Xriss Jor is not just a pretty face. When she opens her mouth to sing, jaws literally drop. The hot young star takes inspiration from the likes of Celine Dion, Alicia Keys, and Pink and has taken the Arab World by storm with her talent on the hit MBC show, The Voice, where she was a contestant. But way before she was on our television screens, Xriss was singing in her living room as a child, and performing at countless bars and venues across the country. To the stunning Lebanese songbird, music is about feeling and interaction with the audience, otherwise she says she would have stayed singing in the shower. She’s also a multi-talented artist and refuses to conform to a “regular” job, siting that routine would kill her. Xriss opens up to BeirutNightLife about her career, her life, and her inspirations. It’s been less than a week since she left The Voice, but it’s her voice that’s going to keep Xriss in our minds for a lot longer than any TV show possibly could possibly run.
– When did you first start singing?
I remember singing in my parents’ living room when I was 5 years old. I have the home video to prove it.
– When did you discover that you have this wonderful voice?
I didn’t! Other people did, like my grandma and my parents! Also very early.
– Did you ever study singing or music professionally?
Not very seriously, no. But I took singing lessons with Mary Mahfoud (3 months) and Ecole de Musique Ghassan Yammine (5 months) in my late teens.
– I saw that you studied Fine Arts / Theater and you have a teaching diploma from LAU. Why did you choose to study these?
At my age, Mommah was a painter and Daddy was a singer. I wanted to be just like ’em. When I grew up I developed a love for acting as well. Dad taught to support the family and told me that teaching was the most noble job you can do. So I decided to do all three as well as sing.
– Where have you performed in the past? Were you ever in a band or always solo?
I can’t even begin to name all the tiny bars (in my early singing career), all the wedding venues I have performed in (early 20’s) and the big platforms I was asked to sing on. If I make a list this questionnaire would be sent by the end of the week. I have however regularly sung in places like Coobar and Iris over the past couple years, but everything else was either for a private event of something fun that I wanted to do.
– What is your favorite genre of music to sing?
I would most definitely say “New Soul”.
– Do you write songs and/or music? What inspires you?
I do have originals that only close friends and family have heard. Why dont I publish them? Because it isn’t as lyrically genius as Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) or as musically genius as Hans Zimmer. I’m just an amateur. And if my music isn’t perfect, Id rather keep my music in my playlist.
– How would you describe your voice? In other words, if we were to compare you to other talents, who would they be?
Definitely soulful with a twist of Rock. I can sound close to Celine Dion, imitate Alicia Keys and make you think Pink is around.
– Do you think music is mostly about voice, lyrics, attitude or something else? Why?
Music is about the feel. Lyrics, music and attitude doesn’t count unless the feeling comes first.
– Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I honestly cannot answer that, but it started off with Celine Dion as I was a kid (all my school mates made fun of me, they are probably smiling if reading this) then I moved on to Alicia Keys and then I started loving Pink. My voice would be a mix of all 3 because my singing technique is based on theirs.
– Is your family supportive of your singing career?
Very very very very! Even though my parents are divorced, they were both there from the start and will be there till the end. I know that more than I know my own name.
– How do people respond when they hear you sing? How does this affect you?
Sometimes (rarely) when I sing at high class bars where the people come from posh backgrounds, they are a little shy to clap by the end of the song but I can understand it well. It’s not easy to be the only person in the room clapping, or the first person to do so. However, once they get a few drinks in them, they become wild and by the end of the night, some people even jump on stage with us and start to sing and dance. It affects me in a beautiful way and boosts my performance each time. I am someone who loves interacting (as you could tell from Empire State of Mind on The Voice) and when I’m on stage, I want to make people feel like i’m singing for them. Otherwise I would just stay under the shower.
– Do you have a “day job” or are you a full-time singer?
I have a teaching diploma that I should really put to use. But I just cannot be the average-routine-person who has a 9 to 5 job. The routine would kill me. I am a full time singer. During the day I have time to practice on my songs, have my meetings, do whatever it is that I please (I recently started taking Pottery and Wood Cutting classes) and at night, I get to look great, get pampered up and go sing song to people who love them.
– In the past what other jobs that were not related to music have you had, and did they teach you anything?
As mentioned above, with my Teaching Diploma, I used to be a teacher, but I couldn’t do it for long due to the routine. I just adored the children, but It’s just not me at all. I felt like a fish out of water. I was a Karaoke Hostess with My Mic, a barmaid in Hard Rock Cafe Beirut, an assistant teacher in AIS and CIS and I gave painting and sculpture classes to children. But my jobs were always the most fun where I was surrounded with either music or art. Life is boring without those two.
– Do you have other musical, artistic, or other kind of talents that you’d like to tell us about?
All are mentioned above. Except the fact that I love tennis and fishing.
– What’s the best part about singing?
I can go on stage and be whoever I want and get well-paid for it. Not many people can do that and live off it.
– Where do you see yourself in the future?
On an album cover 😉
– Which musician would you most love to work with?
I don’t want to jinx it. I’ll leave my hopes in my head for now.
- Favorite color: Depending on what, either Green (like for a dress) or Purple (to paint with)
- Favorite music: New Soul & Rock n’ Roll.
- Favorite actor/actress: Lost between Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks & Robin Williams.
- Favorite movie: Splash & The Little Mermaid (Yes I have a crazy obsession with mermaids)
- Favorite food: Sushi, baby!
- Favorite quote: “Don’t explain, your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe you anyway! – Elbert G. Hubbard”