[INTERVIEW] ALEX MALI
Driven by her passion for music and singing, Brooklyn native and songstress Alex Mali fearlessly pushes boundaries while snagging music fan’s attention worldwide. From working with artists such Nyck Caution and Michael Christmas to performing
Driven by her passion for music and singing, Brooklyn native and songstress Alex Mali fearlessly pushes boundaries while snagging music fan’s attention worldwide. From working with artists such Nyck Caution and Michael Christmas to performing at SOBs & SOFAR sound events, this 23yr old phenom’s hustle is imperial. Check our interview with Alex as we discuss everything from launching her music career to her entrepreneurial aspirations.
Kicking things off with the million-dollar question, who is Alex Mali?
I’m a 23yr old singer from Brooklyn. My parents are Jamaican and Trinidadian. I went to college for a little bit for Jazz studies, but it was my first school for music so I kind of felt like a kindergartener in college (laughs). I didn’t end up finishing and at that time I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do on the music scene. Right now I’m releasing singles that I’ve been holding onto for a while, which later on down the line will lead to a project.
I’ll say – you’ve released some amazing songs. Were you testing the waters or just releasing the singles for fun?
I’d get depressed in school and the only outlet I had was music. I decided to figure out what I could create so I found some production, recorded over the track, reached out to the producer, and this was way before I knew anything about studios or anything like that. I went to a very terrible home studio to record the demo on a school break, and combined the vocals with my dorm room recordings on my iPad. When I sent it back to the producer, he loved it so much he mixed the track down for me.
That was the first time I put anything out and that was 2014, but I don’t think I really figured out my sound until 2015 with “Phenom” (prod. Monte Booker) that did really well — it got over 750k streams on Spotify and was featured on multiple playlists such as the Fresh Finds & Alternative R&B playlists. Sadly it was taken down. Before releasing the track I tried reaching out to Soulection producer Monte Booker, but I couldn’t find an email or any other contact for him, so I tried reaching out over Twitter + Instagram but I never got a response.
This was the first time I found production and unable to reach the producer but this was the first song I was really excited about so I put it out and it got a huge response but they flagged and removed my song cause I didn’t have his permission. At the time I didn’t have a song to follow up to keep my monthly listeners. It took maybe like a year for me to put a collection of music together and Facts Only was a part of what I had created. I pretty much felt like I was starting from scratch, but things are getting on track since the release of the single.
You’ve bounced back from that experience – and now you’re hitting them hard. What was your thought process during that time with having to start all over again?
I didn’t feel defeated or anything, it definitely was a process, but I felt like it was a learning experience more than anything and I was like okay this really sucks, but I just need to keep working.
Despite that setback, you stayed focused, which lead to working artists such as Nyck Caution and Michael Christmas. How did those collaborations come together?
I actually worked with Michael Christmas and Nyck Caution way beforehand. When I first started recording I would go to Lost Studios where I met a couple guys from PRO ERA. One day I was in the studio while Nyck was recording. He remembered me from a previous day and asked if I could come through to work on some tracks. We vibed out, I did some harmonies on a few tracks. Whenever he needed a singer on the track, he’d reach out to me, he’s the bro.
Michael Christmas came to a show where I was performing — Cousin Stizz was on the bill, so he came along with him. I sang like two or three songs, this was when I was underdeveloped via my sound, but he thought my voice was amazing and asked to work together on a track that we ended up recording the next day.
Word, that’s cool that you were able to connect and record with them. A lot of artists could relate to your latest single Livin.’ Could you tell us a little bit about that song and what inspired it?
I was in the booth listening to the production to get a feel for it and just ended up freestyling to it, so you may notice some parts in there that have no words, just little mumbles here and there. Prior to getting in the booth my mom and I got into an argument so that’s where the first line kind of came from, but I wasn’t targeting my mom or family necessarily because you know my family are extremely supportive of me.
We have great differences. My mom doesn’t even like my music (laughs). But I feel like it’s all love. It’s more worry than anything else I’m sure. Parents come from a different time and don’t actually understand that you can get somewhere with music if you grind hard enough. ‘Livin’ (prod. KDVG) ended up being more general as the song went on because there a lot of people around you, that doubt you, and there are plenty of people that have doubted me before that will bring you down or project their fears onto you. I’m like you know; I’m going to prove you guys wrong. Like you just walk through life sometimes and people just try to bring you down all day – and I’m like, I don’t even have time for you today, I have too much stuff to do (laughs).
