Mahalia is no stranger to YouTube.
The Birmingham-based singer dubs the video sharing platform the only thing she liked to do during her childhood years, using the service to learn the guitar from the age of 10 and share videos of herself reciting covers to the tune of Kate Nash and Adele.
Fast-forward 10 years and the R&B singer, now 20, has YouTube Music to thank for helping her reach over 21 million people with her latest single Sober, propelling her straight to the top of the platforms Ones To Watch list.
But while Mahalia is certain she wouldnt be where she is today without YouTube. Its basically what kick-started the past year for me, she says – the songstress is also learning that there are darker waters to online fame.
Sometimes, theres the risk of sharing too much with people, the singer, full name Mahalia Burkmar, told Metro.co.uk.
Ive done that before and regretted it. Its hard working out a way to be completely authentic, whilst holding some of it back for yourself. I wish I had more to myself.
But, Ive found the best thing to do is to just log off for a bit. Take some real time to myself at home or where ever I am.
I find that its really easy to fall into a rhythm where online feels like reality. We forget that it isnt. Its a simulated one. One where people only put out what they want seen and whats real lives only the real world. Im spending much more time trying to live there right now. Just in present reality.
But living in the present and saying thank u, next to the haters is easier said than done in our uber-connected, social media-crazed generation.
Even for those of us who *dont* have a budding singing career, clicking, liking and commenting to our hearts content is a habit hard to break and, give that option to a social media troll or angered keyboard warrior, and youve got yourself some serious online ugliness.
Which is why Mahalia refuses to venture into the comments section altogether.
Asked if shes had to deal with negativity online, she replied: I havent experienced it to a full degree yet, no. But, I definitely have in a minor way. It can be really scary.
Seeing what people have to say about you when they dont really know you is strange. I think the best advice I ever received was to stay out of the comments section. Its a hard one to stand by but, Im trying my hardest!
People will always say negative things – especially behind the comfort of a laptop screen or a smart phone. Ive found that as long as I stay true to who I am and try to be as uncompromising as possible, I will always hold on to the part of me that others will try to tear down.
Negativity or not, Sober and its accompanying music video is indeed largely what has catapulted the young singer to fame.
But while the last year has been crazy, Mahalia has actually been navigating the music industry for a whole seven years after signing to a major record label at the age of 13 (she wrote her first song at the tender age of eight, no less).
I wonder, then, if the label emerging artist grates on her, considering she has – to effect – already emerged.
I used to hate it! the singer explained.
In truth, I had such a grudge with the industry for a long time. I felt like I was never recognised in the same way that my peers were.
Now, I see that there was a naivety in me that Ive only just come to tackle head on. These things are totally about timing and Im so grateful to be seven years signed to a major label and still be called an emerging artist.
It gives me time to get it right and it has allowed me to really develop and grow my sound.
So what is her sound?
For those new to the musical gem that is Mahalia, think soulful, sultry vocals that sit somewhere between Lauryn Hill and Tracy Chapman.
The two artists – alongside Lily Allen, Corrine Bailey Rae and Amy Winehouse – were what first caught Mahalias ear, and the singer has gone on release her debut 2016 album Diary Of Me, support Ed Sheeran and Emeli Sandé on tour, feature on Rudimentals We The Generation and even nab a role in Noel Clarkes Brotherhood movie.
But, with her early career very much rooted in YouTube, its a fitting arc that the singer has now returned to the platform at the top of its One to Watch list – an irony that is not lost on the star.
Its crazy to me. Over the past few years, as an artist, I definitely used to watch these lists and hope that one day Id be on them, she gushed.
As a kid, I grew up watching and being inspired by YouTube videos so its the best feeling ever to be at the top of this list.
In fact, the artist is certain YouTube has changed the landscape of music consumption entirely, allowing creatives the freedom and ability to do anything, with the addition of visuals pulling in more eyes and 24/7 access – whether thats on a laptop, computer, phone or device – ensuring the platform, which launched in 2005, is still a primary source for music.
Indeed, with the music video for breakthrough track Sober reaching tens of millions of users within two months of its release, Mahalia knows all too well the benefits of going viral – and goes as far to say she doesnt know where she would be today without it.
I sometimes wonder, if Sober hadnt have taken off in the way it did, would I be doing everything I am now? she mused.
And thats because of the platform that I was given. Im not sure going viral is the most important thing. But, its definitely proven to be a catalyst for many peoples careers – mine included.
The internet is so powerful. It gets you noticed in new territories and among new audiences. I genuinely believe thats really exciting as an up and coming artist.
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