Tuesday January 29, 2013
New year, new Yuna
By ANGELIN YEOH
THERE was not much fanfare surrounding Yuna’s quick return to Malaysia recently. The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Jan 18 and the very next day, she held an interview session with the media at Traders Hotel in the city.
“I’m feeling a bit jet-lagged. Tomorrow, I’ll be holding a kenduri doa selamat (thanksgiving) to show appreciation for the recent Anugerah Juara Lagu 27 win for Best Song. (Singer) Aizat Amdan will be there too. Then, on Monday, I’ll be flying back to the States,” said Yuna.
Earlier this month, Aizat sang Yuna’s song Terukir Di Bintang at the popular song contest awards in Kuala Lumpur.
Of course, as Yuna recently tweeted, she “can’t be in two places at once” and she is no Mary Poppins.
But the 26-year-old hasn’t forgotten about her fans here. She keeps them in the loop as much as possible.
In fact, her video updates and tweets are substantial enough to find out the mundane and exciting parts of Yuna’s life. As we learn, she misses hanging out with her local bandmates and some home comforts (especially forgetting to pack some Nescafe!) for her Los Angeles pad but she is handling her hectic music career the best she can.
Last year was a stepping stone phase for Yuna in the American music scene. Her self-titled debut album, released under the New York-based independent label Fader, made the rounds in the American music scene. One of her tracks on the album, Live Your Life, produced by Pharell Williams, also grabbed the hipster media headlines.
But that Fader deal was just a career taster. That contract ended late last year, and Yuna is ready for bigger things.
Yuna’s successful stint in the United States continues with her signing with Verve Music Group early this month. The American jazz record label is currently headed by Grammy award-winning music producer David Foster. Some of Yuna’s new labelmates include the likes of Diana Krall, Jamie Callum and Melody Gardot.
“David Foster is my new boss and he’s a legend. He’s someone who has worked with (the late) Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. I feel really happy and touched to be a new member of the Verve family,” she added.
Just like Hong Kong star Karen Mok (who released her English language debut album under jazz label Decca Records in London this month), Yuna is also expected to attract more international attention and acclaim with this Verve label contract.
During her recent interview in Kuala Lumpur, Yuna said she’s currently hard at work on tracks for her new album under Verve in Los Angeles.
“I’m working with a lot of different producers and in the midst of writing songs. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work with David Foster on some material soon.”
Dream come true
At present, Yuna is working on tracks with Incubus guitarist Mike Einzieger in the LA studio.
Of course, she has Malaysian fans to thank for making that dream collaboration come true.
“It happened when I did a cover version of one of Incubus’ songs, I Miss You. When Mike was in Malaysia for a concert, fans told him about it. He saw the cover and then reached out to me saying, let’s work together!” she revealed.
Yuna added it’s amazing to be able to work with Einzieger.
“I think it’s really cool going from a fan to like being a friend of Mike’s. It’s the same kind of feeling I get from working with (music producer/Hujan guitarist) AG Coco. I knew him as part of the band Hujan. It’s awesome to be a part of a creative collaboration with people I look up to.”
Yuna hinted that her new album will feature unique (Asian) musical arrangements.
“I’m taking a different approach to the musical arrangements in my next album. There will be elements of traditional Malay instruments like the gambus. For example, for this song called I Wanna Go, I put a lot of percussive kompang-inspired beats to it. I also want to try incorporating the sound of the sitar in other songs.”
Besides her upcoming album, fans can also anticipate the release of a new single and music video under Samsung’s Galaxy Wonderland project. The project invites Malaysians to contribute ideas and illustrations that will inspire Yuna’s next single. The creative collaboration will see Yuna teaming up with music video director Quek Shio Chuan (who previously directed her award-winning video Sparkle) and long-time collaborator AG Coco.
“I get inspired by the entries that were sent in and I want it to be a song about home.”
Yuna explained that despite spending most of her time abroad for work, she will always be a Malaysian girl at heart.
Being true to oneself
“When I’m overseas, that is when I’m more in touch with myself as a Malaysian. I see the world as a Malaysian, and I always think, ‘Oh, we don’t normally do that. In Malaysia, we eat that instead’. I think about what I feel about home when I’m away. The song that I’m writing (for the Samsung GALAXY Wonderland Project) is going to be about missing home and being true to yourself. It’s telling people that no matter where you go, you’ll remember who you are and never forget your roots.”
Yuna added the new single and video for the Samsung Galaxy Wonderland Project will be ready in February.
She also assured fans that her next album under Verve Music Group will be available before her next trip home.
“Hopefully, (the album will be out) in June or July. AG and me will be releasing a Malay single here. I’m working hard now so that I can come back home for Hari Raya.”