Anees Interview: Summer Camp Tour – The Washington Post | Region & Cash

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You might recognize 29-year-old Anees from his TikTok or Instagram videos of him performing or freestyling from his car, most notably when Justin Bieber crashed one of his live streams. Or more recently, you may have seen him perform his hit song “Sun and Moon” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

The Arab-American artist is known for his genre-bending, uplifting sound and mood-boosting, soulful lyrics about love and self-care – a breath of fresh air in a world that can be tough on us. The former attorney-turned-singer-songwriter-turned-Northern Virginia singer-songwriter has just embarked on his maiden tour, which concludes July 29 at the Howard Theatre.

“Every single person should do what makes them feel alive, and that’s it for me,” he said in a Zoom interview from the same car. We spoke about his background, favorite artists and what the Summer Camp Tour means to him.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What made you decide to start your music career?

A: I grew up in an ecosystem of music. My parents played a wide range of music. That’s how subconsciously music has always been woven into the fabric of my life. But I never believed it was a career path just because nobody ever told me it could be. I went and studied other things and got very depressed, especially when I went to law school. And then I hit my rock bottom, which was my law school degree and becoming a lawyer. I absolutely hated it, and music was my outlet for depression. What started as my therapy eventually became my career.

Q: You are Arab American, and in our culture there are often three predetermined paths: to become a doctor, an engineer, or a lawyer. Did that play a part in why you became a lawyer and how did that impact your transition into music?

A: My family has been very supportive; they didn’t pressure me at all. I think what made me go down a more traditional path wasn’t the traditional upbringing, it was the school system. The school system doesn’t encourage you to make art. Also, I think if you’re from an Arab-American background, the generation above you was in survival mode. So you inherit traces of that mentality. They survive so we can do something that not only puts the money on the table but makes our hearts come alive. Once I had that reckoning moment, I started feeling happy every day.

Q: You were recently with Jimmy Kimmel. How was this experience?

A: That was a dream come true. And it’s one of those blessings that you don’t question. The truth is it’s a blur. You get up there, you perform. You come home and fly home. And you fall asleep And you wake up and think, did that really happen? Just to think that the same car I’m sitting in right now having this conversation with you wrote this song right here in this seat six months ago, and then to see that within half a year I’m able to was to record one of the biggest stages on the planet and sing it to the world, it’s crazy.

Q: What are your ultimate goals as a musician? What do you want to use your platform for?

A: It may sound cheesy, but it’s easy to have inner peace and wake up each day more excited than the last day. There’s nothing about me that gets excited about a Grammy Award or a certain number of followers or streams. I mean, that stuff is all very cool. And it can absolutely change your life. But really, I just want to be able to make art every day and get people to connect with it.

Q: Where do you get inspiration for your music from?

A: My inspirations for the music I make are typically the people I love the most. Of course, when I write a love song, it’s about my wife and my relationship with her. Even the songs that aren’t super in love, like the more introspective songs like my song “Leave Me,” might seem like a sad song to people, but I reflect on how I feel about myself when I’m not the best husband i can be. And my relationship with myself. Because self-love is just as important, if not more important than loving other people.

Q: Who are some of your favorite artists?

A: DMX. Lauryn Hill. Ed Sheeran. John Mayer. And just to be sharp, let’s throw in Rex Orange County.

Q: Let’s talk about your first tour. So how do you feel about it?

A: This is the most exciting part of my career as I have been entertaining my community through a screen for years. But music wants to be experienced. And now I can go from city to city to city to city and see people, look them in the eyes, experience emotions in the same room with them. I feel like when we go on tour we will have that same magical connection that I felt when I went to summer camp.

Q: Hence the name Summer Camp Tour.

A: That’s why we called it that. I want every day on tour to feel like it’s the first night of summer camp. Because I remember as a kid, when you showed up that first night, you felt that sense of hope and relief because you knew you were going to have an experience that would remind you of all the things you loved the most love. And I want people to feel that way for three hours when they come to my show. And the show at the Howard Theater is the last show on tour and it’s my birthday show. Unlike the other dates, we will be doing a late show. The last song will be after midnight on July 30th, which will bring my 30th birthday.

Q: Do you have any favorite DMV memories or favorite places to visit while you’re here?

A: What I love most about this area is how diverse it is. I think that’s something I took for granted as a kid growing up in this area. You have every color, every sound, every taste. It’s really like a melting pot and I think that has influenced my views on life and allowed me to be a better artist by allowing me to communicate a message that affects a wider range of people. Another nice thing about this area is our parks. I am a nature person. I go to Algonkian Park, Great Falls Park, Riverbend Park. These are just places where I find my center. I am very proud to bring people here. And every time I go to LA people ask when are you moving here? And I always tell them I’m not.

July 29 at 10:30 p.m. at the Howard Theater, 620 T St. NW. thehowardtheatre.com. $27.

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