Zee Avi is as easy-going and free flowing as her songs indicate her to be. Her bubbly spirit and passion for her new single, Who are U, was infectious. Everybody in the room, at her launch, couldn’t help but crack a smile at least once at her enthusiasm.
Her latest track is about fully embracing your own identity, directed at those who feel misunderstood and are in need of encouragement. It serves as a reminder to not pay attention to the expectations that’s been placed by others, because this journey in life is our own to walk.
Silently tearing and choking on her words when talking about the process and inspiration behind the song, it was clear how important and special this project was for her. In our chat, she talks about accepting her whole self, as well as her personal vision for her musical career and the responsibilities she faces.
Your new song talks about fully embracing yourself. Was there a moment that you struggled with that? How did you overcome it?
Zee Avi: Of course. You know, we all went through our ‘teenagehood’, and that was really nice, hard and awkward at the same time. I feel like for myself, as a person and as an artiste, I go through evolutions and transitions that sometimes I’m not even ready for, and I just sort of have to go with it. Embracing yourself takes a lot of courage, I think, because you really just have to sit down and have a conversation with yourself, and ask, ‘Okay, who are you now’ and ‘What are you about now’. ‘What is your message currently at this point of your life?’ I think it’s really important for us to hang out with the one person that we kind of forget about, and that’s ourselves, because right now we have so many distractions. Every now and again, I take time to myself and do absolutely nothing — just kind of detox from everything, get my guitar, because it’s therapy for me, sit down, and have a conversation with myself.
You’ve mentioned before in another interview that the industry is not as balanced as you would like it to be. What do you think needs to be done to achieve that gender balance in the music industry? Do you see it slowly changing?
Zee Avi: First of all, we actually need to have the initiative to want to learn more about the industry as women, because the music industry has always been very male-dominated. However, there has been a surge of female producers, which is always interesting. Whenever I see female musicians on the drums, on the base, that gives me so much power and passion. Going into it with sincerity, and not the intention of just doing it, but for the love of wanting to be in the industry — I think we can do so much more, because there’s heart.
You mentioned that the first step is an initiative to know more about the industry. Do you think that stems from the lack of musical education or lack of exposure to music culture here in Malaysia?
Zee Avi: I don’t think there’s a lack of it. It’s an interest. It’s up to the individual to want to pursue something that they have an interest in. I think with the surge of the Internet, everything becomes really accessible. Like with YouTube, you can just search ‘how to’ for everything, and you can make music from your bedroom, which I think is really great. To pursue it further really depends on how much you’re willing to commit, because music can sometimes be very unforgiving. But most of the time, it’s a really beautiful place, because it’s not biased; it’s for everyone, it’s its own energy. I’ve chosen to commit to it a very long time ago, and I’m still committed and devoted to it. As a female musician, it’s important for us to come about it with maturity, femininity, and with poetry. That’s why I think the feminine touch is great.