[Exclusive] R&B's breakthrough voice Zjál breaks down her new debut single 'Home' and details her crusade against 'programmed consciousness'
Zjal speaks exclusively with Meaww about her crusade against 'programmed consciousness,' and the love for poetry.
There is a myriad of fiery and beautifully complex energies roiling within the soul of urban pop singer Zjál. There’s the desire to be sensual and purposeful. And then there are the competing pulls of Zjál’s traditional Lebanese culture and her cavalier femininity. The London-based artist is a spiritual warrior who achieves a poetic Zen within her hip-hop-tinged R&B. With her debut EP 'Home' set to release later this year and the lead titular single dropping recently, Zjál is all set to inspire and seduce with her tunes as she doubles-down on her quest to escape from "programmed consciousness."
A singer who grew up on a secluded farm in Adelaide, Australia with a traditional Lebanese family that held a progressive outlook, as a child, Zjál veered between being introspective and reflective, and bubbly and extroverted. These strong shifts in dynamics would come to define her as she embraced the duality within.
Zjál’s aesthetic has been described as "exotic with an urban flair." She draws from the heritage of poetry as a medium in hip-hop and the sultry hooks of neo-soul. She’s been compared favorably to the likes of Ms. Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Floetry, Sevyn Streeter, Tinashe, Kehlani, and Zendaya.
A longtime fan-girl of poetry, Zjal draws from the heritage of verse-chorus as a medium in hip-hop, the sultry hooks of pop-filled-soul, her experiences as a citizen of the world, and her journeys in love and femininity.
“I have this fire inside of me. It’s a weird balance of being a rebel, but also a lover and a healer. I don’t follow rules, I follow my heart and my intuition,” Zjál says. “Creating is my drug, words are my remedy,” she adds.
Needing a way to express herself and escape, music became the form of connection which breaks all barriers for Zjál. The EP, 'Home', has a beautifully interwoven mix of sensual, strong, and fun elements that reflect just that. The titular single displays Zjáls’s sensitive and vulnerable side.
“'Home' is a love song, about longing to be back in my lover’s arms after having to travel and be apart to follow my dreams, when the world gets too loud all I long for is being with the man I love. Nothing means anything without love.” The song also represents Zjál’s inner sanctuary and meditative state, the place she can retreat and feel safe.
“This EP has been a rebirth for me,” Zjál shares. “Through the process of creating it, I’ve awoken to trust and faith—it feels like a rebirth. This music has helped me take walls down in order to make truthful music. Only when you’re vulnerable can you connect with people, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.” Zjál hopes for 'Home' to be the first step of her music creating a career of longevity and connection with others. Above all, Zjál’s main goal as an artist is to reach a position in her career where her presence “can elevate vibrations and contribute to a higher state of consciousness.”
She aims to be a positive influence in the world through her work. Staying true to her own beliefs, Zjál’s message to her fans is to always stay unique to her you were born to be. “Rebel against programmed consciousness. Remain authentically yourself," she says emphatically.
In an exclusive interview with Meaww, the multi-traditional songbird discusses her new EP, her love for poetry, the impact of her diverse upbringing on her work, influences, her battle against 'programmed consciousness,' and more. Read the full interview below:
Congratulations on your single ‘Home’. What does this debut effort mean to you?
Thank you so much! I feel a huge sense of relief that I'm finally living my dream. This has been a long process to build solid foundations and relationships led with integrity. It means everything to me to be at a point in my life where I feel I’m being represented correctly and authentically. There have been major life changes throughout this effort, a lot of learning, growing, trust and faith behind this project. I'm getting emotional just thinking about it! And to think that this is literally only the beginning…I'm so excited for what’s to come.
How many songs will feature on the EP? Who produced it and what was it like during recording sessions?
There are five songs on the EP. Produced by the amazing Mateo Laboriel (Sevyn Streeter, Jamie Foxx, Lil Wayne, Tank, Kendrick Lamar, Dr Dre, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, ‘Earth, Wind and Fire.’) and David Quinones (Beyoncé, JLo, Jason Derulo, Keisha Cole, Brandy, Goapele, Lil Wayne).
I met Mateo about five years ago through a mutual friend and the recording process to get to this point, has included many back and forth trips between USA and Australia. He really gave me the creative space to find my voice. There have been points in our past sessions where he’d just press record, turn the lights off and leave me in the vocal booth in the dark, so I felt comfortable to get to the core of my expression.
Those moments were priceless because it really encouraged me to believe in my own uniqueness and in bringing out my strengths. It is not easy these days to find people who know how to get the best results out of an artist. They helped me push past all the pressures of the music business and kept me focused on the art. Very very rare. Mateo and DQ have been friends for a long time, so it was a great collaboration for my EP, and the process really came together quite smoothly.
You’ve spoken about the lead single/ title track of the EP. Can we have a quick track-by-track breakdown of the other songs?
