After completing her UK shows and preparing for a USA tour, Nilüfer Yanya decided that being authentic to her innermost feelings is vital. We sat down with the musician as she celebrates the release of her second album, 'PAINLESS'.
Nilüfer Yanya. A London-born musician hailing from a patchwork of dissimilar influences that has allowed her to curate music authentic to her being. Her second album, PAINLESS explores feelings of heartbreak, rejection, and the refusal to let these emotions pass her by, making it loved by critics and audiences globally. Her latest project is unfiltered and raw, touching on emotions that lie deep within all of us at one moment or another. But Nilüfer Yanya used the album as her diary, not realising that penning these thoughts would leave many wounds left open. The title emerges from the understanding that pain doesn’t have to have negative connotations, there is also a certain level of freedom in being one with your deepest feelings.
Creativity is embedded into Nilüfer’s DNA, coming from a large family who are mostly all artists in the industry. A Turkish father who is a renowned artist, an Irish-Barbadian mother, a textile designer, and an array of sisters who are all in the creative industry, all often propelling Nilüfer Yanya’s music to what it is today. There are so many pieces to her vibrant story that has allowed Nilüfer to reach the tops of mountains that her younger self would only be proud of. With the dream of having her own studio space this year and completing her USA tour in the coming months, she is ready to be her most authentic self throughout her journey.
You’ve just wrapped up your UK tour! All musicians say live performing is something for their soul… how was it?
It was so good. I was just telling my aunt actually that it was amazing. We sold out a few of the shows I think too, after so long it felt good doing it again. And everyone seemed really receptive.
You kind of had a different experience of lockdown, where people were feeling a lot of inspiration and delving into new ventures. In the first lockdown, you felt more static in that sense.
It was a weird one, the first lockdown I really took a break, but the record came from the second lockdown. But I think that feeling of doing nothing motivated me to create more in the second lockdown. It gave me a weird momentum, to still work even without feeling inspired.
What was that lockdown bubble-like for you? Did you have any breakthroughs or learn anything about yourself?
I was trying to take it easy, 2019 was a really busy year for me so I did want to focus on taking a break and writing. But the thing that was bringing me down was that I wasn’t even doing the writing, so I had to figure out who I was without the songs and the music. but the record for me was to go with that flow.
Did you get an answer to that?
Ummm… no? Haha. It’s just a part of me now.
You come from a creative family, your mum is in textiles, your dad is an artist, and your siblings are also creatives. Do you all bounce off each other and work together?
Yeah, all the time. My older sister directs all my videos and is a really good photographer, so she does all my press photos and everything I need in that aspect we do together. My younger sister is a visual artist, and we really bounce ideas off of each other, she actually did the artwork on my album and she use to sing for my band too.
Your video for “The Dealer” came out a few hours ago too! Do you still get nervous when your projects go live?
A little bit, especially when I post the trailer like “is anyone going to hate this?” But not too nervous it has to do its thing.
I love the video! Your mum helped build the set for it, how was the process behind it?
It came from this idea I had around transience, I know that’s a big topic but specifically around our years and the seasons. For me, every time it’s summer I get the same feelings I had the previous year or am reminded of specific memories. I felt like it was interesting because you feel like you’re going back to those moments, but you’ve obviously moved forward. Your life is moving in a linear motion, they’re not really meeting but they are, and I wanted to show that in the video. I and my sister were going back and forth on how we can achieve that. At 180-Strand they had this exhibition a few months ago and there was a video and it looked like a figure walking but each time it was made by something different. So at first, it was fire, then water, and then rocks, so I wanted to show the different seasons as well in a more abstract way.
Is it a bittersweet moment when you have finalised a project?
I like to move on because once it’s done there is always a feeling that you could’ve done something different or better. you have to have a bit of both, it’s all relative because I might think something is the most amazing idea but it’s the one that no one cares about, and vice versa.
You first picked up a guitar and started song writing when you were 12, as veterans in the arts world, what advice did your parents give you?
I was really shy when I first started, I wouldn’t even play them my songs. But my mum always told me to not get off the bus ever and basically enjoy the journey and not stop.
If we could reflect on that time, being shy to even play your songs out loud. What would she say about your journey and where you are now? Are you proud?
I think she would be really proud. It is something I think about now and then when I am giving myself a hard time. Like it’s crazy to think that 5 years ago I wasn’t doing any of what I’m doing now. But in a way, I don’t like looking back too often, because for me to remain excited about what I’m doing I have to have a clear vision of my future and goals. At the moment I really want to live somewhere else, like Turkey. I’ve been in London for so long that I just need inspiration elsewhere.
I feel like the hot topic right now is leaving London or going on holiday, do you think your heritage and growing up in West London has affected how you take in other forms of genres?
I am always trying to find a way of making things work together, like loads of different things formed into one. I don’t know if that is from being from so many different places and making it work in that sense but I feel like at the same time my cultural identities make me but there is just me. That part of me is the writer etc, I like to make all these things merge and create something that is authentic to myself
What kind of music was present in your childhood?
My dad would listen to a lot of Turkish music and my mum would listen to mostly Classical. It was actually my sister that got me properly into music, she would play skater, pop-punk kind of stuff. Which was so different from what was popular mainstream, but I loved hearing the energy of the guitars, and what inspired me to learn guitar. She was such a skater girl and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
Let’s talk about your latest album Painless, The album has been a hit with fans and critics. I think a lot of people can relate to those intricate feelings you describe in every song, how was that process for you?
I didn’t actually realise I was talking about such deep and dark feelings. And after a year of not writing, whatever I put down I was just happy with it and made the conscious decision to not change what I was writing.
It was really natural, once I had the guitar part I’d come up with a melody and from that, I would try to change the lyrics to fit. Sometimes I can compromise the instinctive style I have to writing, like in the past I would use words to fit or that sounded better. but this time I really wanted to stick with what I was naturally writing down. Even if they didn’t make too much sense, I didn’t want to improve it too much because it would take away from the meaning of the song.
Who would you say is your biggest critic?
Definitely me. because I am the only one who truly knows what I want to make, If I don’t feel it I can’t play it. I don’t like to think about if people will like it or not when I’m writing but I can imagine what people would like if that makes sense?
How would you want to end 2022?
I need my own studio! Definitely my goal this year.