Following the huge success of the single ‘Don’t Wait‘, there’s simply no stopping Mapei. I caught up with the Swedish-raised singer, who’s currently in London performing, to talk about the response to Don’t Wait, love and returning to Sweden.
Welcome to London, is this your first visit?
No, I’ve been here before, my first time was in 2006, I stayed in Notting Hill.
You performed last night at the Notting Hill Arts Club? How was the show?
Yeah, it was cool, there was a lot of love there. I felt a good vibe.
To quote, your single ‘Don’t Wait’. ‘If it weren’t for you, I’d be alone’, if you did find yourself alone in London what would you do?
I would probably go to a hotel. Lay down and try to wake up the next day and find one of my friends that lives here.
And if you could go anywhere else?
I would go to Cape Verde, and people watch. I love Cape Verdean culture.
Musically ‘Don’t Wait’ has a Brazilian influence. Have you been to Brazil and would you say its music has influenced yours?
I’ve been to Brazil for like two weeks. ‘Don’t Wait’ has baile funk drums. I’ve been influenced by baile funk for a while; when M.I.A. and Diplo came up, they introduced baile funk to the scene.
Were you shocked by the response to ‘Don’t Wait’, and a large number of remixes that were made?
I wasn’t shocked because when I heard the final mix, I knew it was going to be a hit. I just think it should be bigger, and I think it should already have 100 million views on Youtube and I won’t rest until it does.
Because it’s so positive and heart felt. I think that’s what’s needed right now because everything is so plastic.
Which remix of ‘Don’t Wait’ is your favourite?
The Frankie Knuckles remix is my favourite. The way he mixed my vocals, he made it sound so sultry and soft.
Did you know you’re in The Metro today?
(The Metro is a free newspaper found on the London Underground, a concept that comes from Sweden) Gives Mapei a copy of The Metro.
No really! Wow… thank you so much.
The video was a huge success too, and even a Behind-the-scenes was released, do you enjoy making videos?
I enjoy it so much. I’m like a young James Dean. I love acting and seeing the results. It’s fun!
Bill Withers talks about making music with no rules, you could write a love song about your Grandmother. ‘Don’t Wait’ is that about a friend or a lover?
It’s about a friend and family.
Speaking of lovers, do you have a boyfriend?
I like someone at the moment, I don’t know if he likes me back.
It’s hard for me to find love. I’m looking for love in all the wrong places. But I find love in music. That’s my first love.
Your follow up track ‘Change’ was ‘less soulful’, what can we expect from the future Mapei?
I have a soulful, raspiness to my voice. I just have that texture. The aesthetic is soul. On ‘Change’ it’s very subtle which is why it’s less soulful. I think it’s a mixture of pop and soul.
A lot of soul music has a positive message, is that something you think about consciously or is that just part of your personality?
I think it’s in the notes if you listen to Robert Glasper or Jill Scott. You can tell that somebody has an imagination before they made it. Soul music just makes you wanna talk about love. Feel good music, it came from slave hymns as well, they had to uplift themselves to survive.
I grew up in the hood in the States, where people would blast music from their Cadillacs. My sister used to drive around listening to Mary J Blige’s ‘Share My World’ album all day. Those notes are in my veins.
Who are your favourite soul artists past or present?
Jill Scott is my all time favourite. She has an incredible voice, that is perfect for my ears. It’s like honey for my soul. Erykah Badu, I love her New Amerykah albums, I’m obsessed with ‘Return of the Ankh’ and how she made that.
Mary J Blige of course, (Laughs) and I love Amy Winehouse.
Any future collaborations planned or you would like to happen?
I would love to collaborate with Madlib or MF DOOM because they have a lot of jazz in their samples.
You mentioned Robert Glasper?
Wow yes, that would be amazing! That’s like intellectual music.
When is the album due for release?
In Europe, January.
You’re friends with Lykke Li, who you are opening up for. Do you also know Swedish singers Seinabo Sey and Fatima?
I grew up with Fatima, we used to hang out in the streets and sing all night.
Seinabo Sey and I did a song together with Anders Malmberg who also produced her song ‘Outlines’ that Gilles Peterson played on his show.
I know them both, they’re cool.
Do you have any plans to return to Sweden?
I didn’t want to, but now I feel like it’s calling me. Because Sweden is home, I grew up there. It formed me. There is a scene there, that’s fun.
Would you come and play at the Scandinavian Soul Festival?
Definitely, I wanted to play the last one. I don’t know what happened.
Sweden has a fantastic heritage of songwriters and music producers, people like, Max Martin, Denniz Pop and RedOne. What is it with Sweden producing hit records?
I think it’s in the water! Swedes are very competitive, and it’s so small. Everyone dreams of getting out of Sweden and music could be the way. People study pop tunes and try to be better.
We’re very lucky to have lots of venues for artists/musicians to perform here in the UK, especially in London. Is it like that in Sweden, even though it’s small?
It’s not like that at all. There is one jazz club, Fasching but there are no soul clubs or anything. Soul is underestimated in Sweden, either it’s pop or rock. It’s a very pop or rock-oriented country. In the ’90s with Robyn and Christian Falk, it had its era, now it is coming back.
You very much sound like yourself, and you’re not trying to sound like anyone but yourself. Would you say that some artists change, to try to sound more pop?
People that I even know try to sound like Jill Scott or Amy Winehouse, there is no quirkiness to them or originality. I try to have that, I’ve seen so many things, and I don’t want to bite anyone. That’s like an unwritten rule, you don’t bite.
If we could all find more originality that would be cool. Lykke Li rented a room in my apartment, she started out doing soul, she sounded like Alicia Keys, but then she found her style with Björn Yttling.
A lot of people start out doing soul. Not everyone can do it, you know.
Are you getting closer on your journey to finding your true sound?
Definitely! Even this album is very experimental for me. But I think that I’ll fall back into the arms of real soul in a few years. I’ll just do slower music, and really embrace that. I think a lot of artists are scared of doing slow songs.
It’s hard for artists, they sometimes feel like they have to fit in. We like to pigeon hole them, don’t we?
It feels like critics have ruined the music. They talk about it so much, it’s just an emotion that we have, and we express.
We’re more mixed now, we used to be more segregated. We’re more eclectic now as human beings. I mean, you could be more black than I am. Since you grew up here and I grew up in Sweden.
I think that is great for creativity and music in general. Have all of your influences infused into your music?
I just soak in everything, I’m very emotional and vivid.
What was it like to immerse yourself in New York’s music scene? When you moved there?
I went to a club called the Eclectic Ride and Bilal would sit there and play the piano.
Have you heard of that party? … No, but I want to go.
Raheem Devaughn and Mos Def would stand there playing the guitar. Everyone went there to freestyle and improvise.
You would see Erykah Badu sitting there having Hennessy. It was the best party ever. This dude Forrest Renaissance had it. That’s where I learned how to sing and perform on stage. I saw all these women with confidence, they weren’t timid or anything. That party really inspired me, and I’m glad I met the people that I met when I went to New York.
Mapei new track ‘Believe’ is out now: https://soundcloud.com/mapei/believe