Deva Mahal was born with the blues in her blood. Becoming the genre-defying artist, powerhouse vocalist and astute songwriter that she is today could only be achieved through living a life rich with pain, joy, loss, love, heartache and experience. A soul as singular as Deva’s can only find voice through an equally unique sound, which she’s forged by growing her blues roots through the fertile soil of modern R&B, indie-pop, soul, rock and gospel.
Listeners will get their first taste of that distinctive approach in October 2017 with the release of Deva’s debut EP from Motéma Music. The full scope of her voice and vision will be revealed in 2018 on Run Deep, her aptly-named first album, produced by Scott Jacoby (Vampire Weekend, José James, Coldplay) along with newcomer Jarrett Wetherell. The title captures not only her estimable musical bloodline but the finely-hewn emotions that course through her songs. Deva plumbs her own emotional depths to explore issues of overcoming adversity, battling one’s own demons and dealing with the pains of love and loss, alongside wry observations on contemporary romance. She breathes vivid life into those songs with a knockout voice that combines pulse-pounding soul with a decidedly modern edge.
Deva (presciently, or perhaps an example of self-fulfilling prophecy, her name is pronounced “Diva” but given a slight twist) is the daughter of blues icon Taj Mahal and Inshirah Mahal, a dancer, artist and educator who Deva refers to as “my rock.” Their support and influence combined with Deva’s inborn passion and soaring talents make her a formidable and inspirational artist. Those remarkable facets come together strikingly on Run Deep, which is composed of ten new songs and a powerful cover of a King/Goffin hit from the 1970s. Deva’s songs are as infectious as they are stirringly personal, placing her powerfully moving voice in the service of raw, vulnerable explorations of resonant emotion.
Her songs draw on a deep well of personal experience, serving as revelations, cautionary tales, and empowerment anthems. “When you are bullied and treated like you don’t belong, or faced with great adversity at a young age,” she says, “you learn ways to cope. Music gave me an outlet to express the pain of those experiences and the strength to challenge racial, physical and gender stereotypes.”
The wider world started to realize Deva’s songwriting talents in 2008, when “Never Let You Go,” a co-write with her father, gained acclaim on the Grammy-nominated album Maestro. She’s also collaborated with a wide-ranging array of artists, including TV on the Radio, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and Fat Freddy’s Drop. She’s performed at such renowned festivals as Sonar, Womad, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival and Montreux Jazz Festival
“Every experience in life leaves a mark,” Deva sums up. “Evidence of its existence. Some experiences leave scars, deep grooves inside your very soul that never truly leave you. That is where Run Deep comes from. I never want to wade in the shallow places in life because it’s easier, safer or more comfortable. My music speaks a lot about pain and heartache, but I dive into those feelings, submerge myself in them so I can work through them and get to the other side.”