From The Archives – Halleyulia!

The Yulia Interview

imagesI CONDUCTED THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW IN THE MID-2000s ON THE REQUEST OF SOME PUBLICATION I CAN’T REMEMBER, WHO THEN DECIDED THEY DIDN’T WANT A YULIA PIECE AFTER ALL, EVEN BEFORE I DELIVERED IT. I THOUGHT THE NAKED TRANSCRIPT WAS ENTERTAINING, REVEALING, AND COULD EASILY RUN AS A STAND-ALONE PIECE, SO I HAWKED IT AROUND THE USUAL MEDIA SUSPECTS… WITHOUT SUCCESS. SO HERE IT IS, MY PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED YULIA INTERVIEW, IN ITS FULL GLORY, UNENCUMBERED BY ME – GARY STEEL

“I WALKED IN to Sony-BMG this morning with black hair and everybody loved it but they were like, ‘Argghh! It’s going to be a bit of a challenge!’ Like for my first album I had my hair down and wavy and that’s what Sony-BMG wanted to do with this album [Montage] as well, and I had this enormous beehive on the cover and everybody’s like ‘Oh God!’ and now I have black hair and it’s like ‘Oh God!’ This record is based on drama, while the first record [In The West] was based on my personal experiences from when I first arrived in New Zealand from Russia. Montage is a dramatic record, songs like ‘The Actress’, ‘The Show Must Go On’. To be honest, I have been struggling for a while with myself and with my decisions. I didn’t know what I wanted to be and wanted to do and I’m 20 years old, it’s fair enough. Some singers know what they want to be from the start. But I don’t know, because I can, fortunately or unfortunately, do both, classical and pop. I even tried a bit of, um, rock music as well [giggles] but it didn’t really work out that well. I even recorded a demo CD, and played it to [manager] Michael Glading and he said ‘Ah, yeah, you’d better stick to what you’re doing!’ But I do love pop/rock, I’m really intrigued by Kelly Clarkson, you’d call her pop but she does have aspects of rock and soul in her music. And I love Dave Dobbyn, amazing, the type of music I would love to do but I don’t want to be bringing in another style. There are so many pop artists and it isn’t me, jumping around the stage like a mad chicken, and not concentrating on what I’m 8713377singing. Eventually the record turned out to be a classical pop crossover, because the two styles they’re just inseparable for me. One of my favourite songs is ‘The Actress’, the one that Carl Doy wrote, and the first line is ‘You left her on an empty stage, took the book and tore out every page’, and it’s like, so me! After the first record I was left thinking, and I couldn’t decide on what I was going to do. Who am I? But eventually I think I’ll graduate as a new Barbara Streisand. At least I now know who my favourite artist is and what I want to be like, and of course Barbara Streisand is retired now so I can just take over. It’s going to take a lot of effort because she’s an amazing singer and she’s my idol. I was originally marketed as a pop classical crossover singer and when I was signed it was basically to create another Charlotte Church because she was finished with Sony and they didn’t have anyone like Hayley, because Hayley was with Universal, and they wanted another pop classical diva. But I think my personality is bigger than the genre. I went to Hayley’s concert in Dunedin, and I’m very happy to say our styles are drifting apart now. She’s more of a classical Enya, and with me I’m more of a classical Barbara. I’m such an old-fashioned soul, I love all the old fashioned songs, Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Streisand, Marilyn Monroe, all those old stars, I love that kind of music. My influence was Russian folk music, Grandma taught me all the folk songs. If there was a gathering at our house, Grandma would start a song and I would sing along. I never did think I could sing, because my Mum used to tell me not to even try to sing, I was so bad. Grandma was nice and supportive, my Mum was the one who said ‘you sound like a Russian bear, you’d better stick to your dancing!’ And that made me feel a bit conscious about my voice. Wing! [laughs]. My boyfriend and I are constantly making fun of her because she’s just so cute and so funny and it’s amazing that in three years I think she released five or six albums and she even has a website and she’s just a cute little lady. But I think she’s more of a comedian than a singer [laughs]. I have had a few singing teachers over the past year, but I find that I am my best coach. I read a lot of books on singing and listen to other singers and study them and look at them and how they perform and that’s how I study. You can go to a lot of teachers, but if you don’t feel your own body yourself there’s no way anyone can teach you how to sing. So I try and read a lot of books on how the body is formed because your voice is part of your body, it’s not a separate thing like a trombone which you pick up and play. When I arrived in New Zealand I felt so terribly homesick for Russia that I started writing songs on guitar and I desperately wanted to do music at school, and my music teacher asked me to do rest homes and libraries and museums, and I really enjoyed the rest homes, because they’re so starved for people to come and see them. I’m very lucky because I’m very critical of myself, and whatever I don’t like I try and improve on. I think I can handle things pretty easily, but I do think that I need to prepare still. Like New Zealand Music Awards, oh God, did I talk rubbish! I don’t even drink, but I got off the plane that morning from Singapore and I was so tired. I was sitting there dreaming I was so tired, and when they called my name out my manager goes ‘Yulia!’ and I walked on that stage and I’m lucky that I can talk rubbish I guess. It always works, when you pretend to be a dumb blonde it’s all good. [laughs]. It was one of the experiences that I put down in my diary: nothing like that again. As Cher says ‘Everything surprises me and nothing surprises me’. Showbiz is not as easy as getting up on stage and singing, you have to do your homework.” GARY STEEL

• Yulia received Tui awards for Highest Selling New Zealand Album [Into The West] and Best Female Singer at the 2005 New Zealand Music Awards.

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