Art & Culture
Karl Wolf: The Face Behind the Face
August 22, 2006
If you haven’t heard of multi-talented musical genius Karl Wolf, you need to get with it baby! The award-winning singer, songwriter and producer’s debut solo album, Face Behind the Face, is making waves in his native Canada and beyond.
But there’s a lot more to the Montreal-based artist than a string of awards, a soulful voice, movie-star good looks and killer six pack abs. Karl Wolf, otherwise known as Carl Abou Samaha, was born in Beirut and hails from Achrafieh!
“It’s such a beautiful place,” he said of Lebanon, which he last visited in 1994. “It’s like you connect, that’s where you’re from … so you feel at home.”
The 27-year-old was only three when his family was forced to flee Lebanon for Dubai and later Canada, during the war. But Karl did not forget his birthplace, and his memories were shored up by summer vacations here with his family, and the recollections of his parents and friends. His heritage is also reflected in his music, which mixes r&b, hip hop and dance with Arabic influences. His successful marriage of eastern and western musical styles is displayed in a number of tracks on his album, notably the funky Butterflies and breezy Summer Days (In Beirut).
The older he gets the more connected Karl says he feels to his culture and the more he wants to know about Lebanon. “I really want to know and also help educate people in North America about how beautiful our culture is and that we are not all terrorists and whatever other negative perceptions they may have,” he said in a recent telephone interview from Dubai, where he performed with Mary J Blige. “So I use that in my music and as an inspiration to write and hopefully eliminate such stereotypes in the future.”
In addition to the music, Karl also appreciates Arabic food. “Mloukhiye,” he laughs, when asked about his favorite dish. “And karabij and kneefe.” So heads up ladies, the old saying ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’ holds true for Karl, and mloukhiye is the sure path!
Karl’s past has also influenced his future in another way.
The child of musicians, music has been a part of his life since as long as he can remember. His mother was a piano teacher and his father once opened for the iconic Cliff Richards. “We would have instruments lying around everywhere in the house,” Karl said. “I would come straight home after school and play piano.” But it didn’t stop at just playing the piano. Karl also learnt to play the drums, bass and guitar. “Being a musician wasn’t something I chose to do… it was always in me.”
Although Face Behind the Face is Karl’s debut album, the humble y
oung man is by no means a musical novice.
He took the back road into the musical industry, getting his break as a songwriter and producer before stepping out of the shadows to take centre stage as a singer. He has opened for the likes of N-Sync, Mary J Blige and was booked to open for J Lo who recently cancelled her world tour. He has co-produced and written songs for the reality TV show Star Academy, the biggest selling album in Canada in 2003, which went on to sell five times platinum status in under a year. Winner of “Best Mix and Sound of the Year” at the prestigious L’ADISQ(Quebec Grammy’s) at the tender age of 22 for producing multi-award winning Gabrielle Destroismaisons, Karl was also the recipient of the SOCAN award for co-writing the “most popular song” of 2004 in Canada. He has composed and produced for other successful and award-winning artists like Mitsou, Emily, Jerome-Phillipe and was lead singer of the double platinum-selling pop group Sky in 2002. He has sold about a million records, making him one of the youngest and most successful songwriter/producers in Canada. He has even established his own record company, Lone Wolf Records.
“I’ve been in the business for eight years now … it took so long to finally get here and the trip was not at all pleasant,” he said. “People were closing the door in my face, it was very hurtful, but I think that kind of negative situation forced me to be determined and driven and excited about the future of my career and I’ve proved them wrong in a way and that’s something I’m proud of.”
Karl is also justifiably proud of Face Behind the Face. He wrote and produced all the songs on the album and played virtually all the instruments. His record is musically diverse. Some of the tracks are soulful, others fresh and carefree, but what is obvious is that Face Behind the Face is intensely personal.
“I’m so proud of this album, it’s the best piece of work I’ve created to date, and it’s important that I went down my earlier musical road, just so I could gain the experience needed to create this,” he said. “I’m so happy to be here. I’m so glad that people recognize my music and I want to share it with the world.” So do yourself a favor; check out Face Behind the Face.