Learning How To Bloom

W e had planned to meet in person, but then pregnant, Bloom, needed some much deserved rest & relaxation. So, a phone call it was and how perfect that turned out to be. By omitting outside distraction, I was able to sit front row in the mind and magic of what it meant to take in The Bloom Experience. It was our first time chatting, but her down-to-earth disposition made me feel like a long-lost sister getting reacquainted. She shared with me her struggles as a growing artist and triumphs as a woman, mother, and human. I think many creatives will relate to her experiences of discovering and building yourself up as an artist. She’s a creative in rare form and visionary in even rarer function. These are the kind of interviews we search for of our favorite artists on the ‘come-up’…

Shayba: What’s the meaning behind the name ‘Bloom’ or ‘The Bloom Experience’?

Bloom: Bloom is the name I gave myself after I had my first son and went through a break up and just experienced life changes… So many things changed in my life that kind of forced me into a position where I needed to grow rapidly. I was singing a song in my sleep and woke up and said ‘Bloom’…. When I discovered the word ‘bloom’ and everything it meant, it was perfect ‘cuz I feel like my whole journey to becoming a singer and who I am now has been a blooming process.

S: I can relate after having my first son- like you said all of my beliefs I started to take more serious. To be more proactive with things I say I wanna do.

B: It’s crazy kids bring out so much- for me it was a fear that having a kid was going to stop me from being able to do what I wanted to do in life and it did the exact opposite. I just felt [like] okay I have a son, I’m a mom, I’m a grown ass woman- what am I gonna do to show my kid that he can do whatever he wants to do in life? I was doing stuff that wasn’t really me. So, I think having kids is eye opening, if you allow it to be that way.

S: Right, it lights a fire under you. I went through a name change with my brand, it’s Mahnal now- but before it was Lateef Accessories.

B: I love Mahnal.

S: Thank you! I cringe when I hear what it used to be, I’m so glad I changed it.

B: I know, [mine] too! But it’s okay, it’s apart of your journey. It’s cool how we grow like that.

S: I think we grow up in a society where we’re taught how to meet certain standards versus looking inward and figuring out ‘who am I?’. We’re kind of distracted from that and we have to figure it out later.

B: Right? Yeah I totally agree with that- it’s backwards! I think we have it when we’re kids and we’re really young and we don’t know much about how the world is working. Then we go through this period where it’s like- oh shit I gotta fit in! I gotta start doing things a certain way. Then you start doing it and then the shit don’t work. It’s the corniest, most cliche thing to say, but if you be yourself and follow who you are… you can’t lose. You’ll inspire people, you succeed, everything starts coming to you the way it’s supposed to. It’s such a simple concept but it’s so hard to get there sometimes.

S: What led you to music? What made you decide: this is what I wanna do?

B: Well, I’ve known my whole life- I was 3 and I said ‘I’m gonna be famous, I’m gonna be a famous singer’. I sang in school and I sang in church, I auditioned for American Idol. So I’ve done a few things, I’ve been in bands- but I always had excuses to not being a solo artist. They were good excuses, people make up good excuses! But I just wouldn’t put myself out there to even knock those excuses down and let things open up for me until I was ready. I guess I just wasn’t ready.

S: What are some of the most valuable lessons that you’ve learned?

B: To be myself and follow my purpose. Music was definitely apart of that, but also my spirituality and just being who I am and kind of monitoring my behavior and my thoughts. I’m not always on point- I think right now I’m a little off because of my pregnancy and my hormones. But a lesson I keep learning over and over and I’ll keep learning it until- I don’t know I become Buddha! [laughs] I feel like the lesson is to keep being God-like. To live in love.

Another one is know that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to work out. That is a huge one! There’s always a reason why something happened. Some lesson, something you were supposed to learn, or see, or experience to help you grow in some area. So, that’s a huge thing for me…

S: What are your intentions with being an artist?

B: Bloom is the result and a product of my life and everything I’ve been through and became. I became this proud, super confident, beautiful, strong woman and I feel like that part is shining through. The musical part, the bigger purpose there is to be inspiring, to be who you are no matter what it is… That’s who Bloom is, this person that was hiding inside of me my whole life that I was scared to be.

S: Was your music different before Bloom? How did that evolve- or was it something that wasn’t a decision so much as something that happened naturally.

B: It wasn’t really like a conscious decision. I will say though, I’ve been writing music my whole life [and] I’ve gone through a lot of different phases in the way that I write. I still don’t think I have a specific music style. I’ve always liked dark music, music that sounds like old… I don’t know catholic? I don’t know choir? organs? I don’t know. [laughs] I’ve always like harmonies… EDM… jazz… so everything I’ve ever really loved as far as music is kind of mixed up in what I’m doing now.

SYour visuals are unique and exciting- what do you think has influenced the visual side? I can tell you’re a really creative person, because not everyone is good at both the sonic and visual.

B: Thank you! That kind of took me by surprise, I didn’t know I would be good at visuals. I didn’t know people would even look at me as someone who was good at visuals. I’ve gotten more feedback about my visuals than I have about my voice and I’ve been working on my voice since I was 3! It kinda took me by surprise, I mean I would say I’ve always been creative. I was like I’m just going to try this, this art and music. So, my little slogan is ‘where art and music collide’. I feel like music is also like a visual experience too and not just a sonic thing… but for me it covers all of the senses. Music moves people in ways that nothing else moves people. For me it’s like I’m doing this for the love of course but I also want to make a career, I’m not ashamed to say what my goals are in music.

