I’m always fascinated by creative people’s family backgrounds – what songs were playing in their homes and how they came to invest their time in creating art. Did you have a musical family?
Mmm, growing up there’s always been a big love for music in my family. Before I was born, my grandad used to play in a band in Ghana, my grandma as well, she was in choir at school, and my dad, his Great great Uncle was a famous composer, which I found out from teachers seeing my surname at school, so there’s always been that association but when I was born, I didn’t know all of that, I was just drawn to music. My parents used to just blast a lot of like 80s and 90s RnB music. It would be Michael Jackson, Aaliyah, my dad loved Tupac and Biggie, Jagged Edge, 112 it was always blasting and I came to learn a lot about old school RnB music, all from a classic CD rack!
Oh, fun! So it was a lot of party hip-hop almost?
Yeah – we always had BBQs at my house and they’d bring all their friends over, it was a party vibe a lot of the time and I came to just really love it. Gradually I would pay more attention to the music and that’s how my love for it really grew. When I was in primary school I joined choirs, normal school ones and then a special choir with other schools with annual performances at Royal Festival Hall. Secondary school was the same. I’d also do a lot at home – I got my first keyboard when I was 9 and I remember, on my 10th birthday… You know when you get money from your birthday? My mum asked what I wanted and I wanted a guitar so she took me to go and get a guitar. I went to Ghana and my grandad took me for my first and only proper guitar lesson.
“I remember, on my 10th birthday… You know when you get money from your birthday? My mum asked what I wanted and I wanted a guitar so she took me to go and get a guitar. I went to Ghana and my grandad took me for my first and only proper guitar lesson.”
My love for music in general kind of started with rnb, specifically old school rnb… as I got older I started to really appreciate the earlier rnb like from before that… as in early Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson. When I was younger I was just vibing and then I started to gradually just really appreciate the art of it… I’ve spoken a lot about rnb but I do love a variety of music. There was even one stage in secondary school where I started listening to indie pop music, and I started taking piano lessons and that introduced me to a lot of classical songs. It broadened my horizons a bit and I started to really appreciate what was going on behind the music and that made me see music a bit differently. There’s so much expression in it and emotion and there’s a lot of skill behind it as well. It takes a lot to be so creative.
“There’s so much expression in it and emotion and there’s a lot of skill behind it as well. It takes a lot to be so creative.”
And you were saying you only ever had one guitar lesson?!
Yeahh… My grandad took me to a guy that he knew in Ghana and he taught me the chords, the basic ones that are in most songs, and from there on that was my only lesson. I took my guitar back home to London and Youtube was my teacher from there. I’d say I’m alright now… got a bit more learning to do but I can get my chords down *laughs*
Well yeah, and now you’re releasing your first music out into the world! Tell me about Weakness. How did you create it and how did that end up being the first release that you properly went for?
I’ve been with my manager for a few years now and we spent a lot of time trying to figure out the sound. I used to write a lot… it wasn’t always the greatest but I would just get it down, get voice notes down, so we spent a lot of time trying to figure out everything and it was last year that things really came together. I went into the studio with Flo the Producer… I like to create an image in my head of whatever I’m hearing, I’ll think of the scenery, where I could be and I instantly thought of the first line which is “flowers don’t bloom in the dark”. I felt I could hear pain in the instrumental and I wanted to be on that topic where there’s pain in the one that you love. A lot of the time you hear women talk about their pain in the songs but there are a lot of relationships where men go through pain as well and sometimes women have to be the one to reassure the guy that like, I can be here for you, you don’t always just have to be here for me, I can be here for you too. So I thought it might be quite cool to give that perspective in a song. I got the first verse and pre chorus down in the first session, but there was no chorus, there was no bridge and we really liked the song so we kept it there, started working on other stuff and then we came back to it a few months later. I wrote a chorus for it but it didn’t then work as a chorus so that then ended up being the bridge and then I wrote a different chorus, decided it wasn’t strong enough, changed it and I actually only finished that this summer, got it down, got all the harmonies down and that’s how that song came about. We finished it and put it out.
