Q&A with British singer Malaya Blue - undoubtedly a major breakthrough artist on the UK Blues circuit last years

"Blues like any musical genre can deliver a strong message and it should. It is incredibly sad that we are still fighting, hating and blaming. We have the privilege of being the dominant species and yet it is often used for destructive measures."

Malaya Blue: Heartbeat Rhythms & Blues

Malaya Blue is undoubtedly the major breakthrough artist on the UK Blues circuit. She was heavily tipped to do just that following her storming sets at The Great British Rock & Blues Festival at Skegness and the confirmation is an almost unprecedented four separate nominations from The British Blues Association for their 2015 Awards: Female Vocalist, Best Album, Blues Song and the Barry Middleton Award for Emerging Artist. In addition Malaya has been named as a contender to represent the UK in the 2016 European Blues Challenge. Malaya's debut album 'Bourbon Street' reached No1 on the British Independent Blues Broadcasters monthly charts.       Photo by Boo Marshall

The Blues Matters Writers Poll voted Malaya into second spot in their Best Newcomer section. Although Malaya may be relatively new to the live blues circuit she has many years of recording and studio work under her belt and a truly stunning voice and collection of top class original material. Live shows have included guest appearances by some of the country’s most admired musicians including Dudley Ross, Will Johns, Steve Watts, John Altman and Stuart Uren. Malaya’s second album, Heartsick (2016) due to the fact that the myriad buds of talent that emerged in to the light on debut offering Bourbon Street has now exploded in to full bloom.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues music and culture?

To be true. Speak freely and have faith in what you believe.

What does the blues mean to you?

Freedom of expression. A sense of community and support. Friendship.

How do you describe Malaya Blue sound and songbook?

It is very honest. It exposes the very core of my thinking. It is very personal, but it is not about me. I write about how I think others feel.

What characterize your music philosophy?

Music is integral to our being. From the heartbeat of our mothers to the sounds of everyday life. There is rhythm. We each have our own unique rhythm and it is that that I feel when I write. Different emotions have different rhythms and this is expressed in music, which is why it can enhance or change our mood.

"Music gives us a platform to speak freely but sadly, it often goes unheard. We share a beautiful planet and our time on it is fleeting. Blues music promotes equality, freedom and love. It is up to the listener to let it impact on their beliefs." (Photo by Boo Marshall)

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences?

My parents and my children. Although they are not acquaintances as such they have been integral to my work as a songwriter.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I can do it.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

My very first gig. I walked out on stage and I have never seen so many faces looking at me. It was a defining moment. I knew then that I had to perform and make it good. It was terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past?

I feel the message has been lost. The Blues came from a heritage, a unique time and it was a language of hope and survival. Modern Blues often has the words but not the belief and that dilutes its history. There are rare cases of true Blues now.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of Blues?

That it will continue to fade. It needs an injection of belief and tradition. When I studied music we delved into the history of blues to understand why and how it came about. I may be wrong but I don’t think many look into its arrival. I believe you have to connect with it pain, its rawness and its incredible power. Those were times of real change and bravery and social challenge. And that is the embodiment of the Blues. We should still strike that chord. I am guilty too of making my own interpretation!

"My very first gig. I walked out on stage and I have never seen so many faces looking at me. It was a defining moment. I knew then that I had to perform and make it good. It was terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure.' (Malaya Blue on stage - Photo by John Bull/Rockrpix)

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That the industry recognizes live music. All venues should be encouraged and subsidized to put on live music. All artists should be able to make a living wage and being a live musician should be recognised for the skill that it requires. Despite attempts to do this many artists play for nothing.

What were the reasons that made the UK to be the center of Blues/Jazz/Soul researches and experiments?

We have a reputation for ‘trying’, pretty much what happens in the USA happens here soon after. I think the same can be said for our music. Of course there are exceptions to that but we are happy to embrace new ideas and concepts. Of course we have our own trailblazers too, and UK musicians like to play, adopt and experiment with sounds. We also have a head for technology and can get musically “geeky”!

What does to be a female rock artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says?

This is a good question because I don’t make the distinction. I suppose I think it is an attribute to be woman! Certainly we can use our sexuality! I wonder if it is still a Man’s World?

What is the status of women in Rock?

There are some incredible female artists out there who give plenty of male musicians a run for their money! I don’t think I can answer this question? It is a question for the fans… I am biased.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Used well, Blues like any musical genre can deliver a strong message and it should. It is incredibly sad that we are still fighting, hating and blaming. We have the privilege of being the dominant species and yet it is often used for destructive measures. Music gives us a platform to speak freely but sadly, it often goes unheard. We share a beautiful planet and our time on it is fleeting. Blues music promotes equality, freedom and love. It is up to the listener to let it impact on their beliefs.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would love to sit on a porch in Georgia with ‘Ma Rainey’ and ask her “What really went on outside of Church?” ….

Malaya Blue - Official website

Photo by Boo Marshall

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