Ever since the launch of her first EP in 2014, Egyptian singer and songwriter Malak El Husseiny has been a force to be reckoned with. Better known by her stage name, Malak, the 26-year old’s style has often been likened to the likes of Lana Del Rey and Lorde, due to an oeuvre of mid-tempo slow-burners that effortlessly blend soulful melody with poignant composition. Having released a number of singles following the launch of her EP Alters, including Wild Sumer Hearts and Spirits Of Time, the songstress makes a return this year with her debut album which includes a single perfect for the summer, titled Can’t Catch An Emotion.
Waxing poetic about the vulnerabilities of being a modern Arab woman, Malak uses the song to explore important tropes rooted in complex and intricate emotion. “I wrote Can’t Catch an Emotion at a time when I felt completely disconnected from myself and everything around me,” the singer said in a statement. “For the longest time I found it difficult to feel things like I used to, and coming from an emotional person, that indifference was very foreign to me. I decided to write about the only emotion I could put into words at the time. I was physically there, but I was somewhere else completely. By writing and working on this song, I slowly started to connect to myself again as an artist and was able to do more than just ‘drag my body through time,” she concluded.
Speaking to Vogue Arabia, the Egyptian songstress discusses her creative process, musical inspirations, and plans for the future.
What inspired you to get into the music industry?
I actually didn’t really plan on becoming a professional musician. I loved music from a very young age and as I grew up I started singing and school and university shows. One day I heard about a local singing competition, applied, and somehow found myself in the top 3 finalists. This competition was organized by the American Embassy and was a big deal at the time. An independent record label reached out to me and the next thing I know I’m signing a 2-year recording contract. It was a dream, but ever since that moment, I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life.
Who did you grow up listening to?
I grew up listening to my dad’s record collection and there was always music playing at home. Thankfully my parents had great taste in music and loved listening to The Beatles, Guns and Roses, Bon Jovi, Dire Straits, and the like.
What was the first album you ever bought?
The first album I ever bought was Holy by Canadian Singer/Songwriter Justin Nozuka. It was my first experience buying something online and I thought it was going to magically show up at my doorstep. Being in Egypt, you know that that’s not the case. It never showed up, but I was just happy to be supporting my favorite artist!
What is the role music plays in your life?
Music is the center of my life. My professional life is music, my personal life is music, I make music, I listen to music, I go see shows, I play shows. You can say it’s an obsession.
What inspired you to create this album?
This album was inspired by a time in my life where I was growing into myself. I wrote it while I was exploring my voice and my authenticity. It’s a true reflection of me, and there’s nothing else I would want to share with the world.
What is your creative process like?
My creative process is fairly simple. I initially get inspired by a place, a conversation, a word, a song, a book, and then It sparks an idea. I take my guitar and start jamming to that idea with melodies and throwing some words here and there. As the melody starts taking shape, I continue writing and editing lyrics at the same time. I use my phone to record all these ideas and I always like to sleep on it and listen to it the next day with a fresh ear. If I still like how it sounds, I sit and develop the melody and the lyrics. Depending on where I am in life at the time, how much I’m into my creative flow, finishing it can either take me 1 day or a couple of months to be happy with the final result. I then work with a producer either after I finish writing it or if it’s an idea based on production, then during the writing process.
What do you hope to achieve through your debut album?
I really hope people can connect with it and see beyond the “Why are you singing in English when you’re living in the Middle East?” I hope people listen to the music and it takes them somewhere else. I hope it inspires them to seek their own journey into themselves.
Who is the album intended for?
The album is for anyone who listens to music with intention and who likes to explore meaning through lyrics. It requires presence, flow, and an eagerness to follow a story to where it may lead them.
As an Egyptian musician, how does your heritage play into who you are as an artist?
I’m someone who is very true to their roots and where they come from. Over the past few years though, I’ve come to truly appreciate growing up surrounded by heritage and tradition. I discovered how much I value conservatism and being raised with certain values. I’ve also discovered that I don’t need to abandon any parts of my identity to be able to do what I love, the world can learn to accept diversity. I plan on carrying my culture within me throughout my journey with music, wherever that takes me.
What are your plans for future music/albums?
I think after I release the album I want to start collaborating with different artists and explore ideas that I usually would’ve been scared to tap into.
Whose musical career, if any, would you like to emulate?
Everyone is different and has a different path. I genuinely believe that and I believe that I am exactly where I should be in my career. I think the biggest challenge, with all the distractions that exist in our world, is to stay focused on our own lane, and not compare our individual journeys to anyone else’s.