Imen Siar: From Singing Into a Mop to Hearing Herself on the Radio (Q&A)
Imen Siar's career is just getting started, but she's rapidly finding a place for herself in the industry.
The 23-year-old singer kicked things off by lending her voice to the Arabic version of David Guetta's "Family" alongside featured rappers Ty Dolla $ign and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. The English-language version of the track features none other than Bebe Rexha, putting Siar in an exclusive group of pop heavyweights.
She followed that up with her debut solo single "Lonely People," which was released in English, Italian and Arabic. Believe it or not, that's only three of the six languages the rising star can sing in.
The soaring ballad highlights her stunning vocals and offers just a hint at what she's capable of. With plans to drop several more singles over the course of the year — including her most recent track, "Glitter and Gold" — and her debut album in early 2023, Siar is poised for a major breakthrough.
Despite that, she remains the humble star who was discovered singing into a mop while working at a Nando's restaurant in the U.K.
Below, Imen Siar opens up to PopCrush about the beginning of her career, hearing herself on the radio for the first time, her musical inspirations and her biggest goals. Plus, she teases what to expect on her forthcoming album.
Watch Imen Siar's "Lonely People" Music Video:
Why did you decide to start your musical journey with “Lonely People”?
I wanted my first song to be something that could speak to everyone. One thing that does that is to have multiple languages involved because it means that you can reach more people. Releasing after the pandemic, talking about loneliness is something that affected everyone.
You recorded the song in a couple of languages. Is that something you want to do with all of your releases?
I would say with the majority. Or I would say maybe as much as I can. When it comes to ballads or slow songs it’s easier. I will always give it a go and see how it sounds. If it sounds right, I’ll do it.
You sing in six languages. What was the process of learning?
I feel like I got lucky with my background and where I grew up. I was born and raised in Italy. So that’s why I know Italian. My origins are from Morocco so I speak the dialect there. In Morocco we speak French. And then I came five years ago to the U.K., and I’ve always loved English.
Spanish, I learned it back in high school a long time ago, but it’s very similar to Italian. I work in Nando's, and the majority of my co-workers are Spanish so it’s always been around me. To speak maybe I’m not as fluent as Italian, but I’m able to sing. German, I’ve been always fascinated by the language. The way they speak… It’s so harsh, but I love it.
You mentioned that you work at Nando's. It seems like that inspired the music video for “Lonely People.”
Absolutely. I posted videos of myself singing at my job when I was working at Nando's... Where I’m still working as a waitress. Oftentimes I find myself singing into a mop. I wanted to recreate that scene. But in this case it was in an American diner.
I was looking at your Instagram and I saw that you just heard yourself on the radio for the first time.
Oh, yes! I was literally on my way to Boston for a photo shoot. We were already talking about the fact that I’d never heard myself on the radio. He [my manager] put the radio on, just in case. I remember when I least expected it, all I hear is, “Is there anyone out there?”
We were just talking and all of a sudden hearing myself made it more magical.
What were you doing in America?
So I’ve written so many new songs for the album. The album is almost done. We did some video shoots for the next songs. I’ve done photo shoots. All the radio interviews. It was like getting a glimpse of what it will be like after Nando's is out of the picture. What I will be doing full time, which is beautiful.
Watch Imen Siar's "Glitter and Gold" Music Video:
It looks like you have more music coming very soon.
Yes. It still feels surreal to me. A few months ago I had “Lonely People” that I was thinking of. Now all of a sudden I’ve got 10 songs.
“Glitter and Gold” is very different from “Lonely People.” It makes you want to jump and be the best version of yourself. In the beginning it’s more laid back, but then the chorus is very heavy. It’s just like about me learning everything in glitter and gold. People doubting me with all the disadvantages I have and turning it into something better.
Based on this song and “Lonely People,” it sounds like there’s an uplifting, positive vibe to your music. How would you describe your sound?
That’s my issue! I feel like nowadays with the music industry and TikTok, it’s easier for people to go different routes. That’s why my album is different. It’s not going to be about just one sound.
Culturally there’s a lot that I can bring. All the tropical, exotic side of my life with ballads that British people would love. Then there’s something else that people in the Middle East would love.
I want my voice to be able to speak for itself. I want it to be about my personality and my message always. What I’m always going to have is positive messaging. Never any explicit words. Only family friendly. That’s my thing. It has to line up with my values and religion.
Who inspires you musically?
There’s always two people I say — Jessie J and Alessia Cara. Jessie J vocally. I just love her. When it comes to Alessia Cara, it’s her whole persona. There’s never drama around her. I want to be that type of artist. I just want to be a good person, give good music, have good times and good vibes with other people.
What’s your biggest professional goal?
My biggest goals always somehow have to do with people that are not me. Like my mom, my sister, my husband. My goal of course is for people to love my music as much as they can. But I used to say I love to sing, and I could do it just for myself. But the reason I’m doing this as a career is because I want a better life for my family.
I think it drives me to work harder when it’s for the people you love. For me being happy is making them happy.
That’s so sweet! Let's talk about your David Guetta collab. That was your first ever release. How cool was that?
Sometimes I forget everything that’s happened until people remind me! That was really cool. At the beginning my manager said, “David Guetta is working on this project, and the Arabic singer who was meant to be working on this song can’t do it.” I was literally at Nando's and was like, “I have to get to the studio right now.” Like a movie. We did it, David Guetta liked it and that’s it.
When I recorded the song I didn’t even know that I was going to be on it. Then they sent me back my song, and I listened thinking it was the whole song just sung by me. I heard the rap parts and was like “Oh my God, this is Boogie. Oh my God, this is Ty Dolla.” It was a roller coaster of emotions, seriously.