Emad Alaeddin
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"Breaking Emad Alaeddin"

We all know you need a thick skin to make it in the music industry. Jordanian singer-songwriter Emad Alaeddin must have a hide like a rhino. He spent the best part of a decade in Los Angeles trying to become a rock star as lead singer of heavy rock band Avowed. He didn’t succeed. And he tried hard.

“So many times, I’ve been so close to quitting,” he says. “I spent a year living in our rehearsal space, stuck in between these speed metal bands rehearsing til, like, four in the morning. The walls were so thin. And I had to get up to be a banker in the morning. So I’ve got my rack of suits next to my guitar amps, a cheap-ass IKEA bed… And we weren’t allowed to live there, so it was a whole year of thinking, ‘I could be kicked out any time.’ There were no showers. There was a bathroom that reminded me of the opening scene of Saw – rancid, disgusting, god knows what died in there. Thank goodness I had friends in the area, so I could at least take a shower before work. Looking back, I must’ve been out of my mind.”

The band, he says, did “OK” online. “There’s this site called garageband.com where you can upload songs for people to comment and vote on and we got good ratings there.” Some of those good ratings weren’t exactly welcome, though. “We put a track called ‘Dearly Departed’ up – it’s a song where I use my higher register – and I got voted best female vocals for that week. They thought I was a girl.”

Eventually, he called it quits and decided to head home to Jordan. “Shit wasn’t going well at the bank, the band was still in the same place it had been for 10 years, people were still telling us we f***ing sucked. The industry hated us.” He grimaces. “One guy was like, ‘He has the most annoying voice I’ve ever heard.’ The feedback was so horrible. I was like, ‘Really? After all this time I’m still terrible?’”

He admits he’d pretty much given up on his music career at that point, beginning work at the new internet provider his family had set up. However, within a few months, having started doing a few acoustic club gigs, he discovered that people actually liked him. Fast-forward to the present and Alaeddin has had a video (the hooky acoustic pop track “Sunshine”) on heavy rotation on MTV Arabia, released his first solo album (Centered, on which he played most of the instruments, except for the drums) and played several gigs in Europe, with dates in London, Frankfurt and Spain lined up for next month, including a gig in a castle.

“It’s been insane,” he admits. “I got into the European circle through my college buddy Jason Manns. He’s a singer-songwriter, same style of music as me. His voice is just heaven-sent. We sang in the same a capella group in college. I moved to L.A. a year before he did, so I’d kind of established myself. He moved into the same place I was living. We heard about this online Idol-style competition and I kept telling him to enter. He didn’t want to, so I just videoed him one day playing guitar on the sofa and sent it in. He comes in second place. He’s been there three weeks and he’s already got L.A. buzzing. He gets to go to Vegas and play, and he met Ryan Seacrest and this guy Jensen Ackles, who’s one of the leads in Supernatural. They became good friends and Jason starts playing the Supernatural conventions and builds up a huge fanbase.

“When I moved to Jordan, and I’d stopped doing the hard-rock stuff with Avowed, I get an email from Jason saying, ‘Emo, we can finally do a show together. I’m in London for four days, I want you to be there,’” he continues. “And his fans have just adopted me too. It’s been crazy. This tour in March is the first I’ll do alone. I’ve been to London and Germany with Jason, but we don’t want the fans to get used to us only playing together.”

Being a solo artist suits him, Alaeddin says. “I don’t mind bands, they’re fun and they’re cool and everything, but I always enjoy it 10 times more when I’m playing by myself. I feel like I connect much better with the crowd.” And, judging from the feedback, it’s been a smart move going out on his own. Not that Alaeddin’s getting too carried away.

“I’ve spent 10 years listening to people tell me how much I suck, how it’s pointless and hopeless,” he says. “So all these cool things that are happening to me right now don’t really faze me, because I know it could go right back to that same shit situation. I really don’t take anything for granted. I’m so scared of losing all this. Yeah, I’ve been on MTV, but who’s to say that if I send them another video they won’t say, ‘This is shit?’ Everything could be gone in a heartbeat. I know that.” - Rolling Stone


"Raising the Standard"

If you don’t know who Emad Alaeddin is,
there’s a slight chance that you either
don’t own a radio, television, an internet
connection, or comparably worse, don’t
get out much. We are glad you were able
to receive a copy of this issue in a black
wrapping dropped off by an unaware
forty-seventh party to a secret location.

