As her long-time fans know, Sydney-born, London-based singer/songwriter Mali-Koa is an artistic force to be reckoned with. From the stunning ballad “Some Things” to the empowering “Dancer,” every single leading up to the rising star’s debut album Hunger reinforced that Mali-Koa’s penchant for honest songwriting was shaping up to make one hell of an album. With Hunger officially out in the world, we caught up with Mali-Koa to talk about the driving force behind the new album.
Congratulations on your official debut album! How does it feel to have the album out in the world?
Wow! I managed to pull this together without losing the plot completely and have only had 3 minor breakdowns along the way. I’d say that’s a success story in itself and I can’t really explain how excited I am. Can’t quite believe it.
I think it’s safe to say this year has been anything but ordinary. Did the pandemic have any effect on the process of creating the album?
It’s not exactly how I had imagined releasing an album, mid-pandemic and in a UK lockdown. I’d like to think all these obscure details will make great stories for the bigger picture. Filming and finishing things from home, making decisions with crossed fingers – it’s been a unique experience. Very on brand for me and my journey so far, it ain’t easy but nothing worth it ever is.
The album title, Hunger, perfectly encapsulates the overarching theme of the album. At what point in the album creation process did you know that would be the title?
I had been scribbling down album titles for ages, even before I knew that I’d be able to make a record. Nothing really ever fit, or felt right. When I wrote the song “Hunger” it really told the part of my story where the dream is all consuming, where the good and bad spill over. I like the duality of that, the darkness I’d become quite familiar with too. I saw this written down last year
“Who you are depends on the Hunger you feed”
It just felt right.
What was the first song off Hunger that you completed in its entirety? Did you know right away you wanted it to be a part of this album?
Sorry was the first single we put out, things were a bit touch and go then as to what was happening with the project so it was on hold. It was after I went to Sweden and Nashville last March/April I came back feeling inspired again to commit to creating a body of work. Hunger influenced the rest of the record sonically and I came back from those writing trips with a renewed love for songs and the story they can tell.
“Human Nature” is such an interesting song to me because, like “Hunger,” the whole concept of human nature really speaks to the themes of the album. How did that song come about?
I’ve always had a fascination with the complexities of humanity and what it is to be human, especially in love. On the surface people hear love songs, but a lot of my records are about more than that. It’s the relationship you have with yourself and your ability to process emotions and the cards you’re dealt. Lots of my songs are about that 360.
Your songwriting seems to come from such an honest, raw place. Were there any songs on the album that were difficult to write, or do you find the process of songwriting cathartic?
I think it’s cool to document moments in time, being vulnerable enough to share is always difficult. No one likes to talk about being hurt or being lost, but Most people can relate. So that’s cool, that maybe someone won’t feel as alone in that when they’re listening.
“Get It Wrong” speaks to the importance of putting yourself out there and going after what you want even if it fails. When was a time you “got it wrong” in your career but the end result was better than if things had gone the way you had originally wanted them to?
Get it wrong is my anthem! My Mum always said I was someone who learnt things the hard way, she wasn’t wrong. I have chased for years down the wrong musical sonic because I felt like I knew what was best, only to end back at heartfelt music with my heart on my sleeve. I had to go down that path, and believe me if you heard the songs they’d surprise you. I’m still waiting for a cut on those “Vodka Champagne Rose” and “100 f’n bottles” tunes I tried to release years back!
Which song are you most looking forward to playing live?
I think the day I can play “Hunger” and “Revolution” live, with all the elements and frills and bells – that’ll be an emotional day! Those songs are huge to me, so I think live it’d be the same.
Stream Hunger here.