An Interview with Newcomer Singer-Songwriter ROTANA On Her Debut Single ‘Daddy’ and Much More!
Posted On 27 Mar 2017
Rotana, originally from Saudi Arabia, moved to the US only 4 years ago, and is now pursuing her music career full-time. Her debut single “Daddy” was released on January 27th and was immediately featured on Spotify New Music Friday and Pop Hot Tracks on iTunes & Apple Music.
“The song “Daddy” is about the moment you step into your power” states Rotana. “It’s the decision to question shit and not dilute yourself to make other people more comfortable. Daddy is societal boundaries, the obsession with celebrity and wealth. Most of all, Daddy is the voice in your head that has convinced you that you can’t.”
Rotana’s music always feels like heat, an eruption. There’s a reason for that. Every song she writes, whether it’s about love, freedom or rebellion is an invitation to experience an eruption of self. To let it all out. Be all of you and not compromise for anything or anyone. She knows what it is to wake up one day and realize. Holy shit, I’m not really sure who I am, what I believe in and what I am on this planet to fight for. Rotana’s music is here to fight for going back to a place of intuition. Where you are letting the voice inside of you guide and explode. Not the voice society and culture throw at you. This is 2017. This is Generation Z. This is the future. It is female. It is powerful. It is animal- and it is free.
Rotana was born in Saudi Arabia, a beautiful, complicated place and one of the most conservative environments in the world. In Saudi Arabia, women must subscribe to a male guardianship system. You are not a full individual without the permission of a male. Basic rights that we take for granted are simply denied there. In 2013, Rotana moved to the U.S. on an employee scholarship from Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company in the world, fully owned by the Saudi government. She immediately began to pursue music while attaining her Masters degree at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. With music, came a path to herself and what she wanted. Rotana quit her job to pursue music full time.
At her core, Rotana is an explosive lover. She doesn’t really know to exist in a middle place. She admits “It is my curse and my greatest gift,” “I grew up I a place where, if you want be heard you’ve gotta get really really loud with it.” You hear this in songs like “Over You,” a declaration of not being able to let go of dysfunctional love. “Back then I did give. Back then I did open up my skin. But what did it fix? You wouldn’t let me in”.
Last week, Rotana premiered the video for her second single, “The Cure.” “‘The Cure’ is a song about the people and moments that surge us back into energy and life. We can become addicted to them. It’s about a lover that knows he/she is self-destructive,” Rotana says. “She knows she will most probably sabotage and kill what she touches. She knows she is sick in her ways. She knows she should stay away from him because he is beautiful. He is pure. But she can’t stay away. And this time, really this time she think he might be The Cure.”
“I know what it’s like to wake up one day and realize, holy shit. I am not really sure who I am and if I believe in the system I know so well. I was wearing so many layers of societal expectations. Then I decided to get naked. To silence the noise on the outside and get loud on the inside. This is 2017. This is Generation Z. It is female. It is powerful. It is animal- and it is free.”
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Learn more about Rotana in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What are some words you would use to describe 2016? What were some of the highlights for you and your music? What are you most excited about for 2017?
Scary, exhilarating, the edge of a cliff, confident, fearful, fearless, explosive.
I moved to LA 3 years ago to pursue music having never written a song or had any vocal training. I spent close to 3 years doing nothing but writing and performing and recording to find my voice, get great at what I do and be able to put music out that I would strongly stand behind.
In 2016 I reached a point in my music where I knew it was time. I knew I had a body of work that could move people and that could swim with the sharks in the industry. I made the decision that I was ready to put my music out in 2016, for me that was huge. As a new artist, a perfectionist, a Saudi woman. All of it was surreal and empowering. I was included on BBC’s worldwide’s 100 women honoring influential women in business and the arts around the world. I successfully ran a crowd funding campaign and am independently funding my project.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your first musical memory?
