After a strong run in the Top 100, Malaika is through to the 2017 Salute Finals. We caught up with Malaika to get her reaction and discover the inspiration behind her new song for the Finals.
  • SALUTE: How did it feel to get into the Salute Finals?
Getting into the salute finals was slightly surreal. When I got the call I thought maybe it was a mistake at first. I was pushing hard on social media and was very aware that I was probably bombarding people constantly but now I see that it has all come off it’s such a great feeling.

  • SALUTE: What was it like picking your second song for the finals? What is the inspiration and story behind the second song?

Picking the seconds song was easy. I knew exactly which one I would choose and it has video for it too which helps. This is a song I wrote myself and is more of a raw earlier sound for me but is still something I am really proud of.

The second song is about knowing deep down that a relationship isn’t working but ignore all warning signs. Its a feeling I think most people will have experienced in their life.

  • SALUTE: Where did you grow up Malaika? What was it like?

I grew up in Northern Ireland and County Down. It was alright. Having a black background in Northern Ireland is not an easy thing.

  • SALUTE: You’re living in Leeds now right? When did you move to England?

I went to Leeds College of Music, so I moved to England when I was 19 to study my degree. Uni was amazing, it was such a dream to study something that I loved every single day. It was so good. Coming from somewhere like Ireland where there is not much opportunity I kinda went crazy with so much on offer. I was gigging every single night of the week, I was writing, and within a couple of months I managed to get on BBC Introducing. It was really exciting.

  • SALUTE: What kind of music did you grow up to in Ireland? Were there any musicians in your family?

My family isn’t particularly musical so I discovered music myself. I was listening to bands like Thin Lizzy and Blink 182. I eventually got into metal music, listening to bands like Machine Head and Pantera, and Iron Maiden. Metal is where my love for music really began. Being a teenager it was a bit of a rebellion thing as well.

I went to study music when I was 16. The course leader was Berkley College of Music graduate and he would give us these really intense, three hour theory lessons. It was really intense, horrible. That’s where my education in jazz and harmony begun. I started to become very inspired by artists like Nina Simone. Part of that course was to learn about the history of jazz. Having a black background myself I was really interested to hear about the roots of jazz and soul music. Learning about white appropriation, how artists like Elvis and others came along off the work of black artists. That really interested me and got me interested in jazz.

  • SALUTE: Did you start learning any instruments at college? You’re a multi-instrumentalist now, how did you get started making music?

I was at college for two years doing music and a couple of the guys there were really good at jazz guitar. So I used to go in every day and ask them to show me different chord shapes, so I started to learn guitar just from asking friends.

When I was at college there were loads of bands but not many singers, so I would always end up voicing for the bands. That gave me the confidence to sing more.

  • SALUTE: When did you write your first song?

I was probably about 15 for my very first song. I properly started songwriting when I was 18. I played guitar and played music before that, but I had never sat down and thought about telling a story, putting a song together, and putting a set together to go out and showcase.

  • SALUTE: Do you produce much for yourself? What gear do you use for production?

Not really. I produced my own single and I use Garageband, I can do a demo but I really want to develop better production skills because I’ve realised that songwriters who are able to produce as well are able to keep 100% of their royalties.

I’ve always worked with a band which means that I bring my ideas to the band and ask them if they can play a particular beat and chord on keys. So I’ll be producing it myself with those musicians.

  • SALUTE: How long have you and the band been together?

When I first finished uni it was great because everyone in the band wanted experience as session musicians and now it has got to the point that it’s a lot harder. They have progressed and get paid now for everything that they do so I don’t work now with a band now, unfortunately. I’m doing more solo gigs and working with producers.

  • SALUTE: Are you working full-time as a musician? How do you balance music for work with your own projects?

I work full-time as a musician gigging and doing private parties, events, and functions. It takes a lot of time so sometimes I really struggle to have the time to sit down and write a song. The balance is difficult to have. It is amazing that I get paid to perform, that’s great but the balance of doing my own music is a bit off at the moment.

  • SALUTE: How’s it been going since I Don’t Feel The Same came out?

It’s been great actually. I made an application to the Arts Council and PRS for Music Foundation to assist with that single. One thing that I found during the process was just how difficult it is to run a film production alongside work and life. It was pretty stressful even though there was some financial support with the project.

  • SALUTE: What do you think of the SALUTE initiative and competition?

I heard about SALUTE through a Facebook ad. I signed up but didn’t submit anything. It seems like a really unique competition and something that is really interesting, I’ve never heard of anything like it before.It’s great that the artists and creators can have the rights to everything. In this day it’s so hard to get a record deal or publishing deal. The advance that you can get if you are lucky to get a contract can help you push your career forward but that doesn’t even happen that much either so a competition like this can really help.

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