“A lot of the time you hear women talk about their pain in the songs but there are a lot of relationships where men go through pain as well and sometimes women have to be the one to reassure the guy that like, I can be here for you, you don’t always just have to be here for me, I can be here for you too. So I thought it might be quite cool to give that perspective in a song.”
Wayyy. And now it’s out!!
I like to talk about challenges, because we all go through them and working out how to overcome them is gonna have a huge impact on your progression. Are there some challenges you feel you’ve faced through the past few years and managed to get past to get to where you are now?
I think my biggest challenge at the moment is balancing music with uni. Last year I was working a 9-5 on placement and tryna make music as well. So all my evenings and weekends were music and obviously for Uni (college) I’d then have assignments. Balancing that has definitely been a challenge. It’s still kind of a challenge… and I’d say also, the writing process. I didn’t realise how much of a challenge it could be sometimes to be consistently creative. I’m still pushing myself to think, what can instantly inspire me so I can get a good idea down, tell a story, structure it, and be able to make listeners really feel something. It even took a while to find my sound, like I was saying before… I knew it was rnb that I wanted to do but I wanted it to be something that could really capture people when they’re listening to it. I wanna make sure that people feel something from my music and to me that’s the most important thing… that meant it took a process of trial and error.
Yeah, it’s quite… I think, it’s a mature song and even the visuals are charming. I can feel you’ve been on that journey where you’re now confident in your voice and your sound and things are starting to feel right.
Who’s inspiring you at the moment?
My inspirations have always been the same. It sits from Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson… to like Aaliyah and Brandi. I do dance as well as music so I always look for artists who have that strong performance in them. Whether it’s Chris Brown or Kehlani… they’ve also got strong moves and they make beautiful music.
I put Ciara in that category as well, I think Ciara’s such an amazing dancer I could watch her all day.
Ah yes, she’s too sick, she’s too sick… listening to her music videos her dancing is so strong and her voice is so strong. I love artists like that. They inspire me to do the same.
And outside of music, cliche but my mum. I’m so so close to her. She had me when she was quite young so I’ve also watched her grow up in a way and I’ve seen how much of an amazing mum she is, how much she’s sacrificed for us. She makes sure that I’ve got my head on right and that I’m focusing on me. Anything that I set my heart to, she makes sure that I go for it. She’d always say ‘I believe in you, I know what’s inside of you’ so she always makes me feel confident enough to take a leap of faith in things and I feel very lucky for that.
“She makes sure that I’ve got my head on right and that I’m focusing on me. Anything that I set my heart to, she makes sure that I go for it.”
To have that kind of emotional backing and encouragement is so powerful! OK, final thing I want to know is, what’s been one thing that you’ve learnt recently which has made your life better?
Do you know what… I don’t know if this answers your question but being on placement, I had a good experience but also had a real moment of enlightenment for me where I was just like, if I don’t go for music… this is actually it for me, I will never be happy. I can have a good job, I can enjoy myself, I can make money… but if you’re not doing what you love to do, it will burn you, it will burn you inside so I would be sitting at that desk doing something that I’m not passionate about… it was actually making me itch and it made me think, I have to go for music I have to make sure that I give it a real shot. A lot of my friends graduated last year and I just said, make sure you go for what you really love because I know what it feels like to feel you’re stuck in something you don’t love and it feels like a big weight on you when you can imagine spending all that time working towards your craft, what you wanna do, how you wanna represent yourself in the world, the kind of legacy you’d want to leave. Last year really confirmed for me I have to go for this, I have no other choice.
Yeah, I can so relate to that. I always feel like if I know I’ve put my everything into something and it doesn’t really work out, that’s ok, but if I feel at any point I didn’t give it my all… I can’t find peace in that.
Yeah! I feel like, if I walk away from something and I feel like I could have given it a hundred and instead I only gave it like 60/70 percent… it will really weigh on me, it will sit on my conscience.
Yas VW is at an early stage of an exciting journey.
And to follow Yas on her journey, you can check in with her socials: @YasVWOfficial across all platforms.