Posted On 20 Aug 2019
“When trying to describe an artist like Hanna Barakat her voice and talent are such a given that it frees the listener to embrace the musical journey she takes you on. She is not afraid to step out of the box from song to song while still following her vision of song oriented rock layered in a luscious soundscape of melodic instrumentation and vocals. There is a message, emotion, and uniqueness within each song that transcends trends while still embracing the familiar.” -John Moyer (Disturbed)
Get to know the Austin-based, hard/alternative artist, Hanna Barakat! Last week on August 16th, she released her new album, Siren.
Born in Texas to a Lebanese father and American mother, Barakat combines a variety of influences. “While proudly paying homage to her roots, Barakat has cultivated her own style that merges Arab-Oriental influences with her love of rock music for a stunningly unique and original sound.” (Metal Nexus) Pure Grain Audio declares, “Artists come and go like skin cells but, sometimes, there are those that truly stand out for their immense talents. Barakat is clearly a member of the latter.”
The album was produced by John Moyer, bassist from famed hard rock band, Disturbed, and mixed by Martin Nessi (Michael Jackson estate, Ariana Grande, Josh Groban, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Ricky Martin, Kelly Clarkson), and mastered by Ted Jansen of Sterling Sound (Disturbed, Evanescence, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, Halestorm, Pat Metheny).
Barakat beautifully describes the inspiration behind the album:
“I chose the title, Siren, for my debut record, after John Moyer and I produced our final song together, which happened to be “Siren.” The power of the music and the lyrics filled me with such fire. It motivated me and inspired me to take this next step in my journey with such confidence. Though the song references the mythical sirens of the sea, I loved the idea of a double meaning: an actual siren, warning call, alarm! The songs on this record were written over a span of 10 years. These songs have been my comfort and my therapy, as I’ve journeyed this world, witnessed injustices, engrossed myself in my ancestral culture, grown within myself, literally travelled the globe, loved, lost, failed, loved again, and struggled to reach the place where I am today. I want to bring awareness to these situations, not by forcing any political agenda, but by pushing for love, understanding, and acceptance of all the other humans walking this earth together. Throughout history, there have been unnatural walls physically erected, or socially accepted and perpetuated, in order to divide people. I want to tear those walls down. All of them. Through my music, with rock guitars, heavy drums, deep rhythmic bass lines, and my intricate vocal melodic lines and punchy harmony stacks, I have chosen to forge Arab instruments like the oud, kanun, frame drum, riqq, into my sonic landscape, where I feel they so naturally and appropriately belong.”
Debuting her singing talents as a child from under dining tables at family gatherings, Hanna’s innate passion lead her on great adventures, opening doors to opportunities such as performing at the TD Bank North Gardens Stadium with the New Kids on the Block for their comeback tour, facing a sold out 37,000 person stadium.
While attending Berklee College of Music, Hanna was finally able to dive into Arabic music through the middle eastern fusion ensemble. From there, she performed with distinguished artists such as Simone Shaheen, Bassam Saba, Erkan Ogur, and Laço Tayfa’s Hüsnü Şenlendirici. Hanna personally directed and performed in the group representing the Middle East in the Berklee International Folk Festival. Hanna also performed and worked alongside artists such as Paula Cole, Don Was, Philip Bailey, Lailah Hathaway, Burt Bacharach, and many others. It was at that pivotal time in Hanna’s musical journey that she realized she had to find a way to join rock music, which she loved so much, with influences from the Arab world, whether that be through arab instrumentation, the language, or with ornamentation and infections in her vocal melodies.
Barakat’s unique style merges Arab-oriental influences, as well as hard rock, for powerful and genuine connections with her audience. Socially and politically charged, her passion-driven compositions and performances often add eastern ornamentation, as well as other musical influences to transcend language and borders to touch the heart. “It is amazing to see musicians from various backgrounds, religions, mindsets, prejudices, and upbringing, that would normally separate them, join together and produce such brilliant sounds,” says Barakat. “Those unique situations are the fertilizer for peaceful soil, and this Earth needs much more of that.” She aims to connect with others, both those displaced from their homelands, being influenced by multiple cultures around them, while simultaneously reaching mainstream audiences that appreciate writings of personal encounters, relationships, life issues, and, of course, love.
After graduation, Hanna headlined at the Boston House of Blues main stage before moving to Beirut, Lebanon, to pursue two of her true loves: music and the Arabic language. Hanna was well received and performed her original rock fusion music throughout the region, namely at Beirut’s Hard Rock Cafe. From there, the world has been her stage, traveling, and performing across the Middle East, Canada, Mexico, and the United States, where she currently calls Austin, Texas, home.
Follow Hanna Barakat Online Here:
Learn more about Hanna Barakat in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you?
I am currently in my home studio in Austin, TX!
Now that we are more than half-way through the year, how has 2019 been treating you? What are some goals that you have for yourself this year? How close are you to reaching them?
This year has been quite a whirlwind for me. I have worked harder than I may have ever worked in my entire life. Finishing production, being enthralled in the mixing and mastering process, and then navigating the pre-release of my record has been all consuming! Every step has taught me so much about the industry, my music, my image, and my life, honestly. Overall, my goals have been focused on making this record release the most successful it could possibly be. In the process of achieving that goal, I have been expanding my fan base rapidly, performing for incredible festivals, tours, and events with amazing musicians, and aiming my sights as high as I can possibly imagine!
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
Music has always been in my body. I cannot imagine a time in my life where I wasn’t annoying my entire family and all of my friends with my incessant humming. I am not sure of the exact moment, but I know that ever since I began singing, it has always felt like the thing I am meant to do. It’s my pleasure, my passion, and my therapy. Performing is what feels like home to me.
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing? Would you be as fulfilled in life?
Shoot! When I think of a “civilian” lifestyle, perhaps working a nine to five, the only thing I see is a life of stability, insurance, paid vacations, and a little monotony. It’s always been tempting. When I was in high school, I sold Cutco for a year, and I realized quickly that I was very good at management and sales. I can tell you though, as much as stability and health insurance tempt me, I cannot imagine a life different from my own past and current path that would fulfill me the way that mine does now.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
I think the industry itself is a monstrous beast to understand, navigate, and conquer. I have had so many incredible opportunities in my career, and with each milestone, I shift my trajectory, with a better understanding, more experience, and more mature priorities. I think the unexpected challenges are too many to list! I am an independent artist, self releasing a record in 2019. It’s nuts!
How do you think your track “Leave Your Light On” prepares listeners for your upcoming album “Siren”? What was the inspiration for this song?
“Leave Your Light On” is a raw, honest plea from one lover to another. I feel that this song gives you a great glimpse into my record, Siren, as a way of preparing you for my storytelling. This song was inspired by my relationship with my husband, Blue. We have been through so much in our time together, and we have found a way to grow and strengthen our relationship as we grow as individuals. This song came to me at a time when I was struggling a lot, and I needed my husband to, in a sense, look past the situation, good or bad, and be strong for me so that I could get through what I needed to get through. Love is not always shiny, framed, placed on a mantle for all to see. Love can be extremely difficult, it is deep devotion, friendship, a commitment, and a decision. This song helped me grow in my relationship, and it continues to teach me each time I perform it.
What was it like putting together “Siren”? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? How did you get to work with producer John Moyer on it?
Siren, the single, was the last song John and I produced together. It was the final puzzle piece to this record. This song is where I draw a lot of my power from. I feel fueled up and ready to go when I am about to start a show, knowing I get to perform this song. Though the song references the mythical sirens of the sea, I loved the idea of a double meaning for the record – An actual siren, warning call, alarm! The songs on this record were written over a span of nearly 10 years. These songs have been my comfort and my therapy, as I’ve journeyed this world, witnessed injustices, engrossed myself in my ancestral culture, grown within myself, travelled a great deal, loved, lost, failed, loved again, and struggled to reach the place where I am today. Siren is my battle song. My own rally cry. And it is the song to drive the record home.
If I were to tell you my life story, I think you would agree that I’ve had a fairly unique upbringing. The chain of events leading up to this point in my life have definitely afforded me a strong sense of self, a ravenous curiosity towards the world around me, and a slightly weathered heart. I met John Moyer through a mutual musician friend here in Austin, TX, in January of 2018. It took me a couple of months to get the courage to reach out to him, but I can honestly say it was the best thing I could have ever done. John is one of the coolest people I have ever met. He is gracious, kind, enthusiastic, extremely humble, and so encouraging and supportive. Though it did take us a couple of months working together before we were both comfortable enough to really dig into the tunes, without inhibition, and start allowing the creative wheels to turn without resistance or assistance, once we hit that pivotal point, we just flew! It took me nearly 10 years to create this record, and it took me over a year to produce these ten precious songs with my incredible producer, John Moyer, by my side. Those 10 years’ history would take too long to explain, but in short, I had to live first. I had glimpses of my own music captured, over the years, but it was incomplete. The songs were not ready. I was not ready. It was a grueling process to get to the point where I am now with my record. My songs have gone through tremendous transformations and the ones that have made it through – well, they are a labor of love, a digital memory, my life story, my love.
Where can people see you perform next? Do you plan to tour at all this summer or later in the year? What has been a favorite performance of yours so far?
I have a fantastic lineup of events this month! You can check out my website: www.hannabarakat.com/shows for a full list of shows/ticket links, in & around Austin, Texas!
08/24 – Live @ Batfest 2019 – Direct support for Tantric (Saliva, Ying Yang Twins, Everlast)
08/30 – 🌊SIREN🌊 CD Release Concert + Party @ Come and Take It Live
09/10 – Breaking Benjamin – Dos Equis Pavilion – Live Nation VIP Lounge Presents: Hanna Barakat
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started making music?
Listening and watching myself perform, even just ten years ago, I am unrecognizable to even myself. I have transformed completely. It took years and years of performing to hone my skill, understand my body (as my instrument), find my storytelling voice and my style, and develop the confidence and power that I hold today as a songwriter and performer. I am always amazed at how my voice develops. I was just telling my husband, yesterday, that I feel like I’ve broken another barrier in my voice and my previous limitations, and feel like I have gained a larger range in my voice. The more you use it, the more you can do, and I have been using my voice a lot these days!
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now? What has social media done for your career so far?
I absolutely love interacting with fans on social media, and I will never stop, but It is so difficult to maintain an online presence, especially on multiple platforms, of which you must stay current and active, when you’re trying to make music, be an independent artist, manager, and also live your life! Social media is another beast that must be understood and approached with caution. I use Facebook (www.facebook.com/hannabarakatmusic) quite a bit, and these days, I am trying to be more active on Instagram (www.instagram.com/hannabarakat). Social media has definitely helped me reach fans I would not have otherwise been able to reach, across the world, and I am so grateful to be able to share my music, my stories and experiences, and in many ways, my life with all of them!
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
My biggest influences as a youth were Linkin Park, Evanescence, System of A Down, Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, Tantric, and Incubus. Evanescence was one of my biggest influences, so much so, that I now cannot escape the influence Amy Lee has had on my voice. It comes out in glimpses, whether I want it to or not. If i could pick a few artists to collaborate with today, I would first have reached out to Chester Bennington to collaborate with. He was one of my vocal idols, and his loss will always be with me. Second, I would reach out to Amy Lee to put something together. She is such an incredible and versatile musician, and it would be the pleasure of a lifetime to work with her in any capacity. Hi Amy, give me a call!
If you had an unlimited budget and your schedule was free, what would your dream music video look like?
You know, honestly, I have not allowed myself to dream that big just yet. I think this is a beautiful question, and I may not be able to fully answer it at this point in my life. I will say, I have a vision for my song, Cycle. This song has held such a powerful message for so long, and it is still so relevant, maybe even more relevant today, than when I wrote it 10 years ago. If I had an unlimited budget, I would gather my band, bring in musicians who play the beautiful Arab instruments on the tune (qanun, riqq, and oud), to fully represent the music, live. I would then travel to as many border cities around the world and perform this song in each city/town/area, find a way to compile all the footage, translate the lyrics into as many languages as I could possibly gather, and deliver the message that this song represents. Walls, barriers, skin colors, languages, appearances, social classes, all the unnatural dividers we put up to separate people, must come down. We are all humans on this earth, and we need to find a way to understand that simple fact. We are all the same. The cycle of violence must end.
What has been the coolest place/TV show/commercial that you have heard a song of yours? Where would you still love to hear a future song of yours played?
As this is my first record to be released, and I have just recently released a few single before the debut, I have not yet had any of my tunes placed on any platforms such as these! Yet! My first two singles, “Wildfire” and “Damage Done” were featured on Loudwire’s Weekly Wire Playlist next to some seriously heavy hitters, and that made my stomach do somersaults! I am still anxiously awaiting to hear one (or many) of my tunes on the radio, driving down the road in my car!
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
My music is rooted in deep personal experiences, in one way or another. My songs carry a specific meaning for me personally. When I write my songs, though, my goal is to impart a relatable story or convey a mood or emotion that anyone can connect with and imprint their own meaning towards. Music is a language in itself, and can be translated into any language through the imagination of the listener. I aim to stimulate that imagination, inspire curiosity, and connect with as many people as I can reach in my lifetime.
Would you like to share anything else with our readers about your music?
Thank you so much for these wonderful questions. I appreciate being able to share some insight and backstory to the making of and inspiration behind the record. I am so thrilled to share this record, “Siren”, with you all! I hope you enjoy it!