Singer Ramzi talks about his latest single
Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
In 2009 I interviewed singer Ramzi when he was singing of weddings, marriage and popping the question, and I assumed he was speaking from experience. He wasn't.
So when I finally got hold of the British-Lebanese heartthrob at his London home (after a fair amount of cat and mouse, probably due to life as a newly-wed, I surmised) to chat about his latest single, My Wife, the assumption was again made. Silly me.
"I don't actually have a wife myself," he cut in, picking up on my already mushy, congratulatory tone.
"I like to do songs people can relate to," he said quickly to fill the stunned silence. "I think I like to write songs people may consider having as their first wedding dance song. I find it much easier to write songs inspired by other people because there's less pressure on me. It allows me to be someone else. A female if I feel like it, so I can write the things I think and believe."
His back catalogue plays like a romantic fairy tale — and even boasts the ultimate happily ever after now.
He's obsessed with love, proposals, weddings and marriage, yet he's single. So to all the female fans clutching at dreams of one day walking down the aisle and into his arms, don't panic. He asked me to assure you all he's still very much single and on the market. "My wife is my music," he laughed.
"It's the only thing I have time for and the only thing I give everything to right now. She certainly keeps me busy."
A terrible secret-keeper, Ramzi was literally bursting at the seams to tell me his latest news.
"I'm going to appear at Virgin Megastore and I'd love to perform but I'm not sure what's booked yet," he blurted out. "I can't wait to see my fans in the UAE again. It's been a while, to be honest."
His first single, Love is Blind, from his debut album, Chapter One, is a hard-hitting emotional roller coaster about a friend who was being abused by her partner. It went global and catapulted the singer to fame overnight and has to date received more than three million hits online.
My Wife, from the new album, Touch the Sky, due out next week, has had more than 40,000 views on YouTube in just over a month.
"I think everyone wants to get married and settle down. I want to get married," he said, quickly adding, "One day."
‘I've been lucky'
Often referred to as the UK's answer to Ne-Yo, Ramzi is already a hit there, where he has worked and written for close friend Taio Cruz, Kelly Clarkson, Lulu and has toured with many, including Westlife.
"I have been so lucky to work with such great artists," he said. "Lulu was an inspiration. She was so fun and energetic and exciting. She was like a child. It was wonderful."
The famous faces he's been in cahoots with must also take some of the flak for why we've had to wait two years for album number two. "It's taken me so long to produce because I've been so busy writing for others. But it's been wonderful and I wouldn't have changed a thing. Writing for myself carries a lot more weight and pressure and sometimes that can get a bit much," he said. "There's a lot more emotion when I'm writing about things happening to me. I think I'm also a lot more critical."
Born in London to Lebanese parents, the 28-year-old has always maintained his success in the Middle East is due to his ability to relate to the history and heritage of the region through his roots.
"It's sort of a no-brainer," he said. Though now, he also credits the internet and the rise of social networking in particular.
"The internet is now a musician's biggest fear and best friend all at the same time," he said sounding somewhat deflated.
‘A different sound'
"It allows me to stay in contact with my fans in the Middle East and around the world on a very personal level. But it also fuels illegal downloading which makes life tough for us. I rely on people actually going out and buying my album, especially in the Middle East, where I'm not always there doing shows and staying relevant."
Great timing then as EMI, Ramzi's label, last month signed a deal with Souq.com, the UAE's answer to Ebay, to distribute music online through the EMI Music Store, where his album will be available.
As well as a singing, songwriting and producing, Ramzi plays the guitar, piano, and dirbaka (an Arabic drum) something which also features on the new album.
"This album has a very different sound," he said. "It's so diverse when I compare it to my first. It's such a strong album with lots of great songs and I'm extremely proud of what I've produced.
"There's a lot more R&B influence. Tracks which will work in the clubs too, which I believe suits Dubai."
Single and heading to Dubai, Ramzi may have to lay low to avoid a stampede.
"My new album will keep people guessing," he said proudly.
A bit like the path of his seemingly elusive love life.
Rather than "new music in store" we have a "new store for music".
EMI Music Arabia and souq.com have joined forces to bring music direct to the ears of Middle East music lovers.
The largest online marketplace in the UAE last month unveiled a brand new platform for customers to purchase music and related merchandise online. Shoppers can choose from a catalogue of more than 6,000 albums on the EMI Music Store on souq.com, the first time a large range of CDs has been made available online in the Middle East.
CDs and other merchandise will be delivered directly to your door.
The range of merchandise includes the popular Pacha brand from Ibiza with its range of designer headsets, speakers, and related accessories.
The EMI Music Store and EMI Merchandise Store on souq.com is now live at souq.com/EMImusicstore or Souq.com/EMImerchandisestore