In Conversation: Madi Saskia
Born at the end of the '90s, Smethwick-based artist Madi Saskia is one of the most exciting talents to emerge from the Birmingham creative scene. Inspired by the sounds of Jhené Aiko, Erykah Badu and Marsha Ambrosius, her style can be described as socially conscious with an RnB twang.
She has been making music for just under six years and has since started her own event called 'Madi's Lean Up Ting' aimed to put artists on stage that are misunderstood and overlooked. The next few years are set to be amazing for Madi, with the release of her debut project on the horizon, she is definitley one to watch.
Dare we ask how you are holding up in these strange times ?
Listen, it's good to just ask, you know what I mean, cuz everybody is coping with it different and for me lockdown is quite good to be honest. So I'm using this time to literally be as productive as possible. Right now I'm taking part in a production course that celebrates and pushes women and people who identify as non binary to get into production. I'm learning the ins and outs of producing, I’m songwriting and I'm still releasing music, so for me this is going quite well and mentally I'm in a good space. So yeah, can't complain.
We hear you’re building your own home studio as well?
Yeah! it’s going, it's going, I wish I had a bit more pieces, obviously I'm a struggling artist, so for me it's like I was able to get the best things I could on a budget and it's working well for me. I've got like a mic and interface, a laptop, a MIDI keyboard, some speakers, and it really really has aided the productivity and really cured my boredom. If I didn't have my setup here, oh gosh (laughs), I feel like I would have just gone into the sunken place and just died of boredom. Yeah, it’s really really getting me through, hopefully when the restrictions are lifted and everything goes back to some kind of normal I can do like sessions with other artists here and just catch a vibe.
In terms of writing music in this environment we’re all in, have you been more inspired to write?
So, with writing it's only just really clicked for me, I was still writing this whole time obviously and like I said, I've been trying to be productive ever since the first lockdown was announced. But, I didn't feel like I wanted to write, so to speak, I was more on the side of like the production so making the music behind the lyrics that I was writing. But now, I think my perspective on everything has changed quite a little bit. I've grown throughout this process of having to stay inside and stuff, I'm in a place now where I am more observant, I'm finding inspiration in like the smallest of places, I am writing a lot more than I was, let's say a couple months ago. So yeah, at this point, I have been more inspired to write but at the beginning, it was really a struggle.
Photo by Yahye Dirir
We recently noticed your collaboration 'Until' with Pheleba get a play on BBC 1Xtra. Congratulations!! How did this idea of a collaboration come about?
Thank you so much! So the track is Pheleba’s tune, she asked me to do a verse on it. It was really weird actually, she asked me to be on a song called ‘All I Need’ and I was taking forever and a day to get back and ultimately she ended up writing a second verse of the tune instead of having me on it, that song is out now you should listen to it. It's amazing!
I think, maybe in December 2019, she sent me a song called ‘Until’ and I fell in love, I was like this song is amazing and she asked me to do a verse on the tune and I was like, yo crazy! So, I got back to her straightaway and then obviously we went to Corey’s [Corey K] studio he made the beat, big shout out to him. We’ve been sitting on the tune since January last year, so it's been a year since we recorded it. It's so dope that it’s out now for people to hear with the video and stuff so yeah that's how that's how the collaboration came about.
Speaking of collaborations, what is it about collaborating with other artists that you enjoy the most?
The thing about collaborating with other people that I enjoy the most would have to be the energy exchange, most of the people that I have worked with don't make music the way I make music, in terms of genre or style or even like the process that they go through, so I think everything is always brand new. You’re always learning new things and new ways to go about things! I like to be very open and very vulnerable, so when I do music with people I like to be very open and very honest, especially when I’m writing songs like ‘Until’ where it's a heartbreak song.
I think that would be the best thing about collaborating with artists, one, you get to work with your favourite people. Two, getting to know them on a more personal level through music I think is a beautiful things and exchanging that energy, that's like the best thing, and then stealing all their techniques on how to write tunes.
You’ve been around the Birmingham music scene for a fair bit , when did you first start out?
I’ve been about in the music scene for almost seven years, which seems crazy, like it actually seems a bit wild. If you look at my Spotify and stuff, I don't have a lot of music out at all and I don't have a project out like a EP or an album or anything like that, so it's mad to say you've been doing something for seven years, but don't necessarily, to a lot of people, have a lot of things to show for it.
I've been about since I was like 15 years old, I started doing this 'Music Potential' programme that was put on by Capital XTRA and Punch Records, where I learn’t all different techniques for songwriting. Then I did my first proper gig as 'Madi Saskia’ at a place, I think it's called Alfie Birds? It doesn't exist anymore, but that was in the Custard Factory. Then I got selected to take part in a show at Koko in Camden, which is a really really prestigious venue in the UK and that kind of gave me the fuel to keep going and yeah, just been me and my music ever since. Seven whole years of my gosh!
Photo by Thomas Tyrell
From being in friends bands to doing your own music, putting on events for upcoming artists like 'Madi's Lean Up Ting' and giving artists exposure through your platform 'IAM'. In such a competitive industry, what encouraged you to help other artists?
