While the London riots dominate the sights, sounds and Twitter feeds of the capital, rising singer Ayah Marar sits relatively calm among the chaos, sipping her drink in a quiet West London pub.
It’s the composure of experience, perhaps. Usually bands, stars and singer-songwriters about to release their debut single and approaching the festival circuit are a tittering mess of excitement, touching on all topics with nervous trepidation, rambling for hours on off-subject tangents. But, so course, Marar has felt this type of pressure before, even if you don’t realise it.
Set to play V Festival next weekend, the singer is no stranger to outdoor events, having performed alongside Calvin Harris all over the world. “We did all the festival circuit; Australia, Europe, all the big festivals here,” she explains. “I’m kind of cool with it.”
So there isn’t a chance of getting star struck backstage? No, it turns out. “You meet them and you’re like, ‘oh, you’re actually really normal.’”
Having spent years plying her trade as a backing vocalist, DJ and MC, Marar is finally releasing her debut single, ‘Follow U’ – a house banger with dragging synths. The track has been produced by Yogi, who also worked on Wretch 32’s hit ‘Traktor’, and it has the phrase ‘huge hit’ plastered all over it.
She will be performing the song as part of her set on the Friday night at the Staffordshire leg of V Festival and with no other stages to compete with, it should give her a good platform to be heard properly.
“When you love what you do so much, you’re just worried that people will judge it in the wrong way,” she says, showing her first crack of apprehension. But her passion for music is evident when she talks excitably about playing universities throughout the country as well as Notting Hill Carnival.
“When I first started doing live shows, I was thinking of getting strap-on buns for everyone to wear,” she laughs, bring VF’s attention to the one that sits upon her head. “I’d come out to the crowd and everyone’s wearing a bun.”
Despite admitting she’s not that fussed about what she wears – “a lot of it is comfort,” – the singer is enjoying meeting “a lot of creative people” to help her branch out. “You want it to be a bit more respectable especially when you’re on stage.”
Her debut album, ‘The Real’, is already recorded and is due out early next year. So what can we expect from it? Ayah smiles as she sums it up. “It’s very loud, very clubby, there’s a lot of bass. There’s big poppy choruses but quite dark lyrics in the verses.”
She’s not just promoting her album in the UK either; she’s returning to her native Jordan later this year as part of a tour that includes the Persian Gulf and Lebanon.
Who would she want as support on the tour? “There’s a young girl called Russo who I really rate, and there are these guys called El Crisis and Thunder as well. There’s so many talented people, it’s going to be fun to be able to pick and choose.”
Having worked with so many big names in the past, Ayah doesn’t even hesitate when asked who her dream collaboration would be. “Prince, definitely,” she stamps.
But, Marar isn’t a one-trick pony either, expressing a keenness to experiment musically too. “I wouldn’t mind doing an acoustic album, or a kind of live band album,” she says.
So what’s next? “We will see how it goes from here.”
Ayah Marar will play V Festival 2011 Staffordshire on Friday 19 August.
V Festival 2011 tickets have sold out.