HE made it to the semi-finals of The Voice….
in France (Season Two) and won Dancing with the Stars in the Middle East. The Lebanon-based sensation Anthony Touma is, in addition to all that, an incredible artist who is a triple/quadruple-threat – few can boast the same range of talents and achievements! Toumas was born on the Western edge of Paris’ 16th arrondissement and grew up listening to the masters of Soul and Pop. I ask Touma about his idols and how important they are in regards his music.
I find out about Touma's new single, Walk Away, and what it was like shooting the video on the streets of Lebanon. There is an English-language album arriving and plenty of important gigs for Touma. He selects the three most-important albums in his life and words he would offer his (mass of adoring) fans.
Hi, Anthony. How are you? How has your week been?
My week has been hectic but great! Hope you’ve had a nice week as well?
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Anthony Touma. I’m twenty-five and I’m a singer-songwriter from a small, but beautiful, country in the Middle East called Lebanon.
Just a guy with a dream - led by a couple of words and melodies.
Walk Away is your new single. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the song?
Walk Away is a feel-good song: it’s full of positivity and it’s all about surrounding ourselves with positive things and people - and asking any negative person around us to simply ‘walk away’ - because we’re in a good mood and nobody’s taking that away from us.
I was first inspired by people who didn’t initially believe in me but then walked up to me, years later, showing “Fake Love”, as Drake would say. We can all tell when someone actually has good intentions towards us and when they don’t.
That’s where the idea for the lyrics of Walk Away first came from.
Its video looks like it was insane fun. Where was that shot and what was the experience like?
It was crazy-fun, indeed!
We shot the music video in my home country, Lebanon. We shot in many different places and regions including Tripoli and some of Beirut’s suburbs. We had two cameras filming the whole time so that we don’t miss any reaction. We took the risk of going out there without really knowing what kind of reaction we would get.
Every person we met on these two days of filming was extremely nice and cooperative.
We could tell they just wanted to have some fun and I’m really happy the song was so positively welcomed. It was truly an experience: I had never done anything like that before and I had never had this much fun shooting a music a video before, either. Thumbs-up to Ingrid Bawab who directed the Walk Away music video.
Slemian Damien and Tarek Marjdalani helped produce and put the track together. What did they bring to the song in terms of expertise and insight?
After I wrote the lyrics and the melody for Walk Away; Tarek and Sleiman took the song to a whole new level. They first came up with the idea of having the bass guitar line lead the whole song and we started having fun with that idea.
Once we had that riff; Sleiman and Tarek started producing all the percussive elements of the track - and that’s when the song took a turn towards the African theme that we have today on Walk Away. They sent me the track and it inspired me to come up with all the African vocals.
The result of all that was a track I’m very proud of.
I believe there is an English-language album arriving. What can you reveal about that?
The album is being produced as we speak. It’s a Pop album, in English.
So far, I’ve written all the songs on the album but I’m always open to the idea of someone writing for me. It just hasn’t happened yet. Most songs are inspired by personal experience: some happy; some not.
Wouldn’t want to reveal more than that but I’m as excited as one can be.
What kind of sounds and themes will be included? Is it quite a broad album or can one expect a similar flavour to Walk Away?
It’s definitely a modern Pop sound that the album will have. I would say it’s broad while remaining in the Pop spectrum.
The themes vary from heartbreaks to ‘sexy time’; to love songs, to self-reflection songs - just the regular stuff we go through on a daily basis!
In the past; you have been a semi-finalist on France’s The Voice; winner on Dancing with the Stars Middle East and, outside of that, you've had a great deal of success. How important were these experiences getting your name and music to more people?
I definitely wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these shows I was a part of.
I would still be working as hard as I am today but fewer people would know about it. I’ve learned a lot from these experiences: I went through good times and tough times and they all taught me a lot about today’s world and about myself.
Born in France; you moved between there, Jordan; Dubai and Lebanon – before settling here. Did this itinerant childhood influence your music? Did you pick up from the cultures of each nation or was it quite an unsettling and confusing time?
I was three-years-old when my parents moved back from Paris to Lebanon. I spent most of my childhood in Lebanon and moved around Dubai and Jordan (when my father worked there). After The Voice, I lived in Paris for three years and, after that, I lived in London for a little less than a year - to study music production and songwriting. I definitely picked up a lot from the different cultures I was exposed to. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
A blessing because of it’s extremely enriching aspect but a curse because of the confusion it could lead to. The feeling of not knowing where you belong is a very unpleasant and difficult one.
I’ve come to believe that what matters more than where you are is who and what you surround yourself with - and the way you treat yourself.
How early did music come into your life? Do you remember the kind of artists you grew up listening to?
My mom having a beautiful voice and a guitarist; music was a part of my life from the day I was born. I would say I really fell in love with music around the age of seven - which is when I went on-stage to sing for the first time during a school concert.
I grew up listening to Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder; Ray Charles, Scorpions, Whitesnake - and whatever albums my father left lying around the house.
Your fan numbers on Twitter, Facebook; Instagram and YouTube are incredible. How important is your fans’ support? What message would you give to them?
My fans’ support is everything.
They got me here and they keep me going. I love interacting with them and trying to get to know them better - and social media allows me to do that. I try to be as honest as possible with them. I always hope to inspire some of them or simply encourage them to go after their dreams.
I would thank them for always being there and tell them to stay tuned - because some great things are coming next!
PHOTO CREDIT: @venusvania
What kind of gigs do you have coming up? Where can we come see you play?
I’m performing at a couple of summer festivals here in Lebanon during this season: the next one is happening on the 5th August in a city called Aley.
For those outside of Lebanon, I make sure to give a little intimate concert every now and then live on my Instagram!
Are there any new acts you recommend we check out?
Check out a band called Safar - it means 'travel' in Arabic. It’s a two-member Lebanese band based in New York, North Carolina and Beirut. They’re awesome.
Elie Abdelnour, one of the members, used to be my bandmate in Homemade: the High School Rock band I was in (yes, I was in a Rock band: long hair and all).
If you had to select the three albums that mean most to you; which would they be and why?
1. Bad by Michael Jackson.
This album was on-repeat in the house, car: anywhere I could play it. I knew every song and in the right order! It was, probably, the album that made M.J. an idol in my eyes. I might have been struck by… “a smooth criminal”.
2. FutureSex/LoveSounds by Justin Timberlake
Such an awesome album. J.T. is an inspiration to me in so many ways. He just keeps getting better and he always takes the music to (yet) another level. He takes risks and I love that about him. That album was my most played album for 2006 - and all the years after that. My personal favorite from the album is Until the End of Time. That was later on recorded as a duet with Beyoncé. What a song.
3. Unorthodox Jukebox by Bruno Mars
I mean; how I can I not include that album in my list?! The first time my mother heard When I Was Your Man; she called me and asked me if I had released a new song without telling her. That album is fire! Every single song takes you to a different place - and Treasure is (just) that song that I can’t listen to without dancing and singing along.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Being an artist is not easy.
It’s a lot of hard work with no guaranteed recognition; no guaranteed success and a million different ways to achieve the same objectives. It’s a lot of trial-and-error and you have to want it really bad - or else, you’re gonna end up quitting. It never gets easier!
That being said; my advice to any artist is to take all the time in the world to really figure out what they want to do, what they want to sing; who they really are as an artist and what are they willing to do or not do to make it.
Be true to yourself, basically, and take the time to figure things out...patience is key.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Following this interview, I really feel like going back to 2006 and listening to Lovestoned by Justin Timberlake.
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