Hear Therése Neaimé's story and a pattern quickly starts to emerge: that of an emphatic, almost compulsive desire for constant forward motion, progression, reinvention and improvement. From junior athletics protégé to professional dancer and model, from international breakout pop sensation with hits across several continents to proud mother of two, the Swedish-Arabian's inner zeal for more pushes her to achieve, meet and realise new ambitions, goals and dreams both professional and personal almost as much as a matter of principle as fulfilment. If there's a word that she loves to pepper her speech with most of all it's "drive". No wonder Neaimé's been appointed brand ambassador for Volkswagen in the Middle East - her second home, the distinctively exotic regional sound and cultural flavours of which she's prepped to take global in an irresistibly upbeat, enchanting and energising filigree of exuberant world pop, much as Shakira has done for South America.


Freshly synced with Playground Music International ready for the worldwide release of her sensational third album Sandstorm,  Therése's self-run record label is called Future Records - a title evocative of how she lives life: with both eyes fixed at all times firmly on the next horizon, from frozen northern snow plains to sweltering eastern deserts. Born and raised in Stockholm to a Swedish mother and a Lebanese father, Neaimé has two distinctive sides to her - one cool, calm and calculated, the other hot, passionate and always prepared to take a chance. They've harmonised to create a totally unique performer, songwriter and personality with limitless potential. But it’s been a process rather than a ready-made product, powered by a will to continuously push limits: faster, higher, further, stronger.


Neaimé's first passion as a youngster was for track and field. During a tough year at school when she was bullied, she took up athletics hoping to boost her confidence if nothing else. With a tall, slim frame, long legs and – as she was soon to discover - determination like no other, she was a natural from the first crack of the starting gun. "I was fastest kid in my class," Therése reminisces proudly, "I was really fast. I could beat the guys at 60 metres." When not pounding the oval, she was learning to sing and in particular to dance - a passion and talent inherited from a parent. "My father was a dancer," Neaimé explains, "so I was dancing before I could walk."


In her late teens Therése took a leap of faith - the first of many in her life. Number five in Sweden at the long-jump, she was agonisingly close to going pro as an athlete, but still lacked a sponsor. Around the same, the opportunity arose to begin working as a backing dancer and singer for international stars. Had she stuck to sport, you could easily picture her on the podium at the London Olympics. But she could only take one path, and instead chose to follow that once trodden by her pop idols Michael Jackson, Madonna and Whitney Houston. Neaimé spent the next several years touring the world performing with some of the biggest names in the business, on huge stages for adoring crowds. It led to appearances in MTV music videos and television shows such as Soul Train, and a side line in modelling. She did shoots for all from lingerie and swimsuits to sports gear and home wear, on behalf of brands from IKEA to Levis. “My ass was all over town," she jokes, with regard to one high-profile jeans commercial framing just her posterior. "It was a great picture and nobody knew it was me. It was really frustrating!"


Then, one night onstage in Mexico City in 1996, in front of an audience of 60,000 people: an epiphany. Travelling the world as an accessory to the artistry and vision of others - constantly being a background figure - was one thing, and she loved it. But to step forward and express herself through her own words and voice - that was another, infinitely more intoxicating prospect. Fast-forward three years: Therése is packing her bags, leaving behind a steady relationship of ten years, a big apartment in Stockholm, jobs, friends, family. Destination: Hollywood, and the Los Angeles Musicians Institute. She arrives having never before written a note nor word of music. Her first song, 'How Could You Leave Me' - penned from the perspective of her ex-boyfriend - ends up being used in the soundtrack for the Swedish movie Language Of Love. Talk about a natural.


After rising to the top of her class and gigging regularly around LA with her band, sharpening her performing skills to a fine art, in 2004 Neaimé was hired by Jörgen Elofsson - a world-renowned Swedish songwriter for massive names from Britney Spears to Kelly Clarkson and Leona Lewis. She soon found herself based in Elofsson's luxury villa, the only female on a team of five writers, working away daily crafting the smash-hits of tomorrow. But soon one of her own compositions and recordings, 'Colour Of Love', began to pick-up heavy radio rotation. Sensing her big break was imminent, Therése opted to strike out alone and founded Future Records - after rejecting several major label offers ("If I started my own record company I could be in control and move forward," she explains) - self-releasing her critically-acclaimed debut album Livin'  in 2006. A triumph of sophisticated, intelligent and intensely personal adult-orientated pop, it spawned several successful singles - among them Swedish number eight 'Not Easy' and 'The Future', which spent many weeks in the US AC Radio Top 40, climbing to number 13. Suddenly Therése wasn’t in the background anymore.

