Interview: Nilüfer Yanya previews huge London show

The breakout star of 2019 on her debut album, playing live and her biggest headline show to date.

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On Tuesday 19 November 2019, Londoner Nilüfer Yanya will walk on stage at the 2,000 capacity O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire to perform her biggest headline show to date.

The achievement caps off a remarkable few years for the musician, which was seen her go from being named on the prestigious BBC Sound Of list at the end of 2018 to performing sold-out shows across the globe.

A true highlight of her year came back in March when Yanya released her debut album, Miss Universe. Wildly ambitious and joyously eclectic, the record received rave reviews from the likes of The Guardian – who made it their album of the week – The Independent, Mojo, NPR, The Line Of Best Fit, Clash and DIY.

Nilüfer Yanya - Paradise (Official Music Video)

Picking up the guitar when she was 13 years old, Nilufer taught herself how to write music from her parents West London home, eventually plucking up the courage to show others what she’d been working away on.

Now at 23, this DIY approach still runs deep in the music that Yanya makes and the spirit she embodies as an artist, at the start of what feels like a long and fruitful career.

Ahead of her upcoming headline date at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Nilüfer opens up on the reaction to her debut album, what growing up in the nation’s capital as an aspiring musician is like, and why her forthcoming show is such as big deal.

You released your debut album Miss Universe in March. How pleased have you been with the reaction to the record?

Yeah, it’s gone really well I think. You never really know how it’s going to do. Are people gonna like it? Are they even gonna listen to it? I’m happy that the people who have heard it seem to dig it.

What’s one track from the album that sums it up? 

I think Heavyweight Champion Of The Year defines what I was trying to go for. That’s definitely one song where I’m like: “Yeah, that’s a success”.

It’s got a strong feeling throughout the track. It’s not too complicated, but it’s also not boring. To me anyway, as the performer who sings it all the time. It’s been around for a while and I still really enjoy playing it live and it kind of means something different each time you play it.

Nilüfer Yanya - Heavyweight Champion Of The Year (Official Video)

What’s it like to break through as a musician in London?

It’s definitely daunting because you get the sense that nobody really cares, but at the same time, that’s kind of nice. You get to create your own world and exist in your own bubble.

You can take your time and put music out when you want to. There’s also, not saying you can take it for granted, but there’s always somewhere you can play and an audience you can play to. London has great foundations laid out for you.

You’re playing at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire this November. How much of a landmark gig is that for you?

I know… I’m terrified. It’s pretty big. I’m trying not to think about it.

I drove past it the other day and thought, “oh it looks pretty small from the outside”, to make me feel alright. I’m trying to downplay it in my head like it’s just another small venue. But it’s not, it’s really big. I grew up around here as well, so yeah, it’s very cool.

Nilüfer Yanya - H34T RISES (Official Music Video)

What can fans coming to the show expect?

I’ll have my band with me and we’ll play lots of songs from the album as best we can. I’ve got really cool people opening for me as well; Fabiana Palladino and JOVIALE, so people coming can expect a really good evening of music.

What’s your favourite thing about performing live?

You never know if you’re going to enjoy it until you get on stage, and then comes this massive adrenaline rush. Even If I’ve not necessarily enjoyed a performance, I’ll always feel better after I’ve done it. It’s quite cathartic. You just get this satisfied feeling that you’ve done something worthwhile.

Nilüfer Yanya headlines O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London on Tuesday 19 November 2019. Tickets are available now through