Can you please introduce yourself more to your fans? Your full name, your origins?
Yasmin: My name is Yasmin Tayeby. My dad’s Egyptian, my mom’s American, and I grew up in Cairo. Right now I’m a senior at Berklee College of Music in Boston, but have been going back to Egypt every summer and winter.
When did your musical career start? Also why and how?
Yasmin: Technically, I’d say my music career started before I was even born! My mom’s a musician and I’ve been surrounded by music since day one. But realistically, I started playing piano and singing at 4 which led me to both the violin and guitar. I’ve always loved it, and while I can’t remember if at 4 years old I voiced it, I do remember begging my parents to let me play the violin when I was 6. After that, the singing/songwriting thing sort of came with age, and I realized that it was what I wanted to do with my life, so I picked up the guitar when I was 13.
Besides being a vocalist, what instruments can you play?
Yasmin: Well, I guess I just shamelessly listed them all above!
What music genres do you play, and why did you choose these genres?
Yasmin: I’ve always had problems putting the songs I write into a genre, but I guess I would call them acoustic-pop? Or alternative? Some sort of cross between those… But I cover everything from classic rock to top 40. For the most part, the songs I cover/write are songs that tell stories. I love the feeling of listening to a song that really speaks to you. Brandi Carlile is one of those artists whose songs, no matter how many times I’ve heard them, have the power to make me stop whatever I’m doing and listen. I try my best to come up with lyrics/melodies that really connect with people.
Why did you choose to perform as a solo artist?
Yasmin: I haven’t always played as a solo artist, but after playing with a couple of different people and having us part our separate ways for different reasons (moving, graduating, etc…) I just found it easier to be a solo act.
Did you join or establish any bands before you decided to perform as a solo artist?
Yasmin: Yeah, my very first “band” was made up of my best friend Laila and eventually, we forced our poor friend Andrew to be our drummer. He was into hard rock and all-black fashion while mine and Laila’s 13-year old lyrics consisted of “If only, all the words were true, and the birds did sing every morning.” We called ourselves Dyce for some reason or another! So…that didn’t last too long. But in high school, I teamed up with my friends Lizzy and Mallory and we were actually pretty good. The name we finally decided on was March to June (their birthdays were in March, mine was in June, and it also sounded really cool and witty!), and we played a bunch of shows around Cairo and won Battle of the Bands one year.
Can you tell me please about your influences?
Yasmin: I mentioned her before, but Brandi Carlile is a huge influence. She’s not very well known, but everyone should look her up. There are the obvious influences like The Beatles who I’d say affect almost everyone’s music, whether or not they realize it… Then there’s Dido, John Mayer, Patty Griffin, Adele, and very recently City and Colour.
How many albums did you release, and do you have a label?
Yasmin: I’ve only released one EP professionally, but I’ve released at least a dozen songs online independently. The people I recorded the EP with used to head a label that was under Sony, but they sold it a few years earlier. So, as of now, I’m label-free!
What important concerts did you perform in?
Yasmin: The first important gig I ever landed was Vermont Congressman Peter Welch’s birthday party. It was during the Bush administration, so I performed Pink’s “Dear Mr. President.” It was a really cool experience playing such an honest song to all of those people who were affiliated with the government. Scary…but cool nonetheless! Another great gig was playing at the Pharaoh’s Rally for Nile FM’s Homegrown Talents at the Pyramids a couple of years ago. Later on this spring, I’m playing at South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas which is the biggest music festival in the States. I’m really excited about that, and I’ll also be playing around the city all week long.
As an Egyptian female musician, did you face any troubles? And if you faced any, how did you overcome them, or not?
Yasmin: In Egypt, I think less than being a female, I’ve had troubles with the whole half-American thing. Because my mom is American, we spoke English around the house growing up and I also went to CAC, so my Arabic is shaky. People come up to me and ask why I don’t sing in Arabic, or why my spoken Arabic isn’t better. As for the speaking, I’m trying to improve! But at this point, I think I’ve really defined my sound, and my broken Arabic may sound a little strange if I start incorporating it into my music.
What’s the message that you want to deliver through your music?
Yasmin: I want my music to be relatable. I want the stories I tell through my lyrics to get through to people no matter where they’re from, what they do, or how old they are. The best concerts I’ve been to, and the best songs I’ve heard, have been the ones where I’ve literally been awe-struck by how directly it seems like they’ve spoken to me. Then, looking around, seeing everyone feeling the same way-that’s one of the coolest feelings in the world. There have been a couple of shows I’ve done where I’ve looked out and seen people I don’t know singing my lyrics. Goosebumps immediately! Just seeing that effect that I’ve gotten from my favorite concerts/songs on one person is crazy enough-I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like seeing an entire concert hall affected like that.
Any future plans in your mind?
Yasmin: Definitely. I’ve got two plans in mind right now. Plan A, my first choice, is to move to New York and try to break through in the States. I’ve got several projects going right now and if any of them prove to be successful, then I’ll follow through with that and see if I can take it further. Plan B is to move back to Cairo (at least for awhile) to work on concert promotions. I’ve already started working on that over the past few months to make sure I have something to go back to in Cairo while I figure out what to do with my own music.
A word to your fans?
Yasmin: You guys are great! I read all your comments, emails, messages, and appreciate everything that you say. I do get a lot of people asking when I’m going to be in Egypt, and when I’m going to start doing more performances. I’ll definitely be there over the summer, but after that if I do end up moving back for awhile, I promise to put on A LOT more shows! 🙂