And then another leap of faith.


The Middle East - specifically her father's native Lebanon where Therése has a huge family - had featured large in her early childhood. "We went every year until I was nine years old," she explains, "then the war got really bad, and for many years I didn't go back. There was a big gap there. I reconnected when I was about 19 or 20." Always curious of her Arabian heritage, and eager to express herself through its exotic language and musical scales, the two worlds which as Neaimé puts it "complete me as a person" began to converge via her music career. With help from friends and family in Lebanon, she managed to land Livin' in the hands of Music Master - a subsidiary of Universal Records in the Middle East. They loved what they heard, and offered her a deal: fly to Dubai and stay there at her own substantial cost, and in exchange she'd get 10 days of press and promo in which to prove herself. Was Neaimé prepared to take the risk? If you’ve read this far, that should hardly require answering.


This one proved completely life-changing. So warmly did the Middle East welcome Neaimé, she now lives several months a year in Dubai, working almost constantly when she's out there, with several gigs a week ranging from full-band concert tours to VIP personal appearances. "It was the best decision I ever made," she beams, of opting to look eastwards for new horizons, and for musical inspiration too, as manifested in the exotic, Middle Eastern-tinged euphoric dance-pop and moody  balladry of her excellent second album, 2011's Stronger. She's appeared on chat shows and in the pages of Hello magazine, performed for royalty, and as already mentioned become the regional face of a leading car brand. It's even led Neaimé to tour Afghanistan, playing shows for troops - "one of the best tours I've done in my life," she enthuses - and opened more doors back in Europe thanks to landing her several major dates there supporting Simply Red on their farewell tour.


And if the Middle East can fall so hard for Neaimé, surely Europe, North America and the rest of the world can too? Sandstorm is just the album to turn heads, steal hearts and switch a global audience on to a fresh, intelligent and exciting blend of world and contemporary pop styles: a true document of the experienced, seasoned and multi-culturally "complete" Therése Neaimé, her Swedish and Arabic instincts working in close harmony. From "big break-up song" 'Kiss', to the epic mystery and drama of the title track 'Sandstorm', it's all about "sincerity" and "passion" as Therése puts it. "These songs are authentic - and written from the heart," she says. "I think each song has its own life. When you write a song, you really make a baby."


She speaks figuratively, but motherhood – Neaimé's proudest achievement yet – had a significant bearing on Sandstorm’s themes and creation. Her son Lucas, two, plays noisily in the background as we speak, while her recently born daughter Nikki she cradles in one arm. The children will share in every stage of their mother’s career, travelling with her at all times. "This one was nearly born in the studio," she says of her youngest. "We were recording the song 'Take Me To The Sky', and she came nearly one hour later. I'm a warrior," she laughs. "I had to finish the last song for the album before she came."


Where does she get it from - this "warrior" instinct as she calls it, that pushes her indefatigably onwards at all times? Neaimé thinks carefully, but is at odds to pinpoint a specific external force - the best explanation she can offer is the lessons learned from those small, seemingly insignificant earliest first achievements of her youth: striding past the boys (and the bullies) on the athletics track, while mastering beginner steps as a dancer. "It gave me confidence about myself – showed me I’m good at something, and made me realise what I want to achieve in life: to become great," Neaimé muses. "It was a great foundation for what I'm doing today - it showed me that anything is possible.


"You can have the talent," she continues, "but if you're not prepared to do the work and go the whole way it doesn't matter. I think it's about my determination and my drive and my never-ending energy. Not to prove anything to anyone else, but to prove to myself." It's all a race, in other words, against just one competitor: Therése Neaimé. And if her story proves nothing else - faster, higher, further, stronger - it's that she's getting harder to beat all the time.


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