The following feature appears in the June/July 2016 issue of NYLON.
“I feel like I finally know what being a woman is all about,” Yuna says over breakfast at her neighborhood café in Los Angeles. She’s talking about her new record, but also about the past two years of her life, which brought the end of a relationship, as well as a whole lot of emotional and artistic growth. “I wrote somewhere around 80 songs for this album,” she says, “but the songs I was writing were vague, typical, basic. I was writing without thinking. It wasn’t until I gathered myself and cooled off that I figured out how to bring out the best in me.”
In May, Yuna released Chapters, her third and arguably most self-assured studio album to date. “The last record was about falling in love and it was very happy and uplifting and colorful,” she says. “This album is dark. Some of the songs are upbeat, but they’re about me finding myself and embracing my womanhood.”
Born and raised in Alor Setar, the capital of the Malaysian state of Kedah, Yuna grew up an only child. She began writing her own songs at 19, and continued to do so while she studied to become a lawyer. In 2008, with a growing local fan base behind her, she started posting her songs (in English and Malay) to MySpace, in the hopes of making it big in the United States. By 2012, she’d put aside her law degree, signed a recording deal, and moved to California.
“Back home, we are pushed to be doctors, lawyers, brain surgeons,” she says with a laugh. “Now all my friends are getting married and having babies, and I’m doing something insanely different. In the last few years I’ve definitely had to remind myself that I need to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.”