Hi Malek, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Thank you for having me on your platform! Considering the state of the planet, I’ve been staying focused and optimistic; excited to share some uplifting music and news.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Beautiful Stranger”?
Sure – Beautiful Stranger was a cathartic experience, as it questions love and all its forms. I think of it as poetry in song and a universal topic that can resonate with anyone who has taken the time to self-reflect and question the realities of our times. It’s a pop ballad that incorporates a fusion of old and new instruments, sounds, melodies, while still attempting to stay current.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
My need to connect and understand was what inspired me to write this song. Living in LA and seeing a lot of dysfunctional relationships inspired me to dig deeper and create something authentic. I wanted my voice to be heard and have others get lost in the music.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
The filming process was a challenge! I had a shoe-string budget, a vision and a voice…I quickly put my producer hat on and started getting a team in place, all during Covid, mind you. Nevertheless, overall, I am happy and grateful for my wonderful cast and crew. Ersi Danou and Thouly Dosios were my dynamite duo directors, Ted Hayash was a terrific DP and the cast was so supportive and encouraging. Acquiring permits, location scouting, scheduling, abiding by covid regulations etc was a lot to handle as the only producer on the project… on top of being the artist and performing. Due to Covid, locking in locations was probably the most difficult but by sheer tenacity, I was able to lock in the iconic Santa Monica pier. I hustled everyday to get food sponsors, freebies, waivers and would not take no for an answer. Funny side-note – my directors really wanted a full body manikin for the opening scene and finally a day before shooting I was able to get one; I drove to downtown LA and spotted one in a Korean market. I spoke with the owner basically in sign language since he and his wife didn’t speak much English and managed to have them agree to letting me use the manikin for the day with a $30 deposit. I guess they just trusted me, a random stranger….I off course returned it the next day after that day of shooting. It made me believe in humanity and the kindness of strangers. We shot for 4 entire days on the weekends and basically created a short film using iconic backdrops as the SM carrousel, downtown LA, Altadena and the LA river.
How was the recording and writing process?
The recording process was fun! Working with a limited budget was a challenge but we made it work. After completing the final tweaks of the song with my writing partner, Raed Saade, I remember thinking…ok now studio time is going to be expensive, I have to find a way. I started thinking of who I can reach out too; my old roommate and friend Mikey Mike, who wrote for Rihanna and is an artist himself recommended – Steve Dresser who happened to have an in-home recording studio in his apartment in Koreatown. We met, vibed, got in the booth and layed down the vocals. I was in absolute bliss when I was in that room, despite it being 100 degrees since his AC went out and I was dripping sweat from head to toe. After laying the vocals and much deliberation with Steve and my producer, Xavier Cevrin who is based in Holland, we decided to add ancient instruments as the Oud with the acoustic and electric guitar to give a more worldly pop vibe. The writing process was a nice collaboration; prior to this song, I was not as confident with my songwriting but after encouragement from friends and industry pros, I just dove right in. Raed Saade, a fellow contestant and friend who was on the Voice with me, believed in me as a singer and supported me as a songwriter by contributing in co-writing Beautiful Stranger. We grabbed some beers, locked ourselves in my apartment and started brainstorming ideas, concepts, thoughts etc. Before I knew it, we had a nice rough draft in about an hour or so. It was all a learning experience for me, as prior to this, I performed on stage and was singing other people’s songs. I was thrilled to finally have something to sing and perform to claim my own!
How does your Lebanese heritage influence your music?
My Lebanese heritage greatly impacts my view of the world and provides me with an appreciation of rhythms and sounds that are very different from what we hear in western music. Arabic music represents something unusual to Western ears, which we can roughly call quarter tones. In arabic music there are neutral thirds while in wetserm music there are only major and minor ones. I wanted my music to represent me and the only way that is possible would be to incorporate and fuse these two worlds together into one. When you listen to Beautiful Stranger, you can hear the oud for example – an ancient Arabic instrument. This instrument is reminiscent of my childhood, as my grandfather, Zaki Kneider, was a superb oud player, amongst other instruments.
What role does Brooklyn play in your music?
You can take the boy out of Brooklyn but you can never take Brooklyn out of the boy. Despite me moving and living in Los Angeles, Brooklyn gives me the gritty texture that I like to incorporate within my music and/or visual content, as you can see reflected in the music video.
Does the new single mean we can expect a new material – how’s that coming along?
Absolutely! New material will be coming out this year. I recently collaborated with former Swedish pop star and one of the writers for Katy Perry, Camela Leierth. I am excited to share that Beautiful Stranger will also be considered as a soundtrack to a major feature film in development. I am currently actively working on my EP.
Any tentative release date or title in mind?
Due to the state of the world and Covid, it is hard to say exactly when, but my hope and intention is to release my EP towards the later half of the year. As for titles, I’m flirting with a few ideas, as I want it to really be as authentic as possible. Phases of the Moon and its many faces is the direction I’m going in, Beautiful Stranger being one of those phases – questioning love and its many forms. I have some crazy fun ideas but you’ll have to wait and see, I don’t want to give too much away. I love to play with ideas and words in my music in order to have people think. I want to attempt to have people see other ways of seeing things. Perception is everything.
What else is happening next in Malek Hanna’s world?
There is a lot happening in my world and I’m excited to live it! Besides working on my EP this year, I am producing and acting in a few feature films that are in development. Once travel bans are lifted, I am hoping to visit Bali and the MidEast to potentially book some gigs and connect with family. In the meantime, I have a lot of work to do with the new non-profit I just created, Nadia’s Kids Inc. designed to bring awareness and supply assistance through art and music modalities to marginalized youth communities suffering from PTSD. Other than that, I am hoping to get some more exposure and share my music in hopes that it will resonate with a mass audience and provide me with new and exciting opportunities.
Watch the music video here: