Described by Jamie Cullum from BBC Radio 2 as “a really great new British female vocalist from Manchester”, Mali Hayes is a neo-soul vocalist who developed her own unique blend of jazz, RnB, and futuristic hip-hop, bringing to life timeless songs reminiscent of the best of Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.
In her music, the minimal soul vibes are overlayed with forward-thinking lyrics about life’s struggles, the environment, and identity; the result is a captivating sonic palette that showcases an artistic maturity as a producer and writer that defies her age.
Coming from a family of musicians, Mali Hayes confidently transcends musical genres with each song, exuding a passion for incorporating different elements of musical styles into her repertoire. What sounds will we see next from this artist? Discover what Mali Hayes has in store with MIF Sounds.
You come from quite a musical family. Did you grow up knowing you yourself wanted to pursue the same journey?
I think it was just in my DNA. I didn’t really choose to be into music, it just happened as it surrounded my life so much from such a young age. As I grew and saw multiple people coming in and out of mum’s basement studio, hearing so much different music, it just felt right to pursue!
How does it feel to be included in the second round of MIF Sounds artists? What do you hope to achieve with their support?
I'm really honoured, and their support so far has been very much appreciated. I'm currently working on a new body of work which I look forward to releasing in early 2023! It's allowed me time and flexibility to create new music that I was struggling to allow myself time to do, and this has been the push I needed!
The pandemic really posed a challenge for creatives who depended on live events and tours to further their career. How has the pandemic affected your work and process? What’s the biggest lesson you’re taking away from that experience?
For me, it not only massively affected the ability to gig and meet new people, but it also affected my confidence a lot. I found myself being on social media a lot more and comparing myself to others. I felt uninspired, unworthy, and questioned if I wanted to carry on.
I still battle with it now, but I also am rooted in the fact this is the only thing I want to do.
How did you find your sound? What was that journey like?
I wouldn't particularly say I've 'found' it yet. Do you ever?! It's an ongoing journey, and I think it's cool to experiment and not be limited to what you create!
And how would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard your work?
This is always so tough. But I usually say a Jazzy-Nu-R&B type Neo-Soul.
You’ve opened for the likes of Poppy Ajudha, Bilal, Alfa Mist, and many more. What is one moment in your journey so far that you’re the proudest of?
Definitely, opening for Bilal was such a dream – I grew up listening to him, so it felt very surreal. Also, to be honest, when I look back, I'm proud of the majority of what I have achieved as an independent artist, a woman in the music industry. Just in general, I'm proud.
Besides music, are there other sounds that inspire you?
I enjoy nature a lot. The sound of the sea has always soothed me. I also love jungle sounds, I used to listen to that a lot growing up to help me sleep.
How do you personally discover new music or artists? Are there any local artists, events, or trends that you want to share with everyone?
I hate to say it…but Spotify is where I find a lot of new music, to be honest. I also have been getting into Mixcloud recently and listening to mixes from a whole load of artists who I know or don't and seeing what I can find in there.
As I've started curating music for my Reform Radio show, I've become passionate about finding new music and artists, so I'm trying my best to always broaden my knowledge on discovering new music!
What excites you the most about The Factory opening in Manchester?
It will be great to have a home for more Manchester-based events, bringing people together and creating a supportive community of artists/DJ’s/creatives etc!
What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to the next generation of emerging artists?
Stay grounded. Don’t focus on numbers. Experiment. Say no if you need to – and don’t feel bad about it. Enjoy it!
Tell us about what you’ve got in store this year.
Working on the new body of work mainly, continuing to write, and some gigs dotted in between. Mainly focusing on my craft and bettering my skills when it comes to writing, playing instruments, etc.
Rising Sounds: in a collaborative series between Sound of Life and Manchester International Festival, we’re visiting MIF Sounds: an incubation programme for some of the UK’s most promising emerging creatives. Join us as we explore the unbound creativity of Manchester – sometimes hidden, sometimes on the fringes – from corners brought to the light by MIF Sounds.
Cover Credits: Manchester International Festival & wacomka/Shutterstock
Writer | Marco Sebastiano Alessi
Marco is an Italian music producer, composer and writer. He’s the founder of Naviar Records, a music community and record label exploring the connection between experimental electronic music and traditional Japanese poetry.