Dubai helped me to keep an open mind, says singer-songwriter Sarah Machlab

She recently released her second album, 'Simple'.



by

Enid Grace Parker

Published: Mon 18 Apr 2022, 12:13 PM

Last updated: Mon 18 Apr 2022, 12:17 PM

Dubai-based Lebanese artist Sarah Machlab has tapped into themes of spring and rebirth for her second album, Simple.

The 14-track album blurs the lines between alternative and electronic genres with nods to downtempo electronica and acoustic sounds.

Sarah, who has lived in Dubai for six years, explained to City Times in a Zoom interview the significance of the album title.

Noting how in life we rarely “have simplicity” and how “you go through a lot of stuff”, the album, she says, mirrors a desire for “wanting it to be simple.”

She admitted that Simple was inspired by a difficult phase in her life which is reflected in the songs and the way they were written.

“You can probably see that on the song Dark; it’s really inspired by being in a dark place, but kind of seeing the light. When you’re not really happy is the time that you try your level best to be happy. So when things are complicated, you just want to simplify things; that’s what I was aspiring for, and it’s sort of where the idea of Simple came from. So it (the title) doesn’t really reflect how I was feeling or what the songs are about - it definitely isn’t about simplicity, but it’s about wanting it to be that way. It’s about what you want in the end and what you dream of. It’s a lot about nostalgia and looking back at a life that you don’t have anymore, because I was going through a transition, and moving from one country to another.”

Sarah, who has lived between the Ivory Coast and Lebanon before moving to Dubai and works in the events industry, shared that despite having a day job, she hopes to pursue music to a point where it becomes her full-time profession. “Music is more something that I’m investing a lot of time in,” she said, adding, “I think I’m relatively very new to the music industry and still trying to work my way in.”

Passion for music

Going down memory lane, Sarah revealed how “singing and primarily songwriting” has always been her passion since a very young age.

“I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember, but because I was discouraged to pursue it, I never really did anything about it professionally, until 2019. That was when I started taking piano and vocal lessons to try and recreate my songs on a professional level. And it wasn’t until the lockdown in 2020 that I thought to myself - I have so much time on my hands, my schedule is flexible, it’s now or never - that it would be the perfect opportunity to start recording music and focusing on it.”

Her genre of music, she said, is still “undefined.”

“Since I started, I’ve been trying to keep an open mind; I’ve worked with different producers on collaborations and each one had a different style. I tried to adapt to their style and had to compromise a bit on my vision of what I wanted the song to be because I wanted to try new things. I think I did a lot of electronic music; you can see that in most of my songs. But there are some parts that are more acoustic and more ambient; I would say that it’s primarily considered electronic.”

Growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, she listened to popular artists of the time like Backstreet Boys and Avril Lavigne - the “typical things”, she said with a laugh.

She cites them as influences, saying, “My music is very different from their music, but that’s what I was listening to at the time I started writing songs. I think I always had this fascination for the 90s, and tried to implement it in my music as much as I could.”

Songwriting is something she really enjoys doing, she shared, adding that the experience was “more about my feelings, things that I could see around me…”

“I think the first time that I ever wrote a song was when I was singing something that I just randomly created and I just had this emotional attachment to the rhythm and wanted to remember it. I didn’t have a recording device of any sort, so I thought, I’m going to write it down so I can remember it and keep singing it. And I think that’s where it started.”

Describing songwriting as something “very personal” to her, she said it was “always something more for me, like a hobby or a way of self-expression.”

In this context, her songwriting took a new turn with Simple.

The album, recorded during the pandemic, “was definitely inspired by what we were all collectively going through together,” Sarah said.

“Just like everybody else, I was heavily impacted by the pandemic and it really made me look more into my mental health and think differently about life altogether.”

A ‘wonderful city’

Sarah said she feels “very fortunate to be in the UAE” because of its diversity, which has had a positive influence on her music.

“Dubai really helped me to keep an open mind about what kind of genre I want to get into and that’s what of helped me to be more flexible and kind of let every song decide how it’s going to be, based on the music and the lyrics, and just sort of really see what I can come up with. There are a lot of different things in the songs, different beats that I don’t think I would have used if it wasn’t for my experience in Dubai, because I was exposed to so many different cultures.”

While she has not performed live yet, she hopes to do so soon.

“There is lots of live music and there are open mic nights. Because I started doing everything professionally during the pandemic, I haven’t really had a chance to perform anywhere yet. I definitely plan to perform live in the future. I do enjoy connecting with other artists, which started through Instagram (because of the pandemic). I’m really fortunate to be here (in Dubai); I think it’s a wonderful city in which to start a music career.”


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