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In Conversation With Masego

“…there’s no facade when it comes to true live performance”

Masego, a virtuoso orchestrator of musical worlds beckons us into his universe. Since gaining virality and acknowledgment from communities online, the genre-defying artist has honed his craft into his eponymous album Masego. To be honest, he has carved a niche for himself that can’t help but captivate our attention. But luckily for all of us EU/UK residents, Masego is on tour – yes you heard us right. Having kicked off on Jan 24th, he will be doing the rounds around town, from Vienna on the 1st to Dublin on the 25th we will all get a chance to see him. And Amsterdam? Feb 15th @ AFAS live, see you there. But in all seriousness, Masego’s live performances are where the real magic happens – “…there’s no facade when it comes to true live performance” he shares. We got the chance to catch up with Masego to talk all things from a German artist he wants to gatekeep to writing and the art of speaking. 

Let’s start with your journey, could you share the path that has led you to where you are today?
The rundown of me? Well my father is Jamaican and my mother is a couple of different ethnicities from the African diaspora and tribes. I’m a kid of the internet. You know, back in the SoundCloud days, I would post ideas. I have a church background from the South and used to be a street musician. I would say it was from that experience that I really honed my improvisational skills. 

I attribute a lot of my success to the black community. I don’t have a label story I can really talk about but a lot of the success I got was from the social conversation and the elevation of black women. I think the people decided my trajectory.

It’s a story that’s so of this time. There are moments where communities and people can take over and say “you know what, we want this person to be, to be it. Even if they’re not on the radar of the industry, we don’t care.” How would you say you found your place in the music industry?
I don’t know if I’ve found my place in the industry. I feel a little bit like a vigilante to be honest. I’m able to do whatever I want because of my touring. You can’t fake people deciding to come to see you and I think that allows me to literally do whatever I want.

There’s a book by Autumn Mills called “Be Unstoppable” where he describes a town of sailors, and everyone has a ship, and they follow a certain set path. It’s like getting a job and you kind of can know your trajectory based on that job. But there’s a certain person called a master commander that captains their own ship and goes wherever they want, collecting unique markings on their boat from their travels. They are the people that you aspire to be because you can create your own journey and you don’t have to follow the infrastructure of that industry. I think that’s kind of how I view my place. At the end of the day, I could do whatever I want. I could hit up the famous person or the guy across the street and make a song with them. I could tour. I could not tour. I could flex a bunch of money stuff and chains, or I could just look homeless and do the Andre 3000 thing. It’s whatever I want.  

It’s powerful, the route that you’re taking, following what you find meaningful. On the topic of touring, your EP Study Abroad is all about travel and now you are on an EU tour. Can you share the meaning travel has to you?
Thankfully I travel with my friends. My band, yeah I actually like them. They’re all people I would hang out with even if they weren’t a part of the industry. I think these experiences are the stories that I’ll tell when I’m older, just hanging out with them in these environments. It doesn’t feel like a job because I would be singing and playing instruments anyway. 

There are a lot of things that I like to bring back to the different locations to offer perspective. I think it’s something to say when you can go to a country and still feel at home because you find out what makes you, you. I attribute a lot of my success to travel because that’s what has given me a lot of my power. The fact that I have perspective and the through line that Melody offers amongst cultures.

And is there a favorite place that you’re looking forward to going to?
for this run, I would say Lisbon, because any chance I can speak Portuguese, I want to.  

Would you say Lisbon’s your European favorite city? Or just because you like speaking Portuguese haha.
My favorite city? That’s a tough one and I think it changes. I didn’t expect to like Copenhagen last time I was there, but that was the loudest crowd I’ve heard in Europe. I journaled about it, I told people about it, like, why was this particular crowd so loud? It comes down to who’s inhabiting the space at the time. So I don’t know but right now we’re going to say London.

I guess we’re going to have to bring it in Amsterdam!
Amsterdam is cool though cause y’all Daily Paper, that’s a cheat code. 

In the spirit of your tour, what does live performance mean to you?
I think it means connection with your listener. I feel like there’s a lot of facade when it comes to music but there’s no facade when it comes to true live performance. Either you’re feeling the energy in the room or it’s not in there. I’m an ex athlete so I try to still treat my art as that. I really like to see the live show as a very serious game. And like, we’re all in there trying to do our best, put up the points, win the game, whatever you want to say. But to me, that’s what validates the practice we put in, the effort. Because, we really play music and we really perform it; we really do the whole thing. It’s how I like to separate myself from the sea of artistry these days and I think you need that.

Shifting gears a little bit let’s delve into your music-making process. How do you typically approach it?
It changes as I grow. The most recent session I had was with a guy that I met in Germany and I’ve never made music like I did with him before. He takes voice memos that I recorded during my sound checks or me playing around on the piano just drunk on some wine and then he’ll turn it into a full song. This process gives me so much more bandwidth to elevate my songwriting and to color it in a different way. I feel like I’ve already done the whole “I’m talented, I can do everything. Watch, look at me” thing. So now it’s cool to just focus on the stories I’m trying to tell and the emotions I’m trying to emit. And then let somebody like this guy be a genius. I would say his name, but I’m gatekeeping him… 😉 

Hahaha. And where do you draw your inspiration from?
It’s a combination of regular life and conversations on the internet. I don’t like the amount of time I spend on the internet, but there’s a lot that I pull from it because there’s so much happening. That’s why my music can have so much going on because I’m getting inspiration from so many different sources. It becomes and feels eclectic.

That being said I try to get outside as much as I can and see people who are just being people, living. The art of living is my thing. 

Are there any kinds of art forms that you are curious about dipping your toes in?
My mother is an author so she’s the true writer. I think I can cosplay writing pretty well at this point. I would like to study the art of writing and even utilize my voice more when it comes to reading what I create. I consume a lot of books via audible and what excites me about it is when  I listen to a book where the author is narrating it. There’s an art to writing and translating those words to where they emote a feeling. My favorite book/narrator is Matthew McConaughey’s Green Lights. Him singing the book sounds like an audio movie and it’s incredible to me. I aspire to be able to do that one day.

You released your sophomore album last March which means we are approaching the one year anniversary soon! In fact 2023 was a huge year for music for you. In addition to your album it was a year filled with singles, remixes, and collaborations. How do you reflect on 2023?
I think the music is the reflection. Not to be overly deep but I think that’s how I take all of what’s been going on from maybe last month to the last two couple years. I can capsule those moments in time within a song. I’m a hyper-creative when it comes to music making, so I’ve made a lot of songs that are actually not released. But overall, last year was a year of meaningful interactions and meaningful conversations. And ultimately I think chiseling and refining the purpose and why is kind of my thing.  

What is your why
Let me see if I can read it, I wrote it down somewhere. Okay, boom here it is.  So this might have a little chatgpt-ness to it… you see I put all of my thoughts in and was like,” all right, give me a nice tidy paragraph” So this is what it says: “your life’s purpose appears to revolve around being a cultural bridge and community builder. Using your passion for music, humor, and interpersonal connections to unite diverse groups and celebrate the richness of the human experience.”  What do you think?

Pretty good why. A big part of your why and what inspires you seems to revolve around interpersonal relationships. In fact, a lot of your music is inherently collaborative. What does collaboration mean to you?
Well, I think the people who I respect are doing the artistry thing correctly have their own worlds and I’m always curious what someone else’s world is like. So collaboration is beautiful to me because the way someone thinks fascinates me. I mean, Devin Morrison is a perfect example. I don’t know how he began to think about how to approach the music he’s played for me. That’s the best thing about collaborating with him because he also says the same thing about me. Seeing a person’s mind and their thought process to their art – or the lack thereof – is the cool thing.

Do you have a dream collaboration? 
Who would I collab with? I’m not gonna lie, I was very jealous of Jorge Ben Jor being the first track on the Book of Clarence soundtrack. I was like, this is ridiculous. How did y’all find him and get him to work with y’all? If I could gatekeep him, I would cause he’s literally tatted on my arm.

This is why you’re gatekeeping your German guy!
Oh, I’m trying to, because y’all, let me get the collab in first. Then y’all can do your thing.

And lastly, it is still January, you’re already traveling and there’s definitely a lot of things coming up for this year for you. But Overall, what are you manifesting for this year?
A thicker beard. I’ve tried all these damn oils, but we’ll figure it out. The body thing and the gym, that’s all right, that’s easy. But the beard part, we’re gonna figure that out because I told myself, in five years, if it doesn’t work, I’m going to Turkey.  

Hahaha, we believe in you. 2024 has good energy so a beard has to be on the way. Is there anything else you’d like to share today?
Don’t let them lie to you. Let that mean whatever it means. Okay? 

We won’t.

Words by Ella Paritsky
Images courtesy of the artist
Photography by Sam Erickson