Egypt Speaks!! Our Exclusive Interview
Updated: Sep 3, 2019
Egypt Ali is a very well known artist, poetess and musician throughout the Metal circles across the United States. With her constant relentless touring and sharing her story to the world, Egypt's talents surpass all that can be expected as this young lady continues to grow within her craft as her talent made Egypt Ali become 3rd in the world. as a poet which in itself is such a high achievement for such a young woman.
We had a chance to catch up with Egypt exactly a year today in 2018 during her extremely busy schedule of touring and watching Doctor Who episodes.
Hi Egypt, I want to thank you for joining us on The Metal Onslaught. Have you been having a great tour?
Egypt: Yea! This tour has been awesome so far. At the moment I'm coming towards the end of the second leg of my summer tour which has been a whirlwind. It's been great to get to see a ton of my old friends, but also make some new ones as well. Visiting new places is always an adventure and being out with DDF is always a huge plus!
TMO: How long have you been touring at the moment?
Egypt: That's a pretty hard question. This year's summer tour schedule has been really, really weird ha! It started with Encounter Tour in April which ran right into summer festival season for us and won't end until early September. However, late September starts another long run that will also include my fall tour and ends in November two days before my Christmas tour. After a certain point everything just starts meshing together.
TMO: Any highlights so far?
Egypt: Getting to play Warped Tour for sure has to be a highlight. There were so many bands that I not only grew up with but also looked up to musically that I got to meet and hang out with that day that it was kind of overwhelming. It was also an incredible ministry opportunity. I always felt like Warped Tour was a place where you could be accepted for who you are without judgement. Because of that, the conversations that happen are so much more raw, honest, and real. That was the case for both the bands and fans that I ran into. All of this, on top of the fact that I also got to play the last Cleveland stop. It meant that a lot of my old schoolmates, friends, and family got to come made it pretty cool.
TMO: What made you start getting into music?
Egypt: The short answer? A band called Switchfoot.
The slightly longer one? I grew up listening to music with my grandmother. She listened to just about everything but I remember hearing this weird mix of Queen and Luther Vandross almost daily but that was the extent of my musical selection. Once I started getting involved in our church's children's program I started getting introduced to more musical genres. We've got a pretty big festival that happens about 5 minutes from our house and church. Our pastor organised a trip to go see this festival around the time I was 5 or 6. The year that we went the Newsboys and Switchfoot were playing, and all I can remember thinking is that 1) Duncan Phillips has some really awesome hair, and 2) The lead singer of Switchfoot said that music was a fun way to express yourself and what you were thinking. Now, I'm the daughter of a lawyer, meaning I can argue with a stop sign and that I also was always thinking about something. I started writing these poems and short stories about anything I could think of and it just kinda of grew from there.
TMO: Does your family have a musical background?
Egypt: Oh my gosh no. My mother puts it best when she says that our family is pretty good at making joyful noises in church rather than actually singing. The long running joke is that it had to have been from God because it could not possibly have been hereditary.
TMO: When did you start performing?
Egypt: Around the time I was 8 and I picked up the violin as my first instrument. It was a part of a school program where I took part in where the kids also ended up performing. Poetry wise I didn't start performing the spoken word until I was almost 10, and then not professionally until I was part of our youth group at church. I made a mistake filling out the paperwork for a competition called Fine Arts. Instead of checking short sermon like I mean't to, I ended up entering the spoken word category having no idea what it was. I didn't do too well the first year, but by the time the program finished I had placed first in my state and second in the country in spoken word, and then in a separate competition ended up as 3rd in the world. After all of this happened I got the opportunity to open for Levi The Poet. I thought that would be the last show I ever would do, but here we are ha.
TMO: Who were your influences while growing up?
Egypt: As strange as this sounds I don't really listen to a ton of poetry. I just discovered some of the other poets in the scene not too long ago so I'm super late the the party. On a poetry front I love Levi The Poet, Chris Bernstorf, Christopher Lilley, Propaganda, and RQTEK. I generally pull lyrically from bands like Switchfoot, Underoath, Crowder, For Today and Twenty One Pilots as strange of a combination as that may seem. Musically in what you'll hear me play or write you can hear some TobyMac, Thirty Seconds To Mars, Welshy Arms, and Phil Keaggy influences depending on the venue.
