Somalia-Canadian singer-songwriter Amaal Nuux, professionally known as Amaal, has been making music since she was 14 years old. After a move back to Somalia, Amaal discovered her passion for music and would eventually upload her own songs on YouTube. In her songs, Amaal touches on a variety of genres, from R&B to Pop and her vocal styling has been described as melodic with incredibly strong ties to her lyrics. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Amaal about her career, her life in Toronto and Somalia, her background, her new music and what’s next on the horizon.

When you moved from Somalia to Toronto and you started to sing and started to get interested in music, was it harder to go back to Somalia and retain that interest?

So, I was born in Somalia but I was really young when I moved, so I was raised in Toronto all of my life and my experiences in my household growing up was sort of like a traditional Muslim upbringing and I would say that I grew up in Dixon, so even though I was in Toronto, it still felt like I was back home. I didn’t actually start singing until I was in high school, during choir and some of the classes I took that would get me to sing, and I was told I had a good voice; you know again, it wasn’t something that wasn’t in my upbringing at all. But I do feel like people have a misconception of the fact that I grew up in Somalia, as I lived here the majority of my life. But after high school, I did go back to Somalia and that’s where my interests really started to show. It was a huge turning point in my life.

Now I know with your background, it’s sort of taboo to make music, sing and all of that, so at what point did you tell your family that this is what you really wanted to pursue in your life and it wasn’t just a hobby?

That’s a really great question actually, I think it was definitely a difficult decision and it was something that I struggled with for a while, because you know when you want to do something you don’t have, like you can’t look at your family who has even done it before or who has even been in the world of arts, it makes the dream unrealistic.

Yeah, it’s almost impossible.

Yeah and knowing that you're Muslim as well, I think you understand as well that it’s sort of a taboo and one of those debatable things that music is a sin or if it isn’t, I struggled with that a lot, a lot of guilt, sort of like shame associated with even wanting to do it, but I think with my family and my dad was 100% supportive from the very start and he was telling me you have a beautiful voice, you should do something with it and it was my mom who had a difficult time with it because she’s well integrated into the community and sort of women would say things to her, but she was happy for me. I think the turning point was when I released 'Mufasa', any doubt that they had was completely eliminated because they saw not only that I’m doing music for the sake of doing it, there’s a message behind what she’s saying and she wants to be able to use music as a form of activism and that’s what I did.

Now I know that a large part of anyone’ career is having a strong confidence in oneself, and when you were pushing your music on social media and really going for it and finding success, on top of finally having your parents full support, did you finally feel able to really go for it?

Yes, totally. But I also still felt that I had something to prove, I don’t have that feeling anymore, but around that time I still did. I think for me it’s because even though they supported me, a lot of people from my region and people that were Muslim, some of my comments in my inbox weren’t the nicest comments and so I struggled with that, so I felt like I had something to prove and I felt like I was getting lost myself and that’s not a place you want to be in, trying to get the approval of others and for me now it no longer exists in me, but I think for my journey I had to sort of go through.

Now pushing forward, in 2019, I know you released 'Not What I Thought' and 'Coming & Going', can you talk about these two singles and why you felt like these two were a good way to introduce yourself this year?

So just picking back up from what I was saying, that space of feeling lost and trying to prove myself to other people, I feel like I really came into my women-hood in these last few years and the confidence I felt as an artist I felt like was getting lost and doing a certain kind of music and writing a certain way and I felt like I was doing a disservice to myself; I wasn’t really speaking to what was really going on in my life and I felt like I couldn’t take about it because of my religion and once I shed all of those ideas of what I can and can't do and this is it and I’m going to do what my spirit wants me to do, that’s the state of where I was at in these two songs. So, these songs talk about my personal resilience, and heartbreak and making it over to the other side and most of my past songs were about being an immigrant and refugee and now these songs are about Amaal, the person.

I know you’re slated to release an EP later this year, with these singles potentially on it, does it feel different this time about releasing music that it’s more honest and open about yourself in terms of the vulnerability?

It feels super powerful actually. It feels similar to therapy and the best way to describe it is that being in this space is like having a mirror right back at me, making me feel like I have to reflect and dissect and go through moments that maybe I shoved down and put into the back of my mind, so there’s a lot of confrontation and healing and it’s bringing back some old emotions. Now for me, in the past, I would always operate like I’m a strong woman and I can deal with that and move on, but I think strength is in being vulnerable and breaking down and rebuilding and these songs have helped me go through it. So, I think right now I’m really the most excited for my music than I’ve ever been because It's fully me, so, I’m really excited about this upcoming project.

Finally, I know you’ll eventually release a debut album, and I know It's not upcoming, but when we look back on this interview, I would love to see what your thoughts were about it because when it comes to a debut album, It's a special moment, so what are your thoughts on it?

Ah man, that’s a really good question, a debut album, I think for me sonically I would want it, like I have an idea in my head of what I would want it to sound like, but theme-wise, it’s going to be about me and my experiences as a women and sort of all the things I’ve been talking about, but really dive in, but it’s really going to be the sonics for me and I don’t want to say too much because it might change, but I hear a very powerful moment and I’ll leave it that, but I'm incredibly excited for it.