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 ago 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!
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.
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.
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 five 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.
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.
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 meant 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 third 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.
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 to 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.
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.
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.
So how long have you 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.
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.
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. It’s 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 lets the poetry and the message meet on an equal playing field. Once that happy medium has been found the show doesn’t look to sound too terribly different from the rest of the full bands on the show.
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.