TMO: What made move into spoken word music?
Egypt: A few things actually! I'm a musician at heart, but I'm also one of the only musicians where I live. I had a band called Hear the Sound when I was really really young, and we were cute. Not so much good. As I grew up I fell more in love with music and preaching. I've always wanted to be in a band, and if I couldn't do that then I wanted to be a preacher. The issue is without a band, playing guitar alone gets a little repetitive, and most people wouldn't allow a 10,11, or 12 year old to come and preach to their church. What they would allow though is a child to come and share poetry, which is exactly what I went with. As I grew I'd find that I both love the art form, but also that I could sneak some music in there as well. I also never thought Egypt Speaks would get to where it was. I just never stopped saying no to shows. Shows became tours, and the tours just never stopped. It is truly a God thing. I believe that He has a plan for it even when there are moments where I have no idea what I'm doing.
TMO: It seems to be growing in popularity with all listeners of genres? Is that what you were expecting or something else?
Egypt: In metal, wasn't quite sure how it would work and I never thought that it would grow within Christian Contemporary Music (CCM). Mostly because it's not the most commercial medium of art in either audience. However over time I have noticed that more people are starting to know what it is. I used to have to start every set by telling what spoken word was. If I didn't I would get a lot of very odd looks from the crowd, but even just last night the crowd came in knowing what this was and ready to listen. I typically bounce back and forth between mainstream CCM shows and hardcore events. There's really no grey area in that transition, but to see it's reception and the growing positivity in it is incredibly encouraging.
TMO: So how long have been on tour?
Egypt: This particular tour? Since April.
In general? I started playing out as a violin player when I was about 8, but didn't start touring with poetry until I was 10 or 11 and not nationally until I was 12.
TMO: Do you get to go home much?
Egypt: Not lately no. Like I said, all of these tours have started running into each other so home time has recently started to be only a few days at a time. I was there for two weeks before started this tour and felt like that was an eternity ha.
TMO: What kind of feedback are you getting from the crowds?
It's actually all been pretty positive. I try to make it show my shows are never the same twice and vary by venue. For example if you were to see me on a metal line up you would be seeing an entirely different show than if you were to say see me on a Hip Hop or CCM show. Each set is tailored by venue and style. Its all the exact same lyrics and poetry, just presented in a way that's more comfortable for the audience. I found that once it's tailored to fit where I was I was able to get the crowd to a point where they were comfortable enough to listen to what I was saying, rather than what they were seeing. It let's the poetry and the message meet on an equal playing field. Once that happy medium has been found the show doesn't look too sound too terribly different from the rest of the full bands on the show.
TMO: Is this meeting all expectations or more?
Egypt: I didn't really start with any expectations. I started Egypt Speaks out of the need to have something for a talent show i accidentally signed up for, and started touring because I wasn't quite sure how to say no. I never could have imagined the impact or the longevity of it and am thankful for every opportunity, every story, and every chance I have to do this. I was expecting to never actually leave my room, so every time I get to go somewhere all of my expectations get blown out of the water.
TMO: Who are the coolest people you have met?
Egypt: So many. Actually too many to name.There was a point where a while ago I had actually met and played with all but one of the artists on my iPod ha. From the top of my head I can tell you that meeting Switchfoot changed a lot on both a personal, spiritual, and musical level. I couldn't thank them enough for what they've done and meant to me. Juan Devo, Tony Hooper, Phil Keaggy, and The New Respects are all up there. Literally the entirety of the Danny Gokey and TobyMac band. The Protest will never not be cool to me. They guys in Random Hero and the entire SafeKept clan. On the other hand I've made some incredible friends through all of this like Rachel Nicely, Grace Fershee,the Nales, my Camp Electric family, and the Mott Family who may not be touring, but still mean just as much to me as anyone else in that list and the ones that I didn't have the time to name.
