Fresh from the release of her single, Black girls, we were delighted to meet with south London songstress and writer of the black girl anthem, Mary Sho. The multi-faceted artist shared with us how she combines fashion and art to amplify the message in her music, whilst contending with the constraints of producing an album independently. Knowledge, female empowerment and black joy being the driving force of her artistry, this is what happened when we met with MARY SHO.
So tell me about your families response to wanting to be a creative?
If my mum knew that you were talented she’d always be encouraging, but if I was terrible she’d say, (Nigerian accent) “ Maybe you should consider being a doctor or lawyer”. She’s always supported my work. In an interlude on my album, she tells a story about when she first heard me sing in primary school and that she knew from then that this was what I wanted.
Tell me how you got into fashion and how you use it as a tool to enhance the message within your art?
At uni people always used to say ‘you dress really well for your size’ and I was encouraged to start a blog. I was always inspired by high end fashion films by Gucci and Burberry, however while looking for a reference for my own projects I noticed that there were no films with plus sized models. That’s when I decided I’d use fashion films to create a narrative for full figured women of colour and marry it with my music to amplify the message.
Visually what have you been exploring?
Ive been exploring womanhood in a raw and primal sense. I’ve been playing with the idea of milk, earth and blood, juxtaposed with brutalist architecture as a representation of what it means to be a black British woman in society today.
Tell what it’s like producing content and making music independently without a label?
When prepping for a film I might see a dress that is perfect, but it £500 and I’ve got 8 girls to dress. So then I have to make my way to the high street or ASOS to find a way to replicate it. It’s a longer process, but it’s rewarding when you see the product.
And what about creating music independently, without a label?
Do you wanna know the truth?
It’s painful. Sometimes you have to take time out to check if you’re ok or review whether this is what want. When you’re in the thick of forking out money for mixing, mastering and recording its hard to keep your eyes on the initial vision. Its also daunting when looking at other artists work, who have the luxury of a 10 man team and you’re trying to do something of the same standard with 2 people. But when you’re disciplined with your artistic integrity, regardless of the money, it’s so rewarding to see the product and your vision come together.
Would you say that making music is a privilege?
When I first started out I thought I was gonna make a single, I’ll be supported by an independent label and ill just make music full time. That is the story for some, but for the vast majority it’s not. Society doesn’t equip you to fulfil your ambition of being a singer and to do that you need money. There’s a lot of talented people out there that can’t get a break because they cant pay for it.
Tell me about the process of making the album and the message you want to send?
I wanted to have a discussion about what it means to be a black female, the pressures of being a creative, having a family, a husband, the perfect job and the perfect body. These were things that I was struggling with and I wanted to be heard. In preparation of writing the album I started to ask other black women online about their thoughts on these topics and it matured a narrative that I put into my music.
Did those responses resolve any of the issues you struggled with?
100%. Listening to the voice notes and conversations that I’ve included in the album, it’s the wisdom and the understanding that I needed.
Do you think there is enough conscious understanding of black feminism?
I think that there are incredible examples of black feminists and there could be more; But because of this ‘crabs in a barrel’ mentality that society has forced us into, it hinders the movement. That stops the knowledge from reaching the people it needs to and has them walking around lost. Not to mention the affects of racism within the feminist movement anyway.
What would you say to younger self in regards to your career?
Self belief. Don’t act in fear, act in self belief. Your voice is valid and important.
Interview and videography by @justbailey
To hear more from Mary Sho head to @marysho on instagram. Music available on iTunes, Spotify and Soundcloud.