On The Table Read, the “Best Entertainment Celebrity Magazine in the UK“, Lebanese Canadian musician El Hashem shares highlights from his music career and what inspires him.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed singer songwriter El Hashem about his music career, what inspires his songwriting, and the creative process behind his upcoming new single, Not The Kinda Heart That Falls Apart.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am a Lebanese Canadian, who always loved to sing, influenced by my aunts who were very respected and pioneer singers in Lebanon, but got busy with a career for a long time (in media and marketing in the LGBT community), but decided in 2021 while things got quieter during the pandemic, to pursue that passion. And here we are.
When did you first WANT to write songs?
I never thought I would want to write songs, or even know how to. The story of me getting into singing is that over the years I would post videos of myself singing cover songs in Arabic and English on Facebook to my friends, and I got approached by a music producer wanting to work on possibly doing some covers with me because he thought the mix of culture that I have is unique. So, we released a number of both Arabic and English covers, of songs that over my life had certain special memories.
When did you take a step to start writing songs?
The one thing I always loved about songs is that they are “little stories”. The songs which I like the most are ones that have lyrics that really work and resonate and flow again like a “little story”. So, I knew what I appreciate in a song. But like I said I didn’t think I want to, or know how to, write a song, until when during covid we had a Mother’s Day get together. I was sitting across from my mom, but I still couldn’t hug her, and I haven’t seen her at that point for a few months. My mom is a best friend and a hero. On my way home I started writing how I felt, and there it was, my first original song.
What was your first song released, and what was it about?
So yes, my first original was called I Miss You Mom (or in Arabic Emi Ana Meshtaalek). I wrote it as a hybrid of Arabic and English, and wanted to have it as accessible to many as possible, to give it an international vibe.
Like I said it started as a love message to my mom but ended up a celebration of all moms and motherhood (with a music video showcasing that). But I wanted to do more on the song, so I contacted an artist whom I met prior, Count Klassy, to write a rap section, rapping about loving our moms.
He even added some Serbian lyrics, making it even more international. Then we locked out with a producer from NYC Sisco Kennedy, who gave it a fantastic EDM/Middle Eastern beat. We released it late last year.
What was your latest song released, and what was it about?
My latest song is not out yet. It’s a love heartbreak pop ballad called “Not the Kinda Heart That Falls Apart”. We’re just putting the final touches on it, it should be out by Spring, I think late April.
Focusing on your latest song. What were your biggest challenges with Not The Kinda Heart That Falls Apart?
There was nothing really challenging. It just flowed nicely during the writing process. It’s a song about being cheated on but moving on and being strong. I experienced that a few times in my life. So, I took all the experiences and combined them into one story.
A respected musician in our city, a producer and singer herself, guided me to take a deeper look at the song, and helped me shape it. And I lucked out at finding a really great music composer producer, and she and I worked at a fantastic grand piano to make the music for the song. I am very excited about this song.
If there was one challenge, maybe it was that the song was first titled “Not the Kinda Guy Who Falls Apart”, but I figure being cheated on is universal, and I wanted it to be relatable to as many, so I gave it a lot of thought, and eventually changed the direction to the “kinda heart”.
How many songs are you working on right now?
Once I felt that I can actually write lyrics, and I got happy being told by other artists that I am apparently not too shabby at it lol, I couldn’t stop writing. I guess because I really appreciate the lyrics, I have been writing effective “little stories”. So other than the mom love song, and the upcoming ballad, I have 4 new songs that will be recorded and released over 2022.
Do you keep to a theme with your music, or just go where the mood strikes?
Genre wise, I usually know what genre of the song will be as I am writing it. That certainly doesn’t have a theme as I really like so many genres. The songs this year so far are ballad, pop, country, house, EDM. So, something for everyone, I guess. But lyrics wise, the songs I am releasing in 2022 are all stories of things I experienced over my life, so yes, I am grouping the whole body of work into a theme and calling it “from the book of my life”.
What is your favourite song you’ve recorded, and what do you love about it?
The covers were fun to record and release, but they felt like another artist’s work, which I really love and appreciate. But recording my “I Miss You Mom’ and being the subject matter that it was, felt special.
Do you find other people’s music inspires you? Who do you listen to most?
Oh gosh yes. I walk around with music in my ears all the time, I own a huge library of iTunes downloads. It is hard though to say who I listen to the most, because I am into and inspired by so many artists over all decades, and from every genre. I love 30s and 40s artists, 50s and 60s, the 80s are some of my favourite. Like I said way too much to count.
Do you write your own music, or do you have musicians you work with?
I do not write music. I do work with producers, and I have been really lucky to have worked with really lovely ones. Being new to all this I feel like I couldn’t have had a better journey so far.
Do you play any instruments?
I would like to learn to play guitar one day. But no, I do not.
Do you like performing live, or does it scare you? Where can people watch you?
I started during covid, so it was hard to perform live. But I did some Facebook live performances, honestly it was terrifying at first lol, but I am getting into it. I did get a chance to perform at a club between covid lockdowns, and I did enjoy it, the audience was fun and responsive. I recently got booked to perform at Pride Toronto, one the biggest festivals in the city and country, so just wrapping my head around how nervous I should be.
Is your music available online, and where can people listen to it?
Yes, it is pretty much on all platforms, Spotify, Apple, and music videos on YouTube. Everything should be found under el Hashem.
Are you able to make music full time, or do you have a day job?
I am still in media and marketing (considered a sort of expert in the field, especially in LGBT, but in general as well, and I am blessed to have this career that I love and am passionate about). I also host some talk shows in the region here. So music for me is more of a passion.
Are your friends and family supportive of your music career?
They actually have been incredible. With family, the reason it took me so long to pursue this is my dad wanted me to have a career. And since I did that, they have been encouraging that I am getting into it now. And my friends are always the best.
What’s something you never expected about being a songwriter? What have you learned that surprised you?
Is that I can do it, I guess. I am still learning, so everything is a surprise. I like that I feel quick on my feet to change a lyric when it is not working with the melody. I think being a publisher of magazines, I have more mastery of words than I thought lol.
Have you had any experiences that really stand out because of your songs?
The whole experience of the last year and a half stands out for me, from the moment I recorded the first cover song. The chance to connect with other artists, create things, experiencing the reactions of others to your work. It’s all very magical.
Do you have any important events coming up we should know about?
Pride Toronto, like I mentioned, is the big deal one. Be there if you’re in Toronto in June, it is massive, and one hell of a party.
What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone inspired to write songs?
Do it. I didn’t think I could do it, and now I am enjoying it like crazy. Write from the heart.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
EVERY minute of it.
Pop all your music, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Curated by Q https://curatedbyq.com/user/elhashem/
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