I was blessed with the opportunity to tour throughout my late childhood, the entirety of my teen years, and I guess now at least the first part of my twenties. My Mom always said that it takes a village to raise a child. I just so happen to know that my village is this super mixed team of nomadic musicians and random people I happen to call Mom who are all scattered around the world at this point. Cool to me doesn't mean that they play in a band, or travelling. It means that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will push me to not only better my craft, but also move forward in my faith. I know that any of those people can be good examples of what it means to love people and love Christ. That's why they're awesome.
TMO: Will you be touring for most of the year?
Egypt: Yep! And I need a nap just thinking about that.
TMO: Do you have a following outside of the United States?
Egypt: Actually, yes! This is another one of those things that I never imagined would happen. I mean, I started recording my poetry in my bathroom so the idea that anyone would want to listen to it is humbling and confusing all at the same time. On an international front I've noticed I have a pretty solid Canadian and a United Kingdom following on Spotify. Although I have been requested in Brazil as well as parts of Mexico. I played a series of shows literally on the border earlier this year with DDF so we had a pretty diverse crowd. It was probably one of my favourite tour memories because of the language barrier. My very limited Spanish meshed with a pretty fun game of charades so it worked out but it must have looked pretty odd.
TMO: Do you have any offers yet?
Egypt: I can neither confirm nor deny the probable existence of hypothetical plans to come and possible visit my friends across the pond. All I can say is that I'm trying to figure out whether my Manchester United jersey still fits.
TMO: You have just recently turned 20 years old?
Egypt: Yep! On August 5th.
TMO: Do you still feel like a newbie in the industry or an old hand already?
Egypt: As a poet, I've never really felt like I was a part of the industry. Really, it's more like I'm hanging around outside of the house and hiding in the collective industry's bushes, occasionally making comments about what they're eating for dinner. Every once in awhile I get to come inside, but generally I stay outside of it all. This also isn't really a bad thing. Usually this is because poetry itself is relatively new to the music scene in my genres. I enjoy the ability to get to bounce back and forth between genres. I know that I have been around for awhile, but also that Egypt Speaks is more concerned for those who may not traditionally have a spot at the table. I've always wanted to be the person I needed when I was younger. If that means that I may end up on the outside of the mainstream "industry" I'm OK with that too.
TMO: What kind of advice would you give kids wanting to start out?
Egypt: First and foremost, if you are calling yourself a Christian artist, your music, your actions, and your message are all going to be representative of Christ. If you are unsure, unsteady, or otherwise unstable in your faith, consider strengthening your foundation before you attempt to lead others to a light you may have gotten lost in finding. I cannot tell you the amount of people, artist, fan or otherwise that I have met that while having great intentions found themselves stumbling and tripping others in their walk because they were not prepared for what all artists deal with. Music itself is a ministry, and as a member of a ministry you'll find that nothing is as straight forward as you think that it is. It's OK to have questions, to take time to heal, its OK to be honest about where your walk is, because if you're not, touring itself could be more harm than good.
Remember that you are worth more than your Facebook numbers, album sales, and publicity. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean that someone isn't listening to you. Be the person that you needed when you were younger and show God wherever you go. You never know who is watching.
TMO: Very well said, last year in 2017 you released your full length "Letters & Scars", what inspired you to write the album?
Egypt: For me 2017 was a very very weird year. It was filled with a lot of highs and lows, but what it left me with was a lot of questions. I remember that whenever i had questions as a kid, I was encouraged to ask them, to write out my problems in letter form and deliver them to whoever I had written them for. It helped me to organise my thoughts and reason through complex issues. "Letters and Scars" is just that, except these are letters to things that don't have a mailing address.
TMO: You are quite the storyteller, I also see that you have also written you're own book?
Egypt: I did! The book was entitled Stories named after my first national release in 2015. We only sell those in digital format now but a second instalment of that book is on its way.
TMO: Has poetry always been a passion of yours?