It's weird to say this, but I don't think anything was ever really a conscious decision. I was just brought up to be a very caring, very nurturing, very helpful person, like it's in my nature to just want to help and have a desire to help. So when it comes supporting friends bands and doing my own music, it’s just something that kind of weirdly becomes natural, I just do it without thinking about it. So my friend has a new song out, I play the song all the time in the house, get the streams up, buy the tunes and post it on my Instagram and on my Facebook. I think it comes from my mum's upbringing, my dad's lessons, and just my want to help, paired with the fact that I just think there's so much potential in this place we call home.
I think there's so much room, and I think it changes the narrative of everyone kind of having this “crabs in a bucket mentality” and I kind of do it, so it inspires other people to do the same. Imagine having a scene where everybody helped each other. Everybody had everyone's best interests and everybody knew that there was room for everyone to succeed. I would just like to help, I don't think it's a very conscious thing that I go through. With the event I was sick and tired of people being taken for granted and their art and their passion not being appreciated the way it should. I wanted to give people a new experience because a lot of people that have been on the stage haven't worked with a live band before. So for me, it was really important to start that event because I just wanted to give back and I wanted to shed light on artists that I just think are going to do amazing things. But I didn’t want to jump on the waggon like when they are already popping. I want to let them know that they’re seen and that they're heard before they reach amazing heights.
As you know we've been there for a very small bit of your journey, throughout the years you’ve gone from strength to strength but that’s not to say you haven’t had your fair share of hardship and sacrifice. How do you stay focused and still keep progressing as an artist?
Honestly I don't know, It’s been very hard. You say that I've gone from strength to strength, but it doesn't feel that way sometimes. I feel like I've come into my purpose and into my truth and into my artistry properly just now. Like I said I've been doing it since I was 15, 6-7 years of battling myself and my mental health.
For the first couple years after I did the big London performance, I just I didn't want to put out music properly, I didn't want to be on Spotify, I didn’t want to do any of those things, so it was really strange. I was a Soundcloud singer who would do a few performances, but people mainly knew me for just being around and supporting people and going to shows. So when I did finally put a song out in 2019, it was just, in the most respectful way possible, to shut people up because everyone was like “Where's your music?”, “I want it on streaming platforms”. So I just put a song out, not really knowing the ins and outs of putting anything out. A year before that, my nan passed away and it really really set me back, like I lost my best friend. I didn't want to write, I didn't want to perform, I didn’t want to do anything really.
At the start of 2018, I had an operation and knee surgery, which also pushed me back as it meant I wasn't able to perform even if I wanted to do. But that year I started the 'Lean Up Ting', which kind of allowed me to be distracted and not obviously write, which is what I wanted to avoid the most.
I find other ways and other things to put my passion into cause sometimes, It's hard. I don't want to write. Sometimes I don't give a fuck about posting on Instagram. Sometimes, I don’t want to be the centre of attention, to be fair I never really wanted to be the centre of attention. I just want people to enjoy the music and that be it, sometimes the things that come with being an artist gets really overwhelming. Every year since I started there's always been a major set back, whether that be a health thing, falling out with a person, somebody taking the mick with my music and holding it hostage or deaths in the family. So I can't give you a solid answer. I don't know how I keep focus or stay progressing. I'm really hard on myself, so I don't see myself as doing a lot of progression. I think the reason why I'm still here and I haven't quit and I haven't stopped even though so countless times that I'm going to, is because I love music and I need music. I don't just want to do music, I need to do it for my sanity, even if it's not me pursuing it as a career, I still make music because I need to do it because it's my form of healing.
There’s a lot talk about how the music industry is on it's knees at the moment, but to take a tiny bit of positivity from the state we’re in at the moment, Would you agree we’re seeing some people go back to doing music for the same reason they started doing it in the first place?
I think what is having this kind of draught in opportunity is revealing that certain people are doing music not for the love of doing music, and the people that did that like you said are realising why they did it in the first place.
When you take everything away like, the marketing and the business side of things, the hate and all the negative things that come with being a musician or artist. When you strip all that back, and you just are a creative and you just create for the sole purpose of you wanting to do it, and you love to do it I think it's the most beautiful thing. When you realise that and you stay true to that, you just make the best music and then everything just happens organically.
Yeah the industry is a bit tits up, but that is expected because things are having to shutdown. Obviously performing live music is a very big part of the industry and it's a good way for people to connect with people. I will say that I'm hearing some of the best music I've ever heard from people having to be stuck inside their houses. I feel like a lot of people have been like fuck everything, I am doing this for me, I love to do this and you hear such quality music out of it. Especially from Birmingham, I feel like like it's been on a roll and I've just been seeing loads and loads of releases so it's really exciting right now.
In both music and life, what is next for Madi Saskia?
In life, I’m gonna be doing the same old same old (Laughs). I’m gonna just try and stay consistent. I’m going to put out more music, more visuals, and hopefully have a project out soon, I don't know when that's going to be. I'm planning on putting a single out in March. Other than that, nothing too major. Just again trying to be consistent, I think that's what's best for me. Music and in life, like I'm trying to stay consistently good in both, I’m trying to stay mentally happy and physically healthy and all that good stuff. So yeah, just trying to work on me. I think that's what's next, just me.
Madi Saskia's Links
Madi's Facebook: www.facebook.com/MadiSaskia/
Madi's Instagram: www.instagram.com/madisaskiamusic/
IAM Instagram: www.instagram.com/iammewestmids/
Madi's Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/22hJcHLERvIrp60yK6RdXF?si=QTBwW_VkTI6rborwqLxesA