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MALAVIKA / DEBUT SINGLE “SUGARCOAT” & PUTTING ON FOR SOUTH INDIA

November 17, 2020

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Malavika just unleashed her debut single… and we’re here for it! The singer-songwriter originally hails from South India, spending time in Dubai before moving to the States for college. Now, she calls sunny Los Angeles home as she celebrates the release of “Sugarcoat,” distributed via EMPIRE.

Describing herself as a “typical Indian,” Malavika is loud and crazy with a contagious smile and lovable personality that fans can’t help but fall in love with. She states, “I love performing, I’m so excited. I’m really passionate about my music. I’m super excited to share it with the world, share a part of me that is so personal.”

During quarantine, Malavika went viral after participating in the #TheMissyChallenge, which even warranted a response from the legendary Missy Elliot herself. After discovering a handheld mic lying around the house, the rest was history. With “Sugarcoat” out on all DSPs, the talented vocalist pairs it with an explosive visual showcasing her choreography and undeniable looks.

Flaunt caught up with Malavika in downtown Los Angeles to discuss her roots in India, her sound, going to school for music, having the Missy Elliott cosign, the inspiration behind “Sugarcoat,” new music, and more!

Photo Credit: Alex Winter

Originally from South India, how was that growing up?

I was actually born in Abu Dhabi. My parents being Indian parents were super paranoid about education, they said “okay, we got to put them in school in India.” So I went to an Indian school. I grew up there my whole entire life, I speak 3 Indian languages.

I didn’t know there were 3 Indian languages!

There are a gazillion, I don’t know how many there are. There’s different dialects and languages, it’s so broad. Hindi is the national language. I speak Hindi and 2 other South Indian languages. It’s home to me. I came here for college to pursue music, my gateway of coming here and pursuing the dream.

You went to Boston to Berklee College of Music. How did your parents feel about you pursuing music? 

Initially, the Indian parents they are, it’s like “oh she’s not doing medicine?” You have to explain it to all the aunties and uncles, they’re going to raise an eyebrow. But no, they’ve been super supportive. When they saw me wanting to give it my all, they were all for it. I see so many people from my culture where they want to do that, the pressure is real. I’m super grateful for them letting me let me live my dream.

Biggest influences coming up?

Oh my gosh, it’s so varied. From Michael Jackson and Tina Turner to Missy Elliott and Jay Z, Kanye, Beyonce’s a huge influence. Destiny’s Child, I could go on! The list is endless. I love R&B, I love hip-hop. It’s very obvious in the music I’m doing.

How would you describe the music you’re making?

It’s definitely hip-hop and R&B-influenced pop. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly like anybody, you can tell the influences if you really pay attention. I try to make it authentic to who I am. There’s subtle Indian elements and I really put a lot of thought in having it be tasteful. India has been shown with so many gimmicks and stereotypes. I wanted to redefine the sound and aesthetic, present it in a way that’s fresh but still authentic to who I am.

Photo Credit: Alex Winter

At what point did you realize you could do music for a living?

It’s a fine line with anything that’s considered a hobby to a lot of people. It’s tough to say, “is this going to be a career?” I didn’t see people around me doing that. Around 16 to 17, I decided “okay, I’m going to college to pursue music. This is real, this is my career.”

Going viral with #TheMissyChallenge. Did you anticipate that type of response?

I didn’t. It was the start of quarantine and people were going crazy. What are you gonna do with all this time? I had to keep writing, keep singing. So many dance and music challenges going on. I love Missy first of all, so the one challenge I got to hop on is this. To have her respond and react to that was insane.

How did she respond?

She put crazy fire emojis, just her acknowledgement on social media and saying that she loved the cover was everything. I didn’t expect anything when I did it obviously, but people too have been super supportive. It’s a throwback to the 90’s, everybody loves a good old song from then.

I know you said you found a mic lying around in quarantine.

The Shure mic. [laughs] I did. A lot of artists think, “Oh my gosh, XYZ is using this mic so I got to use that mic to get a certain sound.” Love me a good Shure SM7B, that’s what Michael Jackson used. He could use any mic in the world so if he’s using it, something’s right here. It’s fine, you don’t need the most expensive mic that exists. This is great, it works for me. I’ve tried some other ones and this feels right.

Why is it that you haven’t put out music? 

It takes a while to really dig in and figure out who you are as a person first, then have that translate to the music. I wanted it to be right and that took trial and error. I had to write a lot of music and bring the team together, everything connecting. The visual, the aesthetic, that’s big to me. It’s more than the sonic landscape of things or the writing, it’s the whole thing. I love dancing! How do I give you a glimpse into what I’d be like as an artist with my first song? It is a lot and you don’t have to, you can do it with an album. I wanted to go all out and give you an insight into what’s going to be.

How excited are you to drop “Sugarcoat?

