Gracing the September issue of Vogue, Yumi Nu’s voice has a charm that allows listeners to experience the full extent of her grandeur. Songwriting since 15, Yumi represents a shift in the expectations for plus-sized female artists looking to express their ardor within the music industry, galvanizing a new path for people of color. Bouquet…her latest single is an assortment of lush autumnal florals laced with the elasticity of a silk ribbon. It has a decadent bounce and confirms the fact that pop music is no longer exclusive to a specific image—or category.
Explain Pots&Pans…how did you get the inspiration for that song, what are your thoughts?
A friend that I was living with at the time was going through a breakup and my life hasn’t had any juicy drama in it for a while, so I was looking for some song inspiration and I’ve written about my friends’ perspectives before because I think it’s a fun way to take inspiration. So, I wrote about the time that she was going through where she broke up with her partner after many years, and was living with us, and just moved in with a suitcase…she was starting from the ground up. I was just observing her…I’ve never gone through a breakup before like that where you’re kind of uprooting your life and starting from the ground up and you kind of have to rebuild everything. Pots&Pans is like a play-off of not having any apartment furnishings (chuckles) or anything really to your name after a relationship kind of sweeps you clean and then you have to start from the ground up.
Which one of your songs would you say that you connect with most?
Honestly, I feel a connection to all of them. Bouquet is very special in the sense that it was the first of its kind for me. I’ve always wanted to write something sexy, empowering, confident…something that I feel is representative of how I want to carry myself and how I hope to carry myself, so Bouquet is sonically this sexy, bouncy song that I’ve always wanted to make, and to finally make it felt amazing and kind of gave me new confidence as a songwriter to just try anything and just see what sticks. I feel like the other songs that are coming out I can speak to later, but I feel like Bouquet is a first of its kind for me where I’m excited to show people that side of me.
How does it feel hearing yourself sing?
Well, I feel like I’ve grown into liking the way I sing. I always want to improve, and I always want to grow, and I feel that my voice is the way I express myself, and it’s the way that I’ve always expressed myself since I was very young…so kind of affirming and healing the negative part of myself that says that that voice isn’t good enough has been something that I’ve been working on. So now I feel that I am connected, and I find it very important for me to think positively of that voice.
How has it grown?
For sure! I feel like my relationship with music has been like a relationship where at some points I feel like it’s toxic and we need to go to therapy, and at some points I’m in love and can’t live without it and I feel like my relationship with music has been the longest relationship of my life. Being a creative being I’m extremely tender and sensitive when it comes to my art and creating art and putting that art into the world and sometimes the fear of not being perceived or seen has paralyzed me, so there definitely were times where the voice in my head was negative. I feel like I’m at a place now where I have a more stable healthier relationship with the music that I’m working on.
How long do you think it took for you to come to this stage?
I feel like it’s still coming everyday…it’s like a day to day thing. Sometimes it’s bad, and sometimes it’s good but I feel like maybe after two or three years of working on that part of myself, the part that allows that negativity to kind of consume my creativity. I’d like to say constantly working and being aware of that cycle, it’s gotten easier… we work on these things as creatives consistently and eventually little by little it gets easier, and that imposter syndrome lessens, but I still have good days and bad days.
How would you personally define yourself?
I feel like my sound is like a warm ethereal blend of alternative pop and R&B…I really love pop songwriting, but I also love different unique elements. Now I think I am in this stage of exploration sonically…I can have the bones of my songwriting that can maybe be more simple or truer to traditional pop music, but I feel like I’m starting to explore and dive into this new alternative lane.
What do you think that the future looks like for the blending of different genres?
I think that the blending of genres started because people were given this freedom with streaming services and so were already breaking so many traditional rules of what successful art is needed, so as time goes on the less we really need these limitations and boxes that we had to put ourselves in before, so that’s why I think people are describing their music less by pop and kind of like… I guess describing themselves. I feel like it might get more and more diluted into bigger open categories just because I think that we already have been given so much freedom as artists now that in the future I just feel like people are finding a lot of freedom and fun with not having any of these limitations that it’s just going to keep getting more and more open and expansive to the point where a genre might not even matter. It’s more personal, I think.
Is there a particular verse that speaks to our current moment in society?
So, I feel like in the second verse, I start to talk about my own sexiness and with dating as a bigger woman, it’s been one of my first experiences and it’s like when you’re in love with someone and they’re in love with you back, you look light and sexier and more confident. I get a lot of dms, even some of my friends asking, how do you feel confident within dating cuz dating is sometimes hard because we have these ideas about what people want from us and what we should look like and what that means for intimacy and how people feel, and in the second verse I kind of talk about feeling sexy. Like yea I’m sexy and my partner thinks so and I feel it and that’s something that I feel a lot of plus sized women are feeling more empowered and are given more tools to overcome these societal insecurities that have been placed on us for so long, and so while I write about a big range of things I feel that a big part of my life is overcoming the body image and insecurities that I’ve had and that’s just a staple of the vulnerability…so I think it’s definitely the second verse.
As a plus size woman, how much of that experience has impacted your music?
I think a lot! I think in the beginning when I started music I was kind of unsure what space the music industry had for me because years ago when I started it was a lot different… the diversity train wasn’t as big and it wasn’t as inviting as it is now and so in the beginning I felt like I had to maybe fit in more to be successful and to follow more of a formula instead of being myself and I feel like as time has gone on I feel like people hopped on the diversity and inclusion train and started to invite a bigger background of artists on board and I think that that’s awesome, but from the beginning until now I’ve had to grow into myself as an artist and as a human being and just feel confident in who I am and that whoever is meant to connect with me and like my music is going to come and whoever doesn’t…it’s not for them. I’ve had to let go of this formula of the music industry and society and just step into myself.
Do you feel better as a person or as an artist when you step into yourself…or do you differentiate between the two?
I didn’t realize that the two were connected, I always wanted to separate my personal self and my artist self because sometimes my artist self can just be more of a sensitive being than my personal self which I think especially this past year I’ve pushed them all together because I am a human being, a creative person and I happen to make music, but I myself am a creator and there’s no limits to what I can do in that realm. So, stepping into myself as a creator, just as a human being personally I think affects all the things that I create and all the things I do, so now I don’t see it as a separate thing now I see it as something that bleeds into everything that I touch.
How much does your audience influence the music that you create?
I think they have an input. I keep track of what I’m gonna talk about…one topic more than another but I think that at the end of the day I create from a sense of what feels really right for me and my own inspiration and I’m just putting it out as a resource and so I feel like I let them influence a little bit but at the end of the day I have to follow my own influence…and who ever will love it will love it.
You’re trapped in an elevator with your headphones…which song do you play?
I really like Sam Gellaitry…I really like his song Duo…I would play Duo.
My next song is kind of like the anti-bouquet, where it’s about falling in love, you’re past the honeymoon stage and your whole identity and self-worth gets lost in what the other person thinks of you. That’s all I’ll say!
story / Alexander Mays photos / Alexander Cody Nguyen
CONNECT WITH YUMI: