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23rd August 2023

Interview: Amy Bell

YVA is the “hyper emotional outpouring” of Newcastle artist Amy Holford, borne from a decade-long identity struggle; one that’s incorporated mental health crises, fruitless stints with London-based producers and a first-hand view of the lesser discussed trials facing young creatives in a cut-throat industry. But despite all this, YVA released her covers EP in 2019, with Pink Lemonade amassing millions of streams, before her debut EP, HYPE MACHINE arrived in 2021.

Hi, thanks so much for talking to ReVamp, growing up, was music always a passion for you, and was it very much supported by your family?

Looking back I really don’t know if music was so much a passion as something I felt I needed to do. It was a very important catharsis. If anything happened in my life I’d turn to music, whether that be listening to it, singing it, or writing. It was always therapy for me, in a way. A lot of people don’t have that outlet. It’s probably why I rejected my parents asking me to sing happier songs. My dad still wants me to cover Billie Holliday! But yeah, they were incredibly supportive. Certain moves wouldn’t have been made if they hadn’t been behind me the entire way.

When you were growing up, who did you used to listen to and how has your music style changed since then, now you’re getting older? 

As a teenager I listened to anything from Evanescence, Johnny Cash, John Mayer, and anything I liked from the Scrubs or Greys Anatomy soundtrack, I was also very much into musical theatre at the time, so that has informed a part of my penchant for drama! I was a hoarder of interesting songs and really didn’t undergo a proper musical discovery until I was well into my twenties and firmly out of the break-up music phase. I got more into alternative stuff, Bon Iver has always been a constant favorite, and then finally listening to Radiohead properly in my mid-twenties was a big turning point for me. When I heard Daydreaming on Annie Mac’s show one night driving home it was a, ‘Oh fuck,” moment. I was quite depressed at the time and that spurred a journey that is still ongoing. As I said, music was a very personal thing for me, so if something didn’t resonate, I didn’t listen to it. I wasn’t out to impress anyone with my musical taste, I didn’t really jump on bandwagons. I just liked what I like and I stand by that now.

You have a new single ‘I Have Seen’, out now, what has the reaction been like?

Great! It’s very hard to gauge a response past your Instagram comments, but they’ve all been really, really nice. It’s an incredibly personal song so it’s daunting putting it out there, I just think it’s resonating and that’s the key thing.

Since you have released music, how has your music changed and adapted? 

I’m relieved I didn’t put music out in my twenties. So glad. I started out a young, long-haired-folksy-bluesy-singer-songwriter with a guitar singing songs about boys, and now I don’t really go near it. I’ve written one song on that instrument in the last five years. I’m much more interested in soundscapes and how to create drama with music. I love that my music has evolved into a thing that I can’t really define, it’s just a response to whatever I’m feeling at the moment. The process of writing has completely changed. I don’t go searching for it, I just let it come. I’m okay with not outputting much for months on end, as long as the one thing I have written is something I’m proud of and is worth saying. There’s a lot of music being put out right now, the world doesn’t need any more fillers. Everything has to mean something to me, and that’s always been consistent for me.

Check out the lyric video to 'I Have Seen' by YVA.

What is ‘I Have Seen’, inspired by and what message do you want to convey to your listeners? 

I wrote this song when I was eighteen. I’ve hoarded it since, waiting for the right moment for its release, and yet it has always been relevant to my life. I’ve spent years, years of my life worrying, hesitating, waiting. I’ve felt since a young age that there’s been a demon on my back. I used to brush my teeth the same way every night as a young teenager, and rotate my hands both ways evenly for balance because I convinced myself it would finally get me otherwise. One day I stopped and told myself, there is no demon. But it took years to convince myself there wasn’t. I’ve burrowed very deeply into myself and found it wanting, I’ve known the depths of my own sadness and I have seen myself very clearly through all that. I got my therapy and I’ve worked since 2016 to be better, to deal with shit better, to be in the moment. To see the joy in life over the sorrow. There’s nothing you can tell me about myself that I don’t already know. The song is an acknowledgment of all that, and it’s saying, I’m okay. I can deal with it. 

What is your favorite lyric from your new single and why does that stand out to you the most? 

I think it’s I have wasted all my youth. I have squeezed too much from this old fruit, the middle 8 lines I added later to the original lyrics when I was in the middle of CBT. I just felt like, I’d spent too long thinking about the shadow at my back, I’d wasted my life worrying and being sad. I’d squeezed all I possibly could have from this thing and I was empty and dry. I was done being a victim to myself. It’s the release point in the song, and it felt incredibly good when I put it together with Khushi and he added that arp harp sound. It all fell together perfectly.

When you are songwriting/recording, what is the process like, and what do you enjoy the most? 

I actually hate writing, ha! The process terrifies me, still, after it became a huge trigger for my anxiety and depression years ago. It’s why I only write now as a rule when I have something to feel, although much of my writing currently has been a response to music that my husband has written, so I think I’m working through that. I’m very patient with the process now, I wait for something to make sense, I’m not a very technical writer. It either comes or it doesn’t. When it comes, and you get that first demo take in, and you know this could be something, is really exciting. But I hate searching too hard for it! I also enjoy recording the vocals. When you get the take. That’s something else. It’s funny, over the years I came to dread sessions I was put in, it was so unnatural coming up with something when writing had only ever existed to me as something I used to deal with my own stuff. If I was okay that day, it was hard pulling it out of the bag. Since becoming a mother though, I’m more willing to explore melodies before lyrics, and then leave them there until something fits. That’s quite a cool way of doing it, now. Trusting a melody to resonate first, to give you that vibration. God, I must sound like a total wanker.

What is next for yourself? 

So the EP is out in September, and then we’re recording my album in November. Can’t believe it’s finally happening but here I am, mother to a toddler, married, and recording my album. I just never thought it was actually going to happen outside of my own fantasies. Loads more music coming. 

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