You would never guess Michele had stage fright.
The R‘n’B singer-songwriter — originally from Lebanon and based in the UAE — delivers an undeniably lush, smooth and evocative vocal performance on her debut EP ‘Our Story’, available now on YouTube and set to drop across streaming platforms on April 20.
But beyond technical skill, the 26-year-old has the ability to imbue her words with the original feeling they were written with.
Her four-track break-up debut is sensual, honest and full of sentiment, as it follows a relationship from its infatuated beginnings to its fractured end.
In the first look at the EP cover art, shared exclusively with Gulf News tabloid, we see the colour palette of this failing relationship — from red, to muted berry, sky blue and finally, grey. The colours are a recurring theme across every aspect of the album, from the music videos to the dedicated Instagram filters.
We caught up with Michele to see how she’s feeling about the big release day, and why it took nearly a year to get here.
First of all, congrats on your debut EP! Big moment. How are you feeling?
Thank you so much! Honestly, I feel so relieved that it’s finally over and out in the world. I have been working on this for almost a year now. The tracks were ready to be released last May/June, and I wanted to work on something bigger than just releasing them on streaming platforms, so it’s been stressful. But, the response has been amazing. I couldn’t be happier.
The album seems to track a relationship from one stage to the next. What was the inspiration?
Initially, there wasn’t supposed to be an EP. As [producer] A’Y and I were producing the songs, I was noticing a succession in the stories that I was telling in each song individually. Each song is taken from a feeling or an experience I’ve had in my life; I usually write a song whenever I feel a certain way and at that time, that’s what I was going through. ‘Fire’ is about the beginning of a relationship and ‘End Game’ its ending. When I noticed that, I decided to go the EP route and fill in the gap with ‘Fair/Unfair’ and ‘Lost Time’, where a person is struggling with the relationship and is deciding that they’re better off without the other person.
The music videos for each song (a selection of anime clips imbued with different colours) are just as significant as the tracks themselves. What was the idea behind that?
I didn’t want to be in the videos — I didn’t want it to be a type of music video where you’re following one couple, or one girl. I wanted it to be more like I was telling the story — hence, why you see snippets of me … The anime aspect [and] stock footage make it more general — that anime girl could be anyone, really.
We can’t forget the Instagram filters you released with each song. Can you take us through them?
Sure! ‘Fire’ is a very steamy song and the colour red is usually associated with that. ‘Fair/Unfair’ is more of a heartbreak song, so I decided to make it pink with sparkly eyes, because eyes tend to have that sparkle when they tear up. ‘Lost Time’ is more of a reflective song, with the wave and beach sounds, that’s where the idea of the wave frame came from. Finally, ‘End Game’ is the end of the relationship, which translates into something broken. It’s aligned with the whole concept of the fading colours, from fiery red to an almost black-and-white mood.
Tell us about your singing journey. How did it start?
I’ve been singing since I was about 3 years old, I think that’s the age my parents noticed that I had a nice voice. They put me in a choir, through piano, guitar and singing lessons. I’ve always wanted to be a singer; I used to go full crisis mode and tell my parents that I wanted to quit school and go to a conservatory and make music my life. But at the same time, I was a very shy kid, my friends had to beg me to sing all the time and I used to give in, in the end, by asking them to close their eyes or turn around and not look at me while I sang. I had major stage fright.
A few years ago, somewhere at the end of 2018, a friend of mine introduced me to open mics … I had been putting it off for so many years … From there, I got selected to sing at ‘D3 Unplugged’, an event by Design District, HRMNY and Big Hass. That day, something happened. It’s like I knew I was ready to take the next step and start creating my own music.
Who would you say are your influences, from the music world?
My favourite genre is R‘n’B, so I am very influenced by artists like H.E.R, James Vickery, Sabrina Claudio, Alina Baraz and many more. I also love alternative and jazz and always try to incorporate them into my music.
How would you describe your sound?
I don’t think I have found my sound yet. I used to describe it as monotone and sometimes even boring — I think I’m dabbling into more of a chill and sensual vibe now. I don’t know though, I’m still trying new things.
What’s something about you that people would be surprised to find out?
The only thing I can think of that would surprise people is that I do Muay Thai. I almost competed professionally before moving to Dubai but it never went through. I think it’s the only sport I actually enjoy and could never get sick of.