Yazarah's been singing since she was seven years old. With no formalities and standing barely 5’1, she strikes a peaceful presence, yet has the composure and radiance of a huge star. She's a Cancer, after all. We caught up with her shortly after her very intimate live performance at Suite903 HQ not long ago to chat about how she transformed as a singer-songwriter to write her first album in seven years (The Ballad of Purple St. James, out now on Foreign Exchange Music). Read the interview and watch her gripping performance of "Starship" after the jump. —Helen Marie
Why do you sing?
Singing in church growing up, taught me that my gift does not belong to me. It’s for the world, I am a vessel. When I began to sing
in other places, I realize that I like the way I feel when I make other people feel good. When they feel good, I feel great. I love to
perform, I love the adrenaline and the way it pumps through me every time I go onstage.
Is music a choice?
My music and I are one. We are symbiotically connected. If I can’t do music, then I cannot breathe. I have had valleys, and high mountainous moments. All have brought me to now, where I am able to speak sincerely and musically, the way I really want to.
What if you couldn't do music?
Die! No. I’d be a psychologist. I love to listen. I love to help. My music is psychology. I think my empathy towards the stories of others is what makes my music great. I have lived everybody’s story. I have walked in the shoes of many woman and know all their pains with a great deal of personal empathy. I know what its like to have to wonder what I’m here for and to have the baggage of my past keep me chained so badly that I can not move forward. Then to know what its like to say, “I’m going to leave this to find a place where life is bigger than stealing and finding and getting and eating and to move on... find my starship. "Starship" being my metaphor for “finding my place in this world.”
What has changed for you as an artist since your first project?
When I first wrote Hear Me, I was trying to find my voice. I was really young, it was my first time falling in love, I was living in a dorm in college finding me. When you’re a young artist trying to find your voice it’s good to have someone help you to find boundaries. You just have to make sure the integrity and respect is there regarding your money and protection of your craft. I have that now more than ever!
How have you been able to break past the fear of being vulnerable in your music?
I went through a time where I quit the music industry. A few friends in New York let me stay at their spots while I tried to figure out
what I wanted to do with my life. Got a job at Banana Republic, and would be showing fans to a dressing room. I had to break myself down to build myself up. The encouragement of others helped me out. The advice I got from a good friend really helped: “You’re never gonna write your best record until you rip open those scabs and write the story.” That is the positions of the singer/songwriter—to reach a point where you are willing to open up your chest and let the whole world see/feel your pain. Doing that is what birthed this new project. It was the first part I knew I had to conquer in order to write my best record yet. And so here it is, enjoy!