In no particular order, ‘Mr Nice Guy’ was the first song recorded for the EP. It is playful and cheeky, and I wanted something that would express my fun side. This kick-started the whole writing and recording process and set the tone for the rest of the EP. ‘I Know’ has a very similar vibe but a little more hip-hop and upbeat. I'm very much a playful and loyal person, but I don’t let anyone take me for granted so that was the main theme. Every time I hear it I have a cheesy smile on my face.
‘Love on Drugs’ is a more mellow vibe about the euphoric state in which pure love takes me to and became one of the more soulful and sensual songs we wrote. It was very similar to the title track ‘Home’ which gave me the ability to express my more vulnerable and gentle side. Then there is ‘Mattress’ which showcases my sass and attitude. It’s a female empowerment type of track which is something that I'm very passionate about. Overall I think it’s a great mix of the many elements of who I am and showcases my personality well. I really had fun with creating this EP.
“Creating is my drug, words are my remedy,” you’ve said. In what sense do you find the process of songwriting therapeutic?
I am an extremely emotional and sensitive person. Very strong, but underneath my armor, no matter the emotion, I feel it deeply. In order to balance myself, I need to get it out of my body, so I’m not carrying and burying it inside. Writing gives me that space for expression in a safe zone with no judgment and with no need for explanation. When I write, sing, record and share, it is my "high."
My euphoria. I’ve never had any mind-altering substances, which means I feel EVERYTHING internally. I face every emotion completely sober and heal from it completely sober. Therefore it is necessary for me to have a means of clearing things out. I'm not very good at verbalizing my feelings face to face, especially to those closest to me. Music is my outlet for that. Like meditation, songwriting for me is very therapeutic.
You come from a diverse background. You are of Lebanese origin, grew up in Australia and now live part-time in London. How does that mix affect your artistic sensibilities?
I honestly love how many flavors are mixed into my writing process. This whole experience of traveling brings out the best in me artistically. Fresh environments spark new creativity. It also gives me a vast range of perspectives to view things from. I grew up in a small town which was a great foundation, but only gave me so much perspective on life. Branching out and seeing the world opened up a whole new part of me. New sounds, new emotions, new song concepts all of which are all infused into my art. I need to feel a sense of freedom when I create and having the opportunity to add so many diverse elements of myself into what I do is extremely satisfying.
You’ve also spoken about the heritage of poetry in the medium of hip-hop. Have you always been into poetry? Any favorite poets?
Poetry is a huge deal for me. I have an old soul. Musically, I feel as though I’ve always appreciated anything which resonates with me on a super deep level. I love rap and the hip-hop culture in its original form of storytelling and poetic connection. I love any artist speaking of personal experiences and who uses their art as a form of expression, sharing, and betterment. Chances are whatever you hear me pumping through my speakers will usually have substantial lyrical meaning.
Poetically, as a kid, I loved and still love Khalil Gibran. I’ve always connected with his philosophies. Some of my other favorites are Rumi, especially on his expressions of love. William Shakespeare’s love sonnets too. Rainer Maria Rilke and the more modern day, Maya Angelou.
Since when have you been singing/performing? When did you realize that music is your true calling?
To be honest, I've never really been able to picture myself doing anything else. I think I was put on the earth with a knowing that this is how I am meant to contribute to the world in my own small way. I still can’t recall a lightbulb moment where I was like ‘That’s IT, I'm a singer!’…It's always been innately gifted in me. My career was somewhat cemented in high school. I was about 12 when I knew I really had the potential to turn my ‘inner calling’ into an actual career. I've been working my butt off to build my empire ever since. To see the proof that its finally paying off is an amazing feeling.
Who would you say are your greatest influences?
I would say my family and loved ones. When I was younger, I used to look up to artists and superstars thinking they were so amazing (and they were), but what means more to me are the qualities of the people closest to me. The strongest people in my life and my greatest examples of unconditional love, integrity and everything I want to be are my loved ones and my ancestors. Someone very close to me once told me, ‘You have the same power inside of you to be as great as any of these artists you admire’… and from that point on, I truly began to believe in my calling.
You’ve said that through your music, you intend to help people rebel against 'programmed consciousness.' Would you care to elaborate?
I could get really deep on this. I feel as though in life we are groomed into whatever the masses want us to be to keep the status quo. We are controlled by fear. We as humans have the greatest ability to rise above and realize our higher connection to greater inexplainable energy. This power is within each of us individually and reached only by being our authentic selves. So many things we see today seem to try to numb us from our true selves. I hope by me being authentic to who I am in my music and staying connected to meaningful purposeful lyrics, it will give others permission to do the same unapologetically. Social media can distort our minds into thinking we should be, act or look a certain way, but the most important thing is just to be who we are born to be. Everyone is uniquely beautiful as they are.
What’s next for Zjál?
I'm ready to take my music to the next level. I will be traveling soon to promote the ‘Home’ EP, and I’m really looking forward to performing my songs live. I want to continue to meet people and build a loyal following with those who truly connect with me.