In this edition of We're Listening, Mishaal talks getting by and making it with a little help from lofi
Howdy and welcome to We’re Listening, a Wonder column made specifically for putting up-and-coming artists on your radar. Unlike our curated playlist, Wonder Fresh, and artist all-around creative spotlight, Industria, We’re Listening zeroes in on one artist and takes a tour of their brain: their influences, their favorites, their everyday. In this installment, we let you in on a conversation with Mishaal.
If the great indoors have been getting you down, perhaps you'll find solace knowing you aren't alone. Saudi Arabian singer-songwriter Mishaal, has been dealing with his share of the inexplicable lockdown blues. We had the lucky opportunity to talk to him (virtually, like all our interviews in the last quarter-year) last month, and to the question of “How are you?” he heaved a heavy sigh and admitted he wasn't all that sure. Honestly, same.
We've all heard it before. These are unprecedented times. Financially, mentally and emotionally, the pandemic has stirred trouble in almost all aspects of our lives—as if many of us weren't fighting our fair share of demons already.
Mishaal understands the turmoil. Or perhaps it would be more precise to say that he relates to it, because can any of us truly make any sense of all this? Despite the turbulence inside our heads and outside our homes, Mishaal has been hard at work, releasing new music (he released I Don't Wanna Wait for Summer in June and followed it up with his latest release Mister Mister in July) and communicating with fans online. Both of these—his music and his fans—are incidentally the things that have been keeping him afloat. Well, those and the chicken emoji, which he and his fans have amusingly turned into a pact of friendship.
Wonder: I watched your recent Instagram Live and there was one bit where you discussed the anxiety you were feeling. I guess my biggest question would be, how are you? How have you been coping?
Mishaal: I’m not sure. For the majority, when I was younger I had cases with bullying since I was a kid. I never felt anything like this before, where you feel a little sad or a little worried, and you have no idea why. And that’s something that, especially with the Live, I realized how much it helped me to just talk with my fans about it. To kind of just open up to them. At the time, when I was going to do the Live, I was only going to do it for ten minutes. I wasn’t prepared to do it for that long. I just planned to sing two songs and do a Q&A. But then we started talking through Instagram Live, and I felt very comfortable with that.
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Mishaal: I think the reason behind that is with all the songs, I’m always very open about whatever I’m writing. I write all the music I make. I’ve always been a very shy person, and I find it hard to express my emotions. But with these songs, I manage to express in a way that I can with my own words. And these people who listen, I truly love them for it. That’s why I think I was so comfortable with the Live, to open up to them that maybe today I’m not feeling okay. Maybe I’m feeling awful and I have no idea why, and maybe that’s okay. Maybe them being on the Live and maybe them being there for me, being there for them in any way that I can through music…that was something beautiful for me. I hadn’t smiled the whole day, but that made me smile. And I couldn’t stop smiling after.
W: Right around an hour ago, you posted on Instagram again. You were performing Tell Me About You. Can we anticipate that to be your next single?
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Mishaal: No, no, no. That’s just something that I’m working on on the side. I don’t know if you guys know but, when I first started putting out any music at all, I used Instagram and I would make these little clips. You [can] even find it. If you look it up on YouTube, if you just type my name, you’ll find thousands of videos with millions of views of people taking these clips on Instagram and looping them nonstop.
Mishaal: It’s part of lofi music. Powfu, actually, the first beat that he ever made two years ago, which is when I met him, is because he made a lofi beat out of one of my Instagram clips. But this song, Tell Me About You, is going to be part of an EP project I’m doing outside of my big EP. And this EP project, I’m not sure what I’m going to call it, but it’s like a thank you to all the lofi people. Because that’s where I came up from, that’s the people who first gave me a chance. I would have been nowhere without the lofi community. All those people sitting in their rooms studying and listening to my voice going on repeat on YouTube, that’s what gave me the chance. This is my thank you to it. I plan to do collaborations with my favorite artists form the lofi genre and make a collab EP on that.
W: We’re definitely looking forward to that! Alright, one last thing. We’re just going to go ahead and ask the question on everyone’s minds: What’s the reason behind your affinity for the chicken emoji?
Mishaal: Haha! Okay, I’m trying to remember how that started…maybe there is a reason. So, who doesn’t love eating chicken? I’ve always loved eating chicken. The thing is, people on social media, they all come up with their own ideas for it. The reality is there’s no real meaning. And the good thing about it having no real meaning is that it can mean anything. They could be sad and be like, “Oh, I’m feeling a bit sad,” and they’d put a sad face and a chicken emoji. Some people would be like, “Here, don’t worry. Take a chicken,” and they’d spam them all with chicken. It’s just this awesome community of everybody having fun and goofing around. [It’s about] not taking yourself too seriously. We all have fun with that; it’s awesome. And whoever’s going to be reading this, you can use it for anything. Anything you want. It’s yours. ?
While waiting for that upcoming EP project, stream Mishaal’s latest single, Mister Mister, available on all music platforms.
Special thanks Sony Music Entertainment
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver