Müzikoza’s subject of the week is Neslihan, who recently presented her fans with a new album called Masal Gibi.
Even though the humble singer with the guileless voice isn’t a frequent Internet user, she rose to fame with songs that broke records for having the most online clicks. After interrupting her studies to pursue her love of music, Neslihan and her songs have reached thousands or perhaps millions of listeners. Her album opened new doors for her, and the awards she earned opened them even further. Plus, there’s that warm voice of hers. Now, in December 2012, Neslihan is here to talk with us about her new album, Masal Gibi.
So, between 2006-2009 and 2012, there was a three-year gap, and then upon your return you came out with one beautiful song after another. Three must be your lucky number. As you were preparing your album, who did you work with, and how were the songs developed?
The album was arranged once again by Mehmethan Dişbudak, who worked on previous projects of mine, too. He is an arranger and a very talented musician who understands me very well and can differentiate me from my work, and I trust him to do whatever he wants to my music and songs. We also wrote one of the song’s lyrics together. Speaking of songwriters, you’ll see Selma Zafer’s name on one of my songs, too. She is my greatest supporter in life; she’s my mom. Her hand and pen touched this album, which makes it that much more special for me. Other than those two songs, all of the lyrics and music in the album are mine. As you know, our first music video was made for “O Bilmiyor.” It was directed by Özkan Aksular, and it was a project that I enjoyed immensely. Very talented musicians contributed to every note in the album. For example, Rustam Mahmudov worked on many of my songs. All of the musicians whose names appear on the album cover are there because I sincerely wanted them to be part of that album; they didn’t come together like that just by chance. They are each part of the team that we deliberately put together. I’ve really enjoyed working with them. They were at least as nitpicky about the album as I was, but nevertheless, as the saying goes, Masal Gibi flowed into the palms of our hands as smoothly as water.
To speak frankly, I listened to the album with bated breath. My soul relaxed and my mind traveled to other realms, which made me understand why the name of the album is Masal Gibi, “like a fairytale.” There were two songs that now have a special place in my heart: “Babam” and “Hiç Sevmedim.”Yes, we’re talking about a very new album, but what has the reaction to these songs been like so far? Is there a particular story behind “Babam”? Please tell us whatever you can about the album.
“Hiç Sevmedim” is the song that first introduced me to my listeners. It’s very special to me. I wanted to share it again by rearranging it, and I’ve gotten very positive feedback on it. I’m guessing that song’s heartfelt style will never get old. The reactions to the album have been really great. People always say that, right? But believe me, I’m being sincere. I take into careful consideration every form of feedback I get, both positive and negative. I value people’s suggestions. I should add that I also want to keep listeners’ requests in mind when we make our song into a music video later on, so they should send me their ideas. Ever since the album hit the shelves, we’ve been happy with the results. Responses on the radio and social media have been great, too. Our number of views on YouTube is a statistic that shouldn’t be underestimated. So far, everything’s going well, and in fact, I’m awaiting positive reactions that spread further still. The story behind “Babam” is my dad! It’s the very embodiment of him. As is the case for all little girls, my dad was my first hero. For this album and for every step of the way before that, he has always been by my side. He never withheld his support, and he encouraged me to put my beliefs into practice. I wanted to give him a gift, and the quintessential musician’s gift is a song. I think he liked his present.
Why are your songs always slow? Do you try to do this in your music? Are you concerned about being always remembered like this? Please talk about your music in general.
Actually, it is love that is slow. You can express all of the emotions in an upbeat way, but with love, even in the happiest moments there are a lot of emotions that can come into your mind, like jealousy or yearning or apprehension and so on, and these always give people a little bit of pause. It’s not the pangs of love but love itself that renders love slow. When you’re in love, does the world slow down, and do many songs slow down, too? We have upbeat songs, too, of course. But I think I use them sparingly in every album. I’ve composed so many songs in the past six years that it isn’t easy to choose which ones to include in an album. You’re listening to eleven songs at the moment, and these will express my love for music until I come up with another eleven. I don’t have any templates for my music. I only believe in the stories of fate and time. The things that they bring, the coincidences that are created, the ideas that sink into my mind, the feelings that come from my heart – when all of these came together, that’s what created this album. It wasn’t just a strategic piece of work. And there are these feelings, too … For this reason, if slow songs have greater weight because they can express me more deeply, then along with whatever my emotions bring to the table, there will be melodic changes in my albums. I believe in the things that will always understand me properly, and I’m not afraid of them.
