If you don’t know him by name, you’ll most certainly know him by sound.
MAALA is a 21-year-old Kiwi guy making waves in the music industry with his unique, electro-pop sounds, angsty, romantic lyrics and anonymous profile.
He’s succeeding so highly that he’s opening for Flume this week; no mean feat for someone who only released their self-titled debut EP in August last year and has recently finished their first album.
We caught up with the hard-to-Google singer to find out about the mysterious man behind the music. Who is he? What does he stand for? Where does he come from and where is he going?
Miss FQ: Your actual name is Evan, right? But you’re MAALA as well?
MAALA: Yes, both of them at the same time. Crazy, right?
You have quite an anonymous profile actually! Where did the name MAALA come from?
MAALA has a really uninteresting backstory as far as the name; I basically wrote out the whole alphabet, just scribbling and stuff and I just kind of picked letters that looked cool together.
So I understand you came third on New Zealand’s got talent in 2012, but you weren’t MAALA then. How did you get your first break as the artist you are now?
The TV show four years ago introduced me to the right people and got me a certain level of exposure to an audience. Then I was working with a label and it was a lot of patiently writing and finding a direction. It was 2014 when we started writing for MAALA. We hit a stride and had some songs that we liked and we chucked them all on an EP. [We] put it out pretty low key and it seemed to be received well, so that’s where it kind of kicked off – putting a song on the internet kind of did its own thing.
Did you ever have a back-up plan?
I feel like I’m 21 and I still should definitely have a back-up plan haha!
I finished high school and I started uni doing accounting but I only managed to make a couple classes, and then I was like, hang on a second [laughs].
The opportunities were there so [I thought] I should at least try music for a little bit. I haven’t had to come back to accounting class basically.
Your new album ‘Composure’ is available for pre-order at the moment. What can listeners expect to hear from you this time around?
The EP was released last August and we basically went straight into album writing mode, so I suppose I was still in kind of the same line of thinking. There is definitely a very familiar vibe to the album. But, shit you know, I’m still trying stuff out and exploring different ideas and finding new things that excite me. So I’d say that is maybe more ‘poppy’, but I wouldn’t call it a ‘poppy’ record. That’s just the kind of stuff I’ve been listening to, so you can kind of hear that.
Who are some other artists that inspire you musically?
Ah, forever changing! I think as of late, I am obsessed with Carly Rae Jepsen. She is a big one for me. I listen to Miguel a lot. Kanye West is always at the top of my list. I am really into the top 40 pop at the moment.
Did you have any exciting collaborations?
I did! Collaboration is a big part of it for me, and I find it actually hard to write by myself; I enjoy the dynamic of working with other people. There was one session where we wrote ‘Kind of Love’ with, MoZella, who is a writer over in the states, and she has got a whole list of the big fancy pop singles she has written. So that was a fun session – she is very in the loop. And I also worked with Mr Leroy Clampitt.
Ed’s note: MoZella is known for Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’ and One Direction’s ‘Perfect’. New Zealander Leroy Clampitt who is now living in LA helped write Justin Bieber’s ‘Company’, too.
You’re 21, the age where people generally start to think about travelling. Do you have any plans to travel and move overseas to further your career?
Oh I would like to, I mean it’s kind of, it’s a really tricky thing, it’s hard to kind of predict what I am going to be doing in the next six months, let alone the next two weeks. It’s constantly changing. But that is a lovely goal that I would love to achieve, is to take the music overseas and try it out in front of different audiences. But there are no hard plans at the moment.
This week you’re opening for Flume for the New Zealand leg of his tour. How excited are you about that?!
Yeah, it kicks off [tonight] in Dunedin! I’m still not nervous but I’m sure that is going to kick in! These are going to be my biggest shows that I have played, so it’s going to be mental. One of the first opportunities to play these new songs off the album, and really hear what people think.
Your single ‘Kind of Love’ had over 200,000 listens in its first week, and has now had over 1.2 million listens on Spotify. Your self-titled debut EP, had Zane Lowe’s tick of approval, too. Those are pretty amazing achievements. What has been your proudest moment in your crazy journey so far?
Oh man, it’s hard to pinpoint that stuff, I mean for me the most exciting part is when I have written a song that I am really happy with. And I know that is cheesy as fuck, but, [laughs] that’s kind of it. That’s why I am doing it, so when you get that approval it’s incredible and you know… it’s motivating. When I wrote the EP, that was two years in the making so that was a proud moment for me, it was like finally kind of crossing a line and working out what I wanted to do, putting it down. So yeah, the song writing for me is the most rewarding thing.
There is no doubt that free streaming is changing the music industry. How does it affect you as an artist?
I’ve had my bitter angry time. But I would be very slow thinking to believe it’s not okay. [Free streaming] is what people want so you have got to compromise and find a way to make it work. I mean, it has been crucial to my success. Having a platform like Spotify or Sound Cloud, to freely approach any one around the world – that’s insane. So I have a lot of time for that.
At the end of the day you are into music because you are about the music and that’s the highest priority?
Exactly, it’s nice if I can take home some cash at the end of the day. But I’m doing it for the song writing. There is no illusion there.
Which festivals are on your bucket list to play at?
I mean obviously there are your [festivals like] Coachella – those would be awesome. So let’s put those up there. And, if we are going to dream big, let’s go for like a Madison Square Garden performance too, that would be dope.
The album artwork is really beautiful, what was the creative inspiration for the cover?
Thank you, for me I couldn’t think straight if the art didn’t reflect what I was trying to say with the music. I kind of knew at one point that I wanted to see red in the colour, because that’s what I thought the song was kind of reflecting. I wanted to keep it quite warm and intimate, but still quite dark and quite moody. And I think we ticked all those boxes in the process.
Do you visualise all of that stuff when you are producing the music as well, does it all go hand in hand?
It was definitely towards the end of the album, that we were trying to think what [the artwork] was trying to say. But as far as the colour palette, I think that is something that I definitely acknowledge quite early; what kind of tone the songs are reflecting. The EP felt very electric and moody, and so it felt like that kind of blue that I showed there. This album felt a lot warmer, more romantic and angsty, yeah so that was kind of the vibe.
A photo posted by M A A L A (@maalamusic_) on
MAAALA’s new album, Composure is available for pre-order from iTunes and is set to be released on July 29.