Interview | Masègo [Sep 2018]

This article originally appeared on ClashMusic.com

By his own admission, things are moving fast for Masègo.

At the time of our meeting, the multi-faceted musician is in the UK ahead of his headline shows in Manchester and London, less than a week after the release of his eclectic debut album Lady Lady. With everything that is required of him at this busy time, the 25-year-old Virginia native has only just been able to gauge the response to his album so far.

“People had digested it already and showed me what it meant to them (via social media) and it’s been out for maybe three days. It’s been a great response – a lot of fire emojis.”

And when listening to Lady Lady, it’s difficult to disagree that those fire emojis are not fully deserved. Masègo has precisely honed the so-called TrapHouseJazz blueprint that he introduced to listeners during the formative years of his career, stating that he believes the album to be a “fully realised version” of his current self.

“I’m still developing but I feel like it’s about taking those jazz elements and chiselling it in the way that I wanted to present it. I’ve lived more life so the sound matures, you know? My beard’s almost connected, I feel like you can sonically hear that,” he remarks with a smile, highlighting his light-hearted nature that is immediately evident upon meeting him. “It’s just growth in general.”

Masègo hopes that the growth shown throughout this album is enough to literally take him places he has never been before. “An album allows me to go to places where people wouldn’t know who I am without it. That’s a big thing I want to make sure happens,” he affirms. “And then it puts me in a position where I can bring more people on the road. I’m not money-hungry, but being able to pay for an overseas plane ticket for my friend that’s never been, that’s cool to me.”

Having ambitions such as these attached to the success of the project certainly altered Masègo’s approach toward making it, with the multi-instrumentalist sharing, “I think you do feel the pressure. At first, you’re just making some songs but I think you want to make sure that you tell a story that you’re ok being judged about for a long time. Sometimes you make a freestyle and you’re feeling that way at that moment, but I wanted to make sure (the album) has a timeless feel.”

Masègo emphatically achieves this on the album’s title track, which sounds like the spawn of something Pharrell and/or Andrè 3000 would produce and it is fittingly followed by ’24 Hr. Relationship’ – a nod to the Andrè’s ‘Where Are My Panties?’ interlude from OutKast’s ‘Speakerboxx/The Love Below’. Nuances like interludes were all part of a more meticulous process when making this album compared to previous projects.

“I feel like I’ve made very… I wouldn’t say accidental music, but (usually) the whole thing is done in a week. I didn’t really think about it too much in the past,” he explains. “On (Lady Lady), this was the first time I’d re-written a verse before. I’d never done that before in my life where I would make a song, listen to it and be like, ’I could probably express myself better’. So, it was a very different process. I wanted to make sure I was putting out my best work at this point in my life.”

With that being the aim, Masègo focused on displaying his musical versatility throughout. “I feel like (the album) says that I’m into a lot of different things,” he declares, before noting the contrast in vibes created by some songs.

“If ‘Lavish Lullaby’ is what you think my music is – cool. I think it’s fun because no one expects me to do something like that. That beat was cool to me just as much as ‘Black Love’ – that one was almost at Disney level (in terms of its sound). Then I took it to ‘Prone’ where it’s like my Trey Songz energy – we’re just going to get nasty for a second. I wanted to just tell people I’ve had all these moods.”

The various “moods” he refers to are based on relationships and interactions with females throughout his life and it is a theme that runs through the entire duration of Lady Lady. Although dedicating an album to one’s romantic endeavours isn’t unheard of, it was something that ‘Sègo thought was important to discuss regardless.

“Just as much as people want to hear about relationships, I like telling stories about them because they’re all interesting to me,” he reveals. “Without using names, I love to be able to take a metaphor and have (the listener) still feel connected to my personal story – that’s kind of fun to me.”

The myriad of sounds that Masègo has meshed together to create his TrapHouseJazz sub-genre makes it problematic for those who try to confine him into one musical category, something that can be viewed as positive or negative depending on your perspective. “So far it’s been cool because I think there’s something special about carving your own lane out. It might not be so easy to put me in a playlist or whatever,” he concedes, viewing it from another angle. “But I feel like it’s when I’m my most happy when I say, ‘I like this’ and if you like it too – cool. I could get on a very cookie-cutter beat, but it wouldn’t be being true to myself, I’d have to Masègo it somehow.”

And bringing a certain type of uniqueness to his performances is not only limited to his recorded music, as seen at all of his live shows where he incorporates many different aspects to ensure no two are the same. “I just naturally do it slightly differently in every city just because I get bored. I make a beat from scratch at every show – that keeps it fresh – and I invite different people on the road so it’s always different. I try to make it where it’s catered to them – wherever I’m at, y’all get this show today.”

With this being his major debut, there were certain responsibilities that Masègo had to come to terms with that initially proved difficult to adjust to. “I think just the extra parts – marketing and promoting it, having to purposely think of ways to show people (Lady Lady) and get it to as many people as possible,” he divulges when speaking on the most challenging aspects of the album’s rollout. “Back when I was first doing my performances, I wouldn’t even say my name. I would just perform then I’d leave. I don’t like to promote, I just want to put it out and then go on vacation.”

That, of course, was not an option, but, “The problem of making people aware (of my music) when there’s so much to be aware of,” was demanding for him. Despite the larger audience that he now caters to, Masègo still primarily makes music for himself, citing its “therapeutic” benefits, but also because he sees himself of as a continual student of the art form.

“There’s a piano in the room right now,” he says, almost having to restrain his musical instincts. “I’d probably play it if it was on. I’m that dude, I’m like a music nerd, I’ll make music whether it’s recorded or not.”

And irrespective of all he’s achieved in his burgeoning career so far, his proudest moment was not strictly related to his musical accomplishments. “I think when my parents said they were both proud of me,” he unveils as the thing he’s most satisfied with. “It meant a lot to me because, you know, it takes a while for your career to be something that your parents can see. So that felt good for me.”

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