Dubai teenager Esther Eden balances school with promising music career

The UAE-raised teenager talks about her new single Phoenix, overcoming bullying, performing at RedFestDXB – and studying for her upcoming A-level exams.

Esther Eden lives what you might call a double life.

Straight after talking me through her new single Phoenix – recently released on Universal Middle East – the 18-year-old singer-songwriter knuckled down to study for her upcoming A-level mock exams.

The next morning Eden rose early and headed into the studio for a 7am appearance on Radio 1 – before rushing off to school.

“It’s what I love doing,” says the teenager, breezily. “It’s hard work – but really, I enjoy it all.”

It’s been a whirlwind two years, but Eden is clearly taking things firmly in her stride. The story of how the UAE-raised singer was invited onstage, to perform in front of 10,000 people at RedFestDXB 2014, after being spotted on a school visit by pop star Jessie J, has gone down in local folklore. But significant new chapters were added late last year, when Eden signed with Universal – and last month, when Eden returned to RedFestDXB as a billed artist in her own right.

The latest addition to the fairy tale is Phoenix, a summery dance-pop number that sounds closer to the work of a Swedish hit factory than a Year 13 student at Cambridge International School. It's this very dichotomy that inspires the song's theme – "about rising from the flames" – that was Eden's response to bullying she faced following Jessie J's surprise honour.

“I’ve been in a lot of situations where I’ve been put down and I’ve had to pull myself up,” says Eden. “At school I was bullied after the Jessie J thing, because people think I didn’t deserve it.”

Eden will be having the last laugh. The track marks the first of eight tunes recorded at Dubai’s In The Mix studio, towards a forthcoming, as-yet-untitled debut album, set to drop later this year. All the material was written by Eden – who is self-taught on piano, guitar and ukulele – just don’t ask how she does it.

“I write from personal experience,” says Eden, who was born in Goa. India, and has lived in the UAE since she was seven months old. “I don’t even know how it happens. I only know a few chords on guitar but I just try things out. Songs just happen.”

Another single is being prepped for release. First, however, Eden has to tackle those pesky final exams – and work out which colleges to apply to for autumn term. Before Jessie J’s visit, Eden’s plan was to be a child psychologist. As it is, she’ll probably study something in music or media. “It’s important that I don’t forget my education,” she says, soberly.

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