The “Arabic Girl” singer who flooded Jordanian radio stations
with interviews and his songs has been getting bigger and
brighter with every calculated step of dedicated work he takes.
He has released his debut album Centered, which has enjoyed
over 3,000 copies sold worldwide via tours, live shows, as well
as online and physical location outlets. Three thousand sales
might seem like small time, but in the age of internet piracy,
it’s a damn good sign of success. Honestly, if your music is
being stolen and distributed around the world through the
World Wide Web, you’re obviously worthy talent to a lot of
people!
To second this statement, Alaeddin has embarked on musical
tours where he plays tracks from Centered to raving audiences
in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the US. In addition, his
“Sunshine” music video has also enjoyed high rotation on MTV
Arabia. Fans in China and Germany have built fan pages in his
honor and have demanded his return to them so much that he
started his own online streaming channel where he plays for
them weekly as they tune in.
So what does a man with all this growing buzz do next?
Well, if you’re Emad, you keep fighting for its growth, go
philanthropic and start a charity for underfunded schools in
your home country and around the world, and keep your day
job and stay humble.
U MEN got a chance to sit down with the man himself and find
out how he became a musical success all by himself:
UM: In 2010, you decided to release your first solo debut
album; tell us how this decision affected your career.
EA: In February 2009, I moved back to Amman after my
decade-long quest in Los Angeles, and I was unsure as to
how to showcase my music. I had been performing with my
rock band, Avowed, and at first thought it would be great
to showcase those songs. After a year, there seemed to be
very little demand for the alternative rock sound that defined
Avowed from both live audiences and radio play. I had to try
something different, something I hadn’t been able to do in my
ten years with my LA rock band. There was a whole other side
of my songwriting that had the more sentimental, emotional
feel to them that had been put aside because they were of a
genre that did not match that of Avowed, one of them being
“Sunshine”.
While performing Avowed songs in Amman, I met Ruba M.
Abu Laban who is a proven figure in the local music industry.
It was only when she heard “Sunshine” and my other similar
unreleased tracks that she signed on as my manager full-time.
So the decision was made to put my past projects to rest and
focus solely on recording and releasing my first solo album,
titled Centered, by the beginning of 2010. Erik Kreft, drummer
for Avowed and longtime friend, moved to Amman for six
months to help co-produce, mix, and master the living-roomrecorded
album.
“Sunshine”, a song written back in 2003 and turned down by
Avowed, was the first single off the album and shortly after
being featured on all the major local radio stations became the
music video that was featured on MTV Arabia, a first by any
independent Jordanian artist.
It was only after the release of the Centered album that I
received a call from longtime friend and singer/songwriter
Jason Manns who had been successfully touring Europe for
years. His style very much matched that of Centered and so he
asked if I’d be interested supporting his shows in Germany and
the UK.
The other countries I toured in support of Centered were China,
Bahrain, the UAE and the US. The release of the songs that
had been locked in a vault for so many years has given me
accomplishments and success I’d never experienced before.
UM: Your European fans started a German fan club,
your UK fans followed shortly, your first ever music video
premiered on MTV, you’re touring countries left right and
centered… Looking back ten years; did you ever think
you’ll be where you are today?
EA: The decade spent in Los Angeles as a rock musician
with Avowed had been very difficult, but a great learning
experience. At one point, I was living in my rehearsal space
between other bands that would rehearse their metal music
till four in the morning sometimes. I chose to live that way
because I wanted to know what it was like to be at the very
bottom so that I could do everything I can to make sure I never
go back to that level. I’ve learned to develop thick skin and
take harsh criticism without letting it derail me; one memory
that comes to mind is when I was attacked on stage for no
reason other than they thought I was that bad. But above all,
living in the fiercely competitive environment of Hollywood
taught me modesty.
I’m very much in touch with my fans and I don’t take them for
granted because for whatever reason they may not be around
forever. I answer every message that comes my way and I stick
around after every show to sign their CDs and take pictures
with them. Most of the time, I’m spending more time off stage
interacting with my fans than I am actually performing.
But to give them the show and keep it going all over the world,
and since I can't be in Germany, the UK, China, and Jordan
at once and I have fans scattered throughout those countries
and others I decided to explore the possibility of streaming my
performances live from the comfort of my own home for all my
fans worldwide. In just three shows, my channel has racked
up 22,000 minutes and I hope that it keeps continuing to grow
with every show. Another great thing about LiveStream is I'm
able to perform for all my fans without having to leave Birdie
or Bunny, who have made numerous appearances during the
shows.
UM: A lot of the songs you write are autobiographical.
Does it frighten Emad Alaeddin to bare his soul to a crowd
of strangers?
EA: Most of the songs I write about reflect my thirst for love
and for bettering myself in every way. I happen to believe that
beneath all the unique characteristics we each possess, that
we’re all the same deep down. We all want to be loved and we
all are fragile and afraid to face this challenging world alone.
I used to hide behind the curtain of fiction and state that most
of my songs are merely stories made up. But it’s only when I
started to become true to myself and most importantly my fans
that I’ve been able to reach them on a deeper level. Of course
what is sacrificed is the sacredness of my emotional privacy,
but I’m rewarded by the assurance that I’m not alone in this
world and that thousands of others are going through the same
emotions of love, turmoil and the in-between.
UM: You’re currently working on your upcoming album
due Dec 2011, how will this album differ in style and
sound from your debut release Centered?
EA: One thing I was worried about when experiencing the
unfamiliar success of Centered was changing to a different
person, for better or for worse. I’m glad to say that I’m still the
same person who was sleeping in that rehearsal space with no
windows; a humbled, appreciative musician who has lots to
learn.
And I think that this thirst to continue learning and to be
appreciative every precious moment that comes my way
will continually be evident in my songwriting. But the lyrical
content and musical development showcased in the new album
will likely show how I’ve grown as a musician, thanks to my
extensive touring and radio appearances.
UM: With the huge success your first album gained in the
Middle East & Europe, do you feel pressured by your fans
and the industry to stick to the same winning formula? Or
are you going to experiment something new?
EA: There’s always that fear of “Do I still have it in me as
a songwriter?” and it’s quite a nerve-racking feeling. But,
I’ve recently completed two new songs “Incomplete” and
“Don’t Leave Me Here” which, when performed, have been
well-received by the fans. It’s definitely a good sign that the
sophomore album will live up to the hype. Whether it will or
not, I know that I will put my heart and soul into the album as
I’d done with Centered.
In the new album, I would like to include a cover song by one
of my favorite artists and maybe even record a duet with a
prominent singer to add a different flavor to the mix.
UM: Not a lot of people know this about you, but you’re
one of the artists who stand firmly against illegal
downloading and such. Can you elaborate and explain how
this has affected your music and your approach towards
any recent and upcoming releases?
EA: Eminem just received the most nominations at the 2010
Grammys mainly because he sold two million records, the most
by any artist this year. This grim number would have been
laughed at and considered a failure merely a decade ago, which
may be an indication that the battle is being lost. But with
hardships come opportunity, and this is an opportunity for the
industry to redefine itself. I believe that the album should be
considered a type of memorabilia and it is the ability of the
artist to perform his music competitively on stage night after
night that will determine his/her success.
The difference between albums sold after a
performance and those sold at the stores and
online is vast. An album is infinitely more
valuable when grouped with the memory of the
artist on stage and even more so if it’s signed by
the artist thereafter; which is something that can
never be contributed by an illegally downloaded
track.
UM: Let’s talk about ‘Bring Change’, you’re
going on a Europe tour in March to promote
for the initiative, how is it all coming
together?
EA: I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for
children; they are just so cute and cheerful and
full of energy. These positive qualities can truly
help develop the child into an adult that can
face the challenges of the world and overcome
them. So I decided to start a charity called
“Bring Change” that donates money raised by
attendees’ pocket change of the ‘Bring Change’
concert series as well as both used and brand
new musical instruments to schools and after
school music programs at public schools and
universities across the World.
Bring Change aims to do so through one
of two major programs: Bring Change
Students Program which benefits students at
underfunded schools and cover books and
school expenses, and the Emad Alaeddin Award Program, where talented kids voted by their schools
will receive financial help to put them through an after-school
program where they can further work on nourishing their
talent, had it be their vocals, or instrument.
In addition to the pocket change contributions, we’re hoping
to receive funding from other sources such as corporate
contributions and grants, individual contributions, and donated
musical instruments and school supplies.
I feel that if a child can enhance his musical abilities, he will be
able to translate those skills in any other field, either business
or medicine, and think tactically and creatively towards
excellence.
UM: So we know you’ll be spending long hours in the
studio prepping for the upcoming release end of this year,
you’re also promoting ‘Bring Change’ in Europe in March,
what more should we expect from Emad Alaeddin in 2011?
EA: While filming the music video for “Sunshine” I was
reminded of how great it felt acting in plays and musical during
high school and college. I would love to fit some time in to do
some film acting. In 1997, I remember my high school drama
teacher awarding me with the “Actor of the Year Award”
stating to the whole school: “Don’t be surprised if you see his
name in lights one day.” Considering that my music teacher
at the same time told me, “You’ll never amount to anything in
music,” I’ve used both statements as a tool to strive to succeed.
UM: How successful was your mission in releasing and
exposing your self-titled Avowed album?
EA: Los Angeles is a town full of failed or failing artists so to
even attempt to impress them is like trying to get someone
who has the flu excited about going to work. Success for any
band in Los Angeles is futile; one can only hope that they
can learn modesty and a few performance and songwriting
skills. I'm glad I at least achieved that and formed a band of
brothers that will forever be close to my heart. One thing I
have learned is that if you concern yourself with commercial
and financial success you'll be chasing an ever-escaping carrot.
I was pleased to have been the first and only Arab nominated
at the Los Angeles Music Awards and winning two songwriting
awards with fellow Avowed bandmate Jesse DeSanto on
Songoftheyear.com. It assured me that all the years I'd spent
learning my songwriting and performance craft hadn't gone
to waste. I must say though that I'm quite proud of the album
that we'd released; the songs are powerful and the melodies
are memorable. So from a musical standpoint it was a success.
From a commercial standpoint, the world is just not ready for
‘Avowed’ just yet.
UM: How is that success compared with the release of
Centered?
EA: The funny thing is that Centered has helped give Avowed
a push back to the light; sales have gone up tremendously
recently and it's because all the fans have listened to Centered
for months now and are looking for other material that I'd
released. Two completely different styles but at the end of
the day, it's the same voice singing with the same emotions.
I'm quite happy about that because I am very happy with the
music that Avowed created and it was difficult to watch the
album not live up to its expectations.
UM: What's the difference in working with a band to get
out there and working by yourself?
EA: Freedom. A lot of songs that I wrote were rejected by the
band because they just didn't match the style of the band.
Working as a solo artist allows me to freely express myself and
select the music that I want to release. Additionally, in such a
competitive and expensive industry as music, it's much more
profitable for booking agents and promoters to book a solo
performance rather than a whole band; there are plane tickets
to purchase, hotel rooms to book, transportation, food, etc.
which are cut astronomically when touring solo.
UM: What solid chunk of advice can you give to aspiring
artists?
EA: You mean how did I make it? Focus and time
management. Had I kept doing bar gigs performing mostly
covers as I had before recording the album, I would've
continued going nowhere. When Ruba sat me down and told
me to take a break off performing and focus on releasing a
solid album, I took her advice and canceled all shows for four
months until the album was released. One can only achieve
commercial success in the pop/rock genre if they have a
product that they can showcase to fans and industry figures,
otherwise you're just a bar band. It was only after the release
of the album that doors had opened and the more lucrative
opportunities had come to the table. Recording and releasing
an album is a true sign of an artist who is committed to his
craft and career as a musician, and this rings loudly with
concert promoters and radio stations. What sounds better? "We
have a video of me singing a cover on YouTube?" or "I have a
music video of an original track that I’ve written and produced
playing on MTV?" and when a concert promoter or events
director reads this feature of a musician, they're more inclined
to offer him/her a performance gig.
I also work during the day as Corporate Development Manager
at KULACOM, and before that I was a banker at CitiGroup
in Los Angeles. It was these lucrative jobs, that helped pay
for the expenses of being a musician (recording, marketing,
equipment, etc.). I went to college and studied economics
because I wanted a degree that would get me a job with
guaranteed income. I didn't study music because music is
something that is born inside you and that it's through years
of experience, and trial and error that the skills required to
succeed finally come out. I always hear from musicians that
"Oh I'm a musician, I'm not a desk person, I was born to
perform on stage"; in these challenging times I can assure that
if a musician does not get a solid college degree and adopt the
business life, their chances are very slim of ever making it in
the music business.
UM: But if you start making thousands or even millions
in music, there would be no reason to continue a day job
would there?
EA: As far as I'm concerned, I love my job and I've loved every
job I've ever had, even when I was cleaning tables at Marco's
Restaurant in Hollywood, and I can't see myself losing that
passion to get up in the morning, doing my job, and coming
home at night to pick up my guitar and start creating more
music. At this point in my career, I'm able to work all week
and then travel on the weekends to tour and be right back
Sunday morning to start work again. I hope I would never have
to choose one over the other, because I truly feel that they each
symbiotically help each other grow and excel. - UMen Magazine


"Emad Has Entered the Building"

You know you've rocked to at least one of Emad Alaeddin's tunes! He's been a very busy man this summer and became the first independent Jordanian artist to earn his place on MTV! Sara Assad caught up with Jordan's very own superstar. - UMen Magazine


"Emad on MTV"

Just one month after local pop rock talent Emad Alaeddin released his first music video, entitled Sunshine which was recorded around Jordan, MTV Arabia has taken the homegrown production up and is now airing it on high rotation with other international hits.

Sunshine, along with other songs which are featured on Alaeddin’s living room-recorded debut solo album Centered, isn’t the hard soul rock sound of Emad’s LA band Avowed, which he brought to Jordan to showcase in 2009. But according to the rising star, his new sound has been around for a while, it’s just newly heard.

“It's funny that everyone's calling it my new music. More than half of the songs that are on the album are up to 11 years old; I never had the chance to release [them] as they were of a different genre from the LA sound I was doing at the time,” Alaeddin, 31, says. “I'm just glad that they do appeal to the younger generations and I'm not looked as an old fart yet.”

Alaeddin is the first independent unsigned Middle Eastern artist to be added to the MTV family. The video, along with his concerts and album manufacturing has been sponsored by internet service provider Kulacom, through its initiative Local Company, Local Talent. - JO Magazin


"Emad Alaeddin is the First and Only Jordanian Featured in the Nokia Ovi Music Store"

Jordanian singer/songwriter Emad Alaeddin's album entitled 'Centered' was launched on Nokia's Ovi Music Store, making him the first and only Jordanian artist featured in the store. Nokia will also be including Alaeddin on the store's front page as the featured artist.

Alaeddin stated, "Nokia offers customers unlimited access to millions of tracks from the Ovi Music Store, and being the only Jordanian singer and songwriter amid a list of renowned artists will help launch my career from a local level to a regional one, which is a huge milestone for me in such a short period of time."

'Centered' was made possible by KULACOM Jordan as part of its 'Local Company, Local Talent' initiative that aims to support and promote Jordanian talent. The album is available for download from Nokia's Ovi Store and can be purchased at Virgin Megastores.

He added, "The album focuses on a more sensitive and transparent style of songwriting and lyricism to give my fans a better idea of who I am as a person and musician."

Alaeddin is best known for his L.A rock band 'Avowed' and summer-hits 'Sunshine' and 'Arabic Girl'. His debut album 'Centered', was recorded in Emad's home-studio and was mixed, mastered, and co-produced by fellow Avowed drummer Erik Kreft. - Al Bawaba News


"Emad Alaeddin’s ‘Sunshine’ Debuts on MTV Arabia"

Jordanian singer/songwriter Emad Alaeddin's first music video entitled 'Sunshine' will be on high rotation on MTV Arabia as of September 10th, 2010, making him the first independent artist to be part of the hip music television channel. 'Sunshine' will be broadcasted throughout the Middle East region reaching millions of viewers.

Alaeddin stated, "To finally earn a place in the music industry with the most respected music channel after a decade-long pursuit of a dream is such a great feeling of relief. Now I don't have that feeling like I have the time monster chasing after me anymore and can do what I've always wanted to do. Write, record, perform, and tour for my fans throughout the region and the world."

Alaeddin's solo album 'Centered' and 'Sunshine' music video were made possible by KULACOM as part of its 'Local Company, Local Talent' initiative that aims to support and promote Jordanian talent. 'Centered' is available on iTunes, the Ovi Store, and Virgin Megastores.

Alaeddin recently completed a successful tour in the United Kingdom, with plans to tour China, Germany and a repeat tour in the UK in October and November. - Al Bawaba News


"Alaeddin to Release New Album"

Emad Alaeddin, lead singer of Avowed (and sometime JO poster-boy) is currently putting the finishing touches on Centered, a new 14-track album set to be released on February 14.

The solo record, sponsored by the Jordanian Internet service provider Kulacom, collects a decade’s worth of songs that Alaeddin says he’d written but never recorded.

In December, Alaeddin was in the studio, working on the tracks with Avowed bandmate Erik Kreft. The songs are all acoustic, and the album will feature a remix of Alaeddin’s 2008 song “Arabic Girl,” as well as his current radio hit “Sunshine.”

The new disc sports a very different sound and sensibility than Alaeddin’s previous work. The few tracks we’ve heard so far alternate between the Jack Johnson-esque upbeat pop of “Sunshine” and a more somber, confessional ballad style that seems influenced by ‘90s indie-rock.

“It’s the closest representation of who I am as a musician,” Alaeddin says. “I laid down everything but the drums.”

Kulacom is pressing the albums and selling them exclusively at their outlets in Mecca Mall, SmartBuy, and the MABCO showroom at 8th Circle.

Centered will also be available online at iTunes and Urfilez.

- JO Magazine


"Stone Temple Pirates"

You can hardly describe three heavily tattooed, multipierced
American musicians jumping on a plane from
Los Angeles to Jordan, a country which none of them
had previously visited, as a homecoming. But there was
something about Avowed’s first gig in Amman, with the
illuminated ruins of the Citadel glowing imperiously in
the background, that felt more like a reunion than an
introduction. The camera-wielding, cigarette lighterwaving,
devil-horn-thrusting crowd seemed to know every
word of the nearly two-hour set, there were regular pleas
from the crowd for singles like “How Does It Feel”, and every
song was greeted like a long-lost friend. Kudos, therefore,
to lead singer and homeboy Emad Alaeddin’s efforts in
ratcheting up the buzz for the arrival of his best mates.
“I haven’t felt the rush like that in quite some time,”
beamed Avowed’s lead guitarist Jesse DeSanto, reflecting
on his first concert outside of America. “It was a special
event for all of us to play overlooking such history, and
about four songs into the set, it actually brought a small
tear to my eye – it was very touching.”
“That was definitely the first time I’ve played anywhere
near Roman ruins of any kind,” laughed bass player Nick LeRoux, “playing there is simply something I’ll never forget.
That was a genuine rock’n’roll moment!”
Of course, anything in Jordan involving a guitar and
maybe the odd splash of Jack Daniels – a 17-hour flight in
coach class with an immediate radio appearance at the end
requires some artificial help, apparently – would qualify
as a rock’n’roll moment. And the band did their best to
dish them out in six days of gigging and sightseeing that
might best be described as the Monkees meets Indiana
Jones. “I think we stuck out in most places,” says Nick, as he
listed stripping off for a mud wrap at the Dead Sea, being
serenaded by bagpiping Bedouins in a Jerash theatre and
diving into a mansaf dinner. “Especially me, who has the
most piercings and tattoos. There were more than a few
moments of awkwardness along the way!”
“After the show,” echoes Jesse, “we were trying to get
a taxi, and no one – and I mean no one – would pick us
up! Four guys with eyeliner on and tight rocker pants are
apparently a little more than your taxi drivers can handle!
Jerash was a trip, though. This little kid said Emad had
the face of a lion and that he ‘looked like he ate people’!
Loved that!” Add in the band’s sudden acquaintance with Jordanian driving – “Emad’s style in LA suddenly made a
lot more sense” – and the miraculous discovery that the
KFCs are not only two-storey, but that they deliver, and that
even houses in the most upscale parts of the capital will
have a few goatherds grazing on the empty land opposite,
and you have a genuine cultural exchange going on.
“I wasn’t quite prepared for all the military guys hanging
out with automatic rifles,” says Jesse, “smoking cigarettes
and text messaging! And Jordan should definitely take the
Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Tonight’s Gonna be a Good Good Night’
as a national anthem. They must have played that song ten
times a day, every day, for the duration of the trip.”
Of course, though, for three guys born and raised in the
American culture of rock’n’roll, of Motley Crue madness,
Guns’n’Roses groupies and Hanoi Rocks hairspray, one
question leaps out from the editorial team of NOX
magazine: how do the female fans of rock in Jordan compare
to the crazed legions in California? Jealous boyfriends, look
away now: “Ha! Yeah, the women in Jordan are great,” says
Nick, clearly not revealing everything about the back-stage
fun, “they’re very pretty and to my observation much nicer
and easier to get along with than those back home.” “I agree,” beams Jesse, “and I have to say I was pleasantly
surprised at the number of beautiful women floating
around town. Did I sign anything interesting? I can say yes,
but I’m not saying what! We love our fans, so whomever it
may be, I’m game to autograph anything... above the belt!”
Despite the extracurricular activities, headlining the
Kulacom Series concert at Souq Jara was the clear highlight.
And with Emad now here full time, the band members are
even seriously considering joining him in Amman to try to
conquer the rest of the region. “It’s always been my goal to
see the world through playing music, and coming to Amman
was just the beginning,” says Jesse, who has even become
a fan of oud player Dhafer Youssef since encountering the
region’s music through Emad. “Unfortunately there are some
hairy situations in the Middle East that might exclude us
from travelling everywhere, but if there are good people who
want to be entertained by four questionable yet good natured
fellows, we’re down to rock your faces off... and then gently
re-apply them so no one knows any better!
“But in all seriousness,” Jesse concludes, “being in Jordan
gave me hope and inspiration that there are places where
our music is even more appreciated than we could hope.” - NOX Magazine


"Avowed Intentions"

“I don’t think he knows about my tattoos” laughs Emad Alaeddin, walking around the winding lanes off Amman’s Rainbow Street as he lists all the rock’n’roll excesses of which his father might not exactly approve. “and I always slick back my hair and take out my nose ring when I’m home. I mean he’s really cool and everything, but I don’t want to… you know… show any disrespect. He and my mom met in San Francisco in the 1960s, so I feel fairly sure they have an idea what I get up to in California, but I don’t want to go out of my way to antagonise him!”

Back home in Jordan again, for the first time since his LA-based band Avowed emerged from the seemingly bottomless morass of rock stars-in-waiting to release an accomplished debut album and harvest a hard core of committed fans, he can be forgiven for being self conscious about his attire. Jordanian rock stars, he has learned, still have Jordanian parents. “Well, I studied economics to appease my dad, but I think he always knew that I wanted music to be my career – and it seems my good grades got me off the hook,” he says. “But I’m sure the rest of my family wished I would get a proper job; it wasn’t that long ago that rock music here was associated with Satan worship! But at least I hardly drink these days – although that’s mainly to protect my voice.”

The crunchy guitars, unorthodox riffs and throaty vocals serve up a soulful rock that triangulates the mainstream bombast of Nickleback, the post-grunge melodies of Bush and the razor guitar work of Staind – and the combination has propelled the band to local cult heroes in their adopted hometown. “I would say that the three albums that give Avowed our DNA,” Emad says, when asked, “are Alice in Chains’ Dirt, Foo Fighters’ debut album and, well, the guys are going to kill me about this one, but Michael Jackson’s Bad. Yep. That’s definitely in there, can’t deny it.”

Contrast, or at least incongruity, is something that seems to have defined Emad’s life to date: growing up with one radio station in 1980s Jordan and now playing concerts to tens of thousands of Americans over the internet; growing up with George Michael, maturing with the complex harmonies of Alice in Chains; studying economics in Virginia, moving to Los Angeles to become a musician the second he graduated; loving the anonymity of California, missing the certainties and cultural understanding of home. He even doubles his time as a rock’n’roll frontman with a job at a Los Angeles branch of Citibank.

Perhaps the biggest contrast of all, though, was at the very genesis of Avowed, when he was trying to find a guitarist for his rock band in the aftermath of September 11th. “Back in college, everyone was very interested in the whole Arab thing, and wanted to know more about it,” he says, now walking past graffiti proclaiming the merits of Jordan’s leading football club, Al Faisaly. “When I moved to LA in the summer of 2001, it was the same, with people calling up and asking where my name was from and saying, ‘Oh he’s Arab, that’s cool, that could be interesting…’ Literally a month later, September 11 happened, and it all changed.
“I kind of laid low for a little while, waited it out, and pretty quickly any hatred became curiosity. And I realised that it was better to be upfront about being an Arab instead of trying to conceal it, and then have everyone think I’ve got something to hide and assume I’m a terrorist or something. Time heals everything, I guess, and we were just like, f**k it, why hide it? People are going to find out anyway…”

Conversely, in Amman, the packs of pre-teen kids who are now staring at the curly-haired, goatee-bearded 30-year-old as we try to find somewhere for a cliché-free-but-still-locally-relevant portrait, have no idea he is even from this planet, never mind from these very streets. His other-worldly appearance, filling up an iron gate or overlooking the stone-coloured folds of Downtown Amman, merits an avalanche of hellos in English, and even his Jordan-accented Arabic responses merely prompt a renewed flurry of TV English. He immediately expresses reservations about his forthcoming interview on the Arabic radio station Sawt al-Ghad.
Meeting later before his sold-out show in the art gallery-cum-restaurant Canvas, he relates the story of a horrible half hour, trying to navigate his way through a conversation with someone who wouldn’t know AC/DC from Ace of Bass, before completely messing up blending a CD of Amr Diab’s “Tamalli Ma’ak” with Emad’s own live, unaccompanied version – which was in a totally different key. “Thankfully, I went straight into ‘Arabic Girl’ and the phones went off the hook! I’m grateful people had bothered to keep listening.”

Avowed, though, is more than a vehicle for an Arab voice in America. The Arab element – via Emad, lead singer, rhythm guitarist and principal songwriter – is real, but it’s no gimmick; there are three other musicians in this for their own rock’n’roll reasons – and none of them involve Umm Kulthoum. Co-songwriter and lead guitarist is Jesse DeSanto, with Erik Kreft on drums and percussion and Nick LeRoux on the bass. All recruited from the LA music scene, they come with their own influences and ambitions. It’s Emad and Jesse’s relationship that is pivotal in providing the Avowed sound.
“I’d put up a flier asking for a guitarist, and after about six months of false starts, Jesse calls me up, comes by the garage and from the very first note we played, we knew we had something,” says Emad. “At first, it was me bringing all the songs to the band, but eventually he started coming forward with ideas – and he comes from a hardcore Dream Theater and Pantera background – and introduced a new outlook of songwriting to me. It was offbeat, experimental and sometimes completely crazy, but it really gave us more dimensions.”

In the early days, the band was known as Third Wish, and they released three albums that they were far from satisfied with. Only since they changed their name to Avowed, and recruited Bullets and Octane bassist Brent Clawson to produce their album (he’s also worked with The Knives), have they a sound and an approach that they can call their own. “There’s always a tug of war between me and Jesse, but it’s free from egos,” Emad says. “We respect each other’s talents and ideas, and it’s all to search for this middle point that is Avowed.
“Like, he’d bring me a series of chord progressions for a song, and they would be so unorthodox that I’d wonder how I could ever sing along with them. But you learn to swallow your scepticism and give it your best, and eventually the melodies come together. ‘Make It Right’ is a great example of that.”

Of course, the Arabness isn’t completely buried. In early songs, Emad would add vocal flourishes not dissimilar to a muezzin, and there are certainly chord progressions with an Eastern flavour. He also admits to bringing tapes of classic Arab singers to rehearsal. “I call it torture time! But I guess they’re at least beginning to understand it, and they’re definitely looking forward to coming here in the summer and learning a lot more about where I’m from – and they better believe I am going to insist on playing a few Arab covers!”

