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Taken from Preview (Jun 10, 2022)

Q&A: Iranian pop legend Ebi talks getting healthy, loving Peter Gabriel and not retiring ahead of Sugar Land date

'Usually, I have just a little bit of cognac to help me relax.'

by Joey Guerra

Ebrahim Hamedi. Photo: Valeska Thomas
Ebrahim Hamedi, known better as 'Ebi' to his millions of fans across the world. Photo: Valeska Thomas

Ebi, the Iranian pop singer whose career began more than five decades ago, still gets nervous just before he goes onstage.

"Usually, I have just a little bit of cognac to help me relax," he says. "But when I'm onstage, after 30 or 40 seconds, the nervousness goes away. You care about your purpose. You care about your crowd. You care about that positive energy."

Though his previous tour was promoted as his last, Ebi, at 72 years old, is back on the road with The Love Project. He performs Saturday at Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land. Tickets are still on sale. A portion of the proceeds go to his With You Foundation, which grants "life-changing gifts or experiences" to Farsi-speaking children around the world.

Ebi left Iran "on a whim" in 1977 when he was invited to perform a few cabaret shows in New York. Two years later, all pop music was banned after the 1979 revolution. Ebi's pregnant wife and two daughters eventually joined him in California. He hasn't been back to Iran since.

His career boasts dozens of albums and singles and multiple tours around the world. He also maintains a huge social media following, including almost 11 million Instagram followers.

"They are not my fans. I feel that they are my closest friends, he says.

What comes to mind when you think of Houston?

When I was (last) there, it was a rainy, rainy, rainy day. Very badly. But I had a lot of fun over there. Everything else was perfect.

Is there a difference in crowds around the world?

I'm in Florence, Italy right now. But my crowd, I don't want to say they are all the same, but the feeling that they are giving to me is the same.

What's the idea behind The Love Project?

It's beautiful. It was supposed to start before corona(virus). Houston is show No. 12. The Love Project has a very special purpose. Other than spreading love and positive energy, which is something that's very much needed now more than ever in the world, it's also about doing some good.

What keeps you motivated after so many decades?

To be honest with you, I love singing. I wanted to quit three or four years ago, but I couldn't. I think I'm going to sing for the next two, three, four years. It's love between me and my crowd. It's love between me and the lyrics that I'm singing, the melody that I'm singing.

What do you think you'll do when you retire?

I'm looking for a new, young singer with a special voice so I can help them with all I've learned over the past 50, 60 years. Most of them are in Iran, and it's impossible to bring them to Europe and America. When I quit singing -- I really don't know. Maybe I won't retire.

Who are some singers you love?

I used to love Peter Gabriel from 1973, when he was with Genesis. One of my idols was Jim Morrison of The Doors. I still listen to them.

What one song from one of your idols would you love to remake?

Jim Morrison, "Love me two times, baby." From Genesis, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway." But one favorite song? How about "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel.

Did you pick up any new hobbies or habits during the COVID lockdown?

I got healthy. Working out and going to the gym six days a week. Sometimes seven. I'm running, and I learned how to swim. If I want to keep singing, this is one of the best habits I'm going to have. After two, two-and-a-half years of not singing, I almost forgot. I think my body forgot, my vocal cords forgot, my lungs forgot. My diaphragm forgot the combination. Fortunately, the last four or five concerts, I found it. I'm more comfortable. There's more confidence now.

Did you always know you wanted to be a performer?

I was singing when I was five, six years old. When I was 18, somebody hired me for his club. I was going to high school and singing every night. I thought, "This is the thing that I love to do."

What advice would you give your younger self?

Follow wherever your heart goes.




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