24 Feb 2012
When a voice that ‘feels like cashmere’ teams up with some of the hottest producers on the planet, the results are destined to be special. Already attracting a huge following in her native Malaysia, indie-songstress Yuna is now setting her sites on the US with the release of her full-length debut.
So you’re now based in LA, how are you finding that compared with living in Malaysia?
Well it’s quite different to Malaysia, but something that I needed to do. The music scene here is amazing and really helps me stay creative and do what I love … so yeah, I do miss home but I’m really enjoying LA.
The new album features production from some pretty big names … including Chris Braide (Sia, Lana Del Rey) and Pharrell Williams, what was it like to work with those guys?
It was a lot of fun. When I first found out I was going to work with Pharrell I had to make sure which Pharrell we were talking about … I couldn’t belive it. It took me a while to process the whole thing because I’m such a huge fan of his and I’ve been following his music for such a long time. We both come from really different musical backgrounds, I’m a singer-songwriter and he’s an awesome hip-hop producer, but when I was in the studio he made me feel really comfortable. I was really happy that he turned out to be such a cool guy. I guess when you’re in a comfortable position it’s easier to come up with something amazing. I would never have thought in a million years I could have come up with something like 'Live Your Life', it turned out to be such a cool collaboration.
You’ve now signed with Fader, which seems like the perfect fit for you with their focus on music and style. It’s not everyday that Malaysian musicians get the attention of big NY labels, so how did they find you?
I guess the first few people that found me were my management label (Indie Pop) who were based in LA. When I signed with them, they got in touch with the guys at Fader and I was invited to meet them. The first time I performed there, I remember there was a really positive energy and instant chemistry. I loved being around them and I knew right then that they were people that I could work with.
You’re gaining quite a reputation for being a style icon in Malaysia and now the US. Given that you already own a clothing boutique back in Malaysia, do you have any plans to get into fashion design?
Wow if only I had the time! I would love to design and have my own clothing line. I started the shop (I Am Jet Fuel) a couple of years ago back home in KL. For now it’s doing well and I’m really happy with it. Hopefully later when I have more time I’ll get into fashion design.
You’re considered to be a bit of a superstar back home in Malaysia. Has it felt strange having to essentially start again, building a profile as an emerging artist in a completely different scene?
I guess it’s a struggle, but at the same time I have a group of people around me that are super supportive and a huge help. Compared to how I started out in Malaysia, when I did everything on my own this time around it’s a little bit easier.
Have you always performed in English or did you start out writing songs in Malay?
The first few songs I wrote were in English and I put them out on MySpace. A lot of people thought I could write in Malay so I tried that. That’s how a lot of musicians get by there - it’s like you have to write Malay pop music to be heard on the radio and to be able to build a fan base. A lot of people loved my Malay single and I guess that’s how it all started, after that I was able to get into music full time. I also had a lot of music that I had written in English that I wanted to share with the rest of the world and it would have been a waste if I wasn’t able to do that - so I came to LA and decided to give it a shot.
Most people in the US aren’t too familiar with the Malaysian music scene, can you tell us a bit more about what that’s like?
Yeah, the main genre in Malaysia is pop music. It was only about 10 years ago that the underground scene started to surface, it grew slowly and became super popular about 5 years ago. Back then a lot of people started bands and the whole independent scene really started to grow. Malaysia has some great new talent coming up - they’re a little more experimental, a little braver than they used to be, they’re not so focused on creating Malay pop music. They’re all trying to do something new and trying to peruse a career in music outside of Malaysia.
What do you like to do to relax and wind down?
I guess I enjoy chilling out and watching DVD’s or going to the movies. I’m loving shows like The Walking Dead and Shameless right now.
Who are three artists you’re listening to at the moment?
What do you have planned for the next 6 months?
I’m already getting excited to write new songs for the second album. The first album is almost done and it’s coming out in April - so right now I’m exited to get that out, start touring and hearing some songs on the radio. I really hope people enjoy it - I hope they enjoy my music!