Ahead of her more-than-overdue debut in Cardiff, Carl Marsh speaks to Midlands soul siren Mahalia Burkmar (but just her first name’ll do, cheers) about plans for ’22, unfed mouths and germy kids…
You’ve just brought a new EP out, Letter To Ur Ex – does this mean an album is not too far away?
I’m hoping so, yeah. That’s where I’m at right now. Basically, from January to now, I’ve been trying to tie up some loose ends with some of the songs I thought I’d finished writing. I went over to America, came back, and thought, “God, I haven’t finished at all. I need to keep going!” But I’m over halfway there, which is great. I thought that I wouldn’t be by now.
All the EP songs were originally on the album – so I’ve lost five songs. I’m trying to find more stories that sit in the same world because a lot of this music has been made, I’d say, over the last 18 months up to three months ago. It all feels like one part of my life. But I’m working on it. I would die if my album didn’t come out within the next 12 months.
OK, I’ll hold you to that. Not to die! I don’t mean that.
When you said you took five tracks for the EP, what was the deciding factor as to why you didn’t want them on any new album?
I wanted to give myself more time. I have a theme for the album, as my themes are always as broad as possible – just because I don’t want to put myself in a box. I don’t want to give myself a theme and then be freaking out to make music that is only related to that. So, I have the theme for the album; I have the title; I know what most of the songs are – but I wanted to give myself more time.
After lockdown, everybody was going, “where’s the album, where’s the album?” And I was going, “guys…” For me, I’d put an album out [2019’s Love And Compromise] and then we had the pandemic. So it almost felt like I hadn’t even got to experience and celebrate that record.
The pandemic, for me, was more like a pause as opposed to a keep going: I definitely wasn’t writing and doing a lot of stuff at that time. When we came out of it – not that we’re fully out of it – and when we started getting back to normal, everybody was asking me for the second album. I was like, “whoa, I don’t have the second album…” So, it’s been about 18 months of working and just trying to find out where I’m at, where I’m sitting right now, and stop focusing on what I think people want to hear. Because I was doing that for a while.
Did it ever cross your mind that this pandemic would never end and that this was the new norm?
Definitely, for a few months. I thought I wasn’t ever going to be on stage again. It was such a strange time. I’ve never really seen anything like that in my life. Maybe swine flu in school, but that wasn’t anything like this. And I was in school, so it was serious because kids pass things around so easily. So I definitely just needed time to adjust to being back. And even now, going back into doing this kind of stuff in person is strange now. So yeah, that’s why I chose to do the EP.
These new live shows should allow you to finally tour Love And Compromise properly, and also perform songs from the new EP… hopefully stopping people like me asking “where’s the new album?”
Yeah, exactly. And I think that if my album can’t come out this year – which again, you know, I have no idea what’s going to happen, but let’s say it couldn’t – then I wouldn’t just not release anything. I think it’s an exciting year for my music and where I’m trying to take it. So, I’m definitely not going to leave the mouths unfed!
Mahalia, Tramshed, Cardiff, Tue 24 May. Tickets: £18.50. Info: here
words CARL MARSH
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