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November 2020

Nilüfer Yanya: "If I don't inspire myself, there's no point"

London's Nilüfer Yanya fizzes with potential.
Published: 10:50 am, April 10, 2018
Nilüfer Yanya: "If I don't inspire myself, there's no point"
Creating a fusion of soulful tunes with jazz influences and using space as an important component, Nilüfer Yanya is distinctly different to everyone else making their way up the musical ladder. She doesn't want to be one of those who throws everything at you in the hope it'll stick. Every note is planned out to create intricately woven, delicate instrumentation to pair with her nonchalant, yet crushingly beautiful, vocals.

Having been slowly releasing singles and EPs over the last couple of years, making it on to the coveted BBC Sound of 2018 list, and starting to tour like it's nobodies business, it's now all leading to a full-length effort - though it's slightly different to how she's used to working. Especially considering some of those previous tracks were written a couple of years before ever being released.

"There's lots I've already written before that I think would be good on the album, but I just haven't had the time to rework," Nilüfer begins. "It's weird writing - I don't want to say to a brief, but it's kind of like that. Everything I'm writing now could be on the album, as opposed to just a release - it's a relief though, it's nice."

The relief in her voice is evident and no surprise really. It was only last year that she was able to quit her job, and even now her calendar is filling up mighty quickly. There's an upcoming headline tour in May, a potential second trip across the pond - after her first couple of shows over there in September of last year - as well as festival season.

But, going back to her newly discovered freedom of working, she continues. "It's really exciting. It feels like the natural to way to want to work, so it's nice that I've got to this point now where I can do that."

Building herself up to this point, especially as a solo artist, was, she says "daunting". But the idea that the pressure is on even more now that she has something to fight for hasn't escaped her. In fact, it's made her more aware of the gift that comes from being a new artist discovering yourself away from prying eyes.

"You get the sense that no one's expecting or watching what you're doing. You can just do whatever. You can't make a mistake because, you know, no one's listening or telling you to put out whatever. That's quite freeing, I think."

Quickly reneging this idea though, she muses with laughter: "But then also if no one's listening to you, it's like, what's the point?"

"pull" text="Sometimes I'm like, ‘What am I doing?’

While her quiet answers occasionally betray this uncertainty, there's also confidence as she continues her thought. "I never [actually] felt like oh what's the point, but you put all of your energy into this one thing, and if it doesn't work at some point you have to change tactic."

Having to analyse what you're doing, especially as a new artist, is scary - but it's something Nilüfer is hyper-aware of. "If I don't inspire myself then I won't be able to write anything, and then there's no point - I may as well do something else. A big fear I have is not going anywhere - it's just going to stay the same, or just slowly get worse," she says earnestly.

Nilüfer needn't worry, though, she has the hype machine well and truly moving, especially after support slots with the likes of Broken Social Scene, The xx and Mitski. "Sometimes I feel like I'm going backwards, and getting worse - and sometimes I can be like, ‘Oh wow, this is really developed!'

"I hope I'm developing, but I think right now my focus is a lot more on songwriting itself. I'd like to also weave that in with more musical aspects, and the live show and the live setup. That's something I've always been interested in; I don't feel like that's my strongest point."

"It's a long process," explains Nilüfer. "I don't really know what I want. Actually," she pauses. "I do know what I want it to sound like. I want it to sound raw and simple - stripped back and quite clean in some parts, but it's quite hard to get that across to the audience because the audience has seen so many things before."

While Nilüfer sees her live set as needing a bit of fine-tuning, her recorded work is a different story. Having amassed over five million Spotify plays - and counting - she's certainly doing something right. "I don't want it to sound like a highly produced, highly finished product because a lot of music sounds so finished and very perfect. Nice round edges and everything," she asserts. "Sometimes I'm like, ‘What am I doing, why don't I just make it sound better?' But it doesn't mean that it is [actually] better."

It's statements like these that give Nilüfer the real upper hand; it also gives her music more heart. "That's what you want from music, so it inspires you somehow. Just to get your mind working, and [so] you understand the feeling."

"I'm still very much on the journey of trying to move forward," she concludes. "Obviously, getting to thinking about an album stage, that's a point - but that's not an endpoint. That's just kind of where I'm at the moment. I haven't finished. I haven't even started the journey… it's kind of like I'm still at the beginning."

Taken from the April issue of Dork - order a copy or subscribe below. Nilüfer Yanya tours the UK from 18th May.

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