Meet singer-songwriter, Esther Eden
I'm Esther Eden, a 22-year-old singer-songwriter. I was born in Goa and raised in Dubai.
Currently, I'm in my third year studying for a BA in songwriting in Berlin, Germany, and I've been there for two years. I’m also releasing an EP at the moment here in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which I did in collaboration with other students from my university. I even brought my guitarist with me to the UAE from Berlin.
After high school, I decided to apply to NYU, Abu Dhabi, but I didn't get in because it's really hard to get accepted there. Out of 10,000 student applicants, they will only choose 300 or so. So, of course, I needed to think of Plan B. One day, my mom browsed for a university online without letting me know. She told me that she found this university called BIMM based in the UK with five branches, two of which are located in Berlin and Hamburg. I've been to the UK before, and it's all right for me. However, going to Berlin was an awe-inspiring moment for me, and I fell in love with the city right away. I decided to go there.
How did you get started in music?
My mom, a single mother, used to be a jazz singer. She worked as a singer with a full-time job as a bank employee. She used to sing all the time, and at first, I didn't enjoy music, but I knew that I loved dancing back then.
When I was 13, my dad gave me my first guitar as a gift. I learned to play it all by myself, and I started uploading Youtube videos as well. With the support I got, I enjoyed doing it and decided to keep going. My mom kept pushing me to be the best I could be, and she said that if I don't write my own music, I shouldn't be doing this.
I wrote my first song titled Is this love?—it's not about someone in particular, it’s like being a teenager, and you don't know what's happening in life. It's like being unable to define what that feeling is.
Coincidentally, a week later after writing my first song, a famous UK pop star was scheduled to visit my school. My mom told me to sing my song in front of her. But when I went to school and asked the teachers, they asked me to organise most of the music events that day. We did a few group performances, and I helped other students to sing. However, I was told by the school management to do some covers only, so I'm not allowed to sing my original song. I think I only played my song to two other students who were good friends of mine and they all supported me to sing it in front of the pop star. I went to the RJ's Kris Fade and Big Rossi, but they were running out of time. “I don't think we could allow you on stage,” they said. As soon as the pop star finished her performance on stage, the DJs announced: “Oh, I know we're running out of time, but we have a 16-year old girl who has a song for you.” I went to the stage, shaking. I started singing. When I reached the chorus, that pop star stopped me in the midst and told me to start the song and dance all over again so she can record it on her phone. It was an exhilarating moment, and I said yes, and I did it again. After concluding my song, she told me, “I loved your song so much. Would you like to perform it at the Redfest tonight?”
Tell us about your first performance at Redfest DXB
The RedFest was a big event with an audience of 10,000 people. It was crazy. I transitioned from performing in front of all my classmates at school, teachers and people I see every day, to performing for a huge audience. The amazing UK pop star believes in me; she supports me. She gave me a really nice introduction, and she let me sing in between her set.
How would you describe your sound
Many people ask me this question, and I find it difficult to answer because I listen to different genres. Obviously, I was first inspired by jazz because of my mom. I also learned to enjoy other genres, with the exception of metal and techno. Right now, I’d categorise my music into pop music with a touch of jazz because I have a jazzy voice in a way. But yes, I like to make my music to be inviting to all kinds of people who are into different genres.
What inspires your music?
When it comes to people, of course, my mom inspired me. I was also inspired in particular by a popular UK pop singer-songwriter and guitarist, and his first album gave me the inspiration to learn and play the guitar. The UK pop star who I’ve met at our school event also inspired me to pursue songwriting. When she asked me to perform again in RedFest, I was thrilled because she believed in my talent. I don't really need to listen to what people have to say sometimes. At that moment, I decided that I'm going to continue songwriting.
What should students do about bullying?
They should talk to someone about it. When I was bullied online, I felt like I couldn't trust anyone, and I blocked everyone out. It even reached the point where I needed to change schools. It was a good decision because I've made friends that I really appreciate and I still keep in touch with them even when three or four years have passed.
Many students go through bullying and it's sad that the perpetrators and most bystanders don't understand how bullying affects the bullied. No matter how many anti-bullying campaigns there are in schools, I don't think that most kids will appreciate and understand these campaigns. Instead, students should be talking to their friends, parents, teachers or someone who will listen to them. I didn't even realise that I was being bullied until my mom explained it to me.
Who inspires you?
When it comes to songwriting, my life is my inspiration. I always write songs based on my own experiences. I even have a song about bullying. I like to write lyrics that are positive and motivating.
