RENDEZVOUS: A Quick Catch Up With Nilüfer Yanya
"Sometimes I hate the stage, and sometimes I don’t want to come down. Performing is always a weird experience for me. I always love watching musicians that don't specifically engage with the crowd, but engage with the music on an absorbed level, which makes you feel closer to the music."
London’s Nilüfer Yanya will cast a spell over you with her soulful, empowered, DIY pop. At just 22 years of age, her music has an air of confidence that is both wise and honest. In fact, it’s this unapologetic lyrical approach that draws you in the most - a charming storytelling ability that's hard to resist. It's a refreshing female gaze that tells it like it is, and that voice... prep yourself.
We had a mini catch up to chat about her rise to fame, her fantastic art initiative for refugees and her outrageously smooth vocals (all of which she was particularly modest about).
As always, please press play below to enrich your reading experience.
Your voice is quite extraordinary. When did you realise you had such a distinct vocal ability?
Thanks! I’m always very surprised to find out people think my voice is interesting, to me it sounds like a plain voice. It was more of a relief when I realised I could actually sing OK, because then it meant I could sing my own material! Before that I just thought I couldn't sing...
2017 was a big year for you musically. Did you ever expect things to blow up so quickly?
I think 2016 felt bigger personally for me because that’s when I first released my EP and that felt like I was really putting myself out there. It was really quite beautiful to get any kind of response. So 2017 kind of made sense to me, because by that point I had put out quite a lot more material.
We’ve had your single ‘Thanks 4 Nothing’ on repeat for the last month or so. It’s so honest and beautifully written. Do you ever feel vulnerable when writing about personal experiences?
Thanks! Yeah it's always like, “Oh no, this is so obvious what it is about! Can I really write that?”
But generally I always end up getting out so much more closure from a situation, and different perspectives when I do write about them in songs.
You recently released your ‘Do You Like Pain?’ EP. There’s a few collabs on there too. Do you prefer working solo or with other artists?
I get a lot of joy out of writing alone but you never know what you might find when you work with other people! So I try to do both, but am always predisposed to working alone.
You don’t really sit within a clearly defined genre, your sound flows between R&B and punk, jazz and soul, so effortlessly. Do you prefer working within a certain sound, or do you enjoy the freedom of mixing things up?
I guess I just write what I know, and what I am able to write in that moment. Different songs ask for different stylistic support which is why they seem to flick between different genres.
Do you feel like your sound has evolved or changed from your first EP to now?
Yeah, definitely. I sound a bit more like myself.
A lot of people have written that you have a ‘quiet confidence’ on stage - what do you love most about performing live? What do you want people to feel when they walk away from a Nilüfer Yanya show?
Haha a friend of mine said recently that I have an 'anti-stage presence', which is really funny. Sometimes I hate the stage, and some times I don’t want to come down. Performing is always a weird experience for me. I always love watching musicians that don't specifically engage with the crowd, but engage with the music on an absorbed level, which makes you feel closer to the music.
Can you tell us a bit about the Artists In Transit project, it’s a really inspiring initiative. How important do you think it is for people to have access to art in darker times?
Artist In Transit is a non for profit arts initiative set up by Molly Daniel (my sister) in October 2016.
We have so far been bringing art workshops to refugees in camps and squats in Athens, Greece. We are still at the very beginning so it's hard to say where exactly its going to go. But we would like to work more on the ground here in the UK, as well as lots of other places.
I personally think art is just a great way of getting to know people as it knows no language barriers. More recently I think we have realised it's more about making friends and showing solidarity with refugees and people in darker times than anything else.
Who are some local UK musicians that we should be listening to?
Jazzi Bobbi, Lucy Lu, Joviale, Brian Nasty.
Finally, you obviously have an ear for music. How do you go on the dance floor?
I’m a really bad dancer.
(I think we might be sensing a little modesty on the dancing front too?)
Please indulge in the beauty that is Nilüfer Yanya below: