Liyana Jasmay started out as an actress when she was only nine.

Her foray into showbiz began when she landed a role in a TV series, Si Lembik, produced and directed by Datuk Aznil Nawawi.

“I didn’t play the lead role but I got to know a lot of people from the show. It helped me build connections and people started calling me because there weren’t many child actors at the time,” the 28-year-old actress said in an interview.

“Then I got to know Rosyam Nor through a TV show and later, I met up with him when I was about 16 and he gave me my first breakout role in the film Castello.”

Liyana was a natural. The then-teenager’s film debut earned her a Best New Actress nomination at the prestigious Malaysia Film Festival (FFM) in 2006.

She went on to star in a slew of movies, most notably, Papadom. She was named Best Actress for her performance in the Afdlin Shauki-helmed project at FFM in 2009 (the film also picked up four other awards including Best Film).

Around the same time, Liyana decided to try her luck in the music scene, releasing her debut album in 2009 which churned out hit singles Aku Tak Percaya Cinta and Aku Jatuh Cinta.

Liyana tied the knot with businessman Fathuddin Mazlan in 2013 and gave birth to her first child, Sofia, in 2014, and welcomed her second, Selena, last year.

“It was the right time,” she noted, about returning with two new R&B-tinged singles Oh Na Na and Selesa Tanpamu last October after taking a break from showbiz. “I’m not as busy as I was two years ago. Back then, I was busy with my first baby and it was a very challenging time for me raising her. That’s why I didn’t do a lot of things.”

Besides the new singles, Liyana can be seen on the big screen in Bella & Jamie slated for release some time this year.

The film, produced by her own production company Mermaid Studios, chronicles the relationship highs and lows of two best friends.

1. You play a youth in your new film Bella & Jamie and sport a youthful sound in your single Oh Na Na. Is there a reason why you choose to take on a younger persona career-wise?

When I was 21 to 23, I never had the chance to do the things that I liked because I was always fulfilling other people’s films, other people’s dreams, other people’s vision. Back then, I felt like OK, it was a job, I am an actress. But now I want to do the things I didn’t get to do. I did Bella & Jamie because we don’t have many films that represent the youngsters in the market. The films we have represent those in their 30s and above. Maybe it’s because the people making the movies are at that age.

That’s why I told myself when I started my company Mermaid Studios, we were going to target the youths.

2. What made you decide to venture into R&B? 

I love R&B but when I first started doing music, it was pop rock because I was so in love with Miley Cyrus and Avril Lavigne. R&B is what I want to do right now. It’s a risk, but if you don’t take the risk, it’ll be boring, you’ll never leave your comfort zone.

Oh Na Na, has a tinge of local flavour but with R&B as its base. Selesa Tanpamu is more R&B-inclined and you can even hear some soul. It’s just about taking chances. It may or may not be a hit, but you have to keep going.

3. When you first started singing, there were people who criticised your vocal abilities. Were you hurt?

I was not hurt. I know my abilities. I know what kind of songs I can sing. I think I sound OK. But maybe when it comes to singing live, I wasn’t as experienced yet. In fact, I’ve never performed live before pursuing my music career.

I remember Miley Cyrus once said she doesn’t care if she sings and sounds out of tune as long as she doesn’t lip-sync, because a lot of Western artistes lip sync.

She said, the more she sings live, the better she sounds. Keeping what she said in mind, I know as long as I keep on singing, I will be OK.

Liyana Jasmay starred in the 2015 film Isyarat Cinta.

Liyana Jasmay starred in the 2015 film Isyarat Cinta.

4. You started out in showbiz when you were only nine. Do you see this as a good thing or bad?

Being in this industry since I was nine, I have learned a lot. So people can’t lie to me. I don’t regret it.

And if my children are also interested in showbiz, they can go for it. It’s a good business, a good industry.

Of course, I also want my children to have my talent. That would be amazing.

5. How has being a mum changed you?

Being a mum is the most wonderful thing. Whenever I have problems, I look at them and I feel better. Being a mum makes me feel like I want to do things that make them proud. Like they know my song Oh Na Na and sing it. My youngest daughter even dances to it. I want to make them feel like their mum is something – she sings, she acts.