There simply isn’t a screen between Nilüfer Yanya’s feelings and her art – they’re one and the same.
Last year’s ‘Baby Luv’ and ‘Golden Cage’ made this clear; billowing, reverb-drenched guitar lines wrap themselves around tender vocals, an arrangement both sparse and wholly arresting. Latest single ‘Thanks 4 Nothing’ expands on this universe, an intense, endlessly creative return that marks out Nilüfer out as one of the capital’s most potent newcomers.
Right now, though, she’s on a bus, winding her way across London to meet a friend. “Well you don’t really register it,” she says, when Clash broaches the subject of the blossoming hype around her music. “It’s more like, giving up your time to do other things – like press, interviews, and all the other things that aren’t music. Which makes it hard to work out what’s important and what’s not important.”
“I just have to remember where it’s best to focus all my energy… which is still music. But yeah, otherwise I don’t hear about the hype, so I don’t have to worry about it.”
Highly focussed in the way she approaches music, Nilüfer views songwriting as a largely individual, solitary endeavour. “Writing in any sense is like that, because you never know when you write something if anyone is going to like it, so you’re doing it for yourself,” she insists. “I am doing it for myself, more than anyone else. It’s nice that people talk about my music or say nice things, but at the end of the day I still have to write more music because if I can’t do that then all the other stuff doesn’t mean anything.”
“I suppose if it’s a good song you really enjoy writing it,” she continues. “That moment when it all comes together is why I write. It’s hard to know what the aim is.”
Not that she hasn’t had help along the way – an early mentor was The Invisible’s Dave Okumu, who taught guitar at Nilüfer’s school. “I guess it was like basic things,” she recalls. “I was learning chords. At the beginning I couldn’t play guitar at all. But he’s such a cool guy, yeah. I respect everything he does.”
Currently working towards her debut album - “I’d like that to come out early next year, if that sounds realistic!” - Nilüfer is aware that no matter how much she wants to finish the project, songwriting is a flexible artform. “Most of the time it happens quickly,” she says. “Sometimes it’s really long. I think you can tell – or I can tell with my own work in the way that they sound. I guess to someone else it’s not as easy to tell. I wouldn’t be able to tell that about someone else’s songs.”
Also working with her sister on the Artists In Transit aid initiative, Nilüfer certainly has her hands full, but from the initial writing to the studio process, and on into touring, she remains a devoutly independent spirit.
“It’s always hard to control everything,” she sighs. “As time goes by there will be some things I will control and some things I don’t control. It’s not an aim to control everything. I don’t think it matters that much. As long as I have artistic control and can go where I want with my music then that’s fine.”
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