LA-based singer-songwriter and all-round creative force is back with his usual showcase of emboldened honesty following his two-year hiatus. The latest EP Love Is Legal from this exciting artist is a vibrant, personal reflection on human experiences and self-discovery, and is destined to reach great heights.
Drawing on a range of musical influences, from Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Prince and Bob Marley, Yonas Micahel combines hip-hop, funk, pop and soul, disrupting the status quo as he does so.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Yonas Michael before premiering the release of his latest music video for ‘Better Man’, which is a confessional masterpiece that gently mirrors the duality of the world we live in. You can watch it here!
First things first, at what point did you decide to pursue music seriously?
Music and entertaining my family and friends, which as far as I can remember began when I was around the 5 or 6 years old. Although it wasn’t a career then, I was serious about showing off the Michael Jackson moonwalk and whichever dance move was popular then. 2006 was when it all shifted for me, as I recorded and released my first mixtape amongst friends. We called ourselves Rapture Kamp.
Coming off a two-year hiatus, what do you think taking a step back did for yourself as an artist?
Having the luxury to bend time through silence opened the space for life experiences to unfold, which then gave me more stories to share. I also got into surfing during my hiatus which is a something that has cultivated my music and brought more colour to my songs.
Your EP Love Is Legal is a well put together collection. What were you hoping to achieve with this latest release?
Thank you. Oh man, I have so many hopes with this project. Cure someone’s depression, love, dance, smile, inspire and just let this EP be the soundtrack to someone’s life everyday. Hopefully people will put the album in their cars or headphones to get them through their days.
The EP is accompanied by five videos. Can you talk us through the process of creating a visual? Where do you find inspiration for your videos?
My partner Nahshon brought this star named Maximilian to my attention, he suggested to have him shoot visuals for all 5 songs. We all spoke on the phone and just had a creative session of bouncing ideas off each other, tonnes of emails sharing videos and photography.
The visuals for ‘Better Man’ was an incredible idea that Maximilian had in mind, inspired from the Maxell hi-fidelity commercial from 1983. It was an automatic “yes!” as soon as he pitched it to me.
Same for Blue California, ‘Love Is Legal’ and ‘Slow Down’, which Maximilian’s sister, Madison, helped with the treatment. The visual for ‘Santa Barbara’ was shot by another special human named Austin Cantu. I just wanted to capture and create fragile moments with my actual daughter in the video and show my softer side. Once I gave Maximilian my vision, he then took the video and edited the storyline from beginning to end.
Is there a track that you are particularly excited for your fans to hear?
Yes! I can’t wait for people to hear ‘Love Is Legal’, everyone loves my falsetto for some reason. I channelled my inner Pharrell and said to myself “what would Pharrell do?”
How would you describe your ideal studio environment?
Phones off, music at a high volume, a muted movie, cartoon or sport game playing, a palo santo candle lit. Sometimes a room full of people helps to make the best song and sometimes just myself with the producer also brings out the best.
To better understand the music that moves you, is there a certain album that you couldn’t live without?
Jay-Z’s Black Album, N.E.R.D. Fly or Die, Kanye West College Dropout, Bob Marley Legend, OutKast Speakerboxxx/Love Below, Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland, and Michael Jackson Thriller.
If challenged to describe your musical style in three adjectives, what would you choose?
Earthy, Surfy, Rock
Finally, are there any future projects in the works?
Because I absolutely love Spindle, the answer is yes! I can’t give away the title just yet though, but I’m for sure bending genres!