Art & Culture

PAINT: The Debut Album by Dana Alfardan

Dana Alfardan recently released her debut music album, PAINT, becoming the first Qatari female artist to release an album performed entirely with English songs.  In a candid interview, she reveals the details of what inspired her to jumpstart her music career. 
How did you discover your passion for music? 
When I was young, I used to love tinkering on my keyboard, which naturally drove my parents mad, but luckily they never stopped me. I then started writing nursery rhymes for my younger sister when I realized how appalling a lot of the nursery rhymes were – Humpty Dumpty dies, the baby in the cradle falls, and we all fall down due to the great plague in Ring Around the Rosie!  A lot of my passion came from my family; my sisters and I were obsessed with musicals and we constantly performed them around the house.  My love of music runs through my veins, but it wasn’t until my first pregnancy that I realized how much I wanted (and needed) to express myself through music.


When did you decide to pursue a professional career in the music industry? And how did you make it happen?
It was during my pregnancy that I started to write my own songs and to put together the material for my album. I teamed up with my manager Will Gresford and producer Tim Baxter in London and we began recording. 


How would you describe your music?
My music is essentially about me and what’s on my mind – it’s about self-expression. I wouldn’t describe my music as any particular genre because I have drawn a lot of inspiration from a wide scope of music; including bands like Aerosmith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Imagine Dragons as well as pop icons like Michael Jackson and eclectic sounds like Bedouin Soundclash.  I would describe it as abstract; it’s all about creating a story out of abstraction. 


What inspires you when you are composing songs and melodies?
Everything around me inspires me; most importantly, my daughter, Layla. How I feel, discovering the real me is a great inspiration as well. My album is about introspection; for me it is all about exploring my inner self and uncovering the different layers of paint that make up the whole.  It is also about personal growth; I try to resolve the conflict I have between self-preservation and self-awareness. Music is the ideal platform to express myself and face the various truths – or realities – that create the real me! 


How many songs have you written so far? Do you have a favorite?
The album has 10 tracks; all of them grew organically as I began working on the vocals in the studio. I can't tell you which one is my favorite, all my songs are my babies, I’ve seen them grow and turn into what they are today, but if I had to choose my favorite song, it would be PAINT. It is such a meaningful song; it reflects all the things you have gone through in life, the layers that are inside you that made you who you are today and everything you have ever accomplished. Layla is one of my favorites as well; it’s named after my daughter and it’s dedicated to her.  It’s also the only song in the album where I’m playing the piano.
Who is your favorite singer?
I grew up listening to a lot of rock music. When I was in school I don't think I had ever sat in a car without at least one Aerosmith song playing and I would rock out to it like I was being electrocuted.  In fact, I’m listening to "Blind Man" right now, both my daughter and I love that song! 
I used to be a die-hard Michael Jackson fan in grade school. I had all the merchandise but I never quite managed the moon walk. 
I also love Birde's voice, it’s incredibly calming, smooth and almost haunting. That's the complete opposite of the reason I like Marina and the Diamonds; I love the dramatic and assertive character of her voice. My favorite song is ‘Numb’.
I love the eclectic sounds of Bedouin Soundclash, I was listening to them quite consistently during my pregnancy.  They were on my Yoga Playlist, as well as Taylor Swift and the Civil War's ‘Safe and Sound’.  Speaking of that song, I absolutely adore the Civil Wars. I am completely captivated by their music. I came across them for the first time listening to the Hunger Games soundtrack. When it comes to their music, the experience transcends listening. It goes straight to your core. 
My most recent favorite band is "Imagine Dragons". I have been obsessing over their latest album, particularly the song "I'm on top of the world".  


You produced your CD with the support of some of the top producers in the industry. How did your collaboration with them start?
It all started with my manager, Will Gresford, who put together all the different parts of the project like a jigsaw puzzle. When I met Will, he immediately suggested I meet producer Tim Baxter as (other than the fact that he's insanely talented) he felt that he was the best suited to translate my music. When Tim and I spoke, he immediately understood the spirit of my music, and when we met, we were on the same wavelength and understood what the other person was about. Once we started working together, we decided that we wanted the music to grow organically.
What does PAINT stand for? 
Paint is my journey; it is about personal growth and understanding the fundamental questions we ask ourselves. It’s about looking inside for answers rather than looking to outside factors. My writing is essentially inspired by engaging a dialogue about who I am and what I want to achieve in my life.


Where will the album be sold?
It will be distributed globally via iTunes, and at Virgin stores in Qatar, UAE, and Lebanon.


As a mother, how do you juggle between work commitments and family responsibilities?
I’m really blessed I found a partner with whom I can share my music as well as my success. My family is, and will always be, my priority! My husband was very supportive and encouraging during the whole process and Layla, my baby, is my most precious jewel. I recorded the album during my pregnancy, and to me, fulfilling my dream would definitely be reflected on all aspects of my life. 


How are you planning to promote PAINT? 
I’m working with a team in Qatar and the UK and we are doing our best to promote the album. I really want everyone to hear it and feel something about it; whether they like it, or hate it, but as long as they listen to it, this would be a great reward for me. 


What are your plans for 2014?
I really hope to build on PAINT’s success and launch another album in 2015. I also hope to be able to contribute to the future of Qatar by inspiring young talents to express themselves while maintaining our culture and appreciation for shared values.


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