Local soul singer-songwriter Mallika Vie turns back the clock with a two-song soul EP that pulls inspiration from the likes of Al Green and Snoh Aalegra.

It was an Al Green video playing at Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame that shifted Mallika Vie’s understanding of what made a good musician. It wasn’t his technical mastery that impressed her, but rather, the emotion: “He wasn’t doing any runs; he was just singing really softly, really tenderly… I understood subtlety, tenderness, phrasing, intention, and restraint as core pillars of musicality.” With just the first few seconds of her single, “Since My Baby Said Goodbye (Pt. 1),” Mallika achieves all five.

It’s quite remarkable how closely the local artist’s music reflects her inspirations: legends Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Prince, and Elvis, as well as more contemporary artists like Nao, LÉON, and Snoh Aalegra. At times, the production and instrumentation captures the warmth found in the music of those soul greats. At others, she adds more modern flavors, like the distorted harmony vocal effects found on “Another Lifetime,” a track by alt RnB artist Nao.

Mallika has been performing in and around Boston since she was a teen, and graduated from Harvard in 2017. Her transition to university did not go smoothly; “My mental health was really bad. I was self-harming and drinking hard liquor every day,” she says. But she found support amongst her friends in her a capella group. “A lot of people in that group were by my side throughout all those really bad nights,” she explains; “In those moments, my connection to music gave me community, which is something I hadn’t had before.” The a capella group ended up competing in the ICCAs, and after taking home “Outstanding Soloist” in the quarterfinals she had a realization: “I owed it to myself to find health and happiness, and that I owed it to myself to pursue music.” Today, she is a grad student enrolled at Berklee College of Music.

A lot of artists have changed their name to be more Internet searchable by dropping vowels or using nonconventional spelling. Mallika’s original moniker was her nickname, Leeks, but unfortunately allium vegetables dominated her Google results. “I liked that it was casual,” she says, before explaining the change: “Being an emerging artist is hard enough without having a name that’s non Google-able! And, I think my real name is a little more intimate, which I like.” The name change also better lends itself to representing the authenticity and rawness of her music—important considering her efforts to change Indian stigmas surrounding sex, relationships and mental health. “I’m really proud of being Indian, but the one thing that has always been hard for me is that there are a whole bevy of taboo topics in Indian culture,” she shares.

The two songs premiered today share two parts of a story: the first involves heartbreak, anger, and confusion, and a reprise that explores what it’s like to finally be able “to be confident and happy again after dealing with this heartache.”

She worked with engineer Roy Merchant for mixing and mastering and collaborated with session musicians, but wrote and produced the songs on her own. “I was pretty laser-focused on creating exactly the sound that I wanted, and felt like I had the tools to produce those sounds myself,” she says. Layers of instrumentals—strings, crisp snap of drums, bells and more—complement the true star of the show: Mallika’s vocals. Her range is expansive, and her skyrocketing climbs could compete with the impressive falsettos of the likes of Sam Smith or Gallant. And throughout it all, she retains an old, smokey, jazz bar sound and textures that, yes, could compare her to one of her other inspirations, Snoh Aalegra.

Listen to Mallika’s two-song EP below: 


One Response

  1. Max Frank

    I love both this song and this artist! The interview does a great job capturing Mallika’s personality and how it shapes her art. Keep us updated on how she develops!

    Reply

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