S: In the creative community, there’s this idea of the ‘starving artist’ and it’s kind of romanticized in a way. You should not feel guilty about wanting to make money and live a life off of your craft, that should be the goal.

B: This starving artist thing is fine if that’s what you want but… there’s nothing wrong with demanding the universe to pay you so that you can keep doing it. Especially if you have a greater purpose of actually giving back in some way, whether it monetary or influential. Some people need to hear or see what you have to give them. People touch people if you allow yourself to open up. You’ll touch them if you’re being genuine. There’s a lot that goes in with it. It’s not just money, but you’re touching people, you’re inspiring people, and you’re making money and being who you are. It’s great! [laughs]

S: I’ve never heard anyone sing the way that you sing. It almost reminds me of opera in a way! I’m curious if your voice developed to sound like that or did something influence that sound?

B: I grew up in a jazz environment actually. It was something that I kind of grew into loving as I got older. My mom was a jazz singer, my grandmother played piano, my grandfather played the sax, and jazz saxophone. So I called myself a jazz singer for a while. Then I discovered this singer named Amel Larrieux, she changed my life actually. I idolized her and studied her, I learned how to sing almost just like her. Evanescence was a huge influence in my music. She does all of these really drawn out, long, operatic notes but it was dark and I was obsessed. But Amel Larrieux was so different than anything I had ever heard and she kind of… became [one of] my favorites.

I’ve never been a big opera listener but I always thought it was cool that they could do those notes and I would always practice. Because I wanted to sing high, but I couldn’t do it the way Mariah Carey could do it or Christina Aguilera could do it. But I found that if I did it in an operatic way then I could get these notes and it was powerful. So, its been a mixture of all these influences mixed with me learning my voice and training my voice too. There’s some country influences too- just minor. I can break my voice up like a country singer. That’s just from one song by Kid Rock an Sheryl Crow and I listened to that song over and over and learned how to break my voice up. Now I do that a lot in my music, which you would never know that was inspired by a country song. So yeah, I could talk bout my inspirations for probably three days straight since I’ve rehearsed this and talk bout it all the time in my head.

S: I’m fascinated hearing you talk about your influences though. I think it’s such a beautiful process how you try a little bit of everything and it somehow shapes into what you become. Did you ever wonder as an artist ‘who am I? What am I?’ I think it kind of happens as you’re exploring.

B: Yeah! For me- and I’ve had this conversation with my guy like- I don’t know ten times… ‘who am I as an artist’? I even did a tweet about it like ‘what’s my genre?’. He keeps telling me ‘babe, it’s still developing… its okay to be that way‘. It’s cool to just not try and put yourself in a category so fast because you might miss out. It’s okay to be inspired by… everything!

S: Is there something you’ve changed or done in your life that’s really helped you thrive?

B: Just doing it. I don’t think there’s really a formula to thriving, it just goes back to what I was saying about me just not caring about all of those excuses. I think that is the biggest thing, we get in our own way, more than anyone else. I did whatever I had to do. I didn’t have any producers, I didn’t have [a] name- no one knew me. I didn’t have any connections. I just kind of went with it. I think that’s the key, just start where you are. If you have nothing, start with nothing and make something out that and then make something bigger out of that little thing you’ve made. Just keep building. I decided to do that- and it’s not just a decision I made it was a feeling that I had… You have to have a feeling and a decision. There’s no formula to it, honestly!

S: Or maybe the formula is to make a decision… and do it.

B: Make your decision and believe your decision and don’t stray from it. Just be consistent.

S: What’s your current curiosity?

B: Right now it’s learning how to master Pro Tools, which is a DAW- which I’ve learned… means a digital audio workstation! [laughs] Basically learning how to record myself in the studio. That’s something that has become really important to me. I got all my studio equipment, now I’m learning how to use it and I am working towards becoming a master in engineering my vocals and mixing my vocals. Then possibly beat production? Ah! I don’t know if that’s my calling but yeah that’s what I’m kind of diving into now when it comes to my music. Other than figuring out how I’m going to be a mom of two kids, that’s definitely a curiosity coming up. [laughs]

S: I read an interview on Solange and she mentioned going through so many different phases, styles, sounds and just experimentation. With A Seat at The Table it was her first time, I think, making beats or producing it. She mentioned that she didn’t know what she was doing, yet felt this was her most authentic album yet.

B: It’s good to know how to do it yourself, just in case. There’s an empowerment in knowledge and applying it and being well rounded in your craft.

Her visuals inspired my music video ‘Imagination’, with all of the pink- totally inspired by her. I said in an interview, I don’t think I’ll [ever] not be inspired by her. Even ideas that I’ve been coming up with for performance were inspired by her, I can’t help it. She’s definitely innovative and creative and inspiring.

S: How do you see yourself as an artist evolving?

B: I see myself being kind of popular. I don’t know how big- honestly, I haven’t decided yet. I think I’ll be whatever I decide to be. I’m a firm believer that we’re a product of what we believe we are gonna be- we kind of create that.

S: Absolutely.

B: Honestly, I haven’t decided exactly how far I’m gonna go. But I see myself being pretty popular- I’d rather say popular than famous. That word is kind of funny to me. But I see myself making a nice living off of my music and touching a lot of people and traveling and singing at big shows and selling out my own concerts and collaborating with some of my favorite artists. I know it’s going to happen. Yeah.

S: I believe it.

B: Thank you… it’s kind of weird saying that stuff but- I said it when I was 3. [laughs]

Check out Bloom’s latest visual, Purple Flowers, by visiting her Youtube. Connect and stay tuned on all of her super creative projects by following her on Facebook and Instagram.