Meet Mishaal, Saudi Arabia's newest musician that's bound for the big time
Gems of Arabia
When did you start making music?
When I was nine years l broke my arm, and after surgery, I had to rebuild my damaged nerves, so the physiotherapist suggested that I learn to play the guitar. So I did, and I loved it! At age eleven I began writing and playing my own songs. Because of my parents and brothers I grew up around all kinds of music: rock, pop, metal, dance, hip hop, R&B, Arabic, Spanish, reggae, indie, alternative, blues, and Jazz. So when making music I prefer not to tie it to any specific genre and instead blend elements of the music I hear. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't (laughs).
In my early teens I started two bands, a "screamo" (heavy metal/rock) band, and an indie rock/pop band. But I also dabbled a bit in Jazz and classical music.
Tell us more about your song Burden? What do the lyrics represent? It's great to see that powerful love songs are making a come back...
The song is about having a long distance relationship. Although we love each other very much, there are times I feel like I'm a burden for her, holding her back (even though she disagrees completely). Being a pretty anxious person, it's really nice to have a rock like her to lean on when times get tough, she has always been there for me both as a girlfriend and best friend.
I think love songs can be very powerful, as Burden can be taken in more than just one way, that's why I kept the lyrics vague like small images that the listener can put together however they choose. That way I can connect with whoever is listening, maybe even help or ease them through whatever it is they're going through. It makes me happy to know that my music can be a rock or calming voice to others, as my girlfriend is to me.
Who are the singers you look up to the most?
Michael Jackson for his energy, David Gilmore for his creativity and Kurt Cobain for the way he turns emotions into sound.
How do you get inspired when creating music? What's your process of creation?
I am inspired by life experiences. Feelings I find hard to put into words or tell people, I turn into stories or lyrical images. Although that doesn't really solve the problems I'm facing, it could help someone out there, and I guess that's worth something.
I don't think I have a standard process of creation, although honestly I think it would probably be more efficient if I did. Sometimes it's something I see or feel that I try to put into images with words and melodies so I write them down or record them on my phone. Some of these I later turn into full songs but the majority are just left in my phone or forgotten about. So there are tons of unfinished song ideas, and a couple on my Instagram that I haven't gotten around to finishing yet.
Is the creative process of writing similar to that of creating music?
When making music I like to experiment with weird sounds and the automation of volume so that I can express feelings that I find hard to express with words. I guess the process of writing is more straightforward. However, I do like to use a lot of double meaning in my lyrics, so not just one person can relate, so I tend to keep my lyrics vague and stick to imagery so that the song is like a collage puzzle that the listener can see whatever it is they'd need it to be.
Did you always know you wanted to become a singer? How old were you when you realised your talent?
Yes, I have always wanted to be a singer, actually there is this video of me as a 5-6 year old of me attempting to sing. Alhamdullilah I was born with very flexible vocal chords allowing me to sing and vocalize notes across multiple octaves. However I personally do not believe I am that talented, I just make the most of what I have. I know I do not have the most impressive or pretty voice in the world but it is my voice. So I decided to use it for my own music and express myself in as many ways it would allow me to do so.
What's next for you? Any performances or projects we can look forward to?
My manager is moving with me to New York in September, and so I have been making a whole lot of new music. Burden is a transition song for the more varied music to come. In the coming year hopefully the goal is to get a record deal!
Your music is very mature, deep and philosophical - do you consider yourself as an older soul or a Millennial?
Thank you! Because of my Middle Eastern upbringing I could really never fully relate to the western millennials we see today. My mother always called me an old soul. Maybe she's right.
What is style to you?
To me, style is a signature, that extra little thing that makes you, you.
Less is more or more is more?
Less is more, simplicity is precious.