(by Anjali Raguraman, InSing.com)
She studied law, tried her hand at fashion, and makes music. Now, 28-year-old singer-songwriter Zee Avi is about to release an album called ‘Nightlight’, with lullabies and songs for children.
It seems to keep with her penchance to go where her interest leads.
Born in the small town of Miri in Sarawak, Zee went from posting videos on YouTube for her friends back in 2007, to being “the next big thing” exuding a free-spirited island vibe.
She will be playing in Singapore at Tab restaurant-bar on 17 April.
Before she was a full-fledged, world-touring musician, she was training as a lawyer, then switched over for a stint in fashion school. But ultimately, she couldn’t let go of the music. “I think it’s more of music decided on me. Among all the things and interests that have come through my path, music was the one that stayed the longest,” she said.
What followed was a record-label signing and two albums, the eponymous ‘Zee Avi’ (2009) and ‘Ghostbird’ (2011), as well as performing around the world.
MUSIC FOR LITTLE PEOPLE
Her motivation for the chidlren’s album was simple: “I’ve always wanted to create something that celebrates childhood, be it a children’s book or song. I think the innocence of childhood is very pure and rare these days, and it should be memories in all of us to keep.”
While probably best-known for her breakthrough song ‘Bitter Heart’, Zee has taken to reinventing classics such as Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben’, Bobby and McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ for the children’s album.
While she admitted that it is difficult to pick one, her current favourite track is a cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Circle Game’. “That song is, in my opinion, is an opus of a story about growing up and embracing the changes in one’s life. Also, I used to sing it to my brother when he was a baby to put him to sleep. So, it has that soothing quality as well.”
She added that it is her dream to work with Mitchell. “Although, I would just love to sit and listen to her share her wisdom.”
‘Nightlight’, due to be released on 22 April, is also unexpected for her at some level. harboured for a long time. “I didn’t think a project like this would happen this early in my career, but I am so thankful it did.
“This project was also inspired, in particular, by a very special eight-year-old fan of mine, a delightful little girl named Mackenzie who also created the cover art for this album. But shhh, she doesn’t know that yet. It’s a surprise,” Zee added cheekily.
And for fans familiar with her music, Zee said that “yes, the ukulele will make an appearance”.
She has already started writing for her next album.
CONNECTING WITH FANS
With all the energy channelled into writing new music, creating visual art, and connecting with fans via Twitter and Instagram. Zee is at the peak of her game and feels that she can do it all.
“Social media is a wonderful way to keep your fans engaged in all you do because some may or may not realise it, they are in some ways a part of your creative process, and… you know more about yourself… and where the world currently stands. I keep in touch with a few of my fans who are quickly becoming friends through outlets such as Twitter and Instagram. It’s very special,” she said.
FOND MEMORIES OF SINGAPORE
Zee fondly remembers her previous sold-out show in Singapore in 2011, when fans sung her songs back to her. “I remember I almost shed tears when I last played at Tab Singapore, when in all its packed house glory, everyone was singing along to my song ‘Siboh Kitak Nangis’, which is purely in my dialect of Bahasa Sarawak.
“It’s amazing how, regardless of language, music speaks to people and they relate to it in such a universal way, much like a smile.”
As for her upcoming show, she said it would be “a more intimate one”.
“It will only be my percussionist, Rafael Pareira and I. It will be a treat for me to play with him again, since he has been so blessed and busy touring with Janelle Monae recently. So I can hardly wait to play music with him again, and share that moment with Singapore!”
Expected date of release: 22 April 2014
1. Don’t Worry, Be Happy
2. Colors Of The Wind
3. Who Loves The Sun
5. Rainbow Connection
6. The Circle Game
8. Dream A Little Dream Of Me
9. Nightlight Medley
(source: New Straits Times, 18 March 2014)
Malaysian singing sensation Zee Avi is known for her contemporary music with universal appeal. But for her new album, the Miri-born star is doing things a bit differently.
Expected to be out in May, Los Angeles-based Zee’s first children’s album will weave traditional Malay and English songs with modern pop tunes.
She says there will be nine songs in the album titled Zee Avi’s Nightlight which includes a lullaby medley that combines her modern take on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Air Pasang Malam.
There is also the Velvet Underground hit song Who Loves The Sun, Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy, Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game and Michael Jackson’s Ben. Who Loves The Sun is a tribute to Lou Reed, Velvet Underground’s lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter who died in October 2013.
She says: “While these songs appeal to grown-ups, they are equally good for young ones as their messages can be read at different levels. As an example, Ben may be associated with the thriller movie Willard but for youngsters, it’s a song about unconditional love and lifelong friendship,” she says.
Zee spent four days working on the album in Woodstock, New York and says it has always been her dream to record a song at that historic music venue.
“I recorded the songs there last November and it was great fun because despite the cold weather, the nine songs were totally heartwarming,” she says.
Zee has always wanted to do her bit for pre-teens as they make up a sizable number of her fans. She is dedicating the album to a 7-year-old American fan Mackenzie Mauldin. “Mackenzie is a dear friend, as is her mother Micky Diaz.
“Micky requested I do an album specially for her daughter and I’m going to give her a lovely surprise in the process. That surprise is using Mackenzie’s lovely art work for the album cover.”
Zee believes in giving her projects the occasional personal touch because she is always grateful to her fans. “Once in a while, I want to honour fans who have inspired me to excel in my music. Their unconditional love and support are the reasons to make music for the world.” Zee Avi’s Nightlight is co-produced by Kevin Salem.
Zee’s self-titled first album was launched in 2009 and her second, Ghostbird, came in 2011.
Zee Avi returns for another showcase at TAB Singapore!
Date: 17 April 2014 (Thursday)
Venue: TAB, 442 Orchard Road, #02-29 Orchard Hotel, Singapore
Time: 8:00 PM (Doors open at 7:00 PM)
Ticket prices: Early Bird: $55; Standard: $65; At-the-door: $70
Get your tickets online.