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Interviews |  12 Jun 2017 21:17 |  By Kavita Yadav

"I will take my music as far as it goes": Maala

MUMBAI: He may not be very well known to Indians but he’s quite the rage in New Zealand.  Evan Sinton was a gawky, clumsy, fresh, nobody17-year-old who surprisingly got himself a ticket to the finals of ‘New Zealand’s Got Talent’ and even went on to win the third spot in 2012. He won over the judges and home viewers with his guitar work and rendition of the Beatles Blackbird single.

But that was then. Today, he has a new name – Maala – and oozes charm out of every one of his pores. He has moved on from simple acoustic guitar work to electronica and romantically charged ballads and is signed on to Sony Music. He has several hit singles, a couple of EPs, a solo male artist of the year New Zealand Music Award under his belt.

Among the singles he has released ‘Touch’, ‘In The Air’ and ‘Kind of Love’.  He is reportedly working on his next album. And he was in India to perform under the umbrella of Sony Music over last weekend in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi

In a candid conversation with Maala spoke about his first trip to India, being a vegetarian and his plans of being a musician, not a star. Excerpts.

Did you enjoy your gigs in India?

I loved it. It was hectic though. I was in and out, playing three shows. It was sensory overload with being tired, a good combo.

Did you have something in particular in your mind for the Indian audience?

I had to bring something different to India right? It turned out to be a good time. When I planned on doing shows in India I had just finished my shows in summer in New Zealand and had gone back to my studio. I had started working on my new album and I wanted an audience to play them to and this turned out to be the first opportunity. It was lovely to feel the affirmation overseas. It’s crazy!

Do you have a bucket list of things to explore in India?

The only thing that I wanted to tick off here was to try all the food and experience all that heat. I have ticked off both (laughs). We are in winter in New Zealand so, it’s a good change. Plus I am a vegetarian and there is heaps of vegetarian food here. I will also be exploring Rishikesh (Uttarakhand) as I have a few days off post my gigs here.

What is your song making process?

I am a night owl. I work throughout the night mainly. My songwriting has definitely changed since, my first album and it keeps changing. I am writing more clearly. It’s more of an attitude. My earlier Maala stuff was unsure.  There were questions like - What are people going to think? What do I think of this? That was all brand new to me then, now that I have released an EP and an album I kind of know what it is. So, I take this and extend it. Today, I write with more intention. It’s way more fun now.

You mentioned that there is more ‘attitude’ in your writing. Can you explain that?

It’s the uncertainty, to begin with, and then in my album, I wanted to bring more confidence. I wanted to reaffirm myself into the pop world and then write that abrasive kind of stuff.  I look at artists like Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar. The artists that have that attitude like, ‘I don’t give a f**k’. I am going to write what I want to write about. I want to bring that mindset in my music.

Tell us a bit about your second studio album?

It’s in the electro-pop world. But it’s just exploring that genre and how I can tweak it and keep it interesting for myself. I am right in the middle of this album so, I am figuring out as I go. It’s hard to pinpoint. I think it was this approach with the first album that was very, I have these feeling I want to say things and now it is, I have these feelings and I will tell them if I want to. I think that is how I am receiving it at the moment.

Do you look at yourself getting into more serious writing – politics/ social issues?

I think I do find it hard to brush on those subjects. I like being an observer; like this is so wacky. I like to observe human dynamics and relationships. A lot of my songs are about love and I am a romantic at heart. There is no limit to how many love songs one can write. There are so many different songs and I am so intrigued by that. When my friends come crying to me, ‘I am a broken heart’, I am like ‘oh great!’ I am still very much in that world.

There is a lot of competition out there. Do you feel the pressure?

I did. I felt a lot of pressure for that exact reason, a competitive need. How am I going to be better than this? Then it’s a rethink. Actually, you don’t have to be better. You just have to be you. It’s a cliché but the cliché works in this situation. It’s like relax man! It’s going to work better if; I just do what I am doing.

Do you believe in following industry trends?

There is room for looking at the landscape and going forward. I don’t want to write something that people don’t want to listen to. At this stage, I like keeping it accessible. It’s more comfortable for a listener and for me writing in a pop format. There is at least some format that people feel comfortable in. There is a bit of that too, I am just striking that down.

Have you got your hands on any Indian musical pieces?

India is such a big country and I am sure there must be so many different genres in different areas. In New Zealand, there are a couple of communities and you can work it out quite quickly and that is at least what I feel. It’s quite overwhelming. There is so much music over here.

Any plans of collaboration with Indian music producers/ artists?

I am open to that. I just need to talk to the right people. I need to do more research, but I am open to it.  Collaboration is a big part for me. I love writing with other people far more than I like writing with myself.

Was working in India easy or tough in comparison to New Zealand?

It’s interesting. In New Zealand, I have more of a profile. I can play shows and sell tickets and in India, I had to keep waving to people. So, it’s tricky. It’s starting from the bottom again. It’s like trying to get my name there; a lot of fun trying to win people all over again.

Security at concerts has become a topic of concern. What do you have to say about concert security at New Zealand?

It’s difficult. New Zealand feels like a very safe place. It’s shut from such things but that is what everyone thinks. You are going to a gig because you feel it’s a safe place and you’re going to enjoy yourself. So, it is so destroying to know that people are entering such places. For me, the way I spend my free time is to go to a gig. To enjoy with a friend drink too much. I don’t want to worry about security measures. It's kind off the mainstream news, it’s horrible.

In New Zealand, there is no packed down security. I am scared to introduce things like that. New Zealand does feel safe but it raises a lot of questions.

Are you in a relationship?

I can’t work it out. I am like thousand times crazier as a musician. Well like I say I have my new song ‘Crazy.’ I am writing the love songs from an approach that I don’t need it. I am single and working it out slowly.

What is your idea of love?

I tend to involve myself a lot into relationships. At times I feel, I need to take a step back because it’s hard to be reflective of what I think of love because I feel I am very much into it. That is what the songs are trying to do. They are trying to take a step back. I don’t think there is a definitive answer things are changing every day.

What is your five-year plan?

The intention is to write songs. That’s the first step and if I was looking forward, I would have loved to be writing for other people. I would have loved to be behind the scenes. So, I would have been more there. I will take my music as far as it goes but there is no intention of being a star. I truly am a songwriter first and that’s exactly what I want.