The one thing they might have to work on, though, is that groupie thing. It may be some time before Almost Famous is remade in Jordan. But Emad is making a start on recreating the LA vibe in West Amman with his new pad in Dabooq, which he says he is going to “MTV Crib the f**k out of” when he moves in. “We all live in the same house in Cali, and we reward our street team (the girls who put out the fliers, go on the blogs and tell their friends about us) by inviting them over for private shows. I’d love to have that in Amman, where rock kids can hang out, play and express themselves. Okay, I might have to give up smoking, but I’d trade smoking for being a positive influence. I can’t wait to get back, man!”

- NOX


"Avowed"

WHEN JORDANIAN EMAD ALAEDDIN, lead singer of the California-based band Avowed, came to Jordan in February of this year to promote their eponymous debut album, released in August 2008, there wasn’t much of a local alternative rock scene to introduce it to. But after a run of live performances and local radio sweeps, the Avowed name and sound have left a lasting and sung-along impression on Amman’s insatiable rock fans.

There are no tidy comparisons between Avowed’s orginal sound and that of other bands, but their influences can be traced to Alice in Chains, Porcupine Tree and, as Alaeddin himself admits, Michael Jackson. Much of the album focuses on relationships, from beautiful beginnings and endings, to lessons learned, as in the songs “You and I,” “Really Over” and “How Does it Feel?” Meanwhile, tracks like “Save the Angels” and “Living a Lie” propose a deeper, yet easily appreciated outlook on the political and humanitarian turmoil in Palestine.

The ten-track album flows together well and allows listeners to enjoy excellent mastering of a unique ensemble of strings and drums, along with a soulful, gnarly elongation of the sung word.

Avowed will be playing live at Souq Jara on July 31. Wireless internet service provider Kulacom has provided sponsorship to fly the band to Jordan through its initiative “Local Company, Local Talent,” whereby it aims to supports Jordan’s growing talent base. Proceeds from the sale of Avowed merchandise, CDs and tickets will be donated directly to the Palestine Legal Aid Fund.

—Hamza Jilani

- JO Magazine


"New Sensation"

WORKING IN MUSIC IN the Arab world usually means singing the same song everyone else is singing and making a cheesy music video to go along with it—after the plastic surgeries. If you’re in the hip hop scene, it’s a dead end act you do just to pass time while your shawerma is being prepared.

But if you are Emad Alaeddin, 29, the songwriter and lead vocalist for the band Avowed, you just don’t care. All that matters is that you’re doing what you love. Alaeddin came back to Jordan shortly after Avowed released their eponymous debut album in August. Within the first week of his arrival, English radio stations like Beat FM, Play and Spin were playing “Save The Angels” and other Avowed tracks, and, according to band members, Virgin Megastore had picked up the album for distribution throughout the Middle East.

Avowed's distinctive West Coast hard rock sound blends grunge and alternative influences with soul-inspired vocals. And though it boasts clear similarities to Seattle-based soul rock bands like Maktub or Indigenous, Avowed comes with a definite LA edginess.
Though it was only formed last February, Avowed is already making its name known in the cutthroat music market of L.A.

“We perform at The Viper Room in Hollywood mainly—it’s like our second home,” Alaeddin says. “We’ve performed at other great venues like The Roxy and The Whisky. 10,000 fans have added themselves to our MySpace page in the short four months since the album’s release, and the number has been rising faster and faster.”

Their album is deliberately independent of lofty music labels, but Avowed have made good use of the web, with official pages on MySpace, iLike, iTunes and other networking sites. “Since the release of the album in August 2008, “How Does It Feel?” was awarded Winning Song for the month of August by songoftheyear.com,” Alaeddin adds. And the band is preparing for an upcoming UK tour. Easily done, says Alaeddin—next stop, Amman.

With their talent, charisma, tattoos and songs, it looks like Avowed just might have what it takes to penetrate local musical interests and give insight to struggling artists. JO seized the chance to find out exactly what made this Arab’s musical venture work.



WHERE DO YOU COME FROM, AND HOW DID YOU GET INTO MUSIC?
I was born in Amman, Jordan. I got into music from when I was a baby: as soon as I was able to speak, I was singing. When I left Jordan for college, I had it in my mind to still do music, despite getting a degree in something completely different. This was based on my mother's advice, who used to love music so much until she studied it in school where they force it down your throat and turn you against that craft. And that's the last thing I wanted.
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As soon as I graduated, I moved to Los Angeles to find and create my band. Why Los Angeles? Because it was the most competitive market and I knew that throwing myself into such a cutthroat environment like the L.A. music scene would prepare me for the rest of my musical journey.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PERFORMING IN THE US AND IN JORDAN?
When we finished the album, I first wondered how our music would be received by Amman and the rest of the region. This was because there never has been an Arab doing this kind of rock. Completely uncharted territory.

When I returned to Amman to visit my family and promote the release of the album, I was shocked at how well the album was received, by both rock fans and non-rock fans. The radio stations were so supportive and the listeners were so happy with the music that requests for the songs were an everyday occurrence. I decided to perform a small acoustic show at Canvas, where I'd play the album along with other songs and covers. In response to what the listeners heard on the radio, the venue sold out and the show lasted 2.5 hours.

And it hit me: I'm an Arab, I'm a proud Arab, and it only feels right to have Avowed's success first start from my home, the Arab World. I discussed it with the guys to focus our efforts on my home country Jordan, and they are as excited as I am to make this a band that emerges from Jordan.

