American singer & multi-instrumentalist Masego's live track 'Tadow' is currently sitting on over 100 million views on YouTube. The track also appears on his debut solo album, 2018's acclaimed Lady Lady. In town for Auckland's Laneway festival, the Jamaica-born artist (real name Micah Davis) sat down for a chat with Tony Stamp.
Tony: What are your impressions of New Zealand so far?
Masego: Everybody has strong legs.
Everybody has buff calf muscles… and I feel it cause you all have all these hills everywhere.
I was walking in the airport line, and there’s this lady with the strongest legs I’ve ever seen in my life and I was like ‘Do you cycle?’ And she was like ‘I walk’ and I was like ‘That’s amazing’. But yeah, I wrote in my journal ‘all of y’all got strong legs’.
And you’ve obviously seen a lot of hills around since then.
I’ve seen everyone’s legs and it’s just like, you work out naturally.
Can we talk about the name?
So I know that you adopted Masego when you found out you had South African heritage.
You got it right.
And just then you were like ‘no, no that’s what you have to call me’. It’s obviously something you take really seriously. Have you traced your roots back? Have you been over to Africa?
I’ve been over there a lot.
I thought you might say that.
Yeah, and I feel that it’s very important to move in your artist’s career a certain way. I’m a Gemini by definition, in all the ways. There’s two different versions of me. A very few select people know about Micah, but Masego, that’s the artist. That’s the reason I’m in this chair right now.
That musicianship, that whole other side of me is what really shaped the whole career. That’s how I walk and that’s the name that I carry with me.
You heard ‘Tadow’ right? This is the guy you’re talking to then. You know what I’m saying? You wanna talk about my sculpture I made in fourth grade, then let’s talk about Micah all day. That’s just kinda how I look at it.
Let’s talk about Lady Lady. A lot of the artists I talk to and a lot of the music coming out of America in particular is really politically charged at the moment.
So it was intriguing to me that you made your debut solo album one that seems to be an ode to womanhood. Is that accurate?
That’s accurate. People describe music as escapism in a certain way. I’ve built this world where I don’t mention anything that’s going on in my immediate area or country or anything.
I see myself as more of a global citizen. Just a globe trottin’, story tellin’ individual. I’ve travelled so much and been influenced by so many conversation, and that’s what I naturally talk about in my music.
Then from the chords I choose, to the cadences and all that, it just kind of reminds me of a little bit of reflective love, and a little bit of what I wish to accomplish, what I wish to be.
Sonically, I really love where I’m sitting. You know? There’s other artists who do a great job at being political and making it more different in terms of their sonics but yeah, I love what I’ve created.
I read a quote where you said “I’m not ready for the types of relationships that I’m singing about”.
Oh yeah, facts.
Tell me about looking into these possible futures.
I’m an old soul. I can talk to anybody about, you know, their marriage and their relationship and certain, real, seasoned topics. And I can also tell you all there is about Anime and having little short relationships and little short conversations and all that.
So that duality just allows me to make the music I make. But I’m very good at tapping into a feeling genuinely. Because when I wrote 'Black Love', a story about a wedding day… I’m not married but I’ve spoken to enough people and I’ve felt that feeling pure enough where I can channel it to where it’s peoples’ wedding song. And it doesn’t get realer than that.
So I felt like, you're either chosen for music or you’re not. And when you’re chosen, songs just drop in your spirit and you can genuinely channel an emotion where it's actually real.
Both your parents are pastors.
I was wondering if that was an inspiration to you in terms of getting up on stage and getting the courage to perform.
I think the biggest thing about church is passion and chords. There’s a certain passion when it comes to a person in church singing. My mother would be playing the piano and my father would be preaching. They mean it, with every fibre of their being, they mean it. That’s something you can’t learn. You just have to tap into it I guess.
That’s a big thing, then just the choice of chords. You know a gospel song when you hear it. You know that feeling. You have to play it a certain way too. There’s something about church that just has such a thumb and a hand in music. You know it when you hear it. That’s what I got from church.