US based, Sarawakian singer/songwriter and visual artist Zee Avi has made quite a name for herself since she was first discovered by The Raconteurs’ Patrick Keeler on YouTube. BorneoTalk had the opportunity to sit down for a chat with the bubbly, petite young lady before her appearance at the 13th Borneo Jazz at Coco Cabana in Miri.
Q: You were discovered by The Raconteurs’ Patrick Keeler on YouTube and that led to a record deal with Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records, a publishing deal with Monotone and your music being played in Starbucks across the US. How do you feel as a Sarawak-born artiste?
Zee: As a Sarawakian in general, I know for a fact that our island of Borneo hosts some amazing, gifted talents. I’m just blessed enough to be at the right place at the right time. I can only hope that fellow Sarawakians will be able to have more platforms to showcase their talents in so we can all feel proud of each other!
Q: out of all your music, which one is your personal favourite?
Zee: I can’t favour any one of them in particular because I like them all just the same. They’re like my carefully finessed babies! I also really adore my early stuff on YouTube because there was a sense of innocence about them.
Q: You’ve been in the entertainment industry for a while now. What have been the main challenges for you so far?
Zee: I used to say my main challenge would be to be able to not look at anything as a challenge, but as I get older, I realise the more important things like being away from family is quite hard at times. Being away from Malaysia means being away from my favourite foods! Challenges are also subjective though. It depends on how you look at them. =)
Q: What other things would you like to get yourself involved in? A role in a movie perhaps?
Zee: Haha! I’m quite forgetful so I think if it were a movie role, I’d forget my lines a lot. But I’m open to trying! If anything, I’d like to do more for what I’ve gone through and believe in, here in Malaysia. Like maybe, be a part of a movement that creates awareness for anxiety and depression and/or an anti-bullying campaign.
Q: You flew back home to Miri in May for the 13th Borneo Jazz. How does it feel to be able to come back to your hometown every once in a while?
Zee: I don’t go back enough and I’ve missed it so much! I also love the fact that a lot of the buildings in town were still there and as always, I was overcome with the feeling of nostalgia, which is my favourite feeling. So it was so nice to be back, even though briefly to my birthplace. The people were still all smiles and warm as ever. I miss you, Sarawak. And I bring you everywhere I go.
Q: Have you ever thought of doing collaborations with local talents? Especially those without any means to put themselves out there for the world to see?
Zee: All. The. Time! As I always say, Borneo hosts some of the best talents I’ve ever come across. I can’t wait to see and hear more of them and be able to instil in them the courage to put themselves out there more. I know us Sarawakians, if the lack of platform isn’t the problem, it’s the shyness. Hopefully someday I have enough means and financial backing from our local establishments to create more platforms so aspiring artistes can showcase their gifts and talents to the world!
Q: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Zee: Haha! I don’t even know what I’ll be having for dinner! Though hopefully, I’d still be able to do what I love and have grown wiser as a person.
Thank you for your lovely questions.