Heartbreak Chronicles by MALIA on ‘What’s After ‘I Love You’?’

Self-proclaimed perfectionist MALIA nitpicks every inch of her new recordings just a few days before the release of her new EP ‘What’s After ‘I Love You?.’ This conceptual body of work is the first offering of the year by the alt-R&B artist with a lead single ‘Only One.’ 

Listening to MALIA’s voice feels like the moment when you lay on the floor in silence with only your breath, which she refers to later during our conversation. Her soulful, velvety vocals narrate the stage after a breakup. ‘What’s After ‘I Love You’ is delicately packaged in MALIA’s chronicles navigating lost love, questioning all she once knew to be true. 

After the 8-track long EP, including three interludes, MALIA started to pick up the pieces and began the healing process of channeling her experiences into art. 

Over the years, MALIA has become a close collaborator of The Internet and Syd from the collective, featuring on ‘Dirty Laundry’ and also supporting them on their US tour. 

What seemed like a spam e-mail ended up being a sign from the universe sent by the iconic Alicia Keys. MALIA was the only artist asked by Alicia Keys to cover a song for the 20th anniversary of Songs In A Minor and took on the Alicia/Prince classic ‘How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore’. 

With ‘What’s After ‘I Love You?,’ MALIA lets all her vulnerabilities and journal entries out for the whole world to see. In spite of the broken pieces of your heart, she encourages “the heart to remain open.”

How do you feel about the release of ‘What’s After ‘I Love You’?’

Mostly I feel relief and excitement. At times I feel moments of sadness because as much as I love this body of work I created, when I hear it and talk about it, I’m reminded of being stuck in that pain which can trigger lower vibrational moments for me. But transmuting those thoughts into focusing on everything I gained from that experience has been my latest breath of fresh air. I’m also a perfectionist so I still nitpick the music itself and the mix and master and wish I could change things but I quickly do my best to just allow the music to be as it is lol. It’s better to focus on everything that is right in this moment instead of hyper zooming in on things that can’t be changed. 

Would you say songwriting is similar to keeping a journal?

Absolutely, most of my music comes from my many journals and notebooks. In fact, when I write with Jess Best I straight up give her pages out of my notebook to noodle on with concepts and lyrics and my thoughts, etc., and that is usually how my songs are born. She is the only person I’ve trusted with such delicate pieces of myself lol, but I think that openness has created amazing music. 

How did you first get into writing songs?

I released my first song I wrote ‘Satisfaction’ in 2014. I start learning after I started learning guitar because ideas were coming up as I was learning chords. I felt intimidated by the process and remember seeking out people to write with. I wasn’t one of those kids writing songs in her bedroom at a young age. I would sing all the time, but I didn’t write my own music. I just loved singing along to my cassettes, CDs and radio.

Were you musical as a child?

Yes, from my earliest memories I always had an interest in music and it was my favorite time in school. I loved to sing but was painfully shy so I would only sing for myself really, but I couldn’t wait to get to middle school so I could join the choir. I took piano lessons as a kid and played trombone in 4th and 5th grade band. 

Who is MALIA as an artist and MALIA when at home alone?

MALIA as an artist is pretty much me. What you see is what you get and I feel like I’ve been that way since I started. However I don’t think people get to see my silly side or the ‘real me’ unless we’re spent some quality time together. When I say real I just mean MALIA in my most comfortable setting which would be laughing, no agenda, sunshine, maybe a dog or two around, or just animals in general lol, some good company, real conversation, etc.

Where and when do you feel the happiest?

I feel the happiest when I feel like I’m in a state of giving and receiving love without resistance or fear involved. I catch glimpses of that on stage, making music, loving someone and sharing time and space with my partner, with animals, dogs. 

Going through a break up is always very difficult, other than music, what was your main  escape?

Spending time with animals and nature. Reconnecting with my inner child and healing remaining issues from my childhood. I did a lot of reading, and spent a lot of time on the floor in silence with my breath. 

Do you remember when you wrote ‘Only One’, what was the the main emotion you wanted to convey?

That ‘first cut is the deepest’ feeling. I thought I had experienced heartbreak before but this was something that really rocked my world. The feeling of unrequited love to someone like myself who still had some shadow work to do around abandonment was monumental. 

What is the main theme of your new EP‘What after ‘I love you’?’

Heartbreak but the heart must remain open. Keep the circuit open and tuned to love even after pain or profound loss 

What did you want it sound like?

I didn’t have a particular soundscape in mind for the music since this was more of an ‘interruption heartbreak’ moment that was not planned it all just came together piece by piece.

How did you learn to get so vulnerable in your work?

Well this experience kind of forced me into it lol. I’ve written about personal things before but not like this. I was in a place where I already felt so exposed, confused and in so much pain and you can’t really fake that or cover it up. I knew this body of work in particular was going to be very vulnerable simply because it was created from such raw emotion.  

You sing, ‘I guess I love way too hard’, how would you describe the feeling of being in love?

I think being in love for me is like the feeling of ‘home.’ It feels warm, safe, and puts me in a state of calm, ease and gratitude. I feel natural and comfortable even doing nothing. This was the closest I’ve felt to that feeling despite all the lower vibrational moments where fear was leading the way. 

How did you feel when Alicia Keys chose you to cover one of her songs? 

Lol I thought it was a spam email at first. But it made me feel as if it was a sign from the universe to encourage me and reassure me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing ☺ 

Where would you like to take your music next?

I would like to keep creating in such a way that feels amazing to myself and my collaborators and remain open to all possibilities for growth and expansion. 

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Words: Karolina Kramplova