BALTIMORE –She is the equivalent of a Grammy-award-winning artist—In Malaysia, where she won Song of The Year for the self-penned track "Dan Sebenarnya" at the17th Anugerah Industri Muzik Awards. Now singer/songwriter Yuna is making her mark in the United States.
Her music mirrors her personality. It’s genuine, bubbly and soft.
“I’m pretty much the same everywhere I go,” Yuna said. “How I’m speaking to you right now is pretty much the same way I speak to my audience and family back home.”
Back home is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she built quite an impressive fanbase in a place where she says most new artists are still stuck in the Whitney Houston (big ballets) era. On the contrary, Yuna describes her style as a cross between Mary Poppins and Cold Play.
“I get into a lot of trouble for that one,” she said with a laugh. She explained her music is “rockfish, acoustic and emotional, and sometimes it’s very happy and bubbly.”
While pursuing her legal studies degree in Malaysia, Yuna used music as a refuge.
“It all began from law school,” she said. “Law school really took a lot of my energy. I was really worried that I would lose touch with my creative side. I made friends with a lot of people in the music industry. “
Yuna began studying piano at age 7, but soon quit. However, she says she still remembers the chords, which is great for songwriting. And she’s a self-taught acoustic guitarist.
I'm just a normal girl who loves music. I don't really like it when people try to see beyond that.
In February, The U.S.-based record label Fader signed her and began promoting her EP "Decorate."
“It’s been amazing,” Yuna said.”I didn’t expect this at all. For it to be this quick. A lot of artists struggle long and hard to be where they are. It would normally take like 8 years, and I believe that because it took me 5 years in Malaysia, and that’s a small country. So, it was surprising that I finally have my EP out last March. The Fader Label has been amazing. They brought me out here to tour with Raphael Saddiq. I get to travel and meet a lot of people. I love it.”
Yuna says the major difference between audiences here and in her home country is that the Malaysian crowd is a “tough cookie.”
“Before I became--not to say huge-- but before people could recognize me on the streets, knew my music and could sing along, they were quit timid, very very quiet ,” said Yuna of audiences in Malaysia. In America, “they’re pretty responsive and very friendly. It’s easy to get a good vibe from them. “
Performing in a country that has been ridiculed for not being so Muslim friendly, doesn’t seem to phase Yuna—a Muslim woman.
“I feel like I’m very proud of my religion,” she said. “It’s not like I hide who I am. I just be myself wherever I go.
“Basically what I try to promote is if you’re a girl and you have dreams, just go for it-- regardless of your background, religion. I’m just a normal girl who loves music. . . . I don’t really like it when people try to see beyond that. This is me. This is just me singing. Just let me tell you my story.”
This interview was made possible by Gypsy Soul.