Interview: Almira Zaky of NBC's American Song Contest

Updated: May 5



Almira Zaky is an Indonesian R&B singer and songwriter from Virginia. Her journey as a vocalist began when she would perform to people all around the Metropolitan D.C. area. The VCU alumna would go on to finish her undergrad in Public Relations and Business while booking acts for the university such as Goldlink, Tory Lanez, Masego, and Travis Scott. Almira is the CEO of Boss Records which is an independent record label based in Virginia and Los Angeles.


Earlier in the month, she released her debut EP Learn To Love. It is an eight-track EP that allows fans to reflect with her on experiences that shaped her into the woman she became today. Learn To Love aims to inspire others to love themselves deeply and pursue their purpose. The only feature of the project comes from fellow Virginia native, Peter $un in the song On My Way. Peter's known style of writing hypnotizing verses of grief with an inviting cheerful singing voice perfectly blends with Almira's passionate vocals.


At the top of the month, she announced that she would be representing her home state in NBC's American Song Contest, which premiers on TV on March 21st at 8 pm/7 pm CST. The show works similar to the Eurovision Song Contest, where music acts represent their home countries competing in an Olympic-style musical competition. It is hosted by Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson. Days before the show's inaugural episode, we sat down with the Boss Lady herself to talk music, her upcoming TV debut on March 28th for American Song Contest, and her record label.


Jay: Let's talk about the video direction for Clarity. What I got from the visual is that the representation of your video reflects trouble in paradise. Although everything around you is heavenly, you're missing your peace. Hence is why you're asking for clarity from the person of interest in the song. Can you go into detail about how the video was planned out and if my interpretation was spot on or not?



Almira: Clarity was the third single release before the debut EP. It talks about the personal journey with grief. As young as I am, I am not a stranger to grief. The video direction to go for the visual was to be able to find serenity in peace and almost be one with Earth. As an artist, as much as I love city life and glamour, all the commotion in the city, what really brings me back to earth is being one with nature. That goes down to my ethnicity and my background in Indonesia. It’s a third-world country island. Everyone spends their life outside. I don't visit it as much, but when I'm there it's my way of disconnecting from the world and that is how humans can find peace. It's important to stay grounded and to the Earth with our spirit. Take to go there for. The video was shot all in film. Shooting in film is different because it doesn’t pick up audio as a digital camera does. You have to read lips, find correct lighting. It's super worth it when it's done.


Jay: One thing I noticed on the project was that your only feature was Peter $un. How did that collaboration come about?


Almira: Sunny and I have been friends since I started pursuing music during my time at VCU in Richmond. When I was in LA for spring break 2019, that was the time when he moved out here. He invited me to the studio at his friend’s Blue Rondo place. Rondo has a history of working with female voices and R&B artists like Sabrina Claudio. The song talks about being in a relationship and wanting someone else. It’s a taboo subject obviously because I’m a big believer in loyalty. The inspiration comes from toxic relationships. As if I wasn't the toxic one in the past so I sang in the perspective of where if I have somebody I still desire you.


We wanted to create a record about that and thought it was cool. The way it turned out was that the song was super relaxing as if it doesn't feel toxic until you pay attention to the lyrics. It’s one of my favorite records honestly. I knew I had to have a feature from someone from Virginia.


Jay: What are some music projects that influenced your sound?


Almira: I'm influenced by the unapologetic women from the 1990s and 2000s because they were super bold, vibrant, and said it how it is. That’s how I carry myself as an individual. I get compared to Jhené Aiko all the time. Khelani, Ariana Grande, Jojo, Ashanti, and Keyshia Cole all shaped my sound one way or another.


Jay: I personally say that “college shouldn’t be the best years of your life; college should set you up for the best years of your life.” Can you expound on how college helped you in your career path?


Almira: I am forever grateful for the opportunities I had with Virginia Commonwealth University. I don't think I would have done music if I wasn't going to VCU. I knew I wanted to get involved and be able to create memorable concerts and experiences to bring people together through music. I knew my destiny was to be an artist. At the time, I didn't know how to get there. If I continued to network, put myself out there, and be really passionate going forward with everything, it would turn out how it’s supposed to be.


I would want to thank all the people who helped me along the way, the studio sessions, concerts, and events. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. As long as your priorities are straight, take advantage of the resources around you, and stay disciplined, you'll be fine. I sacrificed a lot of free time during college because I had the mindset of wanting to be in a better position for myself when I finish college. Especially if I wanted to pursue music full time, I had to take the long route and go full force. I have some advice, always go for what you’re passionate about. Never listen to naysayers and people who think it’s not possible.


"I have some advice, always go for what you’re passionate about. Never listen to naysayers and people who think it’s not possible."- Almira Zaky

I remember having conversations in college talking about dreams and aspirations and they would doubt me saying, “Oh, how do you think you're going to do that?” I never thought of the how, but I had a strong feeling it would happen. So down to billboards or commercials or concerts, I wanted to make and be a part of history. I manifested myself to be the first artist to be able to represent VA in NBC's American Song Contest. Everything I have done ever has led to this moment.


Jay: How do you feel to represent your home state of Virginia in American Song Contest?



Almira: It feels absolutely incredible to represent Virginia American Song Contest. Virginia is a state with so much history and culture from R&B, rap, and even down to the hip-hop culture, it's an honor to be a part of the conversation of being a part of the next generation. I'm excited to show the world what VA is about every creative has their own swag and style but still be so differentiable from everyone else. People will hear and feel out my energy and they are never surprised when I say I'm from Virginia. They put out so much pride and hustle, they embody the phrase that VA has Something In The Water, We put a lot of heart and soul into what we do that we embody the phrase, Virginia Is For Lovers. I'm so excited to be able to do this on the stage and the big screen. If it wasn’t for me being from VA, this Almira would be different today.


Jay: Who are some of the other singers that caught your eye?


Almira: I'm big on female empowerment so I love Brooke Alexx from New Jersey and Bri Steves from Pennsylvania. I think she's so dope and I listened to Jealousy by her all the time at VCU. We both have unconventional stories as she also pursued music during college. The R&B legend Sisqó is representing Maryland. ENISA from NY and Stela Cole from Georgia are other ones I have my eye on. Read more on the full list of competitors on TV Guide.


Jay: What led to the creation of Boss Records LLC?


Almira: When I was in college, my friends started calling me Boss Lady. That cute nickname turned everything else into a lifestyle for me. Me being an Indonesian and Muslim girl, I was taught certain things about life. Being a boss really means taking control of life no matter what. You can make dreams your reality no matter what and be able to get where you want to be. Leading people through purpose. My purpose is in music. I want to release music more so people can relate to me. Hopefully, we’ll get big on ownership and sign people along the line and be the next wave from Virginia.


Jay: How can people get involved in working with the independent record label?


Almira: Later on down the line, I would definitely want to give back and do things like internships and workshop seminars. I think it would be super valuable and learn and be able to build a community thanks to the outlet. I wouldn't be where I’m at today without the internships. I would want to create that internship with VCU and give back with scholarships that can help aspiring artists.


Jay: Who are some indie artists that you would want to shout out?


Almira: Peter $un, Sarina Desir from Maryland, Latenight Jiggy, and Shann who is R&B Singer from Virginia.


Stay up to date with her on social media @almirazaky on all social media platforms and stream her debut EP Learn To Love on all streaming platforms.


Written by: Jay Guevara. @justinhisprime on all social media


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