There is an eager music scene in Jordan; they are so supportive of their local talent and I strongly believe that the opportunities are there to become a successful music act.

WHAT IS THE SECRET INGREDIENT THAT SUCCESSFUL BANDS HAVE THAT OTHERS DON'T?
Avowed has accomplished a lot in the few months that it has been around, but are we a success? Distribution with Virgin, and the countless messages we receive from our adoring fans seems to indicate that we are headed in the right direction. We've received messages from fans who say our music has got them through such tough times as bitter breakups, health problems, and even war. I think we have the right ingredients for success: a great album, a killer live show and, most importantly, amazing and loyal fans.

ARE YOU GUYS SIGNED?
We decided to go with supportive private investors rather than reach out to labels for the recording of the album. This was because we knew what we wanted and we feared influence from a large corporation. It was a blessing that we were able to control our creative direction with our album, and got Brent Clawson, the producer and bassist for [the band] Bullets and Octane, on board to produce the album.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR SONG IDEAS FROM?
I write a lot about past relationships, from the aspect of the great times and the times when it fails and ends. “How Does It Feel?” and “Make It Right” are songs talking about a bitter breakup, where “Livin' a Lie” is about acting like a friend to the one that you love because you know that showing your true feelings would end the relationship entirely. “Save the Angels” is a Romeo and Juliet type of love story, where a boy and girl from combating backgrounds fall in love. “More Than You Know” is about a would-be terrorist who changes his inner self by way of love.

I also write a lot about my Arabic culture. I've recently written a song called “Arabic Girl” that's about landing in this beautiful country and falling in love with an Arabic beauty. I wrote it during my fateful trip last month when I decide to move back to Amman to promote the album there. I recorded it on my last day there and it's since been mixed and will be released on the airwaves in February.

I also write about the strife of the Palestinian people. My song “Palestine” begs that Palestine should be free. Avowed's been rehearsing these songs and plans to include them in the next Avowed album, which is due by the end of this year.

WHAT’S NEXT?
Because of the success we had in December while promoting the album in Amman, I will be relocating to Amman promoting the album through radio appearances and acoustic performances. The rest of the band will be able to continue their lives in Los Angeles and will be flown out every four or five months to play the big show. I will be flying back to Los Angeles every few months to perform shows there as well.

We have also set up a tour of the UK with Jason Manns in April 2009 and even plan on putting on a big concert in Amman for the summer. - JO Magazine


Discography

2003 - Feel No Evil (as Third Wish)
2005 - Fountain of Euthanasia (as Third Wish)
2007 - The Lost Art of Conversation (as A Third Wish Granted)
2008 - Avowed (as Avowed)
2010 - Centered (Solo Album)
2011 - The Magic

Singles:
2008 - "Save the Angels and How Does It Feel?" on Play 99.6, EnergyFM, BeatFM, and Spin Jordan.

2009 - "Arabic Girl" on Play 99.6, EnergyFM, BeatFM, and Spin Jordan.

2010 - "Sunshine", "I Will Wait", "Lady", "Runaway", "Centered" on Play 99.6, EnergyFM, BeatFM, and Spin Jordan.

2011 - "Don't Leave Me Here"

2011 - "Angel & I" reached #1 on BeatFM

Photos

Bio

While in Los Angeles, Emad trained with acclaimed vocal coach Ron Anderson and was the only Arab to have been nominated for Best Male Vocals in the Los Angeles Music Awards in 2007. He's also a two-time award-winning songwriter on songoftheyear.com for his songs "More Than You Know" in '07 and "How Does It Feel?" in '08.
After spending almost a decade in Los Angeles playing in his rock band and learning the craft of vocals and songwriting, he finally felt ready to return home and launch his career from Jordan in 2009.
Ever since his return to Jordan; Emad’s debut solo album "Centered" was released became the first and only Jordanian to be a featured artist in Nokia's Ovi Music Store, where exposure to his album reached millions of subscribers. His single "Sunshine" blew up the radio waves and was in heavy rotation on MTV Arabia. It also received a very good review from ‘Rolling Stone’ Magazine.
In 2009, Emad was featured on the cover of Jordan's OC Magazine and has also been featured in both JO Magazine and NOX Magazine numerous times. He’s made radio performances to the English stations such as BeatFM, PlayFM, Spin, Energy, in addition to the Arabic stations such as Sawt El-Ghad and Sawt Amman.
Emad has also performed at several cities around the world, cities such as Amman (Jordan), Manama (Bahrain), Damascus (Syria), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Los Angeles (USA), Beijing (China), Frankfurt – Berlin – Cologne (Germany), Santander (Spain), and London (England).
In more than a decade, Emad Alaeddin has become a symbol and an idol that represents Jordan in International countries. In November, 2010 Emad started a charity called ‘Bring Change’; a charity that donates money raised by attendees of the ‘Bring Change’ concert series as well as both used and brand new musical instruments to schools and after school music programs at public schools and universities across the World.
In March 2011, Emad released a 4-track EP entitled "Don't Leave Me Here". A favorable review from Rolling Stone that commended Emad's vocals and new electric sound sparked an urge by Alaeddin to start recording his follow up sophomore album.
After spending the summer of 2011 recording in his home studio, Emad Alaeddin has emerged with a new album entitled "The Magic" which masterfully joined rocking electric guitars with soulful vocal melodies and lyrics. In preparation for the new album release, Alaeddin assembled a talented band of musicians and vocalists to bring "The Magic" to life on stage.?