MYsie cried when she found out about her grandfather’s past. Until a few years ago, the genre-melting indie soul singer was unaware of Israel Magembe’s work. How wonderful it must have been to discover that he is credited with introducing Congolese jazz and blues to the Ugandan music scene in the 1950’s. “It was magical,” she says, sitting in her dressing room at London’s Royal Festival Hall after the sound check for her performance supporting Corinne Bailey Rae. “I cried because it was the ultimate confirmation that I should do this. That is the legacy.”
The 26-year-old has inherited her grandfather’s talent for weaving a range of international influences. Born Lizbet Sempa in South London, Mysie was raised by her parents to the Alicia Keys, Chaka Khan and Sade tribes. Her own work mixes spirited pop hooks with guitar thumps; Sun-drenched Latin rhythms flirt with jubilant Afropop. She initially released music under her real name. But she soon felt trapped by her industry’s pigeonholing of black female artists and started anew with a nickname borrowed from her middle name, Margaery.
Her groundbreaking 2019 single “Rocking Chair,” a grand composition of somber piano notes and dramatic violin rolls, brought Mysie to public attention. Then last year she received the first Ivor Novello Rising Star Award, which mentored her with British producer Fraser T Smith (known for his work with Stormzy, Adele and Dave). “We clicked straight away,” Mysie recalls.
She has since been signed to Smith’s label 70Hz and Smith has executive produced her second EP, 2021’s enigmatic undertonesalong with their upcoming project, joy ride. On early collaborations like “In My Mind,” fans will hear echoes of Radiohead as well as nods to Serpentwithfeet’s trembling, devoted anthems. What stands out throughout is Mysie’s voice, which can plummet from a lilting falsetto to a deep, velvety croon.
joy ride was recorded at Smith’s state-of-the-art studio in Henley-on-Thames, where it encouraged Mysie to dig deep into her feelings about the final throes of a long-term relationship. “I was in complete denial and really didn’t want to bring up this topic because it really hurt — the thought of the relationship ending,” she says. She explored the more impulsive side of her romantic nature on Undertone’s single “Seven Nights,” in which she sings about flying to Italy to be with her lover. “I always knew this moment was a fantasy / South of the river where I was supposed to be…”.
It was a turbulent time in her life. “I jumped into a relationship because I really wanted to,” she says. “I love love, I love lust, all those feelings. It’s like, ‘I want you to be mine.’” But it’s easy to forget reality. “You dream of a future with this person, of things you don’t see in your mind,” she agrees. “The ideal. So I’m really trying to stay here now, in the reality of what’s happening now.”
That joy ride EP is a vignette of the relationship over a five year period. It opens with a lush bass drum on the title track as Mysie tries to resist the “deadly affair” she knows awaits her: “I don’t wanna fall for you/ Until I can have you.” On “Birthstones” her tone becomes deeper, more serious, over flamenco palmas (hand claps), which she says were inspired by Spanish artist Rosalía. It was written in the early stages of the pandemic when Mysie’s then-partner decided to fly home to be with his family. “It was very hurtful,” she says. “[In the song] I’m like, ‘I’m going to fight for it… but you have to fight for it with me, too.’”
There’s a heady tension swirling on “Gin and Juice,” in the Fleetwood Mac-indebted bass riff and lush electric guitar twangs. “It’s definitely the naughtiest song on the EP,” she says with a grin. “It’s about having a wandering eye during a long-term relationship — seeing someone at a party and liking them. And I don’t even want anything to happen, I just want the attention and the fun of it.”
Although their relationship began before the pandemic, she wonders if lockdowns in the UK have caused others to find themselves in similar situations. “While I was writing the EP, all my friends’ relationships imploded,” she says. “It was an intense time” She’s a classic romantic: “I always long.” And she’s learned a lot from that one serious relationship. “I know that if I saw certain behaviors, I would nip something in the bud,” she says. And after the storm there is hope as she sings ‘After the Storm’ on the EP’s conclusion. It was inspired by a lyric from Beyoncé’s 2003 single “Me, Myself and I”: “There’s something about it that says pain…”.
Mysie says she’s concluding that we all have to deal with a few rotten eggs to figure out who we want to be with — what we want for ourselves. “I still have to deal with it,” she says. “It’s a journey.”
“Joyride” will be released on May 13th
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/mysie-interview-joyride-ep-b2066773.html Mysie: “You dream of the future of a relationship – it’s easy to forget the reality”