Your bedroom acoustic singer-songwriter turned, goes further to explore her sound. Bil Musa states that her album ‘Young Adults’, coming out on the 21st of December, is a story for twenty-somethings going through the changes and responsibilities of adulthood.
Young Adults sheds acoustic innocence for trials and tribulations
Whether or not you think she sounds like Yuna, Bil Musa has come a long way since her self-titled EP back in 2015, containing songs like Terbang and The Beach. Fast forward, earlier this year she released two singles ‘No More Excuses’ and ‘Adakah Ini’, all teasing us for the official launching of her new album, Young Adults, on the 21st of December at Laundry Bar, The Curve, Mutiara Damansara.
In the upcoming album, she touches on the challenges of growing up, veiled through a variety of sounds – some pop balladry, while others are more dancehall electronic pop (aided in production by Kuizz Shah). “[This album] is going to be very different from the old one. The first EP is very acoustic, folksy and innocent in the lyrics. It was still Bil Musa, but very on the surface, whereas in Young Adults the songs are very deep. ‘No More Excuses is the epitome of Young Adults. The song covers commitment issues, drinking problems, gambling problems, not knowing how to save up. How somedays you wake up you think that the whole world is against you, that kinda thing. So No More Excuses is about that. And of course, problems with love. So No More Excuses is really about young adults”.
Besides the singles, we also got to talk to Bil Musa about other songs in the album such as Nineteen and Owe It All To You. “Nineteen is about the trials and tribulations of being 19, and you get into situations where boys lie to you”. Its more than just relationships and heartbreaks, with Owe It All To You touching upon the gratitude that Bil Musa feels towards music and all that it’s done for her, adding variety not in just sound-wise, but lyrically too. Like much of songwriting, it comes from a special place in her heart but endeavours to tell the universal story of a quarter-life crisis.
Beyond the universality, Young Adults is also much more personal in composition as opposed to how The Beach was, where all of the songs were fictionalized versions of the stories that her friends tell her. “Most of them are still about my friends, but it’s a little bit more personal because some of the songs are about me as well”. She says that it’s definitely a more emotional writing process. “Even if it is not 100% about me, I take some parts of the story and exaggerate it. Like in dramas and soap operas. Most of the songs I would say is ‘adapted’ from a true story”.
We also discussed the sort of influences that got into the writing process of Young Adults, as Bil Musa cites artists like London Grammar, an indie pop band, and also the likes of Sam Smith and Lana Del Rey. “It’s funny because they’re not super-electronic, but they still like give out that modern pop sound”.
Although signed under the label Yuna Room Records (a label owned by Yuna), like most relatively less known musicians in the industry, she juggles other jobs in the mean time, making her life a perfect medium to tell the story of an adult life that involves an predominantly paycheck-to-paycheck daily humdrum. This humdrum becomes slightly more of a struggle, as simultaneously,Bil also tries to prove to her parents, both from a science background, that a career in music isn’t a waste of time. She talks about how her dad perceives her second cousin, Joe Flizzow, (or as Bil Musa affectionately calls him abang Johan), and how they rarely see him around at family gatherings in addition to all the sacrifices one has to make as an artist.
“My dad has become more supportive of me after we released the first EP and he really likes my songwriting, although he has suggested that I write songs for other people instead of being the face of my own music”, said Bil. Despite all of these challenges, Bil keeps on pushing through, knowing that her creative career is more than just self-expression, but also to prove all of the skeptics in her life wrong.
Horoscopes, Shila Amzah and the meaning of success
The conversation gets slightly offbeat, as Bil explains herself through the fact that she’s a Libra when it comes to how she feels about people constantly comparing her to Yuna. “I’m gonna use the horoscope card, because that’s my thing. You know how the symbol of Libra is the timbang (scale), so it’s all about balance. I try to understand everybody’s perspectives. I was at first annoyed by the comparison, but I sort of understand. I mean we are both singer-songwriters, and if you are not a music person, our voices sound the same – you know the high, jazzy singing voice. At the same time, it makes me appreciate who say my music is different a lot more *laughs*”.
Any musician in Malaysia subconsciously or consciously make the decision to tailor their careers to either follow the local market or aim to go beyond borders. When asked about the route she chooses to take, she says she’s always wanted to succeed outside of Malaysia. “[When it comes to the mainstream], the reception of different kinds of music in Malaysia is not that great. But then again, it depends on how you define success”. She’s stated her ambitions to succeed in the UK, as both of us excitedly agree that British music is “cooler” than American music (always the choice between our colonial or our neo-colonial masters *sarcastic laughter*).
There is often an understanding that in order to make it big in Malaysia, one has to write songs in Malay, but Bil gives further insight into that, having written Malay songs (with Adakah Ini, and Terbang). “It’s not just about writing songs in Malay, it’s about writing them with a certain structure. My label, for example, doesn’t force me to write in a certain way that fits ERAfm”, said Bil, as she points out the nuance of Malay songwriting, that doesn’t have to conform to the cliche trope of Top 40 charts in our Malaysian radio, evident in the vibrancy of our independent music scene.
Relevant to the state of celebrity worship in Malaysia, she talks about not wanting to make how she profiles herself a priority.”I want it to be more about the music and less about the persona”. A lot more is discussed in Part Two, such as her wish to perform with her orchestra, her love for Kings of Leon and guilty pleasure Shila Amzah, and more!
Come to Laundry Bar, The Curve, Mutiara Damansara this Thursday (21 December) to celebrate the official launch of Bil Musa’s ‘Young Adults’ and Pastel Lite’s ‘Balada’. Featuring Airliftz and Kuizz Shah!
CORRECTION: 3:09 PM (19/12/2017) – Bil Musa’s first album is not called The Beach, it is self-titled (Bil Musa)