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Nilüfer Yanya Reflects On A Tumultuous Year In 'Feeling Lucky'


A moment now with a retiring musician.


NILUFER YANYA: (Singing) Heaven is day.

SIMON: Nilufer Yanya of London is only 25 years old, but she's shy for a performer.

YANYA: Feels a bit like a weird time to be self-promoting.

SIMON: That's from earlier this summer during a Tiny Desk Home concert for NPR Music. Her discomfort with self-promoting has been with her throughout this year of global crisis.

YANYA: It's kind of like a clash, I think, between, like, the music industry and reality sometimes.


YANYA: (Singing) She won't realize. So hit me up with some of the lines. This girl's falling, falling.

SIMON: Nilufer Yanya did spend last year on tour nonstop for her debut album, "Miss Universe." But of course not this year.

YANYA: It's a weird one because at first, I was quite - I don't want to say relieved, but I was quite relieved that I didn't have to go back on the road again straight away. So I kind of took it as a break.


YANYA: (Singing) Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

It's definitely, like, confused me a bit (laughter) just in terms of like, oh, what am I meant to be doing again. Like, what's this whole music thing again? Like, why am I doing this? I didn't realize how much of my validation, like, lies in being able to do music all the time. So that's made me feel a bit weird (laughter). But on the whole, like, I'm lucky I had last - - all of last year to tour. And this year is, like, more like reflective kind of period (laughter).

SIMON: And she's used this period of reflection to write new material released on an EP called "Feeling Lucky?" - lucky with a question mark.


YANYA: (Singing) News all bad, news lately every single time that you called and said, girl, stay in (ph).

Luck isn't really, like, something we have control over ourselves. But it's also maybe not something that we kind of think about in terms of, like, our day to day. Like, oh, that was good luck. That was bad luck. We kind of, like, put it down to ourselves, and we, like, blame ourselves a lot when things go wrong. As well, like, luck comes in a lot when you don't realize how lucky you've been so far. I think lots of people are also in that position. They don't realize that - yeah, obviously, they've worked hard, and they've done things, and they've got stresses (ph), but there's a big element of luck involved.


YANYA: (Singing) Every single time that you called in case that hope you insert saved her like a prayer (ph). I guess the song itself is quite like a guitar ballad. Like, it's quite slow, and there's kind of this '80s vibe going on.


YANYA: (Singing) Miss you, too (ph).

In my head, I was trying to, like, create, like, a distance between myself and the not-so-distant past. It's almost like trying to skip ahead of things or trying to get away from things sooner than it's possible or like when you think you've got away from something, but it's kind of catching up on you.


YANYA: (Singing) If you ask me one more question, I'm about to crash.

SIMON: Nilufer Yanya says the pandemic is at the root of her reticence and the introspection that led to these three songs. And she believes a lot of us may feel that way.

YANYA: It's just very like, I think, standard things that everyone's probably feeling when they don't have their job to go to or their work.

SIMON: Nilufer Yanya - her new EP is "Feeling Lucky?"


YANYA: (Singing) Can I learn the way you move? It's kind of like a prison. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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