Mahalia Barnes is finally making her move. After eight years singing back up and fronting her own groups, Mahalia Barnes and the Soul Mates release their first studio EP ‘It’s A Shame’ with a debut album coming this autumn.
The daughter of Australia’s most successful vocalist Jimmy Barnes, Mahalia has her own firm ideas about her own music – and much of it revolves around old school soul. Since the turn of the century, Mahalia has been singing in soul clubs and on concerts with friends such as Jade MacRae with whom Mahalia wrote the track ‘It’s A Shame’. ‘We met through my drummer Dave Hibbard about seven or eight years ago,’ Mahalia recalls. ‘He said, ‘you guys are going to love each other. You really like the same sort of music and you’re both tiny little brown people with curly hair who like cooking’. He was right. We started doing original gigs together about a week after we met.’
The album was recorded with Mahalia’s band the Soul Mates (Dave Hibbard, drums, Ben Rodgers, bass, and Clayton and Lachlan Doley on keys with Mark Lizotte gusting on guitar) and was co-produced by Mahalia and James Freeman. ‘It’s a Shame’ is backed with another original, ‘Wasted’, plus a version of Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Never Loved A Man’ and the standard ‘You Are My Sunshine’ a duet with Mr Percival. ‘There’s so many different versions of that song,’ she says. ‘I found all these different versions of the song by Aretha, Ray Charles, Ike and Tina … so I thought I’d do my version. It was really fun.’
Mahalia has just completed a national tour supporting Lionel Ritchie after similar gigs with James Morrison and the Roots – to give you an idea of the diversity in her show. She has also been singing with Jimmy’s band and squeezing in Soul Mates club shows – which often turn into old school soul revues. ‘Being Jimmy Barnes’ daughter is something that I always get asked about,’ says Mahalia. ‘But I’ve been out doing my own shows for a few years now and try and work really hard so that people know it’s not a free ride. That’s why I’ve taken my time to make sure I had the sound that I wanted and I’m able to make a record that’s not a compromise. This has come out of me and what I do.’