I read somewhere that you compose your songs by candlelight. I guess darkness and dim lighting along with emotional intensity bring empathy out into the open.
That kind of setting can make it easier for a person to seclude herself. It’s my method for listening to myself; it’s not my method for writing songs. When I’m able to listen to myself, the feelings inside me bring those songs into existence. It’s like listening to one song at a high volume, and then there’s no way that the melody from some other song you know can break that focus. In those moments, the noise of life is cut down and my inner voice comes out. When silence settles in, I can look more closely at my dreams and their weaknesses. My songs come out after that, first in my mind and then on my tongue.
If we go back five or six years to the time when your voice was first heard, rapid consumption on the Internet wasn’t a topic of conversation. Nowadays, however, the flow of information has quite quickly come to a state in which everything is consumed instantly. What do you think of the new state that music is in?
From the perspective of album sales, it’s a little bit problematic, of course, because current regulations are not enough to protect the rights of artists when it comes to listening to music online. But nevertheless, from the perspective of connecting with listeners, I think it’s a very positive thing. We’re able to get many more reactions right away. I saw that when my song was played on the radio for the first time, not ten minutes had passed before it was recorded and uploaded to YouTube. Yes, in terms of our copyrights, this is not really a desirable thing. And yet the fact that someone who was not your friend or your spouse found it worth his while to record and share your song within ten minutes – well, that’s a different kind of loveliness. You know that the Internet was the primary factor in how I met my listeners. For this reason, I can’t really be neutral on this issue. I act a little emotionally in this regard, and I find the Internet’s speed beneficial when it isn’t used for bad purposes.
Based on the fact that you are someone who has had all of these experiences, what would you like to say to those who are just starting out on in terms of securing stability? What are you still doing in this regard?
When I took a break from making albums, I didn’t take a break from music. I embraced the thing that makes me Neslihan and I tried not to lose track of it. That’s what I wish for, that everyone could make music and write poems that reflect their true selves. Whatever today’s style demands, it’s not that. Yes, they should be leaders, they should listen to advice, they should develop strategies, but they shouldn’t be like anyone else. They should create their work by synthesizing what they learn with their identities and their inner essences and standards of judgement. And if they don’t back down and give up on this journey, then I think they will eventually secure stability. I also still listen carefully to the recommendations of those who have been on this journey before me. And I stay true to myself.
What kinds of projects do you have coming up – concerts, programs, etc.?
Our concert schedule is taking shape and I think we have a busy time ahead of us. In the past, I gave big concerts on all four sides of the country and I met a wide variety of audiences. In this album, too, my goal is to do that, and I think that’s what will happen. We have a surprise, which is currently in the works. I’m not going to share it just yet. Other than that, I want to do my part in terms of social responsibility projects.
So, your goals in your musical life – that’s one of the branches of the profession in which new things can be learned throughout life, but at which point would it be enough for you to stop?
No point would be enough, that’s what I feel, because I’m insatiable when it comes to music. I’m open to new things. Everything that I feel and see leads to a desire to learn more. And I can transfer into my music everything that I see in the world that turns around me and shape it with true feeling. That’s why I love making observations, because then I’m not expressing only my own feelings. I’m also telling the story of a desperate man I saw on the subway, as well as the story of a woman laughing to herself as she walks along the sidewalk. When life ends, music ends, too. But until that day, any goals regarding being stable will vary.
Have you thought about doing a duet? Maybe you’re dreaming of singing such-and-song a song with such-and-such an artist.
I mentioned earlier that we had a surprise coming up. Well, it’s a duet. But still, let’s say it’s a surprise. It’s a project that’s in the process of taking shape. I hope it will turn out to be very beautiful.
To wrap up, thank you very much for being our guest. Any last comments?
I did the best I could so that my album would really be masal gibi, “like a fairytale.” I hope that listeners will create that fairytale effect in their ears and hands, and I hope that we will grow together and fall under a spell together.