I know right, like push that dark cloud somewhere else.
Right! Like, no, no, no, you are not bringing that over here.
Word, got to push those haters to the side and keep the movement strong. What’s your next move?
Alex: I’m working on releasing my first video ‘Hoity Toity’ ft. Melo-X where I introduce myself as the Caribbean American Brooklyn Queen that I am. I’ll be releasing more music, making sure that the public understands my sound, by doing so. ‘Facts Only’ was more of my bassy-feeling myself-cocky side while ‘Livin’ was more reflective on my personal life and myself. This next track is going to be showing more of the cultural aspect with groovy Caribbean vibes, which is coming soon, I mean soon! From there I plan on doing more shows, hopefully, go on tour, hit festivals, work with more producers, you know just expose myself. You guys are going to see me a lot more cause I’m not stopping!
We’re ready for it! If you could work with any producer or artist right now, who would it be?
Alex: That’s always the toughest question. For production, I would definitely work with Pharrell. He’s somebody that I wanted to work with like forever since I was young. Artist wise, I’m a huge fan of Beyoncé and would love to work with her, she’s someone I’ve always idolized, and related to. I really value her work ethic and vision. She’s a great entertainer and artist, which is what I strive to be. Even if I wouldn’t be able to work with her, it would be cool to meet her and just vibe.
No doubt! You’re well on the way to making great things happen. How do you stay focused?
If my thoughts are really convoluted, I’ll go for a walk to clear my head, like if I really need a break – although I don’t really think I’ve had a break when it comes to music. I’ll watch television, but even if I watch television, I’m always thinking about music, like what can I do, or what concept would work. Honestly, I don’t even have an answer for that.
I feel you, when you’re passionate about something, it can be hard to take a pause from it.
Actually, I will say the one thing that clears my mind is cooking cause when I’m preparing food, I’m not thinking about anything else.
Wait now, holidays are right around the corner. I got to know if you hit up the kitchen, what we got going on?
Honestly an ideal meal would be Curry Goat, Oxtail, Escovitch fish, Jerk Chicken, Rice & Peas, Caesar Salad, and of courseeeee MACARONI PIE like my dad used to make. My father is an amazing cook and that’s where I probably get my love for it. I can do the macaroni pie, Jerk Chicken and rice + peas blah blah the pastas, mashed potatoes, pizza, bake cupcakes, etc. the whole 9…but for the goat and oxtail and that cultural authentic food lovin, I’m gonna have to give him a ring.
You’re going to hit us with that cooking show.
Alex: I am, I really am! No joke (laughs)!
I believe it! Have the new album blasting in the background.
You know it.
Make it happen! On your single covers and photos, your fashion game is on lock. Do you see yourself coming out with a clothing line?
Fashion-wise, I’m not super into fashion, I just wear what I liked based on my mood. I definitely could see myself getting into the sneaker field.
Are you a sneakerhead?
I’m actually not a sneakerhead at all. I like to dress comfortable, pretty sporty. I don’t wear heels that often, and no matter what the function, I always wear sneakers (laughs). I just want a sneaker that is sheek, something that you can wear to any function, even formal, you know something that’s unclassified that you can wear to any event where people wouldn’t be “wow, why do you have sneakers on?” You know what I mean (laughs)?
I dig it! In fact, if you invent these soon, let us know! From music to sneakers, even starting a cooking show, you’re truly envisioning your future. As you’re navigating the music industry, what would you say has been a challenging, but rewarding experience?
The most challenging is pretty much getting your music out there to the right ears, to the right people, and just having yourself be heard. You’re sending out emails to the right people and it might not even be that they didn’t even like your music; they just didn’t catch the email. Sometimes that can bring you down but at the same time – and this might sound corny, but if I work hard enough towards my goals and put that energy out in the universe, anything can happen. Someone might not be listening now, but I know they’re going to listen at some point so I have to keep going. If I stop, they’ll never hear me. You got to keep pushing.
Words by: Lorenzo Gee