DEYAH or as you may have known her, NoNameDisciple, sits down with Guestlist to catch up on what her past year as a rising independent artist has been like. We talk about finding faith through music, her upcoming shows and her recent name change!
You were at GRL GNG in Boxpark last night. Fantastic performance! How’s the day after going?
Thank you! It’s been busy. I’m a support worker for people with mental health and learning disabilities and I'm at work today. We're understaffed so it's been a crazy day.
It’s been a year since you were last on Guestlist, what’s been happening?
So, I've done quite a few contests, and I was chosen as one out of the 7 contestants for this lyric contest by Etta Bond. Then, I did the Reading and Leeds Festival, which was fun! I didn’t know I was doing it until three weeks beforehand so it was very, I wouldn’t say last minute but I was like, oh my god, this is really soon! It went well I think.
Then, did a few collaborations. One with a rapper, his name is Manga Saint Hilare, for Outsiders Live Forever. I was on his EP and the other one is with Lilly Allen. We started in January and are still working on that now.
What are you working on with Lilly Allen?
We recorded a song called ‘Scratch’. I went to the studio in January and we got a song together but I need to still work on my verse. I think there’s gonna be a couple more songs we’ll work on as well.
With the Reading and Leeds festival, you were part of the BBC Music Introducing Stage, how did you get involved in that?
It was crazy! So, in 2016 I used to upload my music to BBC Introducing, the website, and every year the radio hosts at BBC Introducing get to pick a certain amount of people, I think across the UK. So Linda, the lady I know there, put me forward as the artist to represent Berkshire, the county that I live in and then before I knew it, I was there!
That’s really great! So, you also rap a lot on your Instagram about accountability and egoism. One of your verses goes like, ‘Money ain’t the motive’. So what is your motive in music?
When I was younger I used to want money but I kind of realised it doesn’t bring much. I think mo’ money, mo’ problems, really! My motive really is just to educate people and to make people feel like they don’t have to be a certain way. I think society presents the idea that you have to be a certain way to succeed. I’m just trying to break down the stigmas we’re taught of what’s meant to be and how.
What was the turning point, where you went, ‘nah, this isn’t for me’?
I wasn’t interested in any of this when I was younger, I was actually an atheist! A big thing was that I had quite a serious alcohol addiction at a young age and my mum noticed that I wasn’t doing too good and she said to me that she didn’t think I was going to make it to the age of 21, so she found this Christian convention in Serbia and I was there for a week, but it wasn’t the event that changed me, it was somebody whom I had spoken to there. They spoke to me, got to know me as a person without any judgement and I guess, I learnt a lot about God and about faith then. That was in 2013, from there it was a very slow journey but it really started to pick up a couple of years ago and that’s why I decided to study Theology. I would say it started off with that spiral and my mum trying to help me get back to normal.
"They spoke to me, got to know me as a person without any judgement and I guess, I learnt a lot about God and about faith then"
Are you feeling better and back on track these days?
So much better! I think when you don’t know your purpose or don’t think there is a purpose on this Earth, it’s very difficult to live.
And what gets you excited now?
My faith. I also really believe that every human has been given a mission and everyone has skills and I feel like I’ve got a certain mission to share what I’ve learnt. I get excited at the idea of being able to create and write music but also, just to be there for the people I love. To talk to people and learn about them and share with them and learn from them.
People are my motivation.
"People are my motivation."
Are you working on anything new this year?
This year is going to be crazy! There are quite a few festivals that I'm doing this year. I’m doing the Readipop in Reading, Boomtown Fair in Winchester and then Outlook Festival in Croatia.
I’ll be doing quite a few collaborations. Sorting out the Lily Allen collaboration, working on my EP, called Loner Lover, scheduled to come out this month and then 2 more EP’s coming out literally within a few months. It’s nuts!
"This year is going to be crazy!"
Sweet! Any exclusives on what your next EP’s will be about?
Sure! The first one which is this month will be about the battle between being able to love people but also, being quite happy being by yourself and that struggle of balancing the two opposites of introversion and extroversion... It’s kind of got a jazzy feel to it. I think it will be pretty cool.
That’s quite interesting because your previous release was a double track, 'Millenial Godfidence'. Is that a reoccurring theme within your work of you wherein you talk about opposing feelings topics?
I think so because I’m kind of a very weird person. There are so many oppositions within my character like, you’ll hear one song about how I wanna help people forever, and then you’ll hear another song about how I just don’t wanna leave my house.
Kind of like '24HRS', your latest single, where you didn’t sleep for 24 hours?
Yeh, literally! I didn’t sleep for 24 hours is not something I would normally do. I got home that day and thought, I might as well write a song and see how my brain works when it hasn’t slept!
Let’s talk about your name change in April. How come you decided to change NoNameDisciple to DEYAH?
Because there was another artist called NoName. She’s also a female rapper, she’s from Chicago. I knew that she existed already but as my music started playing on the radio and as I was getting interviews people would call me NoName for short. It ended up being that they would introduce me as NoName and people would think I was her so I got advised to change my name before it became too difficult to switch.
I was thinking, imagine if we were both at an awards show and then they shouted the winner of whatever is NoName, like both of us would be like well okay, which one though?
It was very difficult because those who knew me, knew me as NoNameDisciple, so they would say no because that’s you, and it really describes who I was as a person as well. So, I struggled to detach myself from that name, but I don’t actually miss the name, funnily enough. I’m quite happy.
With your new name, are you expecting to do somewhat of a rebrand?
Not really, but I think there will be a slight difference in the way I operate. The difficulty with NoNameDisciple is that a lot of people would put me in the gospel like this ‘Christian singer’, which is fine, however instead of me being like a Christian artist I see myself more like an artist who is a Christian. That’s really not the idea.
I want to be an artist that then has a message in the music.
"I want to be an artist that then has a message in the music."
How did you come up with DEYAH?
This is crazy! So, basically, in Jamaican language, ‘deyah’ means ‘there’, so people will say like instead of saying, ‘I am there’, they'll say, ‘I am deyah’. So, there was this girl on Instagram and I saw her do a video where she was singing, and she was really good, so I sent her a message and said I would love to work with you in the future and she was like cool, I’ll let you know and I say, I’m ‘deyah’, kind of like I’m there to do the music with you, but she thought I was saying my name was ‘deyah’ so she said, nice to meet you and it was this whole confusion. But I thought, well, that’s actually really cool, and then I called my manager like yeah, I’ve got a name!
It basically came from a mistake.
Where will DEYAH be in 5 years?
I’ll be 29. As a musician, I think I will be an artist known by the world. Not just an artist, though. I want to be an activist. I wanna be known as a musician who does more than music.
"I wanna be known as a musician who does more than music."
What advice would you have small and local musicians?
It’s really about the content. I can’t really say this, because I don’t have that much content online right now but even not having much content has helped me a lot. Also, gig as much as possible. And participate in everything, like being part of BBC Introducing has helped me so much! I would advise people to try to network, as well!
If you could have a superpower in the world, what would it be?
I would love to be a fly on the wall. I’d love to just go and be the fly on the wall at a Michael Jackson concert in 1983 in Berlin. Transform into a time-travelling fly but still be here.
Catch DEYAH on Instagram and Facebook and stream her latest single '24HRS' right here.
Festivals she will be at this summer:
Readipop Festival, Reading on 13 July
Boomtown Fair Festival, Winchester on 11 August
Outlook Festival, Croatia on 5 September