Dropping hits from his dorm room: Maasho talks being self-taught, entering music industry

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In an interview with The Daily Californian, Abel Maasho laid out his vision for an upcoming first album: “I’m a teenager, this is my life, I’m also a fucking superstar, and I’m gonna do this s— regardless if people like it or not, because it’s my world and you’re just living in it.”

Considering that the young musician has garnered over 13 million global streams from only 9 songs with no record label or management to thank for it, the above statement checks out perfectly. The 19-year-old singer-songwriter from North Carolina has all the makings of a musical prodigy, but his songwriting journey only began two years ago.

“I never really listened to music or anything in the house,” Maasho confessed of his childhood. “Both of my parents are Ethiopian immigrants. I’m a first gen, and the only music that was ever played was Ethiopian gospel music on Sundays.”

It wasn’t until 2019, when Maasho sat in on his friend’s songwriting session, that he realized his natural aptitude for alt music. Soon after picking up songwriting as a hobby, Maasho’s meticulous nature kicked in and demanded that he verse himself in production, mixing and mastering.

“I really, really like being able to have control over my entire process, because at the end of the day this is an extension of myself,” Maasho said. “I decided that I wanted to pursue music seriously probably a couple weeks into being in my freshman dorm at (East Carolina University) where it was like, ‘Damn, I can do this myself!’ ”

2019 saw hits for Maasho such as “Fresh Air” and “Ginger,” with over 6 million and 2 million Spotify streams, respectively. Despite already finding the route to writing hit songs, Maasho is still allowing himself to explore new sounds and songwriting strategies.

“I’ve taken up painting recently, and I’ve started trying to write down my lyrics on physical paper,” said Maasho of his new habits. “I’ve used the paintings and written songs about (them)… you should try and do art in as many possible ways as you can if you have the ability and you have the circumstances to do them.”

While Maasho is already deliberate in his devotion to creating art, life tends to force spontaneous creativity from him regardless. He explained one instance in 2020 when the neighboring city Raleigh was shut down over Black Lives Matter protests and he was followed by three cops on a 15-minute drive to his own house. The days that ensued saw Maasho turning his racial trauma into a fiery, truth-spitting three-song EP about racial injustice, entitled “World on Fire.”

“I was freaking out… Because I am a Black male driving home in my predominately white town and I am scared,” Maasho remembered. “That really pissed me off, because I was like okay… I (felt) safe in my city, but I no longer do, and ‘World on Fire’ ended up being made literally the next day after that.”

Maasho’s most recent single, “Sad Machine,” is in that same vein of cathartic songs that allow for coping. Accompanied by a comedically tinged music video, “Sad Machine” is a gritty and undeniably catchy piece of indie pop that boasts both woeful lyrics and an uplifting beat.

“The song for me is kind of personifying my battle with anxiety and depression and other mental health things, and a lot of people go through that, especially people my age,” Maasho commented. “It’s an easily accessible song. If this makes you feel good, but it’s also talking about things you deal with on a daily basis, I’m very glad. I’m ecstatic that I (can) make that.”

While a catchy, relatable anthem about mental health might have been Maasho’s end product, its origin was a mere experiment performed alone in a bedroom.

“It was like yo, look, I’m going to make this super simple song, the hook is going to have 11 words, and it’s gonna be a hit, and that’s how I feel about it,” explained Maasho. “I don’t care about streams, this is literally just what I’m doing.”

Maasho’s beyond-his-years outlook on life guarantees that he’ll continue to create a brand for himself as a multi-genre producer, singer and songwriter.

“I’m just looking for the next step, seeing what’s good with my artistry and growing myself as a person, and just using my music as more self-extension rather than self-expression,” Maasho added.

Later in 2021, the world will see Maasho release many new projects, including an upcoming single with friends Weston Estate and also his first-ever album, tentatively titled “Abe’s World Volume I.”

“I’m very very excited about that because it shows all the different sounds that I’ve been playing with over the course of these singles over the past year,” emphasized Maasho. “Be on the lookout.”

The music video for “Sad Machine” is available to stream on YouTube.

Contact Nurcan Sumbul at [email protected].