What's the dream?
I have a lot of interests: food, travelling and of course, music. My dream is to do a world tour, and then I can eat all the food I want, meet different kinds of people and get to know their stories. I love meeting new people, listening to their stories and experiencing different cultures. Doing what I love like performing and making people happy all around the world—that's my dream.
What's your favourite song and why?
It's quite hard for me to pick a favourite song because all of them are so personal to me. I could say Just Fine, it was the second song I wrote, which was about bullying. Every time I sing it, my mom cries. I'm in the midst of releasing my newest EP called My Own Way. It is all about whenever someone walks away from you, and you get to realise your self-worth and how to love yourself. Of course, all my songs are based on personal experiences. If someone wants to walk away from you, that's fine. You have to go your own way. I feel like the lyrics are quite bold, with a bit of attitude and have words that I wouldn't necessarily say in person or real life. I kind of speak my mind in a subtle way.
What's the best thing about being a singer-songwriter?
The best thing about being a singer-songwriter is getting your songs to be heard.
I started recording my first album, Solitaire when I was 16. At that time, we didn't really have an aim or a goal. I had enough songs to release under an album. Since then, I've signed with Universal Music and released Solitaire under the label. After that, I released two singles called Bittersweet Love, and Blue Case, my first single after moving to Berlin.
I feel like my music has really evolved since I've been doing this for a few years now, and I slowly start to know the preferences that I really want. At the same time, I've been working with other talented artists and producers who are also around my age. I'm not saying that I need to work with people my age, but it's just that you know, we're in university together and we spend a lot of time together.
When I was in Dubai, I was one of the youngest artists who started in the music industry. I was really lucky to be a part of the industry. When I first started, I was the only 16-year old singer-songwriter in Dubai who writes and sings in English. Back then, there was only one studio in Abu Dhabi called White Cube. So my mom and I need to drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi every single weekend, and we'd record each song in the album. Now that I’m in a music university, I just need to meet my friend, August Engram, who's a producer. He's half-German and half-American. I feel like he understands me and the sound I want to bring out. We'll sit together, and we'll work on the songs together continuously.
How has your music changed as you've gotten older?
My music evolves the more I engage with other genres, as well as do collaborations with other amazing artists. When I was 17, I did a collaboration with Majeed, a Saudi rapper. It's available on YouTube. It was one of those projects where you go into the studio without meeting beforehand. I met him in the studio for the first time, and I had like four to six hours to work on a song from scratch. We wrote the lyrics and produced everything within that time frame.
Recently, I worked with a Kuwaiti-Arab reggae artist named, Karrouhat who's an amazing and sweetest person I met. Again, we worked together and came up with a song. I'm an English pop artist, and he's an Arab reggae artist so you can imagine the sound: a mix of mellow pop mingling with the sultry sound of reggae—the song is Calm Before The Storm.
Calm before the storm—how did that come about?
If you notice in the song I actually say, storm before the calm. I describe myself as the storm before the calm because I'm always like a wreck until everything is calm and settles down.
I arrived first in the studio, and before Karrouhat came in, I was super nervous as usual. I was like; I had this storm before—the storm before the calm. I told Karrouhat this, and he actually said that it’s a good idea for a song. Then we started writing based on the loose idea of the calm before the storm. I asked him, “Where are you heading with your lyrics?” He said that it always turns into a love song. And yes, somehow we made it work with the title. That's how the song came about. We were just jamming on the piano and the guitar, the beautiful chords came in, and the breathtaking melodies flowed naturally.
Quote you live by.
An arrow can only move forward by pulling it back.
I’ve been through the ups and downs. I didn't let the bad experiences bring me down, and I tried to move forward. I feel like everything happens for a reason. For instance, from the bullying experience I struggled with, I wrote two amazing songs out of it. One of them, Phoenix, means rising from the ashes. There are many words that inspire me, especially in music.
Sometimes, I feel like quitting, but once I'm performing onstage, I remember why I am doing this in the first place. It is also uplifting to read messages from people saying that I inspire them, seeing someone of our ethnicity with talent and gift for music. When you say you're into music, it's also a professional field, much like being a doctor or an engineer. People see the success I'm getting, and I'm happy to get their support. It's great that I am able to inspire young people.
Where do we find you?
I have a website, www.esthereden.com. You can follow me on all social media channels, as well as at Esther Eden Music, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer on Garmin in the ME region, and YouTube.