Diva is a multi-faceted Lebanese artist that has lived all over the world. Her musical education covers everything from church choir music to heavy metal, but her music also has a nod to the classical Oriental music of her heritage. Diva’s love for music manifested at an early age; born in the United States to a Lebanese family, she began singing as soon as she began speaking. Shortly after, the family moved to Lebanon, and she received her first piano lesson at the age of 8. By age 14, she was writing and composing her own material, and started experimenting with bands at the age of 16. She performed in a wide variety of genres, in plugged and acoustic settings at school, and then eventually at pubs, weddings, corporate events, concert halls, national Lebanese television, and large-scale venues. In late 2012, Diva moved to Montreal, Canada to pursue her doctoral studios in medical science. Unsurprisingly, she connected to the music scene in this city, playing at local bars, the Festival Intarnational de Blues de Tremblent and the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal as part of Franky Selector’s jazz fusion show, as well as recording and writing with local Montreal based artists. April 2015 saw another move for Diva as she journeyed to sunny Los Angeles, California. In LA, she played at various bars and venues, continued to write and record and began working on her debut EP. In February 2017, she released her first single, a soulful acoustic piano ballad that is reflective of a more personal aspect of her writing. Later on in 2017, she moved back to Lebanon to focus on her debut EP called “Little Black Book”.
“Temporary Lovers” is Diva’s latest release. This song has an incredible dance-able vibe, and right from the start you can tell that Diva has influences from several genres. There are flavors of jazz, pop and rock. The piano that begins the song is rhythmic and can even be compared to ragtime music of the 1920s. It becomes clear within the first minute that this artist knows what she’s doing. Her vocals are clear, passionate and delivered with confidence and soul. What really helps her vocals shine however is the arrangement and instrumentation behind it. The guitar work that exists around and in between Diva’s vocals is so tasteful, and the rest of the band follows suit, with the drums establishing a groove that will have you dancing for days. The song is so well structured, the band is so tight, and as soon as the song ends you’ll probably want to just play it again. Diva clearly has her musicianship under control, and we can’t wait to see what else this rising star has in store.
Listen to “Temporary Lovers” here and get to know more about Diva below!
Thank you for chatting with us! Can you begin by describing a bit about your background and why you first became interested in songwriting?
Thank you for featuring me! My name is Diva, I'm a Lebanese American singer-songwriter. Music has been a huge part of my life since as far back as I can remember; we always had music on at home, and it wasn't genre-specific, so I was raised in a musically eclectic environment. I spent my early childhood in the US where I was born, but lived most of my life in Lebanon. I started taking classical piano lessons when I was around 7, but I have no formal vocal training...that was more of a learn-from-your-mistakes-as-you-go thing. I'm actually an immunologist, I completed my Master's degree in Lebanon and then moved to Montreal, Canada for my PhD, which I did not complete. Academia and arts have always gone hand-in-hand for me, but I was at a turning point in my life and decided to switch careers to what I love the most. Don't get me wrong, I'm all into science, I just needed to go with what makes me happiest, even if it is a bigger gamble so to say.
As far as singing, I've been doing that since I could speak! Jingles, church choir, talent shows, experimenting with different genres, by the time I was 16 I started playing with bands and that was it for me. Writing is something I turned to for comfort and release, just like most writers I guess. It was mostly poetry and free association, and I was 13 when I got the bug so you can imagine the content...songwriting was a natural progression from there. I was lucky enough to write for and with other people in all the countries I've lived in so that definitely taught me a lot.
Having spent lots of time in both Lebanon and the United States, how would you describe the differences between the music scenes between the two places?
That's a very interesting question, I hope I do it justice as this is my humble opinion. Let's talk demographics first (to ignore the political/cultural/religious/economical influences on everyday life). As you know, Lebanon is at the center of the Arab world, an Arabic-speaking country (though most people are bi- or tri-lingual) very much dominated by Oriental music. That's not to say that Western culture has no presence. Simply, more people listen to Arabic music instead; this ultimately affects possibility for growth, bookings, etc. Which brings me to my next point, career opportunities. For any Arabic-singing artist, you have a plethora of labels, media, managers, producers etc available to help make, brand and sell the music. It’s not the same for what is dubbed the "English scene". Most local artists are their own managers, producers, promoters and agents, and self-fund on top of that. There is a shortage of support in that aspect, but plenty of talent lying around that markets in other countries might just not be aware of. Most venues or event organizers seek what sells, this is true everywhere in the world. But in a country where the market is geared towards an entirely different type of music, and all artistic endeavors are even more of a struggle for so many reasons, this could be demoralizing. The classic “sacrificing your standards or what you truly love to do in order to make a living” is way more prominent, which is why so many opt to leave if they can, play music they don’t necessarily want to play, or find jobs in entirely different fields to support themselves. However, there are people trying their best to change this and expose local talent to the world, be it on television, at clubbing venues, via joint ventures with people abroad etc. And you can use the limited market to your advantage in some ways.
What I observed during my few years in the US is a very saturated market that can easily swallow up people who deserve to be where others may or may not. Sure, there are more ways you can artistically grow and hone your craft, more networking possibilities, but in reality as a start-up you are a very small statistic, it's a different kind of hustle. Love it or hate it, social media plays a big role everywhere, but the preferred platforms differ to a certain extent. At the end of the day, there are pros and cons to anywhere you live, you just have to choose your battles and work hard wherever you decide to be.
Who would you say your biggest artistic influences are?
My influences are as varied as the music I listen to haha! If I'm gonna name a few in no particular order: Tori Amos, Amy Winehouse, Steven Wilson, Muse, Lady Gaga...I always have a hard time answering this question. I listen to a lot of rock from the past 5 decades; mostly old and some new pop; blues, alternative music, stripped-down acoustic stuff...I love rocking out just as much as what's intimate and raw. I'm drawn to beautiful melodies and intelligent songwriting, let's put it that way. If I feel something, I'm sold, sad or happy, genre doesn't really matter. I can't stand some of the mainstream music going around though. It's like too many people trying to fit into a template. And not a really stimulating one.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? How do you end up creating your music?
I don't really have a specific process. Sometimes I'll come up with an interesting lyric, expand on that and lo and behold, a song. Sometimes I'll be doing something really mundane and a melody comes to me and sticks, in which case I'll hum it to myself till I can play it or record it for reference. Other times it's both at the same time. I use my phone recorder a lot. I do make sure to write down all my ideas (I'm old school, I prefer notebooks and pens) whether or not I feel there's potential there because you never know. I'm my own worst critic. Which is a double-edged sword really, but not a bad thing if you can keep it under control. I gotta say that sometimes I'm writing and it falls together so smoothly it just clicks, and that's when I know I have a good one, it's just a feeling. At the risk of sounding cliche, you have to put in the time and work that muscle if you expect the muses to be kind to you. Do your homework, and they will.
Can we hope for future releases from you in 2019 and beyond?
Absolutely! So this song I just released, Temporary Lovers, is off of my debut EP Little Black Book which should be out this summer. Temp Lovers is actually very different from the rest of the EP...I'm trying to consolidate all of my influences into one coherent bunch of songs, it's challenging but an honest reflection of who I am as a person so I'm enjoying the process! I don't plan on stopping once Little Black Book is out, I'm trying to make a career out of this haha. Ideally I'd love to be able to write songs for myself and for others and make enough to keep recording and eventually tour. That'll depend on how the music is received obviously, but it's what I love to do, and I hope to continue doing it :)
Connect with Diva on social media