Hadi, full name Hadi Sarieddine, couldn't have been more excited earlier this year, when Mike Shinoda from American rock band Linkin Park produced the Dubai resident's song live online.
It's called Clarity and is the title track of the singer-songwriter's recently released solo album.
This cross-continental collaboration is part of the US musician's ongoing #ShinodaProduceMe series.
The initiative was launched at the beginning of 2021 by Shinoda on his Twitch channel, where the Grammy Award-winning musician asked followers to recommend aspiring artists who could submit songs for consideration.
The chosen tracks are then produced live by Shinoda during a Twitch stream, alongside commentary on the creative process.
All about the details
Hadi, a long-time fan of Linkin Park and Shinoda’s hip-hop group Fort Minor, wasted no time in submitting his entry. As per the guidelines, he submitted a vocal take accompanied by a solitary instrument – a rough version of his ballad Clarity.
"It was a song written at least a year and a half ago and I remember it being a cathartic experience because it talks about this deep anxiety I was feeling," he tells The National.
"While I performed it a few times live as part of solo shows, I always found it challenging to produce. I tried several times and the song never really came together.
“As soon as Mike announced what he was doing, I immediately recorded a quick take on the piano and uploaded it on my Twitch channel.”
Buoyed by Hadi’s followers and online fans of the work, Shinoda publicly chose Clarity a few days later.
Work began almost immediately and Hadi got an insight into Shinoda’s personal and production processes.
“He is very approachable,” Hadi says. “He told me how he wanted to hear different takes on my vocals. He gave me cool tips on how to accentuate the performance. With Clarity, he wanted the vocals to sound more punchy and clear.
“He was generous with his time and very detailed. There were no one-word answers. He was invested and it was inspiring.”
Trusting the process
The big day, when Clarity would become the 23rd song Shinoda produced live online, arrived on April 7.
How did it feel for Hadi to have his musical hero pulling apart a song he composed in front of the world? “Oh man, it was just amazing and everybody was vibing with it,” he says.
"He did it over two sessions and it was cool for us to see how he worked.
“He was calm and he would tell us, 'OK, first order of business is we start with the drums', and then he would move on to guitars and so on. He was always calm and knew what he wanted."
Hadi kept those production notes on hand as he went on to complete a dozen eclectic tracks that make up his new album, which was released at the end of June. The songs range from the strident hip-hop tune Underdog to the wide-eyed pop song In the Stars.
“By the time I did my session with Mike, I would say that 90 per cent of the album was written,” he says.
“But at the same time, I have been watching him working on all the other artists’ songs and I was paying attention and applying those skills to my own work.
“Mike likes to take an idea and see it through no matter what happens. A lot of times we, and I speak for myself, abandon ideas because it doesn't sound as good as we initially thought.
“I realised that once I really start putting the song together and chasing where it goes, then maybe something interesting would come out of it. The key lesson is not judging your work."
An online family
That sentiment also applies to the musical family on Twitch. Known as the premiere streaming platform for gamers, the site also provides a space for musicians – from big-name stars to aspiring amateurs – to share songs, perform intimate sets and generally hang out.
Live performances in the UAE might be making a return, but Hadi says the online bonds he has forged with fellow struggling musicians are real. For this reason, his "community” were the first to hear Clarity, the album, before it was released.
“We are like-minded people and that sense of togetherness really filled that gap for me during the pandemic,” he says.
“Performing on Twitch is similar to busking – but you are busking in the sky.”