Deva Mahal

Tuesday 19 June 2018
Words Alice Bell

Being the daughter of blues legend Taj Mahal, it was no surprise Deva Mahal was born with soul and blues inked deeply in her skin. Her music has defied the norms of genre and furthermore introduced her as a strong vocalist and songwriter. She exposes herself completely by openly singing about pain, joy, loss, love, and heartache. The unique sound Mahal has created is the perfect mixture of blues, indie-pop, rock, and modern day R&B. Mahal’s debut album Run Deep is out now with 12 of her edgiest and most profound tracks to date. Check out our interview and performance below…

You released your debut album earlier this year tell us a bit about working on that and the creative process behind it?

Heartbreak makes for excellent source material. LOL! I wouldn’t say that the album was easy to write but I had tons of inspiration from living and loving in New York City. Some of the songs began while I was living in NZ and the others were written while living in Brooklyn.

 What has been your favourite moment of the year so far?

There are a few. One of them was the day that Run Deep was released.  Another was spending a week with my friends The California Honey Drops making music in the Caribbean and the other was being on Jools Holland and meeting Bjork.

Your father Taj Mahal is a well-known musician what was it like growing up around so much musical inspiration?

It was normal, to me.  Possibly insane to others, but normal to me

I know you’ve been writing and performing your own music from a very young age and have worked with lot’s of different artists but how did you find the transition to launching your own career?

It’s exciting, terrifying, exhilarating and challenging. Luckily I have a label that makes space for so many decisions to be in my hands. It’s like my whole life has been pushing me in this direction. Sometimes you feel like giving up and just but that day has never arrived. You get to see what you are really made of, and that is incredible.

Last year you performed at an Aretha Franklin tribute concert, how did it feel to be part of a celebration of such an icon in the industry?

Fucking unbelievable!! She is a true legend and one of many teachers on this path. I was so honoured to be able to celebrate her.

Talking of icons, your music has been praised by Ru Paul, what was it like hearing that and was you surprised by it?

I nearly died!! He actually came to a show once and I had to do my very best to forget that he was there. Ru Paul has been a teacher and icon for me for most of my life. I never really fit in growing up and was bullied everyday. People like Mama Ru are beacons of light for people like me and so many others. So…. I was floored!!!!

There’s a sense of empowerment behind your music, where do you think that comes from?

From losing a lot and feeling powerless. You have to search within yourself to find your own strength. I also have beautiful friends and family that have stood by me.

 Your tours coming up and your playing at lots of Jazz festivals in the US, how important is the Jazz community to you?

I studied jazz at university and have a deep connection to the art form and the artists who created it. I suppose that the jazz festival community has been the first to support and believe in me. They’ve had my back. My music isn’t jazz but it I am honoured to be accepted by that world.

 You said before that your favourite city to visit on tour is Paris, what is it about playing in Paris you love so much?

I have been connected to Paris since I was a little girl. My late Aunt Carole was a famous soul singer there and it has always embraced black female artists before most other cities in Europe. Parisians have also been the biggest supporters of this album and have showed so much love for me. I feel a part of a legacy there. I look forward to growing and building in the UK and everywhere else.

Previously you said that you feel more at home performing on stage and seeing your live performances you make that clear, do you think that comes from your love of jazz and blues in regards to musicianship and improvisation?

I studied music and vocal performance and have been performing since I was really young. It feels like breathing to me. The studio is an alien place, to me.  I also participated in quite a lot of theater while growing up and that fostered my love for the stage.

What’s something you haven’t done this year yet that your hoping to do and will you be back in the studio anytime soon?

Have a successful tour for this album, be worthy of being nominated for a Grammy and pay all my bills on time for at least six months in a row. I am already working on new things so you will just have to stay tuned.