“JUST A DREAM AWAY”
Blessed with a voice that has inspiredcomparisons to“a sigh,” “melting honey,”and “awarm breeze through a cedar forest atmoonlight,”French-Lebanese singer Yara enchants allthose who hear her. Herself-penned lyrics tell of love and its origins in desire, loneliness, and obsession. Her spacious, largely acousticmusic can beepic or spare, but always in service to her extraordinary voice.
With the soul of a poet, and a cosmopolitan’s multilingual ease,Yara releasesJust a Dream Away, her first U.S.album, on August 29. “I never dared to think that one day I might make a beautiful, timeless recordfeaturing artistsI adore,” says the former fashion designer in her fluent, accented English. “Just a Dream Away has exceeded my wildest imaginings.”
These songs are realized with help from some of the finest musicians currently working in any genre, including Brazilian singer-songwriter Chico César, Palestinian oud virtuosos Simon Shaheen and Adnan Joubran, and the iconic AmericansingerIggy Pop. Oscar-winning composer, musicianand producer Gabriel Yared brings the same virtuosic vision that graced soundtracks for such unforgettable films as“Cold Mountain,”“The English Patient” and the cult 1986 classic “Betty Blue”to10of the 12 tracks onJust a Dream Away.
Yared and Yara collaborated for over the course of two years. Their ties run deep. Both were born in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Yared was bedazzled by thatgold-and-fire voice. It made him nostalgicfor his country, which wasravaged by a 15-year civil war (1975 – 1990). From the start, Yaredset about composing melodiesthat wouldcomplement Yara’s uniqueaesthetic.He felt that her wordplay and transparent emotions placed her in the tradition ofMiddle Eastern divas Fairuz and Um Kalthoum, and French heroes Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy.
“Images have always come easily to me,” says Yara. A mother-of-two herself, her imagination was arises from stories read by candlelight as a child, from the stacks of notebooks she continues to fill with poetry,and from a literary sensibility inspired by French scribes Rimbaud and Verlaine,and contemporary wordsmith Boris Vian.
This album was conceived in London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios, but really given birth in Los Angeles at the historic Sunset Sound, with a sprawling cast of over 40 musicians, in London, and another Grammy all-star group of in LA it gave together with love and great team work. The earliest results were featured on Yara’s domestically released sophomore album, 2018’s Indéfiniment. On Just a Dream Away, the songs spread their wings and fly.
Three songs from Indéfinimentwere re-recorded at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, where the ten songs on Just a Dream Away were produced by award-winning Lebanese-American music producer Dawn Elder, widely acclaimed for her productions of major global artists.. In some cases, French lyricswere rendered inEnglish with help fromBritish singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt. Later, as the head ofher own company, Yara Music, she added two additional songs.“Just A Dream Away”was written by American composers Steve Dorff and Michael Jay, and adapted to Lebanese Arabic by Yara and Dawn Elder, who produced eight of the twelve tracks on the album. John Lennon’s “How,” recorded in both English and Lebanese Arabic versions, is a milestone. Yara is the first artist ever authorized by Lennon’s estate to translate and interpret this song in a foreign language.
“I love to sing in different languages,” says Yara. “French. English. Lebanese Arabic, my mother tongue, which is soft and sweet. Because of the war I grew up changing schools, leaving Lebanonto livein other countries – Egypt, France, –and coming back again. Adapting to other cultures is something I am used to.” After 18 years in France, and now married to a Frenchman(couturier Olivier Lapidus), Yara considers herself“very much a Parisian,” adding, “Now when I dream, I dream in French.”
Yara is the youngest of two children born to an architect-turned-sculptor father, and a mother who painted colorfulFauves-style abstracts. Dreaming comesnaturally to a person who, at age seven,dodged a sniper’s bullet. “I bent down to my schoolbag and it went over me.” From a young age, she played guitar and piano,and wrote constantly. In Paris, Yara initially made her name as a designer. She workedas an assistant to the celebrated Oscar de La Renta and at fashion houses including Dior. Then she launched her own label,Y by Yara, with anexclusive range of jeans, embellished with Ming-era silk embroidery, which whepersonally delivered to chic boutiques of Paris behind the wheel of a truck.
“I like difficult things,” she says, her dark eyes flashing. “Ilike facingchallenges.”
In 2010, that Yara’s mettle was tested in a way no one could have foreseen. “A straightforward operation on my collarbone went wrong and I lost the use of my left hand,” she says, holding up slim, elegant fingers adorned with large authentic rings. “Suddenly I was unable to work in fashion, and I could no longer play my guitar.”
Yara had released her eponymous solo debut the previous year. Her voice, with its trademark mixof vulnerability and strength, sentripples through the French music industry. She’d always sung at home, for herself, for her husband and daughters. Butafter the accident, her course was clear: it was time to bring her deeply felt music to the world.
Yara’s early showings included memorable performances at leftfield venues including Silencio, the Paris club owned by film director David Lynch, and at the 2018 London Jazz Festival. Her outfits wereconstructed with a stylist’s eye, her jewellery including a miniature guitar on a chain around her neck, and that flare for visual style also animated her videos.In a touch of serendipity, Yara’s father-in-law, French couturier Ted Lapidusdesigned the white two-piece suit worn by John Lennonon the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road, named for the studio where her recording career blossomed.
For Just a Dream Away, Yara chose her collaborators carefully. Chico César contributes velvety Portuguese vocals to the shimmering, bossa nova duet, ‘Saudade De Voce’. Adnan Joubran from Le Trio Joubran—three brothers renowned for their powerful performances on the oud—conjures a virtuosic swirl on “Depuis Toi.” “I have an oriental side that is very emotional and the oud captures this very well,” says Yara. “My European side is more self-contained, reflective. I like to think my music is a bridge from one to the other.”
And Iggy Pop? Only the voice of Yara could tame thegodfather of punk, who croons alongside her – in English and in French –on ‘EncorEncor’ with a tenderness made all the more delightful for the tune’s curiously familiar music: Yared’s theme from ‘37 °2 le matin’ – or in English, ‘Betty Blue’.
Just a Dream Away, is a work crafted with love, and polished over years to yield music sure to stand the test of time. “Dream big,” says Yara. “When you dream big, you catch a star.”
YARALAPIDUS.COM Album: Just a Dream Away
Record Label : Yara Music Distributed by TuneCore & CD Baby in US