At Work: Deva Mahal
Deva Mahal can name a few reasons why she moved from New York City to New Orleans. “Cheaper rent and warmer weather,” she chuckles. “It’s a historically prolific city, in terms of music in the 20th century and beyond. It’s also a freewheeling, progressive city in a really conservative state. So it’s an anomaly, which I find really compelling.” With her 2018 debut album, Run Deep, in the rearview, the singer is looking forward to working on a fresh batch of compositions with different collaborators. Her two newest singles were co-produced with modern blues man Son Little, who she linked up with after discovering they shared some mutual friends. “It was a natural thing,” Mahal recalls of their initial Los Angeles meeting, which quickly birthed the snappy, soulful duet “Goddamn.” “He’s become a really good friend. We work really easy together.” It’s the latest in a series of choice collaborations, which also include writing with TV on the Radio’s Jaleel Bunton and longtime Daptone associate Binky Griptite. “I like to connect with other people,” she explains, also name-checking co-writes with her own band and placing Brittany Howard at the top of her studio wish list. “There’s definitely other collaborations in my future. My list of dream collaborators is mad long.” But in the meantime, the daughter of Taj Mahal is looking ahead to her sophomore release, ideally arriving at some point in the next year. “I’m not thinking of it in terms of a departure from Run Deep, but I’m trying not to do the same thing either. I’m just trying to be honest about where I’m at,” she says. And while she’s working on building a writing sanctuary/recording space in the Crescent City, Mahal—who was born in Hawaii, and partially grew up in New Zealand—still hears the Big Apple calling her name. “The dream would be to have a house in New Orleans that I could retreat to when I need space and clarity to relax, but also have a spot in New York to work,” she explains. “I feel safe and understood in New York, more so than a lot of other places.”
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