A live session from London singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya
WeTransfer has partnered with Nigel Godrich‘s iconic music series From The Basement to bring you six new performances from some of the world's most extraordinary artists and bands. Here you can see a show by London singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya. Writer Lucy Bourton met with the newcomer to find out more about her creative journey.
Since its inception as a live in-studio show, From The Basement has operated with the goal of capturing an artist at a unique point in their career. And, in many cases, this ethos has facilitated performances that can only be described as iconic—Radiohead performing “In Rainbows,” Mark E. Smith hiding in the curtains before the Fall’s session; Jack and Meg White performing tracks from “Get Behind Me Satan” in a room, just the two of them.
While we now look back at earlier performances in awe of the artists, many were, at the time, still on the ascent. Such was the case for the artist at the heart of the latest episode of this series, Nilüfer Yanya.
“One of the nicest things about From The Basement is the way it can introduce you to things you didn’t know about,” says Godrich. “We had newer artists over the years and it’s been great for me, just to open my eyes. It’s one of the reasons I’ve wanted to keep doing it—to have an oar in, to just discover new music. Nilüfer was a classic one of those.”
Prior to the recording, Godrich was unfamiliar with Yanya’s output, and his own journey with Yanya’s output mirrors many of those who will tune into this performance. Similarly, prior to joining Godrich in his studio—just a few days after a long leg of an American tour—Yanya was unfamiliar with From The Basement, having never watched its first iteration. (Although “Obviously I knew who [Godrich] was,” she’s quick to point out.)
At first they each got to know each other, exploring Godrich’s recording space and its perfectly cluttered curation of instruments and music related knick-knacks. “You get the sense that it’s someone’s whole collection of work over a lifetime,” she says, describing the various vantage points the eaves of the studio allow for, and the “lovely carpet.”
In time, the conversation turned to music, with meandering chats about what they would do over the course of the day. “It’s kind of mad when someone has done so much work and they’re the source of information and inspiration,” Yanya says. “It’s just nice to be around those people, and feel like you’re learning something by being there.”
Understanding a collaborator, even in just the run up to a one-off recording session, is a priority for Yanya. As a solo artist, she specifically seeks out creative partners “that I can connect with,” often pointing out the value of relationships “built upon time and trust.” The importance of that factor becomes clear when you meet her bandmates: bassist Beth O’Lenahan, drummer Ellis Dupuy, and Jazzi Bobbi Driessen, who plays keys and saxophone, are all old friends, or friends of friends.
Yanya’s closest with Driessen. The two first met on a school music trip, where they shared the same room. “We make jokes that we’re gonna be on tour together when we’re 90. We watched Joni Mitchell performing that show for the first time recently and were like ‘That’s going to be us.’ Not that we’re Joni Mitchell, but that we’ll still be doing this. There’s no escape!”
Godrich picked up on the group’s closeness during the recording. “This is Nilüfer’s project, but it's a band—people who are on her level, who are doing it with her. It’s very important they’re on her level, otherwise it wouldn’t have its authenticity, and it has definitely got that.”
Since first uploading demos to Soundcloud in 2014, Yanya has risen in popularity in alternative music scenes, largely thanks to the release of her first two albums, “Miss Universe” and “Painless,” and the 2021 EP “Inside Out.” Rave reviews, global shows and a recent slot supporting Adele, have all been Yanya’s own hard work—she’s constantly gigging and honing her sound. In conversation, however, we soon turn to how From The Basement offers a much needed opportunity for emerging artists to reach wider audiences via filmed performances, beyond “Later... with Jools Holland.”
“It’s weird isn’t it? You’ve got ‘The One Show,’ then Graham Norton, but you already have to be really famous,” she says. “[Maybe] ‘Love Island’?”
Watching Yanya receive the attention and high-level production that Godrich provides shows exactly why we need more shows of this kind. Where you would usually see her perform in a crowded venue, the intimacy of From The Basement foregrounds Yanya’s beautiful voice, the artistry of her bandmates, and the dynamics of their friendship.
“The nice thing—and my whole ethos—is to do the best for people and put them in a good light. That’s one version of music production: literally framing something in a good light,” Godrich says. “It was a lovely, fun day, and a great way to get to know someone.”
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