The West-London neo-soul singer talks debut EP “It’s Only Takeout Ma”.

Yaz Leon
Yaz Leon

Spanish-Iraqi artist Yaz León’s debut EP “It’s Only Takeout Ma” draws on her relationship with her mum. “Me and mum have a pretty average immigrant mother-daughter relationship” Yaz tell us below. “She would worry so much when I’d go out. She’d ask for my friends’ phone numbers and/or addresses and so I’d lie about where I was going or get friends to cover for me, with around a 40% success rate.” She was embarrassed at her mum’s protectiveness in comparison to her friends, who predominantly had English parents. Now with an adult’s appreciation of the risks young women can come up against in the world, Yaz has a newfound understanding of her mum keeping tabs – “thank god for her,” she says.

Now, the neo-soul singer, songwriter and producer is venturing out into the music world in a big way with her stunning debut project, led by the previously released singles “August” and “Silent Mode”. It’s the culmination of a year-long creative process and collaboration with the likes of producer Ess West, resulting in six tracks of sensitive, ambient neo-soul that detail everything from distrust to nostalgia and intimacy.

Head below to read our chat with the musical heavyweight of tomorrow and listen to “It’s Only Takeout Ma,” right now…

Hi Yaz! Where are you speaking to us from?
Hi! Currently in my living room in the paradise that is West Ldn, recovering from a food coma.

What’s something that has made you laugh today?
A really heartfelt DM from a scammer asking for feet pics. A paragraph of compliments goes a long way.

What are some songs or albums that are in your current rotation?
I Really love RAYE’s new EP “Escapism”, and Montell Fish’s JAMIE, and I’m rinsing Mr Morale & The Big Steppers. Also big up SOMOH’s new single “Anything”, the Hello World Choir and some good old Mariah’.

Congratulations on your new EP “It’s Only Takeout Ma”! How did you come up with this title?
Thank you! Me and my mum have a pretty average immigrant mother-daughter relationship. It used to annoy me that she would worry so much when I’d go out. She’d ask for my friends’ phone numbers and/or addresses and so I’d lie about where I was going or get friends to cover for me, with around a 40% success rate. I was growing up with kids that had much more laid-back British parents and I thought it was embarrassing I couldn’t go out without checking in. Obviously, with the amount of women victims you hear about on and off the news, I understood more and more about her worry for her children’s safety. Thank god for her.

Tell us a little about your artistic process behind this EP. How did you begin to conceptualise it?
Not gonna lie, it’s been a tough year. So having that time with friends creating and putting energy into making this project has been therapeutic. I’ve met some really lovely people in the process and saw different approaches to composing. I also have to credit my friends for reminding me to never prioritise pushing myself to meet deadlines if I wasn’t mentally in the right place. It’s been character-building. We always feel like we have to sell an arm and a leg for a body of work to be worthy of praise. I started the project timidly and uncertainly and now I’m so fucking proud of everything I’ve made and learnt during the process. Being in control of that was stressfully freeing.

How important is it for you to incorporate your heritage into your music?
The main goal of the project was to look at mixing genres and experimenting with the production. Having my heritage included was a big part of that. I wanted to develop what that neo-soul sound currently is in the London music scene. Create a new sound that doesn’t quite fit in any of those boxes and develop my artistry. I thought it would also be interesting to include aspects of my Spanish/Iraqi heritage that are normally saved for less taboo lyrics. Specifically religion. I was raised by a Catholic mother and Muslim father and so religion has always been around me. So I can reference a conservative or progressive surah/parable (for example) and then apply it to vulnerable moments. It felt a little bit more revolutionary to have my heritage reflected in different angles with censored topics.

Yaz Leon EP
Yaz Leon EP

You produce and write yourself, but this EP was produced along with Ess West. Was it your first time working with another producer? How does this process differ from your self-produced works?
The EP definitely included some amazing people and Ess is one of them. He played a big part in the development and confidence built throughout this project. It was a blessing to have him co-produce with me on three of the tracks and have Gabe Starkey co-produce and co-write “Dunya” with me. Although I had creative control, everyone on the tracks, whether they were working on live instrumentals or production, offered new perspectives on the music. Compared to working entirely by myself, it’s a much less stressful environment. It’s friends, having fun, making music.

“It’s Only Takeout Ma” explores themes of family and belonging. What was your family’s reaction when you first played it to them?
The first time my mum heard Abu’s song, she cried. It was pretty (not-sadistically) funny because even though she’s a very passionate person, she’s pretty nonchalant about anything if it’s not a Jennifer Anniston movie. To be fair, it is her elderly mother’s voice, so I had a fair chance of getting some reaction. In terms of other songs in the EP… The first single from this EP “AUGUST” was a love letter to my first girlfriend and then as a result, I had to explain my sexuality to my family. It was very entertaining to trigger conservative family members with such a queer music video.

Reflecting back on your journey as an artist, can you identify the ways that you’ve progressed – sonically and conceptually?
I’m definitely a little more patient now when I can’t fully reach the idea I have in my head. Sometimes that process leads me to a completely different song and that’s good too. I used to spend months on a song just trying to get it “right”, a huge waste of time. Also, the amount of fucks that I give and the number of people who’s opinions I care about is slowly reducing. Still sensitive but the confidence is getting there. I’ve become determined to explore instruments that create new sounds that feel good to *me*. My concepts are definitely a little bit more imaginative because of my development as an artist, and the influence of multimedia I’ve begun to look at too. Painting has been especially useful for me visualising or setting a scene. Also, my music taste! That definitely changes my expression.

And finally, what’s on the horizon for you? Do you have an end goal in sight?
I try not to look too far into the future because it stresses me out, but I’ve got a few plans. We’re actually shooting another music video and live sessions for the EP and I’ve got some really, really cool collaborations on the way. Would love to do another headline gig or a tour in the near future. There’s a lot of new stuff yet to be heard.


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