Not at all, it was never in the realm of the possible for me. I didn’t know that was an option for me, that that could be real. I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, an environment where that kind of pursuit just didn’t happen. Especially as a woman. I grew up aspiring to be an executive in the corporate world. I was aggressive In that pursuit and one day I woke up incredibly depressed realizing that I had no idea what I believed in or what I actually wanted. That was when music out of nowhere started to come up in my mind as a thought of “ what if I tried this?” “Could this actually happen?”
I remember listening to Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill “ and even as a little girl being so excited!! She was exploding and you could feel her wrath and passion. I remember understanding how much I loved that as a kid. I was a weirdo child that listened to that record on repeat.
I understand that you moved to the U.S from Saudi Arabia only 4 years ago. What was it like making that big move and what caused you to move in the first place? Was your family supportive of this decision?
It was terrifying. I had never sung or written before, but I knew I could. I knew nothing about the music industry. I was leaving my family and the familiar/safe. I was so fresh off the camels ass.
I moved because I was depressed and I couldn’t stop thinking about music. It made no sense to me, for the first time in my life I was hearing this “inner voice” thing I kept hearing about so clearly telling me I needed to pursue music. In Saudi Arabia, it would be forbidden for me to do a show so needless to say, there is no industry. I moved to Los Angeles to find opportunity and because if I was going to do this I wanted to be around the best and play in the big leagues.
You wake up one day and you feel this sensation of “ holy shit, what do I believe in? “ What do I want to do with my time on this planet!” All those questions for me led to the thought “music”.
What has been the hardest adjustment to make since moving to the states? What has been the best part about living here?
Honestly all the hardest stuff never has anything to do with where I am geographically. The hardest stuff is always internal. I uprooted myself from what I knew and made a decision to pursue music, and with that to get rid of all the layers that were holding me back from exploding in who I am. That was hard, getting naked in who I am without permission from anyone was a strange thing for me. It meant I could fail, get rejected, look stupid, It also meant that I had power. So yeah, coming into my power as a human and an artist was the hardest part.
The best part is the people. The most talented musicians I have ever witnessed are here. My friends who have become my family are here.
Just two weeks ago, you released the video for your debut single, “Daddy.” What was that like? How creatively involved were you with the video?
It was awesome! Really amazing to finally begin to put my music out. The response has been great and really encouraging.
The video is essentially just me performing. It’s me owning my body and my message so that was very exciting. Creatively I knew this video needed to feel like an intro to Rotana and my tendencies with my body, voice and energy. That’s why you see a lot of stock footage in the video of natural storms. That feels like the energy that has led me to music.
What was the inspiration for “Daddy”? When did you write it?
I wrote “Daddy” about a year ago and it initially started off as a song to my ex boyfriend. I found myself overextending/molding myself for his love because I thought that’s what I needed to do to be loved. I quickly realized I was writing this about something much bigger. Daddy is anyone who is trying to stop you from doing you. It’s the moment you step into yourself and own your shit. Daddy is a bully and when you stand up to a bully and ask em” whachu gon do”? , well that’s an amazing thing.
What was it like sharing the state at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival with Common, Andra Day and others? How did you get involved with this event?
It was incredible! A really special moment. It was awesome because everyone was there with the intention of learning and sharing without color/religion/age/sexual orientation or any other of that meaningless stuff in the equation.
What artists have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
Alanis Morissette, she gave me the balls to be very angry, very scared, very in love . All the very(s). Sade, I really feel like so much of my sensuality came from watching and listening to Sade so much. Nina Simone, mostly because of her approach to art. She was uncompromising about it. She believed that no matter what, as an artist you had to reflect the times and I find that inspiring.
I would probably die If I was able to do a collab with MIA or Florence and the Machine. They do things to me.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
Get more animal in who you are. Let the animal intuition inside you call the shots, no one or nothing else.
I want people to hear my music and feel inspired to get naked in who they are. I want the music to feel like permission to be as explosive as they feel inside.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself and your music?
My second single “The Cure” drops with the music video the first week of March so stay tuned! Ill be releasing one single every month.