spoke with Mali Music about his upcoming performance at the ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans on Friday, July 5. Here, he shares about the various genres of music, from soul to hip-hop, that influence his inspirational songs, and just what Festival attendees can expect from his live show. And as we’re covering the subject of faith on the site this week, Mali Music also opens up about how his relationship with God informs his work. Your music is very inspirational. How would you describe your approach to it?

Mali Music:
It’s a mash-up. With reggae, blues, country, alternative and all these different types of music, people are singing about the same things: money, love and everything that comes with that. The content of your heart has nothing to do with the type of music that you do. As far as sonically and musically, I am a mainstream artist. However, the content of my heart are things concerned in hope, divinity, God and love. Name some of the artists who have inspired you.

Mali Music: Bilal Oliver is number one. He is the greatest. I love D’Angelo so much and also what Lauryn Hill was able to do melodically and lyrically. Lauryn really broke a lot of barriers. Cee Lo is amazing with how he is able to genre-bend. He is the king of it to me. He went from Goodie Mob and all the stuff he was doing with Outkast to the Gnarls Barkley phase then The Lady Killer. His content is uncontained. I also like folk music, especially Feist. I also love what Mumford & Sons is doing. There’s nothing like a live performance. Why are you so thrilled to perform at the upcoming ESSENCE Festival?

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Mali Music: Live performance is the maximum experience. Something else happens. It turns into this portal of reflection and you start seeing yourself in every lyric. You can read about me and listen to my music in your car, but the missing piece is hearing and seeing it translate out of me. I don’t take live performance for granted at all. If I’m singing a song that I wrote when I was sad, I’ll be sad again when I’m singing it to you. You get to feel all of the emotions that I went through.

ESSENCE is very important to a lot of things concerning our culture and last year was my first time seeing the concerts at the Festival. I saw Anthony Hamilton, Kirk Franklin and Fantasia perform. It was amazing. I was very proud to see how our music was presented there and supported by the people of New Orleans. How does your faith inform your music?

Mali Music: I want to present it in the way that I got it. I was able to fall in love with God as a friend, rather than this scary man that would strike me down if I did something bad. I want to represent Him in a way that offers hope and peace in a world where we need it. That’s why I make music. How do you keep your sound fresh?

Mali Music: The music that I make is the music I have to make to survive. There is no effort in doing what I love to do the way I do it.