NewTracks New Artist: Yahyah

NewTracks New Artist: Yahyah

Colourful Waikato songwriter Holly Cameron professionally goes by the name of Yahyah, a nickname that stems from nannying in the UK. In early December she released her fifth single, the sizzling Talk It Out, featuring local TikTok’er, singer Taylor Roche. NZ On Air Music added the song to their NewTracks compilation this December.

What’s your full name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name is Holly Cameron but my artist name is Yahyah, and it’s my nickname too! I play the piano, guitar, dabble on the bass and the flute. I’m from Te Awamutu.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I went to Te Awamutu Intermediate after being homeschooled for quite a while in my younger years. My eyes were opened up to so many opportunities in music. I joined the choir and fell in love with harmonies and singing in a group. I joined the symphonic band and learned how to play the flute. I did private music lessons. I sang in the school production.

This passion for music followed me to high school when I attended Waikato Diocesan. I jumped into private singing lessons and my love for songwriting started when I wrote my first song at age 13. I formed a band with my friends and we entered the Smokefree Rockquest and ended up winning best original song in the Waikato regional finals. I knew I was onto something and the passion continued to grow.

Any other previous projects might we know you from?

I was lucky enough to be a part of the Waiata Anthems album for 2022. My translation of my original song I released called Thoughts From My Bed to Ngā Mahara Moenga gained a lot of support with radio interviews and radio play etc. I also opened for Georgia Lines on her ‘Human’ EP tour in August 2022.

What’s the background story of how Yahyah came to be? Who else is directly involved?

The name Yahyah was actually given to me by two little kiddies I used to nanny for in London. I have a 2-year-old and 4-year-old to thank for that. Both beautiful human beings are still in my life. It’s always been my nickname before my artist name. So when deciding what my artist name was going to be it was super easy. Yahyah embraces the fun side of my personality.

How has your music evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

Oh gosh. Huge question! I really was a teenager always interested in learning. Whether on the piano, getting a friend to teach me guitar or entering piano competitions with my nana. Moving to London I dedicated a year to studying vocals and gained a vocal diploma. This sparked a passion for songwriting and I wanted to write songs every day for the rest of my life.

I then moved to LA to pursue songwriting and gained management over there. Three-to-five sessions a week, back-to-back learning, gleaning from other established songwriters and soaking up their creative talent. Bringing that back to NZ has really put me in a strong position to go into a studio session with confidence that I have what it takes to write a really great song.

How and when did you come up with the name for the new project?

When diving into planning for the branding/concept behind this song I definitely felt like using a phone with no cord connected on the single cover represented the disconnect in the relationship. This created tension and the idea that words aren’t being heard or listened to on both sides. I worked with an amazing team, Dylan Rush as photographer and videographer and Chanelle Aldridge with hair and make up. Together the three of us pulled a pretty powerful image together and that translated well into social media and the single cover.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

A huge highlight for me was opening for miss Georgia Lines on her ‘Human’ EP tour. She is an absolute queen and being a part of her special night was so amazing. Another big highlight was gaining radio play for all four of my last single releases! Gah! I’m so so grateful.

What makes Talk It Out stand out for you as a single?

Talk It Out battles with the back and forth of a relationship, hearing BOTH sides of the story. It is special to me because it naturally flowed out of me in the studio with my producer Joel Jones, and Gabe Everett, my co-writer. It also plays with interesting yummy sounds that keeps the listener engaged and entertained.

What is the story behind Talk It Out?

The core of the track is an emphatic cry for help, following a narrative that dictates a lack of communication has left both parties feeling tension and desperate to find a solution. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s honest.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

It’s gotta be in the pre-chorus when the opening line is, ‘You take me out, don’t wanna be there… I get nervous in the evenings’. The idea of just giving in to what the other person wants, which we all so often do because we can’t communicate how we feel or say no, and just be honest. Your tummy is in knots pretending to be okay on a date night or on the arm of this person at a party. It almost makes you sick to your stomach and you’re too nervous to mess up…

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where? 

I wrote this song with Joel Jones, one of my amazing producers and Gabe Everett who co-wrote it with us. Funny story, Gabe was originally meant to sing as the feature but we did a switcheroo and Taylor Roche jumped on the track. Definitely meant to be! Taylor sounds absolutely insane on it.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

I would want people to remember that if you’re feeling a certain type of way in a relationship, you have outgrown the person or you’re with them for comfort, that you can totally be honest with that person and communicate to see if you are both meant to have a future together. Sometimes seasons end with a person and knowing that is a super healthy thing.

How do you generally work out what tracks would make a good single?

Honestly, it’s usually the song that I can’t stop singing or playing in my car or sending to my friends/family. It’s the one that swirls around my brain and I can’t forget it!

Who else is in your team?

I’m very blessed to have the most amazing management, August Avenue. They look after me so well, and allow me to be myself creatively and as a person and I feel so safe with them! They’re straight-up family!

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

I’m playing my first festival at the end of January, Festival One. I cannot wait to bring my live show with my amazing band to a festival scene. I’m about to send out my first round of merch, so watch this space for more of that coming in 2023. Maybe a cheeky EP in the pipeline but shhh, I can’t say much more than that…

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

  • Foley: Smooth It Over
  • Sylvee: Don’t Say A Word
  • Luca George: Ruin My Life

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

I missed out on funding maybe 4-5 times before I got it. Sure it was disheartening but I never gave up and a music friend told me to keep at it. That not applying because I was sad I didn’t get it meant I wouldn’t be in the running. At least when you keep applying you have the hope and the belief that your song is SICK and will be heard by the right people at the right time

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? 

Just completing at least 10 criteria out of the 30 was the challenge for me. But I did my best in making sure my social media following was growing and playing as many gigs as I can too. Just taking a deep breath and knowing that I’m doing my best helped a lot. If I didn’t meet a criteria, I would take the action to make it happen and build from there.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

A podcast I absolutely swear by and recommend is ‘And The Writer Is…’. I’ve learnt so much listening to interviews of heavy hitter songwriters/creatives like Ryan Tedder, Lauv, Julia Michaels etc. So helpful to dive into the brain of writers that are light years ahead of me.

Any last words?

Thank you for letting me share a bit about myself and my new song! It means a lot! You guys are the bestttttttt. xx

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