Abby Ahmad is an enticing musician whose name you may have heard in the past couple of months. Her charming musicianship and sense of tonality brings an artist on the rise to our ears. Ahmad who is currently sharing her noteworthy and dreamy new single "Because," is set to release her new video for the track in the next week, and we couldn't be more excited. We had the honor of catching up with Abby Ahmad as she dives into the past, present and future.
Listen to "Because" here: https://soundcloud.com/abbyahmad/because/s-f2Nzv
When you are writing music, what comes first, the music or the lyrics?
My songwriting process most often begins with a riff or chord pattern on an instrument. From there, I improv a vocal melody to sit on top of it, starting with syllable sounds, then adding free associative words. I use the voice memo app on my phone to capture these beginning stages and then I act like a translator. While listening back, I decipher rhythms, words, and messaging. From there, I begin to edit, building metaphor and rhyme. This is the way I’ve written songs my entire life. Interesting, considering the fact that I was a poet before I became a songwriter. Recently, I’ve been trying to return to writing lyrics separately again in order to change up habitual patterns and unlock new channels.
What is the inspiration and aspirations behind the latest single release?
The evolution of the song “Because” has spanned years and has shape shifted many times. The song itself is an anthem for present-tense living. To not get caught up in the desperation of results, but to communicate in both art and life with clarity, endurance, and patience. It is a reminder to inhabit the moment you are in. It was written 6 years ago and we’ve recorded many iterations over time, none of which felt complete. This single release marks a culmination of those many years of stripping and rebuilding the arrangement and production. It has been a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of its message: Stay authentic to your vision and don’t get caught up in the amount of time it takes to see it to fruition. That being said, it is thrilling to be finally releasing new music after a long hiatus. “Because” is the first out of the nest and I’m learning so much from both the flap and the flail.
Can you tell us about the new video? How did the concept come to life?
It’s definitely an homage to the nostalgia of old home videos from the 1980s. My father documented so much of my childhood on his VHS video camera. My sister and I would watch these tapes incessantly as kids. Sometimes, he would hook the camera up to the TV so we could watch ourselves as he filmed. This helped shape me as a performer, as it was a very early lesson in self character study, which is an awareness I bring now to the stage via music and theatre. In the spirit and necessity of DIY, which we employed for the recording of this album, I thought it would be an interesting challenge to teach myself to compile and edit video. I started collecting footage on my cell phone of myself walking though different parts of the city. I then built upon the archive with both concrete and abstract footage of myself and my environment. These disparate vignettes represent the many shades of our memories. Sometimes literal, sometimes allegorical. Sometimes, clear, sometimes crude. It is a collage of both the conscious and subconscious.
What is the ultimate inspiration when penning the tracks, especially on the new record?
My new songs have a heavy focus on the collective human experience of how our emotionality gets processed and manifested. These songs are expressions of how we inhabit the vast spectrum of our feelings, and how they shape our identity, security, and relationships to others. They are also about my education regarding new concepts used to balance these varying emotions. I explored diverse mediative and psychological practices as I composed the songs for the new record. These principals are built into the foundation of many of them.
Do you produce and record your own records, or do you head into the studio?
My past two records were recorded in formal studios. I enjoyed both of those experiences immensely. This time around, in the wake of struggling finances, we took the independent route. Myself and my husband/musical partner Mark Marshall tackled the entire production, performing, engineering, and releasing process on our own. My parents had asked us to dog/housesit in Pennsylvania while they went on vacation. We considered this a divine opportunity to convert my old childhood bedroom into a recording studio. There was great catharsis in that, as many of these new songs focus on my personal history and memories. We definitely channeled a special authentic energy in that space. The remainder was recorded at our home in Brooklyn which houses its own magic and memories.
What are your key musical goals for the end of the year?
Both myself and Mark are working musicians, so the end of the year holds a mix of our own shows/musical deadlines and touring in bands with other artists, as well as private teaching. We’ll continue to traverse the slow and steady route to releasing more music for both my project and our blues band Fife & Drom (www.fifeanddrom.com). We’re also looking forward to returning to the UK early next year, so in the midst of solidifying details for that. As the year winds down, I also find it important to take time for restoration. Self care, quality time with loved ones, and non-work related activities are essential for creating balance in this extremely inconsistent lifestyle and career path.
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