Local singer-songwriter Lyia Meta certainly had a huge year last year. In September, the Malaccan-born performer was the only Malaysian nominated at the 2018 Josie Music Awards, a ceremony honouring independent artistes from all over the world. There, she ended winning the World Music Artist of the Year award.
Just three months later, she was invited to perform at Iskarnival Main-Main 2018, a festival at Iskandar Puteri, Johor, which saw over 70,000 people attend. There, she was featured alongside local heavyweights such as Zee Avi, Joe Flizzow and Hujan.
You’d think that would be enough for a year already. But this gutsy singer-songwriter has never been one to rest on her laurels. Last month, Meta also released a new single, All Of My Love, written by award-winning British songwriter and record producer Paul Michael Curtis. An admirable achievement, especially since neither she nor Curtis had ever met before then.
“The world is so different now. We don’t have to meet in order to give voice, or birth something beautiful. Paul found me through social media. I am sure he heard me sing through some of the videos I shared. As a song writer, you’ll intuitively know what kind of a singer you’d need for your compositions. So he sent me a message in my Inbox and the rest is history,” said Meta, 47, speaking during the launch of her single in Jaya One, Petaling Jaya, last month.
Born into a musical family, Meta grew up on a diet of eclectic music, although she found herself drawn mostly to the sound of rock and blues.
“I don’t like to pigeonhole myself. But if writing a song for me, I’d probably do something bluesy and rock. I like stuff from Deep Purple, I like some stuff from the 90s, like the Stone Temple Pilots,” the singer said.
Making a living as an independent singer in Malaysia, Meta said, has been a tough experience. Most local radio stations don’t play her music: the singer-songwriter said that for every 100 emails she sent out, 99 turned out to be rejections. Nevertheless, Meta has persisted, performing at bars and gigs until she was finally discovered.
“At every stage, there are challenges. The greatest challenge would be getting your music heard. The chances of anyone listening to you are very slim, at best, because there’s a lot of music out there,” she said.
“Financing my recordings have been tough, too. I pay out of my pocket because I am independent. My family has had to make sacrifices because of this. It’s a one-man show for me. I write, sing, pay and market. There is no single formula that works every time.”
She is grateful, however, for the support from her husband, Zack Meta. He often performs alongside her on the guitar, and creates the backing tracks for her songs.
“He is an absolute workaholic. I am who I am because of him. Working with him is easy. However, he stays away from the limelight. He does not like the attention,” said Meta.
In 2015, Meta released her debut EP, This Is Lyia, which was produced by Zack and Anthony Noel Yap. It picked up six nominations at the Voice International Music Awards (VIMA) in 2016, and earned Meta the award for Best Overall Female Act. 2016 also saw her being nominated for Best New Artist at the Anugerah Industri Music Awards (AIM). Last year, she put out a single and self-produced music video, Without Walls, which drew upon her own personal experiences and career.
Two of her favourite songs to perform, she said, are Slumber and Save Me.
“They were both written at a point when everything was changing in my life, and people close to me started to affect how I saw life. Both songs are about reaching out for help, and our basic human instinct of wanting to survive. It’s about seeing the light instead of darkness. It is about not giving up,” Meta said.
According to her, we can expect another single in the future: for now, however, she’s focusing on All Of My Love, which she enjoyed for it’s “retro sound”.
“When Paul first contacted me with the interest of getting me to sing one of his songs, I told him I would gladly listen to them and see if it fit. At the time he contacted me, I was heading back to the studio to record another one of my compositions and we had already finalised the track. So I wasn’t looking for new material but I always believe that things happen for a reason,” Lyia said.
“So long story short, Paul sent me foure tracks and I fell in love with All Of My Love. It’s a beautiful song, from lyrical content to the melody. It resonates with me and many people, on so many levels!”