Music fans might be familiar with Deva Mahal, who performs her soulful songs in popular Williamsburg spots like the Knitting Factory, St. Mazie Bar & Supper Club, Union Pool, and Rough Trade. The Hawaii native lived on the West Coast and New Zealand before moving to Brooklyn in 2007 to pursue a career in music.
Tell me a little about yourself and your creative pursuits. Well, I’m a musician. I’m a singer and a songwriter and right now I’m working on writing and producing my first studio album.
Congratulations, that’s exciting. Thank you. I’m really excited slash nervous, moderately terrified, and beyond proud of the project.
What kind of music do you do? Well, it’s kind of an amalgamation of all my influences, so I’m not necessarily really good at putting it in a specific genre, but it’s really soulful, very emotional. I kind of write from the point of view of experience and translate that for other people to listen to. It’s going really good, I’m very excited for people to listen to it.
Are you still working here also? I work here in the events. I worked in the shop Marlow Goods, and I worked in the hotel as maitre d’. I’ve been working here pretty much since they opened. They’ve been my home, my go-to, so it’s been really great.
So how long have you been here in Williamsburg? I’ve been in Williamsburg since the very end of 2007, so it’s been like eight years.
And where were you before that? I was in New Zealand before I lived here. I was living there, working on my music. Part of my family lives there, so I was there for about six-and-a-half years. Before that I was living on the West Coast. And before that, I’m actually from Hawaii.
Wow, that’s quite a journey. What brought you here? I’ve always dreamed of living in New York since I was really little. I’ve been enchanted with it since I was a kid. At one point I thought I would come here for university, but I wasn’t quite ready for it. So I guess I just did it on my own time. I eventually got here by way of New Zealand. I had just gotten to a place with my music where I thought it was the place to be making things happen, and ultimately it’s really turned out to be that for me.
When you say the place to be to make that happen, is it New York or Brooklyn specifically? I didn’t know when I first got here. I was only spending a few weeks at a time here. I didn’t know what my spot would be. I was living in Alphabet City when I first got here, and it was a great place, I really loved it, but then I stayed in Brooklyn and I was living under the J train on the south side of Williamsburg, and I was like, oh snap, this is totally me. I knew right away when I came to Brooklyn that this was definitely where I wanted to be.
What did you click with? Well, where I was living at the time was a little bit industrial and this is going on eight years ago, so there were a lot of little unknown pockets of magic happening, like restaurants or bars or art scenes that you stumble across, so it was like an egg hunt. You never know what you’re going to find. So it was a little more low key, a little more authentic, a little more grassroots, which I definitely gravitate to.