From war-torn Sierra Leone to the streets of East London, MAGS is staking a claim on the British music industry.
If MAGS isn’t on your playlist, she should be. With her backstory she’ll never lack inspiration when song writing – at age six her family fled civil war in Africa to start a new life in London. Music is her calling but she didn’t discover this for herself. A school teacher, looking for ways to placate her disruptive behaviour, suggested she try performance and she hasn’t looked back since. Now MAGS gets set to unveil “Etta James”, a tune with a bouncy alt-pop body and RnB backbone. The singer drops by to talk Shirley Bassey, Harry Potter and the future.
Your full name is Magortu Margai but you’ve coined the nickname MAGS. Do you have any other nicknames?
Yeah I do actually I get called Moo moo, Maggie and Tutu a lot. When some one calls me Magortu I know it’s serious.
How would you like others to describe your music?
Hard question because I can only tell you how I feel about the tracks, I would like people to relate to what I’m saying and for them to feel the track. Real, catchy and fresh.
When you were just six years old you and your family fled from the war happening in Sierra Leone and headed to London. Do your African roots influence your style of music?
I think my African roots influence my natural accent and how I sing certain words and phrases. But right now it’s not something I’m consciously thinking about to express myself through yet, who knows one day I will and I hope it sounds like “Love Lockdown” by Kanye.
Where did your obsession with music begin?
I’ve always been obsessed with music. Im a fan of music. I got really involved when I used to tape radio shows so I can listen to songs over and over again and write out the lyrics and learn them. It was just a whole new world for me. My mum would buy me CDs all the time or I’d just listen to her collection of amazing artists. And when I discovered the internet I was in music heaven, endless!
Where did you learn to perform this well?
Performing I think is something from the inside, you have it deep within you. Along the way I’ve had people who have helped me to nurture that innate desire to perform and feel comfortable to just be myself.
How important do you think art schools are for the development of an artist? Is education necessary in creative fields?
The thing is I can only speak for myself. I started going to Saturday stage school at 10 years old, I was talkative and loud in school so my teacher suggested I get involved in drama or dancing. It helped me to be focused, disciplined and confident. Eventually when I went to Italia Conti I got to really figure out what I wanted to do more and how I was going to do it. It’s more of guiding people to discover the best of their talents, some people have potential but never really get to reach their full potential and performing art schools are there to nurture and help you find your way in your passion.
Your debut track, “Etta James”, has a distinctive alt-pop vibe with lashings of RnB undertones. Is Etta an inspiration of yours? If so, why?
Etta James is one of few who I’m inspired by – she had an interesting life with epic vocals that just pierce your soul, very moving. She’s an Aquarius like me, she’s Jan 25 and I’m Jan 26. I loved her blonde hair and her thick eye liner… she’s just brill. I didn’t write the song with the intentions of calling it that though, Etta James comes on the last line of the verses and for me that just stuck.
Who else inspires you in your music?
Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey, and Kanye West are my main music influences. Something happens to me when I listen to them! Total melt down and I enter a state of bliss. Christina Aguliera’s Stripped album was and is everything. Real life situations influence my music and love is a major influence. Let’s be real, everyone wants to be in love. It’s a crazy process, it can break you but it’s also a high.
Hawk-eyed fans would have spotted you in Harry Potter movies. How was the experience of working in a big budget movie and would you want to pursue acting further?
I loved being on the set of Harry Potter, the book and movies are literally part of my life so actually being their was surreal. I would love to go further in acting but all in good time.
Do you have any other hidden talents?
I can read music notes but I don’t practice as much I as I should to be honest.
What have you got planned this summer?
This summer I’m looking forward to doing some live shows, making more music, eating a lot and faffing about with my friends.
Words: Christopher Maul