In Conversation With: Mega
Before I spoke to Mega, I had another listen of her single “Chariot”, and whilst I was watching her Mahogany session, I was struck by a mental visual of Elijah, lifted up to heaven by a chariot of horses and fire. I mentioned this to her, and I wasn’t surprised to discover that there was indeed a religious influence, “I was co-writing it with a guy called Johnny Hopkinson and I just imagined God, or someone singing to me; delivering the words I needed to hear. I was hoping that when I sang it, people would connect to the lyrics on a deeper level and they can in turn imagine friends or family telling them the things they need for encouragement”.
The spirituality of the track is striking - from the effortless skill in her voice to the nakedness of the backing track, I really felt like she resonated deeply within listeners, and I was curious as to where she got that range of emotion from; “growing up, I liked to hide myself - I was always in a band, in a choir and was never confident enough to pursue music as a solo artist. It was only when I lost my voice that I learned so much about myself and was able to incorporate it [in the music], that’s why a lot of my work is pretty much stripped back. It’s purposefully not instrument-heavy because I really want people to be able to focus on the lyrics, and for me at the moment, I don’t want to hide behind anything that can detract from that.” I was surprised to hear that she was shy growing up, as her music sounds unabashedly authentic.
I asked her to talk a little bit about what things were like when she lost her voice. “To try and condense, I basically woke up one morning with a sore throat, so I went to the doctors, ‘I’m sure you’ll be fine’ they said, but I had this gut instinct that something was wrong. When I went back in a few weeks, they referred me to a local in-ear and throat doctor who diagnosed me with nodules. They told me the only thing I should do is not sing. At this point, I had no idea what nodules even were, so I did some research online - which I don’t encourage anyone to do - and everything I read was telling me that I’ll never sing again; that there’ll be ridiculous side effects and operations, so my mind was just spiralling at this point. Fast forward, I was referred to one of the best in-ear and throat doctors in Kings Cross (which took ages because I was initially on a waiting list) and I kept getting misdiagnosed with different things. No one actually knew what the issue was, and they couldn’t give me a healing date on paper, so I took that time to go and study Psychology.”
Mega’s vocal issues halted her music career for three years, and she never thought she would sing again. “So much of my life was wrapped around my singing and my musical abilities; I had to figure out who I was outside of that”. Akin to the ultimate test of faith, her story reminded me a lot of Job. But I couldn't help but note how similarly to many other black women, when Mega went to the doctor’s, there was a lot of misdiagnosis and minimising of her illness. “I honestly had to fight so much to figure out what was going on. I went to all of the hospitals, but no one knew what the issue was until I finally went private and had a nasal endoscopy (a telescope down your throat through your nose) and they discovered that I was fine; I was healthy now. So now, the main concern was trying to figure what caused it, and after so many years of not singing, how to sing again. It felt like I had to learn singing from scratch almost because it had been so long.”
Her learning to sing again really intrigued me, as I found her voice to be really powerful, I wouldn’t have imagined it’s something she had to redevelop. When I asked her how she would describe her sound she replied,
“my sound is vulnerable, raw and intimate, I feel”.
Not only did I agree, but I also saw some similarities with her influences – Amy Winehouse and Aretha Franklin being amongst them. “I feel like Amy Winehouse in particular was never afraid to really be herself and share parts of herself that I wasn’t seeing a lot of artists do in the same way”. Most people would agree that at times it feels like society is always trying to pit women against one other or compare sounds, but Mega felt it was more that people are just trying to put artists in context – not in a malicious sense, but wanting to know what genre or style of music they do.
I was interested to know where she planned to take her art next, to which she responded “right now, my music is stripped back, but who knows? I don’t know what the next EP or album will sound like, but my work just reflects where I’m at in my life at the moment. Aside from stripped back, I also like ballads and belting, so expect to see different sides of me in the future. Expect to learn more about me and get deeper inside both my heart and my mind. I’m all about conveying honesty and as more music comes out, it should give you a better idea of me and who I am”. When she spoke on this, I wanted to know her thoughts on how she keeps her focus on her own lane and maintains the motivation to stay authentic rather than succumbing to the pressure to do what sells or is relevant. “Sometimes I find myself listening to something that I’m like, ooo that sounds amazing, but when I lost my voice, I spent a lot of time coming to terms with the fact that I may never sing again and having to rediscover myself outside of music. When I did get my voice back, I made sure that I would never be afraid to try something new, even if it wasn’t current or a reflection of what’s happening around me. Losing my voice definitely gave me that courage to stay true and focused on where I’m trying to go, not on what everyone else is doing.”
Mega also has an upcoming single and a project that she’s working on. And with everything that’s happened to artists like Kanye west, Meg thee Stallion and even Wiley regarding their music contracts, I wanted to hear about how she chooses who to work with. “I’m all about energy. The people that I currently distribute my music with, I got to meet them and get a feel for them, so that’s how I knew that I wanted to work with them. Also, when I lost my voice, I got to watch a lot of my friends go through stuff with labels and I was able to learn a lot from them. Along with all the research I did on my own, I became really informed. Back in the day, it used to be imperative to be signed to a label and at the moment, people are doing things very differently and taking new paths. But at the same time, sometimes you just never know; you just have to go through it and risk it”. Once again, like so much of her life, it’s really just faith that has gotten her in a comfortable position.