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INTERVIEW: Hanna Barakat

Hi Hanna, welcome to VENTS! How have you been? 

I am doing pretty darn well, thank you for asking!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Damage Done”?

I always say Damage Done is mine and John’s musical love child. When I initially played this song for John, he had a distinct reaction. He immediately wanted to dig in and explore different options and ideas. A fun fact about this particular track is that John and I recorded all the instrumentation on this song, from start to finish, ourselves.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

This song was inspired by a couple of tumultuous romantic relationships that I felt I needed to process through song. Relationships are complicated, we all know that. Some more than others, reel us out and then draw us back in, only to end in loss of love. For me, Damage Done touches on a side of the human condition, as it relates to relationships, that is all too familiar in society today.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

I am in the planning stages of a music video for a track off this record, though I have not made a final decision on which tune will be featured just yet! Damage Done is most certainly a contender.

The single comes off your new album Siren – what’s the story behind the title?

Initially, Siren served as a stance towards people in my life and the need to express my path, my will, and my ambitions. With time, and also as the song was fully produced, it grew to empower me in more ways than I could have imagined. Siren has become my battle song. My anthem.

How was the recording and writing process?

The writing process takes place well before official production begins. When I get into my studio to start workshopping a new song, typically I lay down midi tracks of a chord change, so that I can start testing out different song structures on the fly, manipulate the midi to try out different instrumentation, and then start building on to the bones I create. Sometimes, by the time I sit down at my workstation, I’ve already written the song on my guitar. Other times, I just start with an idea, a vocal riff, a lyrical line, or just a chord change that Intrigues me.

What was it like to work with John Moyer and how did that relationship develop?

I met John Moyer through a mutual musician friend here in Austin, TX. It was a chance meeting, and my friend recommended i reach out to John because he had mentioned he produced rock bands in the area. I am ashamed to say it took me a few months to get the courage to reach out and ask for a meeting, but after that first introduction, I knew I had to work with him! He is an incredible musician, producer, mentor, friend, and supporter. Due to John’s hectic schedule with Disturbed, and my self funding this record, John and I worked on the record for a little over a year before sending it off to be mixed and mastered. In that year, we grew a lot, learned how to better extract creativity out of one another, and established a strong workflow and exchange of ideas.

How much did he get to influence the album?

John can most certainly attest to the fact that I am strong willed and walk into a recording session, knowing my vision. Going into this recording process, I knew how I wanted to represent my songs. I knew the tempo and the grooves I wanted to produce to represent each song. John was an integral force on this record. As I mentioned, he and I developed a workflow and an understanding that allowed both my “must haves” and his “must haves” to be included in each track. We learned how to create together, with ease, allowing us to respect the music and represent the songs to the best of our abilities.

What role does Texas play in your music?

I was born in Texas, but I only ever lived here as a very small child, and then again as an adult. Austin has truly felt like home these past four years, and I am so grateful to have this supportive community here. I formed my band here, and we had our very first shows here. I have this beautiful and welcoming city to thank for introducing me to my bandmates!

How your upbringing does influences your writing?

If I were to tell you my life story, I think you would agree that I’ve had a fairly unique upbringing. The chain of events leading up to this point in my life have definitely afforded me a strong sense of self, a ravenous curiosity towards the world around me, and a slightly weathered heart. It took me nearly 10 years to create this record, and it took me over a year to produce these ten precious songs with my incredible producer, John Moyer of Disturbed. Those 10 years’ history would take too long to explain, but in short, I had to live first. I had glimpses of my own music captured, over the years, but they were incomplete. They were not ready. I was not ready. It was a grueling process to get to the point where I am now with my record. My songs have gone through tremendous transformations and the ones that have made it through – well, they are a labor of love, a digital memory, my life story, my love.

What aspect of relationships did you get to explore on this record?

I processed very intense, raw, impressing emotions on this record. I don’t think I could have held back if I had tried. As I said, these songs were my therapy and my way to process situations in my life. I bear a lot of myself on this record.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

My background plays a significant role in my creative process, both musically and conceptually, because my background is me. My history and my family’s history shaped me. I’ve always been so intrigued by my heritage, from the culture, politics, customs, food, and most importantly the music. The situation in the middle east is very tumultuous. After graduating in 2010, I moved to Lebanon to engross myself in the culture, gain understanding, study Arabic, and just be in it all. It was a wildly profound and life altering experience for me, both good and bad, and i could go on and on about it, but what I can say for sure is that I grew in so many ways while living there. My perspective on life changed entirely. I was also exposed to so many things that I have since been compelled to write about. It was always in my blood and now it’s under my tongue in many of my songs. These songs have been my comfort and my therapy, as I’ve journeyed this world, witnessed injustices, engrossed myself in my ancestral culture, grown within myself, literally travelled the globe, loved, lost, failed, loved again, and struggled to reach the place where I am today. Some songs travel through the complexity of relationships, the balance of strengths, messy breakups that resolve with constantly falling back into old habits with ones significant others yet again. While other songs touch on anguishing sociopolitical situations that plague the world today. I want to bring awareness to these situations, not by forcing any political agenda, but by pushing for love, understanding, and acceptance of all the other humans walking this earth together. Throughout history, there have been unnatural walls physically erected, or socially accepted and perpetuated, in order to divide people. I want to tear those walls down. All of them.  Through my music, with rock guitars, heavy drums, deep rhythmic bass lines, and my intricate vocal melodic lines and punchy harmony stacks, I have chosen to forge Arabic instruments like the oud, kanun, frame drum, riqq, into my sonic landscape, where I feel they so naturally and appropriately belong.

Any plans to hit the road?

I most certainly plan on touring, though I do not have any announcements on that just yet. We do have many local shows planned in and around Texas for the next few months!

What else is happening next in Hanna Barakat’s world?

On 09/10/2019 We will be performing for the Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, Three Days Grace, Diamante, and Dorothy Tour at the Dos Equis Pavilion, Live Nation VIP Lounge, and I have to tell you, I am completely ecstatic! Not only do I love each and every one of these bands, but this is just such an amazing opportunity to be invited to perform for the Live Nation VIP Lounge, in my hometown, Dallas! It’s going to be a party!

I have a lyric video for my debut single, Wildfire, coming out in September, and I have every intention of getting back into the studio for a post album single release! Let’s see what we come up with next!

Listen to Siren here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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