It’s my anthem in a lot of ways. You meet so many people in life, you’re in a relationship with everybody essentially. Whenever you talk to somebody, whether that’s work, friendship, relationship, everybody’s like “be straight up, keep it 100 with me.” But if you do, they can’t take it. For me maybe because I’m Indian and I’m used to all the shade from the aunties and aggressive pressure of society, that I’m used to people saying it to my face. Whatever, if I ask them an opinion or even unwarranted opinion. People get uncomfortable, but there’s only so much you can do. You can overthink and be different, but I can’t lie in a relationship. I want to keep it real, keep it authentic. It couldn’t be a better introduction, that’s who I am. The real ones will stick around and whoever doesn’t stay, they’re not meant to be in your life.

How important is it to be honest?

It’s the most important thing to me: communication and honesty with work relationships, family, anybody. You don’t have to be a jerk. You don’t have to be disrespectful, but there’s still a way to be completely real with somebody. It might be bitter or sweet based on how it’s said, but that connection is rare and genuine. When you do find that, those people are keepers.

I know you’re dancing in the music video as well, you’re serving looks. How was shooting the video?

The video‘s a whole lot. It all came to me. All of the sudden, you experience things in life. It made sense. I wanted to be an accurate representation. The culture, how do I do it in a way that’s tasteful? It’s a fine line of gimmicks. A lot of people want to use the stereotypes and redefine it their way. Being from India, I wanted to steer away from that and say “how do I make this a part of the aesthetic? The viewers unravel different parts of India. Not the obvious, it’s not just curry and Apu from the Simpsons. So many different parts. There’s different States, the food’s different, the clothes, the languages, it’s crazy. This is the first step in unraveling different parts of India, you’ll see that further on too.

How’d you find your way to EMPIRE?

It happened during quarantine as crazy as it is, I didn’t expect anything. It’s a crazy year, what can you expect from it? It’s a blessing. I had my music video, the single, a bunch of other songs ready. My manager was shopping it around to labels. We did have a lot of meetings and conversations, which is weird because you’re talking to the VP of these labels via Zoom. You can meet them at a social distance place, but they can’t take you to the CEO. Usually you’re in the building like “yo this artist’s hot, let’s go up and meet.” That’s not how it works. EMPIRE was super supportive, very interested. I love how they’re very much about maintaining the artist’s integrity. They still give you the power and control and don’t take everything away from you. That’s commendable, they have amazing artists under them and they’re super supportive.

3 things you need in the studio? 

I’m pretty minimal actually. I need nobody there besides the engineer. Me, I need my glass of water, I need my lyric sheet and nobody else. Super simple. I don’t need candles or specific lighting, nothing. I need nobody in the room. [laughs]

MalavikaFLAUNT4.jpg

You don’t like getting feedback from people?

Late after, not while I’m there. It’s so intimate. Being a singer and having that translate with your words, it’s a lot of pressure. I’m a perfectionist. It can be too many comments and critics too early, I haven’t even felt that line and delivered it. It’s easier when no one’s around.

What were you doing before the music? 

I was at school pursuing music. I was one of those crazy kids that started doing the welcome speech, the thank you speech to the schools. I was very much on the stage dancing and doing theater. My mom’s stage mom. I wanted to do marketing and finance. Being from India and seeing everybody pursue those careers and not the creative side of things, I felt that pressure too being there. As a woman too, I don’t feel the way I feel when I sing. I’ve been singing my whole life. I did do marketing and finance for one year, then I’m like nah. It did help me though, it came in handy. You need to know that stuff, it’s important to know at least the basics.

Given that your challenge went viral, how important is social media for an artist? 

Whether you like it or not, you have to be on it. It’s almost a resume of this era. If you’re not on it, you’re non-existent. As sad as it is to say that out loud, it’s a fact. You’re not relevant if you’re not on it. That’s why I took time too, it’s bringing all those elements together but at the same time figuring out how to use the platform. Tik Tok, Triller, but how do I do it my way? It’s essential, gotta be a part of the game!

What can we expect next? 

Lots of music. I hope things open up. I want to perform. Usually you release your single, then you’re out and about performing. I want to do what I can, but I want to be doing festivals. I want to be doing tours, starting with opening up for another, major artist then building my way like that. Lots more music, more visuals.

How much music are you sitting on? 

I have about 15, I could do an album right now. But single by single. Most importantly, visuals have to be there. That’s very important to me. Step by step, I can’t wait to put it out there. I’m sitting on it, I want it to be out now.

Anything else you want to let us know? 

I’m super excited to share this with everybody. I gave it my 100%. Everybody on the team crushed it, I’m  happy. With the news with the election, everybody’s in such a good place. The Vice President Kamala Harris is half-South Indian, what a crazy time for everything. For diversity, integrating different cultures, it’s a beautiful time. I hope people can celebrate with the song. It’s uptempo, it’s a good close to the crazy year it has been.

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