New Zealand-born singer/songwriter Holly Cameron, aka YAHYAH, returned to New Zealand in 2021 after a long period living and working in London and then Los Angeles. She describes her musical influences as broad, ranging from RnB to jazz, pop to dance music, and her own electronic pop style has been appealing to growing audiences across Aotearoa, New Zealand and beyond. Here, in her own words, YAHYAH muses on her music and faith journey so far.—Ed.
I grew up the youngest of four girls. I’m Scottish and Irish—my Mum’s Māori, and my Dad’s Scottish and Irish. My Dad’s probably got the most Scottish name in all the land: Euan Patrick Cameron. We have our own tartan, the Cameron tartan!
I remember as young as five being in front of the church Christmas service, singing “Silent Night.” I was just a little born creative—Mum saw that and put me into piano lessons. I couldn’t stand the lessons, but I loved playing! I did that for three and a half years. We had a lot of freedom in what we did. We were living in Te Awamutu, and I just have the fondest memories of childhood. We used to enter piano competitions and do duets together and things. It was a bit of everything musical when I was little. Mum and Dad definitely encouraged me and invested in lessons. We weren’t well off, but we were definitely loved and looked after to help us pursue what we wanted to pursue. Reflecting on it now, I just feel super, super lucky that Mum and Dad invested not only the time but the money. They had a piano in the house and whatever we needed. Once you start singing in church, there’s always the guy singing “God of Wonders” on guitar. So, I thought, “I’m gonna learn guitar.” I had guitar lessons and learned the flute as well, then a bit of bass guitar—just literally anything I could get my hands on. I was around 13 when I wrote my first proper song. I was also really enjoying writing poetry at the time.
I went to Waikato Diocesan for high school, and I’d travel across on the bus for an hour each morning from Te Awamutu to Hamilton—and God just knew and aligned people to look out for me. I had the most supportive, amazing music teacher—Mrs Cameron Price—who saw a lot in me, and pushed me and would always be saying, “Do you want to enter Rockquest? Do you want private lessons? Do you want to do this?” Me and my friends actually formed a band. We entered Rockquest and won Best Original Song when we were 14 or 15. That was quite a feat because Kimbra was in our competition! She won for our region, but we felt great that we got the original song prize.