Tkay Maidza
Up close with the ambitious Australian artist...

Tkay Maidza isn't about to stop any time soon.

The Australian artist already has a stellar debut album to her credit, but she wants to broaden, to go a little deeper than before.

New EP 'Last Year Was Weird Vol 1' is part of this instinct, with Tkay moving from hip-hop to gospel, R&B, and even reggae, seamlessly piecing these genres together.

It's a triumph, and what's more it's part of an ongoing trilogy, with the rising artist looking inwards to find fresh paths.

“I think it’s a step of me coming into who I’m supposed to be,” she commented recently. “This is how I want everything to sound and look and feel. For this EP I want people to react as if this is real and that I’m here to stay. I want people to be like, ‘Oh this is a real thing.”

Clash caught up with the unstoppable Australian to find out what makes Tkay Maidza tick...

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So: how weird was last year?

It was strange. Growing up I had my family, my parents, would always say: if you want something, just believe in it. And I think the last couple of years – or the year I am referring to – is a year where I had a lot of challenges, and coming out of it I thought, God that was so weird!

Do those challenges ultimately benefit you?

Yeah for sure. I think if you come out of it stronger then you’ve learned what you’re supposed to learn. And I think I definitely came out of it stronger.

Do testing personal times led to a lot of creativity? Does the emotion lead to increased depth, do you think?

Yeah. For me, I’m still figuring out what it is that I like to do. It’s a broad collection of genres, I guess, but for me I wanted to experiment. Then it would end up cheerful, or with some reggae, so I think it was more me testing a lot of different things. And I was lucky to work with a producer who could make it come together and sound a bit cohesive.

It feels like a real statement.

It’s been two years since my first album so it’s natural to have times where you listen to certain things, so each song is like a snapshot of what I was listening to at the time. I think it’s more that I was going through the motions of liking certain types of music. I would listen to reggae, and then I would move on to something else.

Do you think you’ve reached the end point of where you will evolve as an artist, or is that an ongoing process?

I think it’s ongoing. This EP has unlocked something new so I definitely want to focus it further. I want to understand it more, but I can build on that because I’m really proud of it.

The reggae influences are great – how important has that sound been to you growing up?

My Dad has always been in bands that play reggae covers. Bob Marley is an icon in Zimbabwe. It’s something that even if I had never consciously listened to I grew up around it. There’s a lot of contemporary artists – like Major Lazer – who make that kind of music. It feels like a part of me that has always been there.

Has this helped you explore your own family and heritage, then?

Exactly. I felt really close to home!

Does that tie in to the gospel influences, as well? Did you grow up around the church?

I definitely feel like being Christian is a big part of African culture. Especially Zimbabwe – most families go to church. Growing up we went to church every Sunday. When you hear gospel melodies, and melodies that sound like church I’m really drawn to them because they’re so beautiful! So it was a fun challenge to try something like that as well. I feel like people like Chance The Rapper have tackled it, and proved that it can connect in that sphere.

They worship hard in Zimbabwe.

For sure! I’m not super religious – I’m more drawn to the message and the beautiful melodies.

What was the process of turning these influences into a coherent statement?

I started two songs with the same producer, and my Dad played bass on them. Then the rest of the EP I made with Sam. I think it was just the fact that I feel like I’ve found someone I can really trust and who will challenge me, and I will also accept that. He’s been a really good mentor and collaborator in that sense.

It feels like a strong team. He will take what we have and then insist I re-write something. They’ll be some sessions where he’ll be like, this is really cool, but it could be fresh. We’d be updating things, and then at the same time writing new music together as well. It was all positive.

How about the new single, how involved were they on that?

I was really lucky because everything on the EP turned out to be exactly what I wanted. Anything where I had a problem I just didn’t finish them. If it doesn’t work out it’ll be because I haven’t got to know the producer that well just yet.

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So this is Volume One…

Yep. The goal is to do three!

And will each EP focus on a different point in your life?

I think the first EP is more to set a tone. The title song set the tone aesthetically, and what I wanted to cover. It’s this sense of growth, and a beginning. That’s the theme, so it’s about carrying that energy through to the other ones.

It’s almost an album’s worth of songs!

I feel like it’s more than an album. It’s probably this thing of wanting to try something smaller. But also I feel like I write a lot, so I want to move quickly, and I feel like this allows me to.

There’s a lot of good trilogies in the world – Lord Of The Rings…

X-Men!

So, how was this year? Has it been a positive experience?

It’s been great! I’ve been creating a lot, it’s really positive. Last year was weird, but this year will be better.

You worked with Duckwrth recently which must have been amazing.

It was great. He’s such a hard worker, and such an incredible person. He was an Australia for a week playing a festival, and put out a shout out for collaborations. So we put our hand up and he messaged me straight away – I was like wow, someone who really cares!

Did you learn a lot working with him?

I am obsessed with his music. So it’s always a surprise when someone you really admire likes your music. I learned a lot because when we were in the studio he worked out ways to perform that were totally different to mine, and when he was done I was like wow, I did not see this coming!

Do you have more collaborations lined up for the EPs, or is this about focussing on your own voice?

We always get offered but I feel like I want to make this as good as I can on my own first, and if we get a collaboration then that’s amazing, but I want this to stand up by itself.

And finally, when’s the next album coming out?

The goal is to have an album after the trilogy. And hopefully I’ll be back in the UK before the end of the year.

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'Last Year Was Weird Vol. 1' is out now.

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