Oozing with confidence, Rotana’s debut Demo Love Series is a glorious celebration of carefree, embracing self-expression and freedom. Bursting with brooding pop hooks and seductive from start to finish, we breezed through some questions to discuss the release, filming on a whim and how she avoids the negativity of L.A pressures.
EP: Hey Rotana! Let’s start from the beginning. How did you first discover your love for music? What were your first steps into the industry?
R: I can’t even remember not singing, so I guess like most people, I discovered music when I was child that couldn’t remember. It’s always carried me and been there for me. But it wasn’t till I left Saudi Arabia and moved to LA that I began to pursue music as a career. A pop writer named Jesse Thomas came to one of my showcases and asked me to join her in one of her writing sessions and that was kind of how this all started.
EP: ‘Demo Love Series’ focuses on sexuality – especially within your videos and lyrics – what influenced you to discuss this in your music?
R: ‘Demo Love Series’ is about freedom. It’s about love and heartbreak, which is so unoriginal in ways but a revolution to me in others. I allowed myself to just fucking be a human and not a Saudi human. I wrote about the shit that is the same in all of us. It’s also about freedom because every song on this series is in the form it was the day it was written. Not tuned, mixed, mastered or even done with the writing. In a time where everything is so carefully curated, here is a messy truth of mine.
EP: Who, or what inspires you?
R: Sade, Alaanis Morisette and the Arabic singer Fairuz. Life is what inspires me outside of music. My own life. It’s such a trip this thing we’re doing here on earth. I can’t believe it at moments. There is so much joy, pain, loathing, awe, satisfaction, and craving. It’s a shit show. That is what inspires me.
EP: What challenges have you come across when trying to make it as an artist in Los Angeles?
R: I would say the biggest thing is just remembering to remember that no one actually knows what the fuck they are doing and that it’s my job to listen to my gut and shut out the noise.
EP: What do you want your audience to take away from Demo Love Series?
R: I call this a series rather than an EP, and I want people to be encouraged to show their work and their process and not wait for perfection.
EP: ‘Crime’ looked like a laugh to shoot! What was the shooting process like?
R: I was just a bit high one day and thought of the idea of making out with a monkey and I called my friends and we made it in an afternoon. Lol…nothing too deep here.
EP: Do you ever feel any pressure from the media to appear a certain way?
R: No. I don’t feel pressure anymore from anything. People want me to be a Saudi woman freedom fighter but I’m just a girl going through life. That’s the revolution.
EP: From an outsider’s perspective it looks like attitudes are changing in Saudi and there’s a greater focus on equality. What do you think this will mean for music in the country?
R: Music is going to definitely become a part of our culture in a way it has never been which is so, so exciting. I have no idea how long it will take for me to get on a stage in Saudi and rock it, but hopefully soon!
EP: How does live music fare in Saudi? Is there a music scene of any kind?
R: No, it does not exist – yet! We had our first concert a few months ago, before that there was no music shows or anything of the like in public.
EP: What’s been your career highlight so far?
R: Meeting my incredible collaborators JP Saxe, Carrie Haber, Hayley Gene Penner. It’s priceless to meet people you love and love to create with.
EP: To wrap things up, what do you hope to achieve with your music? What can we expect from you in the future?
R: I want my music to tell a story of a girl that lived beyond perception and expectation. I want to own my body and use it as my navigation system and inspire other people to do that.