Evolution is what defines Naila’s artistic career; letting her art speak for itself and carry with it its quest for depth, purpose and meaning.
As both an artist and singer/songwriter, Naila’s latest single ‘Lonely Tower’ is evocative, colourful and lush, including many textures in the sound.
Lonely Tower tackles the nuances of the journey to finding power and love within oneself – to believe that you are ultimately magic, according to a release by Radical. Her career began with a series of collaborations with Montreal-based music producer Ash, yielding hit singles such as “Give a Little”, “Coward”. In 2019, Naila released her first EP with Denmark based label Heku Blue Records, and since then has embarked on her musical journey from her home in Cairo.
In the creation of a visual language for the music, the portraits shot by Cairo-based photographer Mena Assad showcase Naila as a raw and real subject, in a solitary place of comfort and security; symbolizing strength and resilience.
Egyptian Streets spoke with Naila to know more about the rising talent and her journey as an artist in Egypt.
How do you prepare yourself each day? Do you have a routine or meditation you do as an artist?
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I find that the best way for me to create art is when I am able to find my peace during the day. I like to start my day by doing a little yoga, reading a few pages of my book, doing my skincare, and keeping the rest of my day organized, neat, slow and introspective, which helps me to carve my own space to start creating.
It’s harder to create art when I feel messy, unproductive and when I feel like my ego is taking over, because once the ego takes over, it hinders your growth as an artist and you find yourself constantly criticizing your work. You have to always try and keep yourself in a conscious state of mind.
Where does your overall determination or drive to do art come from, other than it being your passion?
Creating art, whether it is through painting or music, has always come to me naturally growing up, as I always resonated closely with both of these art fields. I also believe that we all have some sort of purpose in life, and so if there is a reason that I was given a voice, perhaps it is to channel it for those who cannot use their own voice, challenge norms and create healthy conversations, or simply even lift someone’s mood and give them a good time.
A lot of people sometimes question why I choose to be a recording artist rather than a live performer, but I find comfort in being a recording artist because I want people to individually enjoy the song. It makes me feel very blessed that I am able, through my music, to brighten someone’s day and boost their energy.
Through my artwork, I love to challenge rules and norms, because with art you have the license to talk about taboos in subtle and implicit ways, which paves the way for me to spark important conversations on norms, traditions and social constructs.
What was the creative process like in recording and writing “Lonely Tower”? Can you describe it from beginning to end
The creative process started after meeting very talented young producers and musicians: Issa and Assouad as producers (@issaabdassouad), and Novo (@itsnovo) who is an artist and producer. We were in contact for the past couple of years but we never met, so I went to their studio and we sat and talked for a while, and then spontaneously I said “let’s try to organically create a song together and just see where it goes.”
Novo began with the first melody, and instantly when I heard it I came up with the first verse, and then it flowed naturally from there. It took a few sessions but the essence of the song was already there in the first hour of our meeting, and that’s usually what happens when you have good chemistry with a producer, because then you are able to create the song from the very beginning and not have it turn into a very long and tedious process.
The creative team also gave me the freedom to create and be open, which is quite rare because your’re usually in a very vulnerable state when you’re completely relaxed, genuine and open to create the lyrics and the music, so I was very happy that this happened with ‘Lonely Tower’.
I also usually let my songs flow and grow organically on the spot, but once it’s done, I look back and realize that it was not completely random and reflected the current state of where I am in life. Later I also began to realize that my music acts as my teacher; it’s not me who controls it, but it’s the one that ends up controlling me and teaching me something new about myself or where I am in life. I was really happy that the song ended up with an empowering message, and I hope that this message of empowerment also resonates with all it’s listeners.
How long did it take for you to find your own sound? And has your songwriting or ideas on music and art changed over the years?
I think finding your sound can take a whole lifetime, because it’s very evolutionary and it’s a constantly evolving process. Once you think you’ve found it, you turn back to find a new one and then lose the other one, and so it’s really more of a journey that never ends. I’m still very far away from finding my own sound, because I still feel like I am in the beginning of my musical journey, and it was only a late discovery to start making music, so I am very much at the tip of the iceberg at the moment.
I spent many years being very strict with myself – trying to decide what’s my sound or style, but I realized that it will always evolve with own natural evolution in life. The more you grow, the deeper you become and the more you become exposed to other things in life, and so I’ve learned to accept that change is constant. I want to let this evolution control me and give me the freedom and space to learn more about myself.
And the more we evolve, the more our ideas also evolve with us. There could be a phase where I am more drawn to dance music, or I want to strip it down and get more acoustic. So, my next song will be much slower than the previous songs I’ve released, because it reflects my current phase in life and wanting to go much slower and removing all the noise.
What advice would you give to young people who, like you, are trying to break into the creative industry in Egypt?
My advice would be to trust your gut and to follow your intuition because it will always lead you to the right place. Don’t do it from a superficial view, but find who you are beneath the noise, the programming, and the social constructs. If you have any beliefs you want to share or a certain message you want to share, then share it, and if there’s something you have that can serve or help others, even if it’s not applauded by many, go ahead and do it.
Always follow your truth, because there’s a reason you’re drawn to it. You’re the creative person and with the creative mind, so if there is something that you are sure of and love, there is no right or wrong, and this is the beauty of being in the creative industry, because if you believe in it, then others will believe in it with you.
How does your family feel about your career?
A lot of people have asked me whether my family have an issue with my art or music, especially because my pieces are quite provocative, but I’ve never had an issue and always felt supported by them. If anything, my parents are extremely proud that I’ve channeled my creativity in a way that I’ve deemed productive and healthy for myself, and they’ve always known that I was drawn to art as a child, so I definitely feel very lucky that I have their support by my side.
What do you hope to accomplish in your career and in your lifetime?
I never had a plan. My life has always evolved and unfolded organically, and so I want to continue keeping the momentum and see where it goes.
I truly believe that accomplishment is about living in the present, and as long as you’re truly living the present moment, then that’s an accomplishment on its own.