“I never really go back,” Mahalia tells Apple Music. “I'm always talking about what's happening right now and what's present, or how I'm feeling. But as I grow up, I find more stories from when I was younger that I find myself wanting to talk about. I just feel like you can find so much inspiration in what's happened before.” Impatiently waiting for a home studio setup to arrive during the coronavirus crisis, the Leicester R&B singer-songwriter used the time for a much-needed pause and set about unearthing gems buried away in a folder conspicuously titled “POTENTIAL MUSIC”. The result is a stunning three-track set that memorialises moments in time. The wistful ballad “BRB” grasps at the aches of longing for closeness, “Plastic Plants” connects around a loose but dreamy metaphor and “Too Nice“ presents as a golden-age R&B soundtrack to doomed teenage love. Crucially, the project also helped Mahalia regain daily structure and refresh her creative palette. “As sad and uncertain as the time I put this EP together was, it’s also been a blessing in disguise,” she says. “This isn't something that is really part of our narrative as artists. I think everyone's always looking at how to level up. But actually you might already have those tools in your box and you just don't realise.” Allow Mahalia to guide you through Isolation Tapes’ hidden treasures, track by track.
BRB “I wrote this in January  when I was in LA. I was about to fly to New Zealand to start touring and for the first time genuinely felt homesick. It’s important to me because it’s the story of where I'm at now. And to me it's ironic that I wrote the song about being away and coming back, and now I'm here and I'm fucking stuck at home. So this was an important one for me to put on here, because it feels so current to the headspace that I'm in now. It’s also really personal, because it’s about my guy who is in London with me, almost like I was writing that song to explain to him how I was feeling at that time. So I don't even know if I ever expected it to come out, it was more like a self-soothing writing process for me to get all my feelings out and express that to him.”
Plastic Plants “When I was in school, I used to love poetry, and writing in metaphors that people would have to work to pick apart. And now I go into so many sessions where I'll write something and somebody'll be like, ‘It's good, but you need to make it simpler.’ And I've heard that my whole life. ‘Great, but you need to make it less complex.’ Here, me and [UK producer] Felix [Joseph] were having a moment of rebellion—wanting to write this song as a metaphor and making people understand it. I wrote this in the first phases of writing the album [Love and Compromise, her 2019 debut]. I wanted to talk about that search for real, authentic love, and not shallow and fake love."
Too Nice “Last year  I was at a writing camp and it was quite a big group of us at this residential place; we were there for two weeks and we were just writing and sleeping, properly into the album process—and it’s when I also wrote this. I used to be a huge part of the going-out scene when I was 17, 18, and there was this guy who would go out a lot and I used to have this massive thing about him—I just thought he was the coolest, best-looking guy ever. And I just wanted to write about that time—those moments are so part of growing up and part of what makes that time so fun. That story was from four years ago, but I know there are 17-year-old girls who will be going through that right now. I mean, my mum used to tell me stories about when she'd go clubbing and she'd see a guy and she might place herself in a perfect position so that he could see her. I've wanted to release this for so long, and I wanted people to relate to that moment where you're trying so desperately to get somebody—whether that be in a club, or in a bar, or in just a fun environment. This song is just enjoying a moment being 18 again.”