Ella Mai is a refreshing, soulful singer who originally bursted onto the music scene by releasing covers of famous songs. Back in 2015, DJ Mustard discovered her via Instagram. And since then she has released a trilogy of EPs: Time, Change and Ready. Each EP is filled with honest, lyric-driven tracks which highlight Mai’s vocal range and her ability to make a song her own.
Originally hailing from South London, Mai evokes countless emotions with each release due to her relatable storytelling which consists of love, heartbreak and millennial dating woes. One prime example is the current, meteoric rise of her track “Boo’d Up” which dropped on the Ready EP in February of last year. Following the release of the video which has accumulated over 39 million views on YouTube, the track has reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart.
What’s the process like for you to write a song?
It’s quite an easy process actually but it’s changed a bit over the last year. I’ve been writing for three years so I’ve gotten better over time. Since I’ve worked and learned from other songwriters I’ve picked up some things along the way. Now I like to go in and listen to the beat first and see how the beat makes me feel then go onto melodies from there. It works in three stages. Listen to the music, then do melody and then come up with lyrics. I think listening to the beat is my favorite part because you can get the feeling immediately.
What is it like working with DJ Mustard?
He’s amazing. I always say to people he’s like a big kid but in the studio he’s serious. He lets me know what he thinks but I still have creative freedom which is great. It’s great to have a mentor like him who has been through the same process.
Tell us what it was like going from being an Instagram sensation to becoming a 10 Summers signee? What has changed?
It still kind of feels surreal sometimes. I was literally just singing in my bedroom. I hoped that the videos would do something for me but I didn’t know that it would go this far. Everything happened really quickly afterward. I didn’t have time to get used to anything — it was now or never. I moved to Los Angeles and I hadn’t even been there before. Now I’m just always in the studio and making music is my job.
Since releasing the video for your single, “Boo’d Up” you’ve raked in over 39 million views. What feeling were you looking to evoke by releasing this track?
“Boo’d Up” is over a year old but to be honest even hearing it now a year later it feels like when we recorded it. It’s just like a super lovey-dovey, sort of the infatuation stage of falling in love. I’m just happy that people are so receptive to the feeling because to be honest it’s really getting picked up by males. I never thought that it would be a male anthem as they’re claiming it to be.
What is your favorite part about being an artist?
Definitely performing. I love being in the studio and I love creating and the creative freedom also. But the performance side of it makes everything worth it. You get on stage and you feel out people’s energy, you have people singing out the lyrics that you spent so long in the studio figuring out. I love to be on stage singing.
What keeps you going? The process behind making music come to life or the end product, the actual project?
My family is definitely what keeps me going. But this is something that I’ve wanted to do since I was little. My mom, my brother and my grandma that’s what keeps me going. I live in Los Angeles and my family is in London so the time difference is a little bit crazy. But to just hear people say, “I’m proud of you.” Especially my mom and close family and even being in the situation with DJ Mustard and the whole 10 Summers team and my label Interscope. To have everyone come around and is saying: “The hard work is paying off.” And everyone is super proud and super excited for what’s to come in the future. That’s really cool to have people around you who are as excited for you as you are for yourself.
What are some of your favorite shoes to perform in?
How would you describe your style?
Very comfy. I hate to be uncomfortable. A little tomboyish.
- Esiwahomi Ozemebhoya, Robyn Mowatt