posted by Lu
February 2024

The track "Giving Up" by TSHA was not only one of the hottest electronic tracks to come out of 2022, but it also served as an introduction to the UK-based artist MAFRO.

Ever since this gem was released, MAFRO has gone on to set himself up to become hailed as one of dance music’s next major breakthrough acts. He has co-written for the likes of Diplo and Aluna, plus he is making waves in the live space, supporting SG Lewis, Bonobo, and Jungle on tour.

This has all happened in the span of one year after the release of his lauded Bloom EP. For many, it might appear as if this just occurred overnight although there is a story to his meteoric rise.

"From the outside, it probably does look like I came out of nowhere but that’s mostly down to how long I spent lining everything up and working to get the music just right", shares MAFRO.

MAFRO continues to carve his own lane in 2024 with his latest body of work Higher EP – a project that stands as a beautiful collage of genres. Steel drums, gospel pianos, and even elements of traditional Irish music with its extended chord progressions find their way into his music. Throughout this interview, Matthew opens up about his come up and he offers listeners further insight into Higher EP.

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MAFRO · Higher

What early indicators from your childhood do you believe pointed toward your eventual path as an artist?

I grew up in a musical family so I knew from a young age that I would end up doing something in the arts. In my family going to university was kind of expected so I moved up to Manchester for a commercial music degree. At the time I was really into indie music so I eventually ended up playing in bands before moving on to work with more established acts as a musician. Initially, I wanted to tour and see the world as a musician but deep down I always wanted my own project. 

For many people, it might look as if you exploded almost out of nowhere back in 2022 with your stellar string of releases and high-profile collabs. What was your journey like as an artist before you started releasing music as MAFRO?

From the outside, it probably does look like I came out of nowhere but that’s mostly down to how long I spent lining everything up and working to get the music just right. Before I launched my own project I was primarily working with other artists. Initially, I was lucky enough to tour the world as a session musician. I played on some massive stages and spent a lot of time in the studio writing with great artists. I did everything possible except put out my own project! It wasn’t until I spent a bit of time in the electronic world, going to festivals, and working with my wife (TSHA) that I found an outlet for my own music. It took me a while to figure out how I could fit my influences into the electronic world but thankfully audiences are very open-minded these days.

Which era would you say has had the biggest impact on your sonic aesthetic and why?

90’s to early 2000s were key for me musically. I grew up in London so House, UK Garage, and Jungle were always present. It’s something you can’t really get away from so even though I’m a melody-first artist you can always hear those influences.

In which ways did the release of your debut EP Bloom make a difference in your career and how you're perceived as an artist?

Bloom was almost a statement of intent musically. In a way, it was a blueprint for the project going forward. It was something that was expected to live in people's headphones as well as on stages and in DJ booths. Career wise it’s opened so many doors. I’ve had the opportunity to play a bunch of festivals that only a year prior I was at as a fan which is amazing. I’m also starting to collaborate and remix other artists I’m a fan of.

What was going on in your life during the creation process of Higher? And how did these life events influence the outcome of the LP?

I did a lot of travelling while writing the Higher EP so it’s naturally more outward-facing than my first project. I was imagining myself playing these songs on big international stages. I wanted this EP to be accessible to people outside of just the UK so that had a big part in the writing. There is still one pure 2-step song but that wasn’t the focus this time around.

I noticed the visual aesthetic for the project is quite cohesive throughout the release of the singles. How does this visual direction relate to the themes you're touching on in Higher?

My music is always about making bold statements and removing unnecessary fluff so the artwork had to match. I was fortunate enough to work with a great team who really got what I was going for with regard to colour and composition.

How is your collaborative process with vocalists different to when you're working with producers? And what were you aiming to achieve by predominantly featuring vocalists this time around?

I think vocals are an important part of bringing humanity into electronic music. It’s quite hard to make that emotional connection without a human voice present so it’s something I lean into. Songwriting is where I started with producing so it made sense to combine it with what I’m doing electronically. Working with singers is often one part therapy and another part music. It’s about creating an atmosphere where they are comfortable being vulnerable.

Right now in 2024, for you, what would you say is the hardest part about being a producer?

The hardest part of being a producer is keeping a consistent vision and not being swayed by trends happening in the industry. My favorite artists are the ones who stick with their own creative vision regardless of what other people are doing.

A quote that you love that's been relevant to your journey as an artist and why?

Comparison is the thief of joy. I keep this in mind when I find myself looking sideways!

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