If hard work, drive, determination and raw talent is something to go by then singer-songwriter Lana Lubany has it made. Unable to find westernised representation of her Palestinian roots, Lana decided to make her own by transending from Arabic to English and wow, did we respond. Racking up an incredible 8 million streams for her first release The Snake, Lana’s bona fide style was what the world needed. Since then she has released SOLD, an exploration into the temptation to self-sabotage. Now entering phase 3 of her musical endeavor of self-discovery - a larger body of work titled The Holy Land - Lana’s latest single (dropping yesterday) CLONES sees an abstract take on the different personas we take on internally.
F WORD’s Maisie Daniels catches up with Lana and gets to know a bit more about this ever-evolving star that always has authenticity at the heart.
Maisie Daniels: How are you Lana?
Lana Lubany: I’m good, I’m good!
MD: Did you have a good halloween?
LL: I had a chill Halloween actually. I went out but I went to some random club in Soho. And my costume was very last-minute. I just bleached my brows and put on some black under my eye… I think I was an assassin [laughs].
MD: Let’s go to the beginning of when you found your voice at the age of 11. Did that come about naturally?
LL: Yeah, it really did. I think my parents put me into keyboard/piano lessons when I was in 1st grade, so 5/ 6 years old. And I don’t know if these numbers are accurate because I was really young, but I think when I was 9 years old I had my first piano recital where I sang because my teacher asked me to sing, and I loved it! There was something about being in the spotlight - I was not afraid, I didn’t even rehearse for it, I forgot the words, it was so bad [laughs]. I forgot the lyrics but I sang super confidently. And after the recital people came up to me and were like ‘oh my god, you were amazing’ because, you know, I was a kid… and I totally believed them and I guess I got into singing. And when I was around 11 I heard about this local choir, in my local community center, and I was like you know what, cool, I’m going to join, this will make me famous [laughs]. And I did and at the time I knew that this was something I really wanted and I told my Mum that when I’m older I’m going to be a famous singer and live in the US. And she was like ‘okay, honey’ [laughs]. Playing that choir really jump-started my musical abilities, so it taught me how to sing properly, it improved my musical hearing and stage experience. I was definitely surrounded by creativity and music since I was a kid. It just happened, things just came and that’s good and bad obviously: bad for the future, good at the time [laughs].
MD: It’s nice you mention how your parents pushed you from the very beginning. I’ve seen online you posting your parents’ individual responses to listening to your music for the first time and it’s so lovely! Their opinion must be very important to you?
LL: Oh yeah, absolutely! I mean I want to make my parents proud because they support me so much. My Dad is easier to please, he listens to my music and says it's good no matter what, then shows it to everyone he knows. My Mum, on the other hand, analyzes everythingggg I do… not in a bad way, in a way like she wants me to grow, she wants to help me present myself in the best way, and she does that to this day. Yesterday I had a shoot and I was self-styling and she was like “you know yourself the most… you should be in charge of the creative.” She kind of knows me the best, coz she’s my Mum and she can tell whether what I am creating is coming from me, or from someone else. She helps me not lose myself.
MD: It’s necessary to have that, especially when you have lots of different minds in place but ultimately, this is you and you have to be authentic.
LL: Yes! I’m learning a lot as I go and my Mum just doesn’t care, she just tells me “this doesn’t feel like you.” There was something that I did that didn’t feel like me, I guess subconsciously I knew, and Mum went and told me and was like “Lana, no”. And she was right and I had been thinking this all along but I didn’t admit it to myself because sometimes our subconscious knows but our conscious mind doesn’t…
MD: You’ve sang to Obama when in the choir (loved to hear he had a firm handshake!) and then let's fast forward to today where your single The Snake has reached 8 million streams and our latest single SOLD has a whopping 5 million streams. So I think from a very young age, you’ve set the bar very high! How does this all feel?
LL: Amazing! It feels like what I’ve always wanted. I’m very proud of myself, I did this on my own and then I built a team, and now I have some people helping me out. But I did so much work on myself to get to where I am today and The Snake, it was no coincidence, it happened because I worked so much towards understanding myself and the industry, and how I want to present myself and what kind of music I want/need to make. And how to be unique and I put so much into it, I’ll pat myself on the back, you know! It feels amazing and it’s only the beginning and I’m so ready for more, and to work for more.
MD: In your current body of work you transcend from English to Arabic when you sing. Why do you think that has received such a hugely positive response?
LL: I think there aren't many other people doing it out there. And I think it should be done more - the Middle East is so big, there are so many people that speak Arabic, or maybe understand some of it, and there’s other people in the West, for example, who have never heard anything like that and it’s new. And I think there’s so much music out there that people want something new… I know that I do. I keep looking on Spotify for music that I haven’t heard before (as in new elements) or something interesting, as I think it's inevitable that a lot of music sounds similar these days. So what my collaborator and I - his name is Ben Thomson - wanted to do first of all was create from the heart as I truly believe in authenticity. And we wanted to make something unique, something that feels like both of us, and for me, especially with Arabic, there isn’t anything out there that I feel represented by (in Arabic, or Arabic and English) so I was like if there’s nothing for me to be represented by let me just make my own. And that’s how it happened. So many people over the years have asked me to sing in Arabic, or combine Arabic and English, and the examples that I’ve had out there, I just never really connected with personally. So I thought okay, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this my way.
