Fit the Bil

SOME singer-songwriters took their first steps into their craft in their teenage years, while others like Nabila Musa – or Bil Musa, acquired a knack for it much earlier on.

"When I was around 11, I wrote a few songs in Malay. Those were probably the first songs I wrote on the piano. I wrote some prior to those, but unfortunately, I don't remember them any more because I lost my original lyric book," the lass said sheepishly.

The first song that made her mark in the Malaysia music scene was a cutesy song called The Beach, which she wrote in Bahasa Malaysia, English, and French. Little did she know she would be signed to Yuna Room Records, a label owned by home-grown international musician Yuna Zarai.

"The thought of doing music this way never occurred to me. She (Yuna) contacted me and offered me a contract, and gave me a month to think about it. I followed my gut feeling and called back two weeks later, and told her that I wanted to do it," she said.

The idea of putting her music out publicly was so far-fetched for her that she only began to show her compositions to other people in her mid-teens. In fact, even extended family and friends were kept in the dark about her musical talent!

Firstly, how did that shy girl got signed to one of Malaysia's most enviable labels?
I was performing at a friend's brother's wedding. Yuna's manager was there, but at that time, they had someone else signed to them. It was a year before they contacted me, and the rest is history.

I was a really private person; and I honestly never thought of doing music, apart from the few small restaurant gigs that I had done. It was a scary step to take because I need to expose myself and let go of my privacy – and I was worried about my family and friends getting picked on my internet trolls and stuff like that. But it was a risk that I must take.

Was that the biggest struggle?
Definitely. There is always feedback when you put something out and expose yourself this way, which can be a good thing.

Unfortunately, sometimes it is just a lot of personal attacks – attacks on family and friends, on the way I dress, or the way I sing, and so on.

For example, I posted a picture on Instagram of a yoga class I participated in, then someone commented something like "do you know it's against Islam to do yoga?" It's just stupid things like these.

People outside of the public eye already get comments like these, what more when one's in it. Thankfully, however, I have not gotten a lot of those.

Do you see yourself doing singing-songwriting for life?
That's a good question; I don't know. I go in and out of it – I really want to give it my 100%, but sometimes I still have doubts of whether I can do it. I have doubts about it being my career, but I try to think of music as something that I do as I pursue other things.

What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on my new album. It carries the kind of sound that I have been wanting to do from the very beginning.

When I first started out with my EP, I was unsure of what I wanted and was only feeling out this music thing. The music I had on SoundCloud was acoustic, folksy and cutesy.

This album is completely different. The songs have simple sounds, yet are deeper, with darker lyrics. It is more electronic, than acoustic.