Yuna performs at Stern Grove Festival on Sunday, June 29, at 2 p.m.
In a remarkably short period of time, Yuna has risen from regional D.I.Y. notoriety to full-on international stardom. In the process, the charismatic young singer-songwriter from Malaysia—who makes her Verve Records debut with Nocturnal—has become the first artist from her homeland to conquer the American market.
The ease with which Yuna has transitioned to border-defying mainstream success shouldn’t be surprising, considering the effortlessly universal appeal of her organic blend of contemporary pop, acoustic folk and soulful R&B. The artist’s personally charged songs are deeply felt yet melodically irresistible, combining her engaging voice and expressive songcraft with imaginative production to create distinctive music that’s won her comparisons with the likes of Feist, Adele and Norah Jones.
Read on for our interview with Yuna, and keep your eye open this week for other Yuna-related blog items, such as our Playlist of the Week and videos of her past performances.
SGF: What has been your favorite performance to date?
It would probably be my show in Kuala Lumpur performing with the Malaysian National Symphony Orchestra. It was just amazing to hear my music being accompanied with an orchestra. It was surreal.
SGF: How does it feel being the first Malaysian singer-songwriter to stake a claim in the American music industry?
I feel honored whenever people say that about me. I’m truly grateful to all the people who have helped me become a better person and a better artist all these years. I guess when people say I’ve made it because I’m making music out here, as an artist I see America as one of the many countries that I could go to and explore my creativity.
SGF: Where and when was your first public performance? Did you know at that point that you wanted to be a singer?
It was at my hometown Subang Jaya, when a really good friend of mine had organized an event and added my name to his flyer. I was so nervous and couldn’t believe I was going to perform. I really just thought that it was going to be a one-time thing. So no, I had no idea if I was going to be a singer.
SGF: As an observer of the Muslim faith, how do you feel about the immodesty of many of today’s performing artists, many your same age?
I think even if I was a different person, I would still think immodesty is not for me. I think a lot and I try to educate myself about the current situation involving girls and sex trafficking…so as an artist, as a woman, I would like to show a different kind of example to younger girls regardless of their background. You don’t need to portray yourself as a sex object to make music.