MD: You are a pioneer in this form of representation and I think it’s commendable that you’ve come out and done it your way. It’s an amazing thing but do you ever question why it hasn’t been done before? LL: Yeah and you know what, it just gives me more to write about and it’s exciting for me as a creative as I can just do whatever, and it’ll be new, which is cool!
MD: Let’s talk about your newest release SOLD. I love the video! At the beginning we see you going to bite the fruit, which brings connotations of Eve and the forbidden fruit. What’s been your biggest vice in life?
LL: Self-sabotage. I used to have cycles where I would fall into good habits and then I would stop and go back to not so bad habits. And I used to never take myself seriously, which I think was the biggest problem because whenever someone would ask me about my music - music is so important to me, if you haven’t already figured that out by now [laughs] - so whenever someone would ask me about it I would simplify it. So me not taking myself seriously eliminated my self-belief and slowed things down for me in terms of self-discovery. I was doing the wrong things for a long time and I fell into the wrong path. And that’s what SOLD is about. It’s part of a bigger project called The Holy Land, which is where I’m from. It’s not religious or anything but it’s just about my journey using elements of where I’m from. And that’s the inspiration behind the music video of SOLD. And then the fruit is an orange, which my hometown of Jaffa is known for, which I thought was a nice little touch I could add in there, very subtly as nobody knows except me [laughs].
MD:You’ve spoken out previously about the adversity and racism you’ve experienced growing up, and I’m so sorry you’ve had to experience that. If you could go back, what would you say to your younger self?
LL: So my younger self always wanted to stand out, I was always confident and I believed I was unique (as you do when you’re a kid) but I always shied away from my roots and my true identity, which is mixed - I come from a mixed background and I always attached myself more to my Grandma’s side, the American side, and I obviously loved my other side as well but because of external factors and it wasn't ‘cool’ to accept yourself as an Arab, and a Palestinian especially, I think I shied away from that. And if I could tell my younger self something it would be that the best thing that you can do for yourself is just to be yourself and to accept yourself. And look at yourself now, you’re older and you're more successful because of that!
MD: I love that. I think you’re such an empowering person and I can see it’s taken you a journey to get here
LL: It’s worth it
MD: You’ve got a huge fanbase and so much love and support. I thought it was inspiring when I read you say you want to change something, rather than just be another popstar. How important is it for you to use your voice, when you have a platform and fanbase? LL: Very important. I want to have a voice, I want to be able to talk about whatever I believe in, all responsibly of course. I just want to keep on building this platform and I am so grateful to everyone that has been supporting me. But of course, it’s still very tiny, and there’s so much to keep on building, and I can’t wait to keep on building it and I want to continue to use my voice to amplify issues that I'm passionate about.
MD: Each song is a phase, and you are releasing ‘phase 3’ next, I want to hear all about it!
LL: The next song is called CLONES and it’s part of the project called The Holy Land, the project is about self-discovery, kind of like a coming-of-age project/story and it starts with THE SNAKE, which is about letting bad into your life (phase 1). Phase 2 is SOLD, where you give into the temptation (the snake) and you are like I had a momentary taste of the good stuff, that’s not very good for you - guilty pleasures, for example. Phase 3 is CLONES, where the way I imagine it is that I look in the mirror and I don’t recognise myself anymore, I just see different faces staring back at me everytime. And those different faces are my clones and they represent everytime I start something new and I never finish, or every time I fall into a new toxic cycle those are my clones in my head. The hook is stuck in a loop with all my clones because I was stuck in a loop with my bad habits. There’s a music video coming out with it and we represented the clones by changing outfits and having different personas. It’s very abstract, we used fashion to represent the characters, the clones.
MD: And this is Phase 3, of how many?
LL: It’s 6 but I have 7 songs [laughs] but two of the songs are phase 4! As they go hand-in-hand, in a way.
MD: I love the narrative and that you are taking us on a journey. Is the body of work intended to be listened to chronologically?
LL: You know what, sonically, I don’t mind for this project, specifically because I didn’t go into the creative project (for this project) thinking that, I did it with the meaning in mind. I’m sure for my next project I would because I want to consider that first, maybe… actually who knows [laughs] But for this project it is more about the meaning, and that’s great because it makes it flexible and it can be whatever you want it to be and a lot of people can relate, especially young adults. To me the The Snake could represent depression, or anxiety, and to someone else that could mean something completely different. I love it when people have their own explanations of my lyrics, everyone is so different.
MD: That’s the beauty of music! What an amazing thing to have done, to have mapped out your life and to delve into your journey sonically. Has it been cathartic / have you met any challenges?
LL: You know, it’s more healing than anything. It makes me understand myself, it’s a way for me to get to know myself and whenever I’m feeling bad, I create and then I feel better. So creating this project out of a period of my life that was more painful, or not as good as it is now, has been healing. It’s definitely been a great process and it makes me more attached to it, you know what I mean? It’s such a great thing, creating from pain.
MD: What are you currently working on? LL: Right now, Ben and I are trying to finish this EP, which hopefully we will have it done by the end of the year. And I just want to put that out! I think having a small body of work out there is necessary for me - I want to have it out there and I can’t wait to have it out there. It’s a piece of the true me.
MD: What’s your favourite F- word?