Egypt: Yes! Though it does have its ups and downs.I love the passion and intensity that poetry can bring if done correctly. It's where the message meets emotion and I find in that middle ground things can change.
TMO: What kind of topics really interest you the most?
Egypt: This varies wildly based on how I am feeling. Poetry wise I love deep and introspective questions. I have a whole poem about how light has weight, and if being wise means that I am enlightened then how much more of a burden am I bearing. At the same time I am also pretty ridiculous, so the poem right after that is about how incredibly awkward I am. A lot of my writing is my prayer life. The lyrics are things that I have asked and the answers that I have gotten from those questions. Because it is my prayer life though, you're getting both the deep questions and whatever the Egypt equivalent is of "Why is the sky blue?".
TMO: You also are a Christian artist, when did you give your heart to the Lord?
Egypt: I had to have been in pre-school. I remember my Sunday school teacher gave this whole puppet show about how God loves me even though I may not know it, and I thought that if there is a person who could love me despite my oddities that we could be friends. We've been friends ever since ha.
TMO: What do you think of Jesus claim to be the way, truth and the life and no one can come to the Father but, through him?
Egypt: It's true! I feel like even as older believers we have this struggle of trying to do things on our own. Kind of like praying for a question but then googling it anyway. We have the textbook understanding of Christ but are bent on creating and paving our own way to the throne. I've heard of people being concerned that their works we not good enough to enter into heaven. I've seen people so concerned about semantics that the relational part of Christianity is lost until all the Gospel becomes is a set of rules and a game of Simon Says. Christ came not to abolish the law but to uphold it true, but he also came so that we could have a relationship with the Father despite our short comings. Because of his sacrifice we no longer have to worry about being worthy. We aren't! But the good news is that his sacrifice made it so that our worthiness doesn't matter. I feel like even I sometimes view this verse as almost a threat. Almost like Christ saying "You had better get with the program!" when what it really is is an invitation. This is him saying "Come with me and I will show you my father and so much more". It only is true, it's also incredibly encouraging. With Christ nothing is out of reach and his grace is a gift. Freely given, already paid for, just waiting to be accepted.
TMO: Beautifully said..... Has you always had a Christian upbringing?
Egypt: Yes. My mom was always careful to insure the influence, but to make sure that both my sister and my faith was our choice. She taught as that even though she has taught us faith and facts, that a relationship with Christ was what we needed, and that it was not a walk she could take us on. She would be there for any questions, and Bible studies but if Christ is what we wanted, then we would need to make those choices. Honestly it's the best thing she could have told us, especially with my current job. I'm in a lot of places where temptation abounds and faith can be met with opposition, but because my love for Christ goes deeper than a textbook definition it was easier to navigate those things.
TMO: What kind of messages do you share to your listeners?
Egypt: I have a line in my set where I say that I wanted you to know that "God created you with as much and intent and purpose as the sun that keeps you warm in the morning. You are just as, and so much more important". I want my listeners to know three things. That there is at least one random pint sized poet from Ohio that loves them no matter who they are or where they came from. The second is that I believe in a God who broke every rule of creation in making them. That they are one of a kind and so is their purpose. The third is that God does in fact love you. I don't care about what you've done or the walls that you've built. He's been pursuing you with the same intensity that He was before those walls were built and is waiting for that invitation to knock them down. Just let Him in.
TMO: Where do you see yourself in 12 months time?
Egypt: I purposely try not to plan that far or think of where I'd like to be. I can tell you from my viewpoint everything that I'd love to do, places I'd love to go, people I'd love to play with, but in the end what I want doesn't really matter. When I gave my life to the Lord, I didn't just give him my problems. I gave Him my dreams and my ambitions not to say "Here's what I want! Now do it!". I gave them to Him in the hopes that He will send me where I am needed, to people who need Him. If that includes some of my dreams that's great, but I also have to ask myself how much of my aspirations and plans would benefit anyone other than me. In 12 months time, there's a lot that i'd love to be doing, but what I would like more is to know that in whatever I am doing I am serving with all my heart for a God that has all of me.