FLUENT in five languages and an history-making artist to boot…
is not something I get to say in many (if any…) interviews. Lina is the American-Palestinian artist who is the first Arab to win Israel’s biggest T.V. show, The Voice. Within three days of her appearance in 2013, she had accrued half-a-million views on YouTube – almost unprecedented for an artist from such a small nation. Adam Lambert and Alicia Keys rank among her fans; she supported the former in September 2016 – opening to Queen + Adam Lambert in front of a crowd of 51,000. Her new album, Walking on a Tightrope, was produced by Grammy-winning Jerry Wonda and young hotshot, Tal Forer: a mix of legendary and the newcomer. Lina was only in the U.K. for a few days, so catching her for an interview was a privilege. She talks about her new album and the forthcoming single, Can’t Keep Falling; what it is like being an Israeli-Palestinian artist and what fosters her passion for music. I ask whether people are aware of the music scene in Israel and whether more attention should be paid. Lina talks about artists and albums that mean a lot to her; whether she will be back in the U.K. soon and what it was like working on her latest album.
Hi, Lina. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey! I’m great thanks! I’m shooting a massive music video for my next single (Can’t Keep Falling) next week – so I’ve had a crazy-busy week of rehearsals and meetings.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
Gladly. I’m LINA and I’m here to conquer your playlist!
Jokes aside: I’m an American-Palestinian singer. I grew up in Northern Israel in my parents’ native town of Acre. One more little tiny fact: I’m the winner of The Voice Israel and I’m the first Arab to ever win a major reality T.V. show in Israel (with the viewers’ vote).
I believe you have a new single coming out. Can you tell us more about it and what inspired it?
I’m super-excited about this single. It’s called Can’t Keep Falling and I co-wrote it with Maegan Cottone and Knightstarr – ridiculously-talented guys.
The song talks about being in a relationship with my perfect type of guy; although we’re completely different. It’s an addictive song – I promise you.
You are over in the U.K. for a few days. Where can we catch you and what do you plan on doing whilst you are here?
Catch me if you can! I’m having some full busy days here in London: performing, recording; a lot of interviews, shooting and attending some parties.
Will this be the first time for you in Britain? Is it somewhere you have always wanted to perform?
I’ve been visiting Britain monthly in the past year, so I stopped counting. Being able to perform, write and record here is a dream come true.
I get to work with the BEST people in the music and entertainment industry – people that work/have worked with the world’s biggest musicians.
So, it feels surreal to me. I’m literally living the dream!
Take me back to how it all got started – the reason you got into music. Did you grow up in quite a musical household?
Well. I took my first piano lesson when I was four. All of my siblings play musical instruments. At the age of sixteen, I brought my piano teacher some sheets for A Fine Frenzy’s Almost Lover and sang it to her. She was shocked and asked me to perform the song – and that’s actually how it all started. I owe my piano teacher so much!
I know you have the likes of Adam Lambert and Alicia Keys as fans. Does that feel quite surreal? Does it give you the confidence to keep writing and pushing yourself?
Ah, totally! It’s so surreal. I can’t even explain how motivating it is. Both Alicia Keys and Adam Lambert have been my idols. I appreciate their talent and music so, so much.
You are, as many will be unaware, the first American-Palestinian to win a talent show – Israel’s version of The Voice. How important was winning that and do you think it will help raise the profile of Israeli and Palestinian music?
Now that I look back I see what an amazing thing it was. I remember I was interviewed by the international press all year long and didn’t get why it was such a big deal.
First, it had raised awareness amongst the Israeli society about Palestinian-Arabs that live in Israel. They realised we are human just like they are. Second, it helped a lot of Palestinians in Israel to realise that when you dream big and work hard – nothing is impossible. I think it gave hope to both sides of the conflict.
About the second part of your question: I don’t know if it will raise the profile of Israeli and Palestinian music. Only time will tell.
Israel is a nation that produces some wonderful musicians. Do you think too many people are unaware of places like Tel Aviv, for example, and not realise just how much great music is there?
People don’t realise a lot of things. The Middle East, and Israel itself are so multi-cultural that you can find so much interesting music around here. The Arabic ethnic music takes over even in Israel and amongst Israeli Jews – so it’s a very interesting scene.
People aren’t aware of the Indie music scene here too – bands like Lola Marsh are performing all over the world with their music. I’d suggest people look some artists up and give them a shot!
Having Palestinian and American blood, you must sympathise with the conflicts in Palestine (ongoing for years) and the division in America. Does that give you creative impetus or is it quite worrying seeing it unfold?
If we’re talking about blood, then it’s only Palestinian, but I was born in the States. Seeing what the whole world is going through these years is worrying – we should not forget that before having our nationalities and cultures. We were born as citizens of planet Earth. We should be worried about everything happening in Africa, North Korea; the Arab world, the Middle East; America – the list is still long.
The only thing that inspires me about how bad a situation can be is the fact that people are standing together and trying their best to make a change.
You have a new single so does that mean an album or E.P. are on their way?
Absolutely! I’m almost done recording. The album will be called Walking on a Tightrope and so, so many good songs are coming. I can’t wait to share them with you all!
Can we see you at any more gigs in the coming months? What is in the diary for 2017?
Go follow me on Instagram and Facebook (@LinaMusicOfficial) and you’ll get all the news you want!
If you had to select three albums that have meant most to you which would they be and why?
Avril Lavigne – Under My Skin
Evanescence – The Open Door
Justin Timberlake – Future Sex/LoveSounds
These were the first albums I have ever bought from my own money. I was only thirteen and was sooo (so, so) happy with myself.
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
I’m in LOVE with Anne Marie. She’s not that new but more and more people are getting to realise her great talent.
What advice would you offer songwriters coming through right now?
Don’t over-think things. We all get stuck at some point and we don’t find the time and place to get inspired. Don’t be afraid of co-writing. The results can be amazing if you connect with someone else’s mind and soul.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name any song you like (not one of yours as I’ll do that) and I’ll play it here.
I’m a ‘90s girl so let’s get some Spice Girls magic!