There is no simple way to describe the art Masego makes or the capitulating feeling you experience when listening to his music, like his improvised track with FKJ ‘Tadow’ that tells the story of ‘the inexplicable synchronicity of human life and the sublime experiences of subjectivity’.
The self-taught musician who learned to play instruments by following YouTube tutorials is a hybrid performer who transcends many genres, displaying wonder through singing, rapping and his instrumentals.
Despite having a Grammy nomination under his belt, a single (Mystery Lady) that is now certified gold in the US and his music amassing over two billion streams worldwide—Masego reminds us that above all, the greatest gift music can provide is pure joy and unconditional love, and reflects on the power of assembly and giving back to spaces you found belonging in.
In the middle of a world tour where he will be performing for Australian audiences in June, Masego reflects on the potency of travel—citing the importance of broadening your experiences and perspectives that all feed back into your art eventually.
I sat down to talk with Masego about his upcoming Australian tour, the parallels between the music industry and a video game, and translating experiences into the language of music—with a side of fairy bread.
What’s on your mind today Masego?
What I’m trying to eat tonight actually, all I’ve been thinking about is cooking.
I saw that your song Mystery Lady is now certified gold. How does this feel and what does this represent for you?
I think it’s more so my team—because they’re the ones that really make these things happen. I’m not much of a trophies guy but I fight hard because I know that my engineer is, I know that my producers are and that my whole team [are], so I think it means a lot to them. I’m kind of like a family guy where if you care about it, I super care about it. So that’s kinda how I felt about this whole thing.
You’re on tour now and you’re coming to Australia soon where you’ll be performing at both Vivid LIVE in Sydney and the Rising Festival in Melbourne which is really exciting for us. Can you tell me anything memorable from the last time you toured Australia?
All I remember really is the friends I met out there that were showing me around and telling me about fairy bread. I remember they were showing me all these fresh fish places we could go, and I guess I was getting a feel for what the day-to-day life is out there, and how the beach [defines so much of] the culture—that’s just off the top of my head.
Was that your first experience with fairy bread?
Yes it was. First and only. I gotta go back on my diary and read what I said.
It’s funny that fairy bread was such a memorable Australian experience for you. I also just want to shout out to Becca Hatch who is opening your show at Rising in Melbourne. Becca is a First Nations woman and I want to reflect on how special and powerful it is to have an Aboriginal woman opening your show on Aboriginal land.
Yeah, that’s beautiful. I’m very intentional about communicating to my team that I want women involved at the show from the opening, to the DJ sets, to coordinating things. My friends are putting me onto her music in real time too, so I appreciate her.
What have you got planned after tour? What’s next for you?
I think I’m just going back to some leadership courses and getting my business sense pretty solid. I have a lot of extracurriculars coming up. I’m into the NFT stuff now, I’ve got my non-profit I’m forming, and I got my [joint venture] and my band, so I think I’m kinda going back to school in a way.
Can you talk a little more about your non-profit?
It’s in its infancy. I’m always about empowering and educating musicians on how this industry is, how to manoeuvre it, how to level yourself up and be the best musician you can. I’ve interviewed maybe 200 people so far just to hear about their story and their journey as a musician, and I just put all that information in one place and offer that education. I think that’s the core of what I want to do—to give back to the tribe that I’m a part of, which is musicians.
When I was researching for our interview, I read on Twitter that you described the music industry as a video game. Can you explain this a little more?
The more I play it, the more I think of it as a game. Let’s look at it—I just went Gold for a song, but my mind views it as an unlockable in a video game. You’re playing the game because you want to play the game, you love it. And you’re not playing it so you can just get all the awards, but it is lovely because it encourages you to keep going and it’s making the people that are playing with you excited. Music is an emotional thing, but we also use it for business. The fact that you can remove the emotion a little bit while you’re playing and get some of that out of the way while you are furthering yourself—it kind of helps the sanity of it all. I get to have fun, I get to be genuine and emotional in my music and I also get to be a man and a businessman.
On that note, what is your definition of success? What does it look like for you, and do you think you’ve reached it?
I feel like success is the gift of assembly. Can you get people to gather? Can you actually affect a community? Are you of service to people? Do people look at you and think ‘Wow this person has really given a lot to a great deal of people’? Can you take care of your loved ones? Can you get the things that you dream of and desire? I think I’m on the journey to that. I definitely have to get to assembly. I even think about how Nardwuar interviews—his favourite question is ‘Why should people care?’ And I feel like I’m always asking myself that question because I want to make sure that I’m not being selfish with my art but also thinking of everyone. I think success is the journey of checking off all those boxes. I’ve got a few of them but I’m still on the way.
What’s the greatest gift music has given you?
Pure joy and unconditional love. I think it’s pretty rare in this world.
How do you translate your experiences and your worldview into the language of music?
I think you have to spend time with music, so you just naturally speak it. The more I try to get cerebral about it, the more I overthink it and not really access my soul the way I want to. I spend a lot of time with music—listening to it, practicing my instruments, and hanging out with other musicians, so when we jam it comes out naturally, and later on we analyse how it happened.
Are there other things outside of music that help you stay creatively fulfilled and feed your soul?
I think travel. When you go to different places and gain perspective, it all feeds back into the art eventually.
Now I want to ask you a few random survey style questions taking us back to MySpace days when everyone wanted to share themselves with the world. First up, what was the last song you listened to?
Who No Know Gon Know by The Caveman.
I haven’t actually asked another artist this, but do you have a favourite song?
My own song that’s unreleased, it’s always my favourite.
How would you describe your style?
My style is just Masego [Laughs].
What is the most valued thing in your life, whether it be a quality, memory, or an item for example?
I think my charm. You can’t teach that. I was kinda just born with it because of my Dad’s charm. I like the way that I affect people and I’m thankful for that.
And my final question. Have you got to the Yamz?
I’m still on my way.