You Heard It Here First: Mahalia talks dinner plans, Lizzo and her new album

Every week Stylist will be shining a light on a female artist you need to be listening to. This week we meet Mahalia, whose modern soulful sound will lift you up.

Introducing Mahalia Burkmar. At 14 she was already signed, had supported Ed Sheeran and Emile Sandé and a year later would be hosting her own residency in Leicester – where she grew up. But it wasn’t for another five years when her single, Sober, a brilliantly relatable song about drunk texting, received over 31 million views, establishing her as one of the UK’s most exciting young stars. With recognition on both the BRIT’s Critics Choice Award and the BBC Sound Poll as well as winning YouTube’s inaugural ‘One To Watch’

Mahalia’s thought provoking, beautifully considered and emotionally charged lyrics lie on top of soulful instrumentals that hint at a musical upbringing with her musician parents to create a sound she describes as “psycho-acoustic soul”. Her debut album Love and Compromise, out on Friday is a an honest, uplifting honeypot. 

Here Mahalia tells  Stylist some of her formative firsts that make her into the woman she is today. 

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The first record I ever bought…

Corrine Bailey Rae’s Put Your Record On was the first record I remember wanting to hear over and over again. Mum had also got me the CD and the poster to go with it, which was great because me and my two older brothers would fight over who got to use the computer after school so it meant I could listen to it in my room. I would sit there playing the album making up dance moves to each song and then put on a show for the whole family. I was always that kid getting everyone together to perform.

My first memory of music…

I’d get in after school, get changed in to my comfy clothes and then watch the MTV Bass chart show. The one song that sticks out in my mind is Mary J Blige and Ludacris Runaway Love. I was weirdly obsessed [with it] and would create story lines in my head that were similar to the ones in the video.

The first person who inspired me…

When I was really young it was my parents. They were in a band together and I used to go to all their gigs, sit at the front and sing all the words. After that I was really inspired by Adele’s first album 19. I loved her colloquialism and the subtle little things that came through in her music. 

The first gig I saw…

I saw Janelle Monae  at the HMV Institute in Digbeth with my mum when I was about 12 or 13.

The first time I performed…

I did a load of open mics when I was super young round Leicester. Then when I hit 14 I supported Ed Sheeran at the Ballroom Birmingham and Emile Sandé at the Hammersmith Apollo in front 3000 people. I thought: ‘What the fuck? Why me? Sometimes my mates would take the piss out of me for singing but all of a sudden, I had 50 kids from my school screaming my name. It was a chance to show them all I was taking it seriously.

The first time I knew music was my future…

I think it was just after I met Ed Sheeran. I had started writing when I was 11 so but Ed said someone had sent him my SoundCloud. And I thought ‘if someone had sent it to him then maybe I should do this.’

The first time you realised you were good at your job?

I understood music in a way that a lot of my peers didn’t. My music teacher would do assessments and I was able to pick out the instruments and beats that others couldn’t. It was so nice to have something I was good at, at such a young age.

Mahalia by Kanya Iwana

The first job I made money from…

Busking! I went for the first time in Birmingham when I was 14. My parents dropped me off with a guitar and a mic and I stayed out there for about eight hours, by the end of the day I had made £400 and been given a bunch of flowers. As I grew up I realised I needed to be active and make money. Which is still true to this day, I don’t really go out that much I’m normally working out what’s happening next.

The first thing I do when I get home…

Think about dinner. What I’m going to eat is a massive part of my day. It’s the hard decision of whether or not I go to Co-op or get a Deliveroo.

The first thing I will spend money on…

When I was really young I would buy [equipment] for my studio, I was much more sensible with my money back then. But at the moment I’m working so hard I am thinking about something I can do, like a holiday.

The first female artist you should go and listen to after reading this…

Lizzo. Purely, as a woman looking at a woman, she is so inspirational. But don’t only listen to her, go and watch all her performances too. She is really special. I would have loved to have grown up with a women like that in my life.

Love and Compromise by Mahalia is out on 6 September. Her UK tour begins on 14 November, buy tickets at

Images: Kanya Iwana