Deva Mahal Drops Debut Album 'Run Deep': Talks Love, Inspiration and Making Timeless Music [Premiere]
"Music saved my life.
Singer Deva Mahal was born with blues in her blood. The daughter of legendary musician Taj Mahal, Deva latches onto the legacy of her roots through the only way she knows how; music.
A fresh face to some, but a seasoned student of the craft to others, her familial presence in music positions her on the outskirts of "newcomer" territory. Deva has graced stages with music heavyweights by the likes of the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the late Etta James. She's appeared in the 2013 Academy Award-nominated film, “American Hustle,” and gained acclaim in the form of a Grammy nod when she co-wrote “Never Let You Go" off her father's nominated 2008 album Maestro.
Today, the singer-songwriter released her debut album Run Deep, where her blues roots have grown into a genre-blending soundscape of R&B, indie-pop, soul, rock and gospel. The video for the project's latest single "It's Down To You," which features jazz band Butcher Brown, was filmed at The Breeding Ground NYC - the world’s first recording lounge,run by producer Tariq Khan and Grammy-award-winning videographer Nikki Birch.
Now, Deva's using her powerhouse vocals and pen game to forge her own industry identity.
We sat down with Deva for a brief conversation on love, inspiration, and making timeless music.
You’ve been around music all of your life. Do you feel like you were unintentionally conditioned to be an artist by sheer proximity to your father? Was that interest innate? Or did you ever stray away from the idea of pursuing music?
I am not sure what the alternative would have looked like. I also spent most of my youth with my mum. I do know that I have worked my whole life and sacrificed a lot to get to this stage. Music saved my life, and helped me shine when I felt very alone and didn’t fit in. Music has always felt natural to me.
Your influences are Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. How do you cultivate your sound for the sonic landscape of 2018? Is that creative process difficult?
I have many musical influences that span a wide range of genres, so I just let them all come out as they please. I let each song speak to me and to Scott, my producer. I wanted all the songs to feel timeless but incorporate sounds of the present. I find the process of building a soundscape very exciting.
Can you speak about the inspiration behind the track and video and how the collaboration came to be?
This song was inspired by a profoundly doomed relationship that I was entrenched in. One where it became clear that I was more invested in it emotionally. Like quicksand; the more you struggle, the faster you sink. In the end, I had to slowly pull myself out of it. When I Binky asked if I wanted to write with him, I jumped at the chance. He came over and shared a chord progression that instantly spoke to me and to my heart. The words and melody fell out of me and the rest is history.
Though you’re gearing up to release your first album, you wouldn’t necessarily qualify as a novice. How would you define the stage that you’re in as an artist right now?
I feel like I am emerging. Like I have planted a lot of seeds and the shoots are just breaking ground.
You co-wrote one of the songs on your father’s album, Maestro, that was ultimately nominated for a Grammy. A good amount of artists quantify their success with Grammy nods. What’s your definition of success?
To be able eat, put a roof over my head and continue to have people to share my music with.
Watch Deva Mahal's new video for "It's Down To You" and stream her debut album Run Deep below:
Catch Deva live at her album release show at NUBLU in NYC on March 27th.