MEET THE BAND: Nilufer Yanya (vocals, guitar)
THE BENEFIT OF HAVING ARTISTIC PARENTS: British singer-songwriter Nilufer Yanya says that when she was younger, she really didn't think about the significance of having parents who were visual artists. "Now, I can see looking back at how it helped me choose something creative to do with my life," she says. "Maybe I would have done it anyway. But they're definitely the reason. When you grow up around people making things, you don't question it. You just want to do the same thing." Yanya picked up the guitar at age 12 and immediately fell in love with the instrument. "I wanted to learn it for a long time," she says. "I loved to write songs. Up until that point, I had only written songs in my head prior to that. I wanted to write songs for guitar. It was like a dream I had. To do that, I had to learn guitar first."
ALBUM TIME: After issuing a series of EPs, Yanya signed a record deal and says the folks at the label immediately told her it was "album time."
"It was very difficult to write the songs and be pushing live stuff and promo," she says. "My life had gone from music being something like a side thing to the only thing I was doing. I was just like, 'What?!' It had become my job. I had never seen it like that before. I had never seen music as working, but now I was working." She recorded the album, Miss Universe, in London, Cornwall and Los Angeles.
Thanks to the widespread acclaim it received, it was just voted No. 3 on NPR's Best New Artists of 2019 poll, and Yanya supported indie singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten last winter.
WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR HER: Miss Universe opens with the jittery "In Your Head," a song that features synthesizer flourishes and distorted vocals. "Angels," another album highlight, moves effectively from loud to quiet segments. A much softer track, "Baby Blu" still has an intensity to it. "That was a very specific breakup song," says Yanya. "We started writing it two or three years ago. I had a session with a pop writer. I didn't know if I could write anything with this guy. It was one of the first writing sessions I've ever done with another person. It was so nice. I had broken up with my boyfriend at the time. We talked about it, and then we started writing the songs. It's funny because I sing it now, and I don't think about that person at all."
WHERE YOU CAN HEAR HER: facebook.com/niluferyanya/.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE HER: Nilufer Yanya performs with Pixx and Lucy Lu at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 30, at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights.