The eldest Haim sister offers tips for overcoming stage fright, handling rejection, and starting a band.
In #adhoclifeadvice, we ask artists we love to answer questions from you, our readers. This time around, the crew behind the AdHoc zine decided to switch things up a bit, and got Tair Haim—one of three sisters behind the Israeli-Yemenite Israeli pop trio A-WA—to weigh in on some queries of our own. Read on for wisdom on overcoming stage-fright, handling rejection, and pursuing a career in music for the right reasons. Haim also talks about how she and her sisters use their Arab-language dance songs to connect with their Yemenite heritage.
This article originally appeared in print in AdHoc 27.
Emilie: How do you get over stage fright?
Tair Haim: I don’t think [I’ve] ever had stage fright, but the best advice would be not to think about [yourself]. Whenever I’m on stage, I always think about the crowd. I think, “I’m going to make them feel so excited and happy that they came here, and I’m going to be sharing with them like a storyteller. I’m going to be sharing something new—my roots and my story and my music.” I put the focus on [the audience] and the storytelling and the music as a language, rather than putting myself in the spotlight.
Matt: Has A-WA had any experiences of rejection? What are some productive ways to handle rejection, especially as an artist?
I don’t remember a specific rejection from someone, but we always want to work with people that love and respect and appreciate who we are and what we bring. So if someone doesn’t see it or doesn’t want to collaborate with us, we don’t want to collaborate with them either. [That] makes it very simple: We work with people that we love.
In Hebrew, there’s a saying: You’re throwing some stuff in the air. You’re trying. You give things a shot. If it works, you say it probably should work. If not, we [go] with our guts and [move on].
Emilie: It’s amazing to see your hard work pay off in the form of bigger and bigger opportunities, but if you say yes to everything, it’s really easy to get burnt out. What are some strategies you use to stay healthy and sane when life just keeps getting busier?
We learned to say no to things that are not in our focus. We try to stay very authentic and honest with ourselves and realize that we have to go with the most exciting things, things that we feel connected to.
It’s very hard when things get busy and you want to stay healthy in your body and mind. Sometimes people offer you things that they think could be a great opportunity for you, but [you] don’t feel it. So we always trust ourselves. And we are three, [which] makes it easier. We’re always asking each other how we feel about things and trying to [stay] open-minded.
If we feel good about something, [or] something makes us step out of our comfort zone, we will try to give it a shot. If it feels like it’s coming from the ego or not from the right inner truth, we will say, “Nah, it’s not good for us.”
Morgan: What advice would you like to give to any young women hoping to start a band?
[Find] your own voice. There are so many copy-cats in the world. It takes so much work and effort and money–everything. You invest everything. So if you’re really going for it, find your own voice and find something that really excites you and makes it worth the journey.
We’re coming from the Middle East, and we are women. Of course, women here in Israel are in a better position than in other places, but coming from a small country and being women in the music industry can be very tough sometimes. It’s important to be able to say something that is worth saying. Not just trying to please someone else. A lot of musicians do something because they think, “This is cool, so I’m going to do this,” or “Oh, I’m going [to] wear this because this is very trendy right now.” No! Be true to yourself. Try to set the tone, be unique.
It takes time to dig deep, and this is why we want to make music coming from our roots. We do mix it with hip-hop and reggae and electronic beats, but bringing Yemenite music to the front stage is something that we feel is very important to us. Our grandma couldn’t speak the way that we speak. Doing what we do, we give her voice a stage and our voices a stage. It’s more than just music.