Artist Decoded: Yuna Talks Identity, Connection, and Enjoying the Moment

I have to just remind myself now before it’s too late to really just enjoy the moment, and embrace people for who they are.
— Yuna
Photography by Dyan Jong via  The Laterals

Photography by Dyan Jong via The Laterals

Artist Decoded is a weekly podcast series created by emerging creative director and photographer Yoshino.

Listen to Yoshino and Jarell Perry's joint interview with singer-songwriter Yuna below:

Yuna is the stage name of Yuna Zarai, a Malaysian pop vocalist and guitarist. Born Yunalis Mat Zarai in the town of Kedah, she began writing songs at age 14. She soon taught herself how to play guitar, and by 2006, in need of a creative outlet while attending law school, performed for an audience for the first time. Yuna offered her music on her MySpace page, which went on to net over one million plays. This online success tipped off the Indie-Pop label / management company to her music, and in early 2011 she signed with the Fader label. Joined by guitarist Pa'an, bassist Efry Arwis, and drummer Adib Azfar (and later, Adil Ali), Yuna made her recorded debut in Malaysia in 2008 with a self-titled EP, which went on to snag five Anugerah Industri Muzik nomincations (the Malaysia equivalent of the Grammy). She took home four trophies, including Best New Artist and Best Song (for the breakout hit "Deeper Conversation"). The Decorate EP followed two years later (and was released stateside in spring 2011). Decorate incuded the viral hit "Rocket", which won raves from Billboard magazine, indie rock radio station KEXP, and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, as well as ink in SPIN's "Eight Bands You Need to Hear Now". On the performance end, Yuna was nominated as one of MTV Iggy's Best New Bands in the World in 2011, and she marked the occasion by playing at the historic MTV Studios. Yuna rang in 2012 with a new single, "Live Your Life", produced by Pharrell Williams as a preamble to her self-titled full-length debut, released in April 2012. Summer 2012 found Yuna sharing the Lollapalooza stage with the likes of Florence + the Machine, Jack White, and Childish Gambino. In 2013, Yuna returned with the album Nocturnal featuring the single "Falling." In February 2016, Yuna previewed her third album with the release of "Places to Go", a single produced by hip-hop legend DJ Premier. The full album, Chapters, was released three months later. - Chrysta Cherrie, Rovi @ Billboard

Topics covered in this episode:

  • Southeast Asian ghost stories
  • Scary movies
  • On her desire to act
  • Growing up watching Bollywood and Hollywood films
  • Explaining her identity as a Malaysian born singer / songwriter
  • Discovering nuances of her identity
  • Clearing the air on certain Muslim stereotypes
  • The importance of not losing yourself in the entertainment industry
  • Her desire to make people aware of human rights issues
  • Being in touch with your own personal journey and organic growth as an artist
  • Everything one does as an artist being a preparation for the next step
  • Learning to enjoy every moment and to embrace people for who they are
  • The connection she has with her fans
  • Transitioning from law school to a full-time music career, encouraged by her parents
  • Her new album "Chapters"