IN CONVERSATION WITH MISHAAL TAMER
Mishaal Tamer, the 22-year-old rising Saudi artist, embarked on a musical journey after a childhood injury led him to the guitar for physiotherapy. His left arm healed, and music became his creative outlet. With over 150 million global streams today, Mishaal recently supported OneRepublic on their sold-out European tour. His debut album “HOME IS CHANGING,”reflects a transformative journey through five chapters. “THE DEEP,” the first chapter, released today and delves into a period of struggles and bad decisions, marking his climb out of a suicidal depression. Mishaal will continue exploring diverse themes in each chapter, showcasing raw, authentic, and honest music.
This interview explores the artist’s journey from using music as therapy to the unique concept behind “HOME IS CHANGING,” and the transformative impact of supporting OneRepublic. Vocal inspirations, collaboration on the Assassin’s Creed Mirage OST, and gratitude for fans highlight the narrative of this musical evolution.
Your journey into music began as a means of physiotherapy after an injury to your left arm. Can you tell us more about that experience?
The physiotherapy that required me to practise the guitar saved my hand, but it also gave me a way to creatively express myself. This ability to express continues to save me to this day.
Now experiencing major success, you’re working on your debut album “HOME IS CHANGING,” of which your EP “THE DEEP” represents the inaugural chapter. Can you share what inspired the concept of releasing your album in five chapters, and what themes each chapter will explore?
These songs were never meant to come out. I was making them purely out of self expression. Coming from KSA I never had access to a recording studio. When I came to NYC at the age of 17 I had the honour of working and soon after living in a Recording Studio. Imagine you’re a painter and you have all these ideas for paintings in your head and then finally you get your hands on a canvas and all the colours and brushes in the world… I was in heaven. During this time I went on to write, produce and record over 800 songs. Ironically, this music that I thought nobody would ever hear except for myself, this is the same music that has been curated into the five chapters that make up “Home is Changing.” Ultimately it is the story of my adolescence and the climb out of a suicidal depression. It begins with chapter one “The Deep,” which was a period of my life where I had fallen deep into all things that one should really stay away from. I was losing myself in the process of going down this spiralling destructive cycle of bad decisions that only took me deeper and deeper into the hole I had dug myself in. I like to look back at this point of my life and name it “The Deep.” Hopeless but still here, this is where my story begins… rock bottom. I can only go up from here.
Your latest single, “Painful Paradise,” is a deeply emotional ballad. Could you tell us more about the inspiration behind this track and how it fits into the narrative of “THE DEEP”?
The song is about embarking on a journey, the journey of the heart.
It’s inspired by all the bands that I used to listen to as a kid; Weezer, Radiohead, Coldplay, OneRepublic etc., especially the songs that gave me hope. That’s what I needed at that time. I was in a dark place and for once and for all trying to get myself out of it so I wanted to make a song for myself that could give me that feeling of hope and motivation while at the same time understanding where I am in that dark state of mind. “Painful Paradise” is actually going to be part of Chapter Two: The Heart. It is the beginning of it, “diving in head first” that’s the painful paradise, it’s this chapter. The song is about embarking on a journey, the journey of the heart.
“THE DEEP” is a departure from some of your earlier work. How do you feel your music and yourself as an artist have evolved since your debut EP, “Life’s A Ride”?
Throughout the “Home is Changing” project you’ll notice the changes that took place overtime. You’ll hear it in my voice, in the instrumentation, and if you listen just closely enough… you’ll hear it in everything. The only main constant is that the music is always entirely raw, authentic, and honest. This was music that was originally made for myself to go through whatever I was going through at the time that I made each song, they were songs that I wish existed for me to listen to, so I made them.
You are known for your silky smooth vocals. Can you share some of your musical inspirations and how they have shaped your unique sound?
For my vocals, when you mean the “silky smooth” low voice that I do, it is heavily inspired by, and by that I mean I am trying to imitate and failing horribly at it, all I can say is listen to Abdel Halim Al Hafiz. He is the inspiration for that tonality that I bring to that low part of my voice when I sing in English.
You recently supported OneRepublic on their sold-out European tour. What was that experience like, and what did you learn from touring with the band?
It was the greatest experience of my life so far.
Seeing these legends at work has been an honour and a pleasure and I’m so humbled and grateful to have been there to watch and learn from them. The most important thing I learned and I think this goes for everybody is to take care of your body and your health. Your health comes first always. Gotta eat right, gotta exercise, gotta sleep well.
Together with the band, you also recently released the single “Mirage” for the Assassin’s Creed Mirage OST game. How did this collaboration come about, and what was it like working on a video game soundtrack?
In 2007 I watched a music video for the first time, “Apologize” by OneRepublic and Timbaland. Ten years later they became the first pop/rock band to play in my home country KSA since the music ban was lifted in 2017. This inspired me to upload my own music to the internet that same year: a roughly ten second clip “can’t love myself” which was luckily sampled by the lofi community and is what began my career as a musician. To be featured in a song with the musical heroes that inspired me to become a musician myself is surreal to say the least. Words cannot express my gratitude. Assassins Creed 1, which also came out in 2007, was my favourite game of my childhood because it was the first time I got to play as an Arab protagonist in a video game. To this day AC is my all time favourite gaming franchise and I am honoured to be a part of Assassins Creed’s return to its roots with “Mirage.” Although my music is mainly in English I decided to mix Arabic into my verse on “Mirage,” much like many K-pop artists nowadays mix Korean/English in their songs. This means the absolute world to me and truly forms a full circle as a OneRepublic fan, an Assassins Creed fan, and an Arab.
You became the first Saudi artist to be picked up by a major label for your demo EP, “Life’s A Ride.” What was the turning point in your career that led to this milestone?
The turning point I’d say was when the music ban was lifted in 2017. When that happened I made an Instagram account and posted my first video; the ten second clip “can’t love myself”. People began making loops of it and eventually producers took notice and made beats of it and then rappers made songs with it, it started everything.
If not this, what has been the most surprising/rewarding aspect of your musical journey so far?
The fans. They are the best. When I was making this music it was for myself, mostly, to be honest, because I thought I was alone. Now I realise I am not. For that I am eternally grateful and that’s why I love my fans.