Ever since she was child, all Lynda Sayyah wanted to do was sing. All her conservative Palestinian Muslim father wanted her to do was not sing.
Something had to give.
Lynda is still singing; Lynda and her father do no talk.
It’s a heartbreakingly tough situation the young up-and-coming songster is in. However, if you heard any of her tracks (like “No Lies,” which she dropped late last year) then it should be obvious that’s she should be singing.
Lynda is a talented pop performer, who can also pack a punch with her voice (she claims to have a five octave vocal range.) The singer writes her own stuff, with her music blending light-hearted, clubby beats and melodies with deeper, meaningful lyrics about her life.
The Indianapolis-based singer already has quite the local buzz — she was named “Indy’s Sexiest Musician” in Indianapolis’ Metromix in 2009 — and now she’s ready to nationalize that attention.
Actual, nationalize is the wrong word.
The trilingual pop singer — she speaks English, Spanish and Arabic — wants to take her music international.
She’s ready for the world (including her super strict Muslim father) to accept her.
But before you do that, learn more about her down below.
PHOTO CREDIT: Paul F. P. Pogue.
Global Grind: Who was your favorite artist growing up?
Lynda Sayyah: It was Whitney Houston first. I remember listening to her tape. I was obsessed with it. I was like maybe in the third grade or something like that. Then Mariah Carey came out shortly after, and so I started really digging into her. I remember practicing for like six hours a day.
Then I started writing music. The first song I ever wrote was in fifth grade, and it was about Power Rangers. I was upset that they had changed out some of the cast members, and so I wrote a song about it.
You said earlier your parents were really strict?
Yeah, my dad is Palestinian so he’s a really strict Muslim, and he’s really old-school, and even though I respect his beliefs it’s just not what I believe. I grew up in America, so I’m more liberal.
I remember when I was really little, about six or seven, my grandma gave us her piano, and I would start playing it. And I started begging my mother for lessons and she was like ‘dad doesn’t want you to play.’ And so she gave me a self-taught book, and I started trying to play it, like everyday. And so finally my dad got sick of it and gave it to my uncle. But then I started going to their house everyday to keep playing it. So then they ended up giving it away to a church.
Most parents would be like ‘oh, she has interest in the piano, I’m going to support that.’ Instead it was like, ‘no, you’re not going to do music.’
I remember me and my grandparents were watching a video of a solo I had done, and my dad walked in and he literally looked at me and was like ‘this is the sh*t you’re wearing?’ It was a uniform! He was like ‘you’re not doing this.’ It was like this constant fight with him about wanting to do something I enjoyed.
I wanted to go to California as soon as I graduated high school, but he was like ‘you have to go to college. I won’t let you go anywhere else.’ I had to go to our community college; I had to live at home. So I just did two years, and I couldn’t even take it anymore. I graduated with my associates, and I was just done with it.
So then I tried to move out, and he was like ‘if you walk out of this house, I will disown you.’ So I ended up getting marred young, like 19, to a guy who was 11 years older than me. And within three months of being married, my dad disowned me.
So there’s no relationship?
I haven’t talked to my dad in six years. I was on the cover of a magazine in Indy called Metromix. And I was voted ‘Indy’s Sexiest Musician.’ We ended up doing it in a swimsuit and it was this huge uproar. The whole community was even calling my dad like ‘how the hell could you let her do this?’
I got divorced, and I was really unhappy and ended up bankrupt because of the divorce. My dad was like ‘stop this music bullsh*t and come home.’ I said ‘no, I’m not coming home.’ And I ended up moving in with some people I barely knew, lost my job two weeks later, because I was gone too much for music, and legitimately had no money, didn’t have a job, nothing.
This was when?
It was like three years ago. I was legitimately eating ketchup packets and going to McDonalds and getting food off of the Dollar Menu with quarters, because I was so proud and would not go home.
How much of your career do you think he follows?
I don’t think he follows it. I still talk to my mom and she told me, even a couple of weeks ago, that cousins from Lebanon are like ‘oh, we see Linda doing this and that. She’s wearing this and that. How do you let her do that?’ At some point I wish my dad would be like ‘talk about your own kids. Stop talking about my kids.’
Have you written a song about him?
Oh my God, tons. I have one song called “Daddy’s Little Rebel.” And it sounds like this party record, but one of the lines in the song is ‘I’m not afraid to be a women.’ I’m not afraid of wearing a tank top. I’m not afraid of being sexual. Nobody should be ashamed of that. That’s so taboo for that community, for Muslims and especially Arabs in that community. Everything has to be covered; but it’s so double standard. Guys can go out. My brother can stay out, go on Spring Break, he can do everything. But then if I wear a tank top, I’m grounded for two weeks? Like, come on.
How come your marriage didn’t work?
I think mostly because he was so much older than me. Like, you change so much from 19 to 21. I couldn’t even legally drink, I couldn’t go out. We just stopped hanging out with each other.
Did you end in bad terms?
In the end it was awful. He went crazy. He ended up breaking stuff. At that point, when I realized his anger issues, that was when I was like, I can’t be around you.
Do you have a favorite song you’ve written?
The most liberating song I’ve ever wrote was a song called “Ay-Ya-Ya.” It’s got the Arabic vibe in it. The first verse is to my dad and the Arabic community, calling them out, calling them haters. And the second verse is about my mom. And I call her a chameleon because I feel like she’s playing both sides. Like, she’s trying to be good with me but still trying to be good with my dad, which I understand. I’m not mad at her for it, but ultimately not really having an opinion. It’s not helping anybody. The record is very upbeat. It’s really fun, and it sounds like a party record.
Are you working on a project?
Yeah, I’m working on a lot of songs. I’d like to release My Love is Hell EP, which will be like six songs for five bucks. And it has a lot of that party stuff.
What’s your 2012 plan?
I would love to get a good team assembled. I think your team and your work environment is just as strong as you as an artist. If you don’t have the right people around doing their jobs to help you do yours then you’re doing everything yourself, and things slip through the cracks. So, I’m really trying to get the right people around me with the right plans, really come up with a good marketing, business concept. Make sure everything is aligned, so that the music isn’t just sitting.