Q: So, you wrote “I’m Still Standing” after demonstrating for the cultural sector in Belgium. What really inspired you to go further and write a song?
INNA YA: I had been trying to break into music for 4 years through castings but nothing really suited me. I didn’t dare show who I was… I was trying to please the jury, or the editorial line that was recruiting talent and I wasn’t myself.
I once posted an a capella video of me singing “shallow” by lady gaga in an underground parking lot and got scouted by a music label. They asked me to come to the studio to sing and to write them a Franco-English song. They sent me their electro intruders. I was super happy because I always wanted to do electro-pop. They told me I could write whatever I wanted. At this time I demonstrated peacefully for the third time in the street to support the Belgian cultural sector during the lockdown. The movement is called “i’m still standing for culture”.
The day after the demonstration, I started to write everything in English and it flowed by itself. I came across the mirror hour 11:11 and I thought it was a visionary sign… Indeed the song matched well, the label was sure to have a hit!! They had bet on a minimum of 200 k plays on spotify… With their visibility and their experience, I knew they were telling the truth. But a few months later, the label sent me a message to tell me that they were changing their artistic direction towards dark electro and that the single could not be included in their next very black album. He was reviewing all the A.D of their brand… I went through a very difficult phase at that time.
I was devastated. All that work for nothing! My dream was on the verge of coming true… And then one day, I met a boy from my class at the music conservatory; (Remo) we had been studying music academically for 2 years… At the end of the course, he m said that he has been following me on social media for a long time as a dancer and that I have a lot of talent in various artistic fields. When I told him that what I really wanted was to sing, he told me that all I needed was a music producer.
As the conversation progressed, I told him what had happened with the label and that I had lost self-confidence… He offered to listen to my song, admitting that he was producing music too, in a home studio… He told me it was really not bad at all, so good that maybe it was beginner’s luck. He told me that we could try to work together. I contacted the old label explaining the situation. They took it very well but were a little surprised.
I took back my text and my melodic composition and they their instrumentals. When Remo made me listen to his beatmaker and mixing work, I was completely won over! I understood that I had finally found the person who corresponded to me musically. I had met some sound arrangers before but I found them overwhelmed or imbued with their person. .. He no, it’s the music that speaks above all, he’s passionate. He told me later that he had no musical production structure in the proper sense of the term and therefore could not provide the financial part of the project.
So I undertook an artist training in self-production to be able to produce myself in an executive way. It’s very hard to eat apples all day to be able to afford a clip, recordings, promotion, etc. but now that I have found my team, my style, my artistic line, I absolutely want to continue…
Q: Was there anything different about your creative process for “I’m Still Standing” and, if so, what was it like?
INNA YA: Well at the beginning, I had written this song on the intruder of the label, so it was very easy for me to write and compose on an already existing rhythm. On the other hand, all the other songs that I produce are composed entirely from scratch. That is to say that I am alone in my room, I hum, I sing, and then I write and the melodic line is thus composed. It is much more difficult to work this way but also more interesting in terms of variations. Congratulations to the musicians who must then find the right chords. Haha. Remo became my official beatmaker and therefore is now used to working by composing his intruders on my melody. A relationship of musical trust has been established…
Q: You attribute your interest in music to Michael Jackson. Is there a particular song or album that you remember pushing you towards a music career?
INNA YA: Michael was my idol! My reference and my guide! I had discovered it on the title “black or white” thanks to my kindergarten teacher who wanted to pay tribute to MJ during the end of the school year party. Each year the children presented a dance performance on a stage to end the year. I transcended the public that day on “smooth criminal” and “black or white” and I was 5 years old! That’s when my parents understood that I had something very powerful artistically.
Thanks to this teacher, I discovered through “can you feel it” that M.J. was not white. And it made me very weird to see him as a child with the Jacksons. I didn’t think it was him that it was possible to change skin color. With him everything was possible! When I discovered the clip “can you feel it” I understood that music for me was a life mission. This clip was a message to the world. I absolutely wanted to convey his message because I felt very connected to him.
Q: You have a classical education having attended a classical and jazz dance school at the age of 12. How does your training there influence your music today?
INNA YA: Many people told my parents that I had a gift for dancing but my father didn’t want to know about it even though he recognized my talent. He saw dance as a shameless environment and it was not the education he wanted to give to a little girl so young. He even forbade my sister and me to participate in an end-of-year show because he had judged the music to be too ambivalent and swaying hahaha it was lambada (an old summer hit). It was only when my parents separated that my mother first enrolled me in an acrobatic gymnastics club because I was very good at sports.
From 8 to 12 years old, I practiced the beam. I got my city’s silver medal. I learned quickly but above all I was very very hardworking. At 11 my father died of cancer and overnight, without telling me, my mother told me that I was leaving the club to join a private school of classical dance and modern jazz. It was there that she told me that she had done the dance conservatory as a child and that she had never been able to realize her dreams. At first I was reluctant to classical dance. At 12, I just wanted to be a “lolita bimbo” and not a ballerina in a tutu. But over the years, I learned to appreciate classical dance precisely through music. I found it so powerful and beautiful. Every note I heard at the ballet barre pierced my heart. I often had tears running down my cheeks while dancing or stretching just to the music. It became a passion over time.
I had a lot of ease in modern-jazz but being curious and wanting to learn, I worked harder for classical to then explore contemporary dance and choreographic experimentation as an adult. Today the classical allowed me to welcome my sensitivity, and modern jazz only confirmed something that already existed: my strength. I also did all the choreography for the “I’m still standing” clip. It was very important for me to recruit dancers and teach them choreography on the music that I created myself. It was a real pleasure.
Q: Do you have any advice for emerging artists?
INNA YA: The first thing I would say to emerging artists is train yourself in self-production. Today we can’t start without it. Certainly there is music but professionally you have to know the workings of the music industry, even on a very small scale. Just because you have talent doesn’t mean it will work. The proof, how many artists deserve greater visibility but do not have it because they are not integrated into national radio? In big playlist? Or have very few followers on social networks?
My trainer told me one day: “today in 2022, we could have Michael Jackson in our production team, it wouldn’t work without a considerable financial investment in visibility on social networks”. When we are aware of this, we can regain self-confidence because we understand that everything is a question of advertising budget or almost. Scoring is certainly important but it will never determine the talent of an artist.
Q: What would you like to tell your fans?
INNA YA: I would like to tell them, keep dreaming. If life is worth living, it is to be able to afford dreams and moments of gathering, parties, and musical joys. I would also like to tell them that with me they will never be alone. As long as my music is in their heads, my lyrics in their hearts, we will be bound together. So have fun and bite into life while it’s time.
Interviewed by Dana L. Sullivan
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