The elusive Montreal artist sat down with us to discuss his impressive debut LP, and the road that led to it
Normally when one sees a rose wilting, they see nothing more than a once-beautiful flower decaying, watching its petals drop as it slowly loses life. In Qi Yama’s eyes, there’s much more beauty to it than meets the eye.
“People might look at it like, ‘that’s sad,’ but is it sad? Or is it beautiful?” he questions, with a hint of optimism. “The process is beautiful whatever the process is.”
That’s what wilting represents for Qi Yama, and why he’s chosen wilt as the title of his recently released and excellent debut.
It’s about recognizing the beauty in all aspects of the process, no matter what they are, and that realization has been an integral part of creating his debut project. It’s also what he’s proudest of — not the release, the reception or the impressive streaming numbers — but the journey that it took to get there.
“To be honest, I’m just proud that I’ve been on this journey and that I stuck to it, that I’m at a place where I feel like I’m finally figuring things out, not on a success scale, but on a personal scale, a human scale.” He adds humbly, “I’m finally figuring myself out and understanding myself. That’s my greatest accomplishment.”
It’s an admirable and understandable feeling for him to have, as this was a long journey. The mysterious Montreal musician has spent years cultivating a completely unique sound that blends lo-fi hip hop, atmospheric R&B and hazy bedroom pop — a craft he’s been perfecting for years leading up to wilt’s release.
In fact, a handful of tracks on the project were released for a short window of time several years ago, before being quickly removed from streaming services. This wasn’t due to the songs being unfinished — though they’ve since been touched up — it was a personal decision for Qi Yama.
“I needed to grow up a little bit, mature a little bit, see what this industry shit was all about,” he reflects, adding that it “needed to happen for me to actually be ready to truly put this out in the world and be like, okay, this could stay out there forever.”
It’s during this time that the ideas for this album were put on a grander scale, becoming a multi-dimensional multi-media experience. The album’s rollout now includes a mysterious world built around the artist’s mystique and music, through Instagram posts and music videos, all being brought together to tell one cohesive story.
“Cohesiveness is the pinnacle of storytelling to me, you know?” Qi Yama explains. “If you’re gonna tell a really good story, it has to fit. Everything has to fit perfectly.”
He places a lot of importance on storytelling, both in his life and in music. In his eyes, it’s an integral tool used to bring people together.
“Storytelling is beautiful to me,” he states passionately. “It’s what connects people. It’s the way in which we learn about ourselves and others, the way in which we reflect our histories and our experiences.”
It’s in this process of writing and creating music, and sharing these experiences, that Qi Yama finds true peace. It’s a process that he loves, that he knows if he puts his all into, he gets it back.
“It’s almost like a journal — and not in the way of, I’m writing down my life here, here is my story,” he explains. “It’s like as I’m living life, I’m taking these experiences and ideas and stories, and I’m putting them into this album and it’s kind of like, as I work on the album, it works back on me.”
He hopes this is something that translates in his music, something that can be heard by the listener. Not only that, but he hopes the music can help them in their search for what they’re looking for as well.
“I just hope the listeners find whatever it is they’re looking for,” he says, adding that he hopes “it means something to them, really. I hope when they hear the stories, it reminds them of something in their life, because that’s what I think music is all about.”
His approach to music is to make it as personal to the listener as it is to him. His enigmatic nature and cryptic songwriting lends itself to listeners creating their own unique interpretations of his message.
“I’ve met people who, the music hit them so deeply, and they really wanted the story to be the way they interpreted it and I’m like, it is the way you interpret it.”
Interpretation is a concept that rests at the core of Qi Yama’s art. It’s his perception of the process, and the beauty in all of its aspects. It’s his emphasis on having an elusive presence and leaving his music open for listeners to interpret his art how they desire and create their own personal connections to it. It’s his own interpretations of success in the industry, and what it means to make it big.
“Being a famous artist could be a huge part of my journey, but life is definitely way bigger than that to me,” he explains. “Especially if I’m happy with my art. If I’m okay with my art and I have peers I respect who are okay with my art, then I’ll be completely okay with wherever I go.”