Lebanese-Ukrainian singer Maro channels the past and present in debut album

Young artist has garnered a large online following with his introspective songs

Maro's songs have clocked more than a combined 50 million views on YouTube. Pawan Singh / The National
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Songwriters can learn a lot from busking.

In addition to building performance chops, observational skills are honed to form lyrics and songs inspired by the deftest of perceived emotions.

Now, factor in those skills gleaned from the heady and raw streets of Beirut, and you potentially have a body of work resonating well beyond those corners.

It is a process that promising singer-songwriter Maro, 22, has experienced over the past four years.

The Lebanese-Ukrainian artist, full name Marwan Daou, built a steady following with intimate original folk songs and ballads, in addition to the tasteful interpretation of various modern tracks by artists from Algerian rai singer Cheb Khaled to US pop star Bruno Mars.

That buzz on the street moved online when Maro uploaded some of these songs on YouTube and garnered substantial attention with his stripped-down take of Falling Down, the haunting emo-pop track by late rappers Lil Peep and XXXTentacion.

Re-envisioned on an acoustic guitar as a bluesy folk song, Maro's version garnered more than a million views and set him on a new career course that found him relocating to Norway and a record deal with US label Empire Distribution.

With the recent release of his impressive debut album Words From My Bedroom and his songs clocking more than 50 million combined views on YouTube, Maro says he has the same desire that drove him to busk not too long ago.

"I think it comes from this desire or need to connect with people because I was feeling quite lonely a lot of the time," he tells The National. "That loneliness has come from travelling a lot during my early teenage years. I felt dislocated a lot of times and I began writing these songs to keep myself creative.

“I realised pretty soon that this was more than just a hobby but an important way to express what I was feeling."

On the move

Born to a Lebanese father and Ukrainian mother, Maro spent his later teens living with his grandmother, while shuttling between Beirut and Kuwait where his parents resided.

"The plan was for me to live in Kuwait when I moved at 16 but the school system is different there, so that didn't work out," he says.

"So I stayed in Beirut, which of course was hard because I missed my parents, but I met so many great friends and creative people there who are involved in music."

But a love of music was instilled in Maro from an even younger age.

“There was a lot of music in the house when I was a child. My mother would sing these Ukrainian and Russian lullabies and my father would always be humming something around the house," he recalls.

"Looking back, I got a lot of inspiration from that and it made me learn all these languages. I have been trying to show those influences in my songs."

Words From My Bedroom is influenced by Maro's past and present.

Wistfulness and nostalgia permeate the album, with songs detailing ruptured relationships (It's All Over and Hellstorm) and fading memories.

The latter is particularly highlighted in Carsick, a folk-pop gem co-produced and co-written by Carl Falk, whose credits include songs by Avicii, Madonna and Ariana Grande.

A new focus

Despite the heavy introspection, the album is also a product of its time.

A lion’s share of the songs was written on piano and guitar, in Maro’s bedroom during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020, before he finished the album in Norway, where he's been living since February.

“With the situation in Beirut and now the war in Ukraine, I managed to find a way to stay here in Oslo,” Maro says.

"It has been difficult to adjust and the weather here is not the best. I do miss Lebanon and Ukraine and my family, but I understand that I am at a point in my life where I am maturing because I am living alone.

“I go to the gym and work on songs, I am glad I don't have too much time to wander around and lose focus."

Despite the hardships of dislocation and the deteriorating situation of both homelands, Maro says he remains optimistic.

He ultimately views Words From My Bedroom as a statement of resilience.

"If I was in Lebanon now, I wouldn't have the ability to go to a studio and express myself in these songs," he says. "I am happy now that I am in a place now where the world is able to listen to my songs and I just want to keep going.”

Updated: December 21, 2022, 4:15 AM