaping Rush which finds inspiration in the highs and lows of her life and the mixed emotions of moving to a new city. With her honest music and unassuming, reflective debut EP Mali holds the promise of the young indie artist that you’ll be hearing a lot more of. Over a few emails, she takes me through her story, her sound and the rush of emotions that comes with challenging oneself and aiming for the stars.
How did your romance with music begin?
My parents used to tell me that when I was a kid I had a knack for recognizing songs on listening to their opening strains and learning them really quickly. I would take the inlay covers of cassettes and CDs and learn the lyrics as the songs played even though I couldn't understand most of the words. I used to enjoy singing but I never considered that it would be something I would take on as a career.
What is your first memory of creating music?
The first time I ever wrote a song was after I had a fight with my mom when I was 16. It was one of those typical teenage fights I had where I told my mom that I would be better off living far away from home and that I couldn't wait for that day to come. That evening, I regretted everything I said and I wanted to apologise to her. It was raining cats and dogs, I was alone at home and the apartment was dark except for the light up top of the piano. So I sat down and started composing the opening strains of what would become the first song I ever wrote called No Place Like Home.
Where and how does inspiration strike?
Inspiration is a strange thing. It hits you at the weirdest times and it's triggered by the weirdest things. I try and induce it sometimes but whatever I write then is not as great. Feeling sad or confused can be a great time to sit down and pen down your thoughts because sometimes that makes for great music.
Tell us about your sensibilities when it comes to music. What influences your work?
I like to keep things simple. For me, less is more. I like solid melody lines and nice chord progressions. I like to put music through what I call the 'morning after' test, which is to make sure whatever I've written still sounds good to me the morning after I write it. I listen to a whole range of music and so the music I make is a melange of all the direct and indirect influences of stuff I've heard.
Maalavika Manoj aka Mali
Walk me through your debut EP, Rush. What inspired it?
Rush is a chapter in my life during which I lived in 3 different cities, ended relationships and decided to do music as a full-time profession. It was really about putting everything else on hold to focus on building a career in what I get a Rush from.
Did it turn our any different than how you envisioned it initially?
Yes, but in a good way. The songs haven't changed all that much but the instrumentation did. I had some wonderful musicians help me produce the EP and they all brought their individuality to the table.
Where do you go next? What does 2017 hold for you?
In 2017 I want to travel and perform more. I'm also planning on releasing more music and doing some collaborations.
Three words that describe your sound?
Honest. Simple. Real.
One thing you always do before going up on stage?
Hydrate myself and do a few vocal exercises to warm up.
The weirdest audience reaction you've ever seen?
I can't remember the weirdest reaction but I remember during one of our shows, a guy was really drunk and was behaving quite badly, saying inappropriate things to us between songs. I had to ignore it and keep going on but a part of me felt like throwing something at him.
The music album you just can’t get enough of?
Rumours - Fleetwood Mac.
Unwind with Mali's tunes here.
Text Ritupriya Basu