After wowing a TV audience of millions as a contestant on The Voice Israel in 2013, which she went on to win, American Israeli-Palestinian singer-songwriter Lina has gone on to have millions of YouTube views and has a growing army of fans around the world, with a few celebs including Alicia Keys, being among them. Having just released her new single, the star is now on tour in the UK supporting chart-toppers Little Mix, and ThisIsTheLatest caught up with her to chat tour highlights, social media and the power of dreaming big.
TITL: Hi Lina. First of all, I’d like you to introduce yourself in a few words please. What would you say your unique selling point is?
Lina: I love music – I can’t live without it. I’m a very hard working dreamer and that’s it. I’m a US born, Palestinian blood and Israeli citizen who is a singer-songwriter.
TITL: You first came to public attention after winning The Voice Israel. How has life changed for you since that moment?
L: Completely. When I started on The Voice, I was still in my first semester of university, studying biology as I wanted to be a doctor. After The Voice, I quit to focus on my music and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I toured Israel and for the last few years, I’ve been focussing on the UK market. I’ve been signed by my amazing manager who owns a label and I’ve since gone on to support Queen and Adam Lambert, Will Smith and now Little Mix, so it’s been amazing.
TITL: Do you think you’ll ever go back and finish your degree or is it music 100% for you now?
L: Hell no. It’s music all the way for me now, definitely. There’s no way I’d go back to university.
TITL: You’ve already earned yourself a number of A-list fans including Alicia Keys and Will Smith, but which band or artists’ support/admiration would you most like to receive and why?
L: The list is SO LONG. Let’s say right now I would love to get the support of Ed Sheeran. He’s such a phenomenal song-writer and performer and artist. I would love to be noticed by….this is such a tough question! I wish Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were still alive and Eminem. Every time I say Eminem, people are like “Really?” I know a lot of his songs by heart and whenever I’m angry or needing some motivation, I just play his albums so yeah…those four for now.
TITL: I have to say I was not expecting you to say Eminem either…
L: Like, why? Am I too cute? (laughs)
TITL: You’re currently supporting chart-toppers Little Mix on their arena tour. How did that invitation come about?
L: My management is familiar with their management and they sent them some of my performances and songs; things that I’d written or co-written and they liked it. They thought I was very suitable to support Little Mix so yeah, that was it…
TITL: How are you finding the tour so far? Any favourite moments or highlights?
L: Every show is amazing. I just told Leigh-Anne from Little Mix that their crowd is fantastic. They are so supportive and so loving. On and off stage; all over social media – they’ve been the best. I think every time I listen to the crowd singing along, it’s phenomenal. Those moments are my highlights every night.
TITL: For those who have never seen or listened to you before, what can they expect from your set?
L: You can expect to see many sides to my personality. I start the show with a ballad on the piano – my custom made pink Lina piano which I’m still very excited about – and then I perform “Can’t Keep Falling” which was number 1 on iTunes Israel and number 4 on the Music Week Chart. There’s a bit of dancing and I do a special version of “Symphony” by Clean Bandit, with an ethnic spin. I think what comes next is the favourite part of my set for the Mixers – I do a cover of “Hair” by Little Mix but as a very, very emotional ballad. I then close out my set with my new single “I Wore It Better” at the end of which, I take my red sweater off and throw it to the crowd. On the last couple of shows, people have been coming towards the stage just specially for that moment – to try and catch my sweater. If you come to one of the shows, you’re going to have so much fun; I promise!
TITL: Which of your songs would you say is the most well received on this tour?
L: People really seem to be liking the new single, yeah, but even when I start the show with my ballad on the piano, which is called “Forget”, the crowd just goes crazy, and I never expected that because, you know, they’re Little Mix fans and I think I thought they’d like more of the up-beat pop songs.
TITL: Has being on this run of shows with the girls got you thinking about maybe doing your own headline tour here in the UK in the near future?
L: Of course yes, that’s the dream. I hope that it will happen soon. The album drops at the beginning of 2018 and is called Walking On A Tightrope so hopefully some tour plans can be made in support of that.
TITL: Can you actually walk on a tightrope?
L: Not yet! (laughs) But I will try to do it on my own tour.
TITL: You mentioned earlier that you’ve toured with Queen and Adam Lambert, but you’ve also performed at number of festivals all over the world, so if you could put together your dream show line-up, with four bands or artists who can be living or dead, would you most like to stage a stage with?
