What’s your earliest musical memory?
Oh, I have one! The first memory I have is my mother singing, ‘Big Big World’ by Emilia. She sang it to me all the time so I could fall asleep. So that’s the song with a lot of good memories.
How did you get into playing music?
I remember we were at a family friend’s house and they had this piano and I would always sit and play, not play good stuff but... My mom was always trying to put her kids into activities so when she saw me playing piano she was like, “Ok, we’re buying this piano.” So we bought it, and I didn’t take any lessons but I just kept playing cover songs that I taught myself on YouTube. And that’s how I learned chord progressions, so I think that’s how it all started.
So do you compose on piano?
Yeah sometimes I do. In the beginning I would do it all by myself, but now I have more opportunities to work with great producers and musicians.
What was your path to taking up music professionally?
People would always tell me, “You should go on Idol and those TV shows,” but I was always like, “No, I don’t wanna go that way.” This sounds kinda crazy to say, but I’ve always felt like if music is what I’m meant to be working with then the universe will somehow put it together. And it’s insane but it has. So the year I finished high school I signed with GR:OW Records – which are the people I’m with now – and I just found out that this is what I want to do. It felt really right.
Who are your biggest musical heroes?
I would say Kanye West. His sound is... I can’t explain but it really gets to me. And his lyrics.
A lot of artists of shy away from politics for fear of alienating audiences, and yet you’re not afraid to ask difficult questions. Why is that?
I read this book about Kanye West, and he said that people always tell you not to sing about politics, and don’t sing about religion. But then he also made ‘Jesus Walks’ – which is all about religion – and it got played on every radio station and all the people sang to it at concerts, even non-religious people. So that’s one thing, and the other thing is I feel like this is the right time to sing about politics. And also if you listen to my lyrics I’m not really trying to push my meanings upon people I’m just more of the type of person who would observe, or listen to stories that my mom or friends would tell me or friends, and then I write from that.
Can you tell more us about the song ‘New Generation’?
Wow, that song is a result of many, many things. It all started with my mother telling stories of her childhood and how when she went to sleep she would always stare at the roof and think, “I don’t know if this roof is gonna fall on my head when I wake up,” because it was war in Iran. So that’s what inspired me. You can hear it in the lyrics: the first sentence is, “My momma would hear bombs drop.”
The pervading message of the song seems to be that young people will change the world?
Yeah, that we will make a change. I get really inspired by my friends. I think they’re really good people, open-minded and they’re really reflective. And that’s what I believe of our generation: we are the ones that will make a change. We will love each other and build bridges.
I don’t know if you saw this, but Cher tweeted this thing where she said something like, “These old people gotta die soon so young people can take charge.” That was kinda accurate. (Laughs) That’s what I’m thinking of myself.
Can you tell us more about ‘Paper Paper’?
So the story behind ‘Paper Paper’ was basically we went on a school trip to Nice in France, and one day we went to Monaco. We were outside a casino, and obviously there were a lot of ferraris outside, and then suddenly this man came over to me from nowhere. He was just like, “Your clothes are ugly.” I was like, “What?! Who are you?” (Laughs) And I don’t know why but that triggered a feeling inside of me and that’s how ‘Paper Paper’ started. He kind-of is inside of the song, because I say this thing where he says, “You’re not wearing a new dress.”
Can we expect more new material soon?
Yeah, there is a lot of new material coming out in the near future, so stay tuned!
What can we expect from the new songs?
The new material will be different. One thing about me is I don’t have to stick to one genre or one topic or whatever. I just like to do what I feel like doing.
What’s your plan for the rest of the summer?
I will come to London pretty soon but for the rest of the summer I’m playing concerts, really. I know that I have this one concert coming up – which will be my first headliner concert ever –on the 4th November in Oslo. So I would be very happy if you could come to the show!