She's no Taylor Swift
Her latest album may be inspired by heartbreak, but don't expect M'sian singer Yuna to spill details about her love life
One may be tempted to think of Malaysian singer Yuna as her country's answer to pop superstar Taylor Swift.
After all, they are both young and talented and have worked with huge names in the US music industry.
Since moving to Los Angeles in 2011, 29-year-old Yuna, whose full name is Yunalis Mat Zara'ai, has had songs such as Live Your Life produced by Pharrell Williams, and recently released the breezy track Crush, featuring R&B star Usher.
For her latest and fifth album, Chapters, Yuna, who will be performing at the Neon Lights festivalthis month alongside acts such as Sigur Ros and Jose Gonzalez, drew inspiration from her last break-up.
But unlike Swift, she would rather not spill details of her love life.
"I don't want to say too much about my previous relationships... I don't want to be looked at as the Taylor Swift of Malaysia," she told M on the phone from Los Angeles yesterday.
"I understand why she writes about heartbreak, because that's the stuff she knows. There's a reason singer-songwriters always write break-up songs; it's a way for us to express ourselves when we're falling out of love."
For Yuna, Chapters is a coming-of-age album that chronicles her blossoming into womanhood.
"It's about me finding love, losing it, and then finding myself again."
Yuna regularly posts pictures of her fashion shoots on Instagram, but is quick to dismiss the idea that she is living the glamorous Los Angeles lifestyle.
"Definitely, a lot of people think, 'She's rich!' But honestly, I'm just trying to make ends meet.
"You would expect Pharrell and Usher to be just living it up and chilling all the time, but in reality they work really, really hard."
She described how Williams would already be in the recording studio when she arrived at 10am and still be there when she left at 10pm. Even when she arrived early, she would always bump into the Grammy-winning producer.
"It's like he never even left the studio at all," she said.
"Artists like Pharrell are always working, because they are very disciplined and hungry (for success)."
Yuna has also realised that fame is not without its fair share of controversy, especially as a Muslim woman.
Some Malaysian netizens criticised her when she hugged Usher on stage at The Roots Picnic music festival in Philadelphia in June, where they performed Crush together.
Still, the singer said she has no regrets.
"I'm a hugger, and in American culture, it's a way to show appreciation and friendship for people. It's not like I was kissing anybody.
"It's funny how the media focused on that instead of the fact that I was working alongside legendary artists like The Roots and Usher."
Although she holds a law degree from Mara Technology University in Malaysia, Yuna is enjoying making music too much to consider a career change.
"Maybe one day I'll get to work with the United Nations on international law, which is also a dream of mine.
"But for now, I'm embracing the moment. I really love my work and the creativity it offers."
What: Yuna at the Neon Lights festival
Where: Fort Canning Park, Main Stage
When: Nov 27
Tickets: From $135 for audiences over the age of 12. Visit www.neonlights.sg/tickets for more details.