Hungry like Karl Wolf? Check out his music industry advice!
By David Light
Published: Tue 30 Jan 2018, 5:01 PM
Last updated: Mon 5 Feb 2018, 8:38 AM
DESPITE HIS LEBANESE-Canadian nationality, rapper Karl Wolf (real name Carl Abou Samah) is rightly celebrated as a homegrown hero, having spent his formative years in Dubai and is now returning to film the video for his latest track, Way Low in the city. Heading over from Montreal, we caught up with the musician while he was here to catch up on his recent tunes, advice for all you budding stars and what he has planned for the future.
What can you tell us about your latest track Way Low?
I'm really excited about this song! I wrote it with a co-writer friend of mine Jenson Vaughan who's written for Madonna, Armin van Buuren and Britney Spears (together we also wrote Hula Hoop by OMI ) so I knew we were making history with this track! It's produced by Jayson Dezuzio (producer of the latest hit from Imagine Dragons called Thunder) so as you can imagine, it's a stellar team! The song is about a girl that's got me wrapped around her finger for all the right reasons, she's top of her game on all levels: career, attitude and social.
Why did you decide to return to Dubai to shoot the video?
I love Dubai. Period. I think it's got so much to offer aesthetically as well as emotionally for me. I grew up in Dubai and I got my career started here. I've done so well over the years and I just thought it would be amazing to return and get that magic going again in the region that gave me my start. I'm also making my US debut and what better way to be introduced to the US market than to come back to the most talked about Middle Eastern city in the world that happens to also be my first home. The video will have some Arabian flavours, just to hint at the fact that I am both Middle Eastern and North American. I embody traits from both cultures and I think that's a unique element in pop music today.
How far does the UAE feel like home as opposed to Lebanon and Canada?
I was born in Lebanon, but left when I was three years old due to the civil unrest in the region at the time. Dubai became my home for many years. Although all the three places you mention are part of me, I would say Canada would be my central nervous system. Dubai is my left ventricle and Lebanon is my right.
How has the music industry evolved since you first got started? What has got better and what would you like to change?
When I first got involved with music people were still buying CDs, there was no such thing as YouTube, digital downloads, nor streaming sites. It has changed drastically, not as much from a musical and sonic standpoint but rather from point of view of business models. Today, we rely less and less on record labels or radio stations; people can create their own marketing empires and campaigns as well as their own "radio stations" in the form of streaming sites that garner huge followings and interest. Social media has also played a major factor in how you succeed in music. However, a big hit song still drives the excitement and sales. That part hasn't changed.
Since entering the industry, what has been one of your stand-out memories?
I've had several "big" moments in my career but one that stands out is when I won the MTV Europe music award for 'Best Arabia Act' in 2010 and got handed the award in Liverpool at the award ceremony! It was a pivotal moment.
Do you have a stand-out gig you remember fondly?
A stand out performance that I will never forget was when I opened up the main stage for Canada Day in front of thousands of people, the prime minister Justin Trudeau and 14 million viewers on tv and online! It was really significant because as an immigrant of Canada, it felt like I've arrived, performing in front of the whole country!
Do you think people entering the industry now have an easier or tougher time? What advice would you offer to those starting today?
I believe that it's not easier nor harder; it's different and the angle in which you approach your releases is different. On one hand new artists can create their own popularity / following online, whereas before they would need to impress a head of a record company in order to get the approved funding and commitment to the project. So in that sense it is easier to get out there. But with that also comes congestion and competition. My advice to those starting today is use the tools that are out there. Create the best music you know, make sure you're unique, and then market yourself online. Create YouTube content, put yourself on streaming sites like Spotify and don't stop the flow of content.
To whom do you enjoy listening? Is there an artist, perhaps lesser-known right now, that you have your eye on?
I'm digging Cardi B, maybe even Post Malone and Swayli. There's this Bosnian female singer called Ira Estrefi who's so fresh.
How would you say your music has evolved and would you ever like to go in a completely different direction genre-wise? If so, what would it be?
My music has been always evolving. I started off primarily with some fusion RnB/Middle Eastern sounds to some dancehall and now this new RnB wave that's going on.
What do you hope 2018 brings for you personally and professionally and what, if anything, would you still like to achieve in music?
My goal for 2018 would be to break in the US big time. Our plan is to debut the new single Way Low feat. Nelly and tour across North America this year. I'm super excited for what's to come!