100% Maro: the Lebanese pop export made famous by YouTube

Photography by William Eljarbo.

The indie-pop singer/songwriter and self-proclaimed Belieber is emulating the career of Justin with his YouTube covers. With his latest release, Take It Back, he is poised to disrupt pop even further.

A teenage singer learned piano in war-torn Lebanon from his babushka. He used those skills, coupled with his smooth pillow-talk vocals, and began carving out a self-made career by uploading a cover of Lil Peep’s Falling Down to YouTube in 2018. It received over one million views. The singer’s next move was to Northern Europe, where he got a music manager and released his debut single at the end of last year about an on-and-off relationship called carsick. Sounds like a compelling story, right?

This is the elevator pitch for Maro’s short life. Real name Marwan Daou, the 20-year-old Lebanese singer/​songwriter spent his youth moving around, funneling feelings of loneliness and detachment into songs he would write. As a Belieber, Maro would busk in the streets and decided to emulate Justin Bieber’s YouTube-to-major label trajectory by posting covers of himself singing songs by Billie Eilish and Frank Ocean. Last year alone, Maro notched 28 million views on his channel. With only one official track on Spotify, he has 65,000 monthly listeners.

Maro continues to disrupt by releasing Take It Back, a follow-up to carsick that is couched in themes of nostalgia, throwing it back to time spent as a lovesick high schooler. Get to know Maro as he takes our 100% quiz.

10%: Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?

I was born in Lebanon, Beirut, so that’s really where I was raised. However, my parents moved to Kuwait in my teens, so I was kinda living by myself or with my grandma in Beirut. I actually hate that question, where I’m based… The thing is, I’m not really sure myself. I move around all the time. It could be Lebanon, Kuwait, England, Sweden, Norway. Recently I’ve been staying in Oslo, which is a cold place for me to be. So I guess you can say somewhere between the Middle East and Northern Europe.

20%: What got you into making music?

I guess it all started when I was nine. My mom really wanted me to play classical piano, and my grandma/​babushka helped me; she’s a really good pianist. But later on, I discovered Justin Bieber and I became the biggest Belieber. I didn’t really listen to any Western music until I was like 11 years old, but when I discovered it, it became an obsession.

Being a Justin Bieber fan made me want to create the same for myself, since I saw he came from humble beginnings like me. One thing led to another, and boom, I started a YouTube channel. It took five years before I actually got any traction at all, and my classmates used to make fun of me because I sang on YouTube. Then, right before I was gonna quit YouTube cause I didn’t get any views, my Lil Peep/​XXX cover blew up, and I got a new motivation to keep up the good work! Shortly after I moved in with my manager in Oslo, and we lived in his mom’s basement until we got a place of our own, and now I’m making music full time.

30%: At what point did you realise you’d be able to do what you love for a living?

Studying for an extra five years in addition to high school, then getting a desk job until I’m 67, isn’t exactly something I want for myself.

As soon as I started making enough money from music to travel and live on my own, that’s when I realised I was able to do this. I’ve never had a job before, so music is technically the first thing I have made money out of. When I was 16, I used to go busking and play the guitar on the streets of Beirut.

Making money from something you like and have worked hard on makes you appreciate things like this more.

I’ve always wanted to do music for a living, I just wasn’t sure if it was possible because of where I was raised. It is fair to say that Beirut limits the possibility of making it, especially with Western pop music.

40%: What can you tell us about Take It Back?

It was written in Sweden, and it’s actually one of those songs that took only a day to write! It is extra special to me, because it is my first song with a music video. The video team did an amazing job. Torger Vestgard is the director of the video, and I want you to keep in mind that it is his first time being a director of a music video, and it looks like €100,000!

We had so much fun preparing this project, but here is a fun fact no one knows: many of the scenes in the music video were filmed outside. And I’m from Lebanon, where it’s warm. This video was shot in December in Norway, which has infamous negative temperatures. I felt colder than a serial killer. But as you can see, it was all worth it!

50%: What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?

In the beginning of my singing career I didn’t really write original music. It was when I turned 18 that I started to write my own songs. At that specific time depression was really what influenced me, unfortunately. I was going through a tough time, which led me to drop out of university. However, I wrote some pretty good sad songs, and that’s really when music became an outlet for my emotions.

Now, at the age of 20, I write what I’m feeling at the specific moment, or I kinda pretend to be someone in a shitty situation and try to describe how it is to live that life. But I write a looooot of love songs – it comes naturally when you always have girl problems.

60%: What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?

I asked my manager and our roommate this question, here is what they said:

  • Maro’s sleeping schedule is horrible
  • He spends way too much time on his phone
  • He postpones a meal until the last minute, which makes him hangry’
  • He always talks during a movie, and asks questions about the movie plot even though we haven’t seen it either. Like bruh, we’ve seen the same five minutes

70%: Love, Like, Hate?

I love skating, surfing, and I’m a big fan of extreme sports in general. Like writing songs when a girl hurts my feelings. I hate people who chew and talk at the same time. It’s disgusting.

80%: What song/​artist do you currently have on repeat?

I keep listening to The Weeknd all the time. I’m a huge fan. Same goes with Mac Miller and Milky Chance! I’ll tell you something really cool that I listen to… I listen to unreleased Justin Bieber, how bout dat! I gotta plug, you know. Recently, I rock with Dominic Fike and Majjid Jordan.

90%: What’s the most pointless fact you can share?

Lebanese people have the 7th largest dicks in the world.

100%: Who would you most like to see on the cover of The Face?

Me, myself and I, obviously. Mama would be proud. If not me, I would love to see any Arab make your cover.

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