Interview: Mali Music explains his new goals as a mainstream artist
He’s no longer JUST a Christian artist – for new hard-hitter Mali Music, the transition was inevitable and the expansion of his impact was the goal. Known for his strong gospel upbringing and musical background the native Georgian artist that used to write songs to lift spirits in church is now lifting spirits in mainstream music. Finalized with the imprint of ByStorm Entertainment and RCA Records, Mali Is… debuted June 17 with much anticipation - arriving at #16 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums, #16 on R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs chart and #36 Hot Shot debut on hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Leading the movement with the soulful crossover song “Beautiful”, the album features a soulfully themed combination of inspiration, message, and thought-provoking lyrics. Mali Music explains his transition, his artist name, the name of the album, and more below:
You’ve been singing, writing, playing all your life. When did you decide that you actually wanted to pursue being a recording artist
Long after I was already on Myspace Music and all that. I think after my release concert in Savannah Georgia Feb 23rd, 2009. We did a concert to celebrate my second album 2econd Coming, there was over 2,000 people there and that’s when I knew I wanted to use that opportunity and that platform to do something major.
There was a huge reaction to your switch from Gospel music to mainstream (secular) music. Did you ever consider yourself a Christian artist
I was making music from my heart but I was also serving Church. My cares and my concerns weren’t considering the world; it was considering the love that was religion. And I gave it everything that I have but I feel like there was still more and that it was not my full compassion – that’s how I knew it is not all that God had wanted me to do. I’m using a lot more of my creative output and it’s definitely where I am supposed to be, for sure.
What is the support like from your fans that knew you as a Gospel artist
They are drawn to my music for the most part. I think that the identity of what my fan base is about to be is being defined at this moment. We actually had a promo running in Savannah and I went to the radio station that I grew up listening to, I met with the Mayor – it was a very beautiful and powerful experience so there was a lot of support from the home team.
BET Music Matters was a huge platform for you to get the industry talking about you. It eventually led you to many new opportunities including signing with Mark Pitts. How did you meet him and what was your first impression
I think that goes to my manager for connecting these relationships. I met with Akon after the BET Awards and a few months later I knew I wanted to sign to a mainstream label to pursue my next project and Mark Pitts was one of the first names that came up and once we met, we immediately identified each other. Mark was awesome – he was a Godfather and he was very, very confident and I loved the area that he creates from. He’s an executive but he has the heart of an artist. He loves music and he’s not just trying to do something else. He’s a real person.
Where does your artist name come from? What meaning does it hold
My name Kortney Jamaal Pollard and in the south we go by middle names. So that goes to Jamaal, which shortens to Mal, then to Mali. And Mali Music just kind of came out of that. Definitely nothing jazzy about it. A lot of people try to find out what the real story is but it’s nothing like that. They think it’s connected to the country in Africa but that’s not what it is.
Explain the title of the album, Mali Is…
With A lot of the music I was releasing before, there were a lot of scattered opinions about who I was musically. Someone saw me with a guitar; I was that kind of artist to them. Someone saw me with a piano and I was that kind of artist to them. When I rapped a little bit, I was a rapper. So there were these scattered opinions – all of them true but none of them true by themselves. Mali Is… is a complete layout of who I am from top to bottom.
Even top artists that are great songwriters in their own right bring in other writers to collaborate with – why was it so important that you write this album yourself and how much (in a rough percentage) did you actually write
100%! I don’t share the pen. My check [laughs]. I didn’t have any thoughts of collaborators on the lyrics because I had collaborators on the music. I normally make all my tracks, the music and the lyrics. But this was a good experience to learn. I wanted to learn how to open up, how to share, how to use other methods and things like that. I didn’t want to feature anyone cause I wanted to portray who Mali is and and not be defined by features. In the future when I do features, I think it would make it that much more better, because once I have established my sound, I can collaborate with others and it would be two distinct sounds mixing together – not just another guy seeming like I am trying to get on by using features. I want it to be two collaborative artists coming together to make a powerful statement.
I don’t think anything could be more important or close to my heart than the words of my heart.
If you had no barriers to who you could collaborate with, who would you choose
Lauryn Hill. Bilal. Jill Scott. The lead singer from Mumford & Sons. Cee Lo Green. I’ll make it all make sense [laughs]. The lead singer from Mumford & Sons – man, he’s awesome. I think if he would try different things, he could just do some damage man! No one could imagine it until they hear how the song comes out but those are the people I would love work with.
Your lead single is making quite the noise. What do most people tell you is their favorite part thing about “Beautiful” or your music in general
I guess it’s the fact that they can feel it. There’s a lot of music out here that can make us dance, make us act how they want us to act for a moment but a lot of the feed back from my music is that the parents can enjoy it with their children. That’s not common nowadays. They love the lyrics. They love the video. They love the heart of what it means and I think if we can get artists to care more about those types of things then we could make a big impact in our world.
With that being said, what’s the next single? “Ready Aim”…?
Man, that’s up in the air. But “Ready Aim” is bomb. I don’t think that’s the next but I don’t know – got to ask the label [laughs].
The track “Little Lady” had an intently heavy message to it. Who or what was behind the inspiration for the song – was it from close, family experience or observations of women struggling with their circumstances
It was a mixture of both. I have many many strong and beautiful women in my life. My mother, my sisters, women I meet along the way, my colleagues; and there are a whole lot of stories that you see and hear about. For instance, a lot of the heartbeat of the dramas on TV are from how scandalous men can be in relationships, how many talk to women, and everything comes spiraling down after. I wanted dedicate a song for women young and old, from men who cared enough to be able to take the time to offer hope, to offer explanation for our behavior, our thoughts, or whatever society has caused us to become. I thought the song came out very good but I didn’t anticipate it being on the album or for it to be that powerful. The response from women was powerful, and some men as well.
On a lighter note, has Mali Music ever written or would he ever write a song to win over a girl
I don’t think I would. I’m not like a “doo-wop” type of guy that would come up and try to sing. I don’t think I would write a song for a young lady... but for people I love [I would]
Being a religious person, you must have great values based in marriage. How soon in the future do you think you will marry? What qualities do you look for in a partner
I’m just really trying to stay focused and capitalize on this opportunity because I have a life-changing chance to impact the world. Like #1 says, it’s “No Fun Alone” man. But I don’t know how soon I’m looking to be married. But I definitely wont front - if it’s a situation to where I find someone I feel I can trust and someone who’s dependable and who can handle all that comes with being on the right hand of a guy like me.
Would she have to be musically talented
Nah, not at all. She would have to know how to respect music. But she wouldn’t have to be talented musically but definitely strong and focused. And I just want someone that when she comes in the door, everyone knows why she’s with me, she has that sparkle – I like that.
So what’s next now that the album has debuted
Definitely have tours coming up. I’m going to be getting those in line soon I would like everybody to get up on Facebook and Twitter and stay tuned for those dates and cities. I know I’m going to be doing essence festival and I am really excited about that because Prince is going to be there. It’s going to be aweseome to be in the vicinity of the legend.