Why X Factor winner Hamza Hawsawi wants to "influence the world"
Hamza Hawsawi won the fourth season of The X Factor Middle East in 2015, winning him a record deal and a trip to London to meet Simon Cowell. With a new single out ("Love A Little") and an opening slot for Justin Beiber's Purpose World Tour date in Dubai on May 6th, the Saudi Arabian singer talks about the competition changed his life.
How did you get into music?
Music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. It was a part of me growing up with my family and my cousins, we always loved music as part of our daily entertainment. We grew up listing to Michael Jackson and Prince and loads of other artists. Singing and dancing became second nature to me.
Did you have any family member who were professionally involved?
No, it was always just for fun, until I got involved.
What was it like to compete in The X Factor?
Until The X Factor I’d never actually won anything in my life, so to actually win it was unforgettable. When I did the auditions I had no idea whether I would even pass the first stage; I just knew I wanted to do my best and perform the best. I said to myself, If the audition ever goes on TV I want people to say, 'This sounds amazing'. When I got selected it was unbelievable. After passing the first stage I had to make a decision, either quit my job and pursue the competition or continue with the day job. I took the plunge and went for the nine weeks. It was a lot of work and stress, performing each week, but that’s the the kind of stress and pressure I like. I love music.
What was the daily schedule like there?
You'd wake up at 6.30am, go first to the stylist and choose your clothes, then to the the studio to choose the song and train the vocals. After that, it would be straight to the dance studio and get the routine down for that week. You'd get to bed at 1am and the whole thing would start again the next day.
What’s life been like since then?
With it came a lot of exposure. It gave me more responsibility and made me want to work harder. I suddenly had a lot of eyes on me, a lot of expectations, and people waiting for me to drop a track. I really had to focus on my career and music.
It opened a lot of doors?
Absolutely. Being Saudi and being from the Middle East, but singing in English, people never know whether to take you seriously or not. Winning the show really showed people that we can have good talent and good music in English, coming out of our region. It gave me more credibility, so it gave us something to nurture and I hope it gave Arabic artist singing in a different language more respect.
What’s the first album you bought?
The first one was Millennium by the Backstreet Boys and my favourite track was, "Show me the meaning". I grew up listening to that group. It was kind of my second introduction to pop music, after Michael Jackson of course.
Tell us three Arabic and three English artists that have influenced you
In Arabic it would be Umm Kulthum, Abdul Haleem Hafez and Warda Jazairia, these were played around the house when I was a child. The English artists would be Michael Jackson, Prince and Boyz II Men.
Which artist do you follow these days?
Frank Ocean is one of my favourites, along with Miguel [Jontel Pimentel] and Daniel Caesar.
Who would you like to get on stage with?
Usher, I’d love that and John Legend, he is incredible, Adele would be amazing.
Do you tend to put across a political or ideological message in your music, or keep neutral?
I’m not into politics; what matters to me is the human side. I concentrate on the messages directed to a person, rather than political. The messages thin my music go straight to the human side, you can’t go wrong there. I don't like to start any kind of controversy, and that works out well for me. There is no hope in politics, it’s like the good never wins. For me, nothing will ever change in the world unless we change ourselves. That's the message I target. It’s really within us, that energy will manifest. That's the way artists can influence the world. It’s an important platform to be on.
You and Dean Squad are opening for Justin Bieber on May 6th. Have you met them?
I haven't met them but we've been in contact on social media and online. We’re all very excited to play the gig and get to know each other. I'm very excited to share the stage to perform and get new fans.
Tell us about your new single
It’s called "Love a little" written and composed by myself and [English songwriter and producer] Max Herman. We recorded it at Metropolis Studios in London and Max produced it.
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Hamza Hawsawi plays the Autism Rocks Arena on May 6. For tickets visit 800tickets.com