L: Freddie Mercury for sure. I would learn so much from him. Watching Queen on stage and being with them backstage was like a dream come true and I learned so, so much, but I think that if Freddie was there, it would have been insane. I think he’s the best performer the world has ever seen. Him and Michael Jackson…
TITL: Can you imagine a mash-up of those two?!
L: Oh my gosh! (laughs) Let’s see, who else? Beyonce, of course – she’s like my queen for ever and ever. Taylor Swift who is the queen of pop and Eminem. That’s it. I got all the music genres in there I think!
TITL: Just imagine the collaboration you could come up with on stage…
L: I can surprise everyone. I can rap, I can be classical, I can be pop, I can be rock…that’s why I love the stage so much. You can be whoever you want.
TITL: Taking into account the millions of YouTube views your performances on The Voice alone received, to what extent has social media impacted your career and how much of a vital tool do you believe it to be for bands and artists in this day and age?
L: Social media has a lot to do with my career, and my life too. I’ve grown up with social media and can’t even remember a time before it, or what life looked or felt like before it was around. I think that I wouldn’t get or have the recognition I do in the international market if it wasn’t for Alicia Keys sharing one of my videos. That helped a lot and people getting to know me and my music through the tour with Queen and Adam Lambert had a big impact as well. A lot of people get to know me; who I am, what I like, the music I make…all through social media. I try to do my best to show the real me to everyone. I share both the personal and professional sides of me and I try to connect and communicate with everyone on social media. I just think it’s very important and has a great impact, not just on my own career but everyone’s.
TITL: Do you think we as a general society, need we be just every-day people or artists such as yourself, are too reliant on social media? Do you think you’d be able to promote yourself and your music in the way that The Beatles and others had to back in the day and still be as successful?
L: I don’t think that’d be possible today. The biggest artists in the world right now can’t beat The Beatles’ record sales or popularity in that way. But that’s how life is right now. When The Beatles rose to fame in the 1960’s and started selling their millions of records, if you look back to 20 years before that, the way in which music was created and promoted was again totally different. I can’t even explain it properly. It’s as if every era has created or developed its own way of making bands and artists popular, need it be through a focus on touring or regularly releasing music.
Artists do what they have to do – that’s how it’s always been and how I believe it’ll always be. I wish I could have a career like artists did in the old days – when music was more focussed on the voice, on the performance and what you delivered as an artist. Today you have to have the full package; you have to look good all the time as you have no idea who is going to take photos of you, you have to be nice to everyone, you have to deliver on both social media and the stage, both personally and professionally. It’s tough, but I’ll do it gladly because every time I go on stage, I think “Yeah, it’s all worth it.”
TITL: What does the rest of the year have in store for you? What happens after the Little Mix tour is over?
L: We are in contact with another very big artist and I might join them on their tour. Aside from that, I’d like to do a tour of my own and of course, I have my album coming out next year too.
TITL: Away from music and away from the media attention, what do you like to do when you’re just being you?
L: The first thing I love to do is sleep. I love to sleep and then Netflix and chill and have a great time with my family and friends; I don’t care where.
TITL: What have you been watching on Netflix lately?
L: Reign and The Tudors. I love anything connected to royal history. Even now on tour, I just ask my tour manager Serena, every time we’re near somewhere that has a castle, like in Scotland, if we can stay in one.
TITL: Finally then, where would you like to see yourself 5-10 years from now and what’s your ultimate ambition as an artist? What would you most like to be remembered for in terms of your music?
L: When they ask me what I want to be remembered for in the Middle East, I usually say that I want my music to be so good that no-one ever bothers to ask me about my political views, but here, no-one cares about political views from the Middle East and so I would say I want to be remembered for making good music that people loved to come and see performed live. That’s a very big deal for me; the idea and the fact that there are people out there who spend their hard-earned money to come and see me. That’s exciting and heart-warming for me, but I think sometimes people take that – meaning the support they get from fans – for granted. I want to touch the hearts of as many people as possible with my music. In 5 to 10 years, I want to see myself touring the whole world as much as possible.
TITL: You’re ambitious; I like that.
L: Yeah, I told you I’m a hard working dreamer. I always tell people “You can dream for free…so dream as big as possible.” Dream big – and if it doesn’t work out, dream less big, but NEVER stop dreaming.
You can catch Lina on tour with Little Mix now. A list of remaining dates and venues, as well as ticket information can be found here. For more information on Lina, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Instagram.