Belqis is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Frankfurt, Germany.
Belqis is scheduled to release a new single entitled Special on September 10th 2021. This is a very special project for her and we discuss it at length as well as her musical background in the interview which follows.
Where are you from and how did you get into music?
Hey there, I grew up in Frankfurt, Germany. I attended a school with a focus on musical education where I started to play the saxophone when I was 10 years old. I also attended the school’s choir ever since primary school, but I never really thought of my voice as particularly good during my childhood years.
Even though it has been my dream to become a singer since kindergarten, I wasn’t confident enough to pursue it until I was 14 years old and came across Christopher Drew, the front man of the band Never Shout Never. Seeing how he learned everything by himself encouraged me to take on the guitar and start singing and writing songs as well.
In addition to being a vocalist, what instruments do you play?
In addition to the saxophone and guitar, I also play a little bit of the piano, but I’d never call myself an actual pianist. I taught myself, just like I did with the guitar, and mainly play chords to accompany my singing.
Who are your favourite musical artists, both past and present? And are there any relatively unknown (i.e., indie) musical artists that you’re a fan of?
I always struggle to answer the question of my favourite artists ‘cause I generally have broad tastes in music: from classical to singer-songwriter and jazz to hip-hop.
I rather enjoy one genre depending on phases. That’s why I have many alternating favourite artists. Here are some off the top of my head: the acoustic duo Kings of Convenience, the singer-songwriter Lewis Watson, contemporary RnB artist H.E.R. and this year, I have been listening to a lot of The Smiths. Also, I just discovered a German indie-pop band called Jeremias, that I’m really into right now.
How many years did it take you to develop your singing voice?
I honestly don’t know how to answer that question! I’ve always been singing, especially because it seemed like the only way for me to transport my songs into the world, but I never really focused on actively enhancing my singing voice until 2019.
In that year I took some singing / vocal coaching lessons. Which retrospectively speaking had been long overdue, haha! I feel much better about my singing voice now!
Are there any vocal tips you can give to any aspiring singers who may be reading this interview? For example, do you have any warm-up exercises you like to use? Any techniques or exercises to expand your vocal range?
I’m think I’m rather unqualified to share advice on that topic, but what I can say is this: I am convinced that anyone can learn how to sing and finding your voice is an extremely fulfilling process. And it sure comes easier with the right person to guide you along the way!
You have two published albums, Daydreaming which is your 2015 LP and Winter which is your 2016 EP. How did both of those albums come about in terms of: (1) the themes you were writing about; and (2) the production process?
I love the origin story of Daydreaming ‘cause it’s so surreal!
When I just turned 18, I decided it would be time for my first actual gig. Before that I only played for friends and family or at school concerts. So I registered on some online booking platform and I got a gig in a little independent studio in Frankfurt during their open house.
As luck would have it, the two guys running the studio enjoyed my songs and offered me a record deal! So then right after I finished school I recorded my debut album. Basically Daydreaming is a collection of the first songs I’d ever written.
Which brings me to my second release, the Winter EP. The main reason for my recording this one was that I felt like I’d already grown so much that Daydreaming just didn’t represent me as an artist anymore. When I made Daydreaming I was so young and inexperienced and had no clear vision of where I wanted to go musically.
How do you go about composing your songs? Do you consciously sit down and treat writing a song like a full-time job or do your songs come from sudden inspiration (or maybe a mix of both)?
During the first 8 years after I started songwriting, the answer would always have been the latter. But now that I’m pursuing a full-time career as a musician, I’m trying to mix that approach with a more practical one. Sometimes I’ll write three songs in a week and then not a single one during the next three weeks, so it really is a phase-dependent process. I challenge myself to finish at least one new song each month though.
What inspires the lyrical content of your songs?
Absolutely everything! I tend to overthink and daydream a lot so basically every little situation I encounter could turn into a song. It doesn’t even matter if it happened to me personally or a friend told me about it or I even only saw it on TV: sometimes when a topic resonates with me I instantly start to form lyrics in my head.
Are there any specific tips that you can give to aspiring songwriters who may be reading this interview?
Don’t be too hard on yourself! I used to think that every song I ever wrote had to be perfect and flawless. Now I think it’s way easier if you allow yourself to write mediocre songs and see it as a continuous process of growing and getting better at it.
What can you tell us about your new single to be released on September 10th 2021 and the accompanying music video?
It’s called ‘Special’ and I’m extremely excited about this release for several reasons: not only is it the first new single I’m releasing after a 5 year hiatus from recording, but it’s also the first song I ever wrote with a continuously evolving storyline from start to finish.
That means you don’t have that typical pop-song framework of verses separated by a recurring chorus. Instead every chorus is lyrically modulated to keep up with the emotional development of the main character.
But I don’t want to bore you with more technicalities, so here’s a brief overview of what ‘Special’ is about: two people falling in love without really knowing each other, the fantasy of a perfect relationship and bad timing. For me the most important thing about it is the emancipation of the main character when she is finally ready to let go of her dream of this perfect love as she realizes her fantasy would never hold up in reality.
The music video for ‘Special’ plays on two levels – reality and imagination – so you can take a deep look inside the main character’s head as she is struggling with her emotions (big surprise, I’m playing the main character, haha).
I worked together with a choreographer to make a contemporary choreography that perfectly captures this inner conflict – so while I’m expressing emotions through song on the reality level, in my mind I only express them through dance.
If Belqis of the year 2021 could sit down with Belqis the year 2011 for coffee, what advice would she give to her younger self based on what she’s learned and experienced (both good and bad) over the past 10 years? And what are your long-term professional goals?
First off I’d tell myself that it’s totally fine to get assistance along the way. I used to think I had to learn everything on my own (playing instruments, singing, writing songs…) or else I wouldn’t be authentic anymore.
Also it took me a long time to realize that there’s no such thing as a big movie-like breakthrough even if it seems like it in some cases. It’s always hard work behind the scenes and there’s a lot of setbacks involved. Of course the frustration is even bigger when you’re expectations are unrealistically high, so I’d tell myself to not put too much pressure on myself.
In the long run I would love to do music full-time but I’m also a little concerned about it.
You know how people always say that if you turn your hobby into your job then you’ll eventually lose passion about it? Even though I think these concerns are totally valid I just can’t imagine being as content in another occupation as I am writing songs and performing them on stage.
So my ultimate long-term goal is to never lose passion for what I am doing.
Article banner photo credit: Tatiana Vdovenko
And of course, you can listen to her music over at Spotify and other major streaming platforms.