We had the good fortune of connecting with Yna Pineda and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Yna, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
For as long as I can remember, I really hated taking risks despite me preaching the idea of living or dreaming big, and rather settling for a lot of things. For one, I settled with pursuing nursing for the sake of my family, even though part of me wanted to be either a musician or actress back then. I settled for a college I didn’t really want to go to, but it saved me money since it was close to home. I also settled for a lot of crappy relationships because I was scared to be alone. But I think the biggest thing I settled for was the comfortable. Whether that was in my music, my major (which I ended up studying Marketing after switching my major 3 times my first semester), my home life, my habits, and everything that made it easy, because doing what was hard just seemed too much. But I think what changed my perspective on it was the night I came out to my parents.

It was December 23rd, 2016. I had already came out to my little sister, who welcomed me in open arms as I uncontrollably cried to her. But I decided to come out to my parents as well that night. Within the time frame of waiting for them to walk in and actually saying the words, I was gripping on to the edge of the bed, scared out of my mind because I knew this was a risk I couldn’t go back on. I played so many scenarios in my head while I waited, mostly considering whether to continue hiding who I was for the sake of their happiness or to avoid the glaring eyes of the world.

But then they entered the room.

I remember trying to control my breathing while my sister grabbed my hand. I waited for a few seconds until I said the words, “I am bisexual”. Now, coming from a Filipino household and growing up in a Catholic environment, I expected a surge of shame and yelling to flood the room, but they just looked at me and said, “Ok”. It wasn’t the worst thing to hear, neither was it the best, but at that moment, I took this huge breath and let out an exhale that rang on for the rest of my life even until now.

I wish we didn’t have to “come out”. I wish it was a normal thing to be who you want to be, as it should. But in the world we live in today, there’s so many steps we still have to take in order to reach that comfortness in living. Regardless, I don’t regret coming out. To my sister, my parents, my friends, the world. I don’t. It’s the best decision I ever made and risk I ever took even if it meant people would see me differently. Because for once, the idea of not settling and doing what was easy, felt liberating. And to comfort myself and let the inner child in me know that there never was something wrong with me.

I think taking that risk rippled this effect of self-love and fulfillment far beyond what I expected at 16 years old. Now I’m 21, still learning and unlearning everything about myself, what I want, and who I deserve. With my music, I’ve taken more risks expressing myself as a queer artist in hopes of representing my fellow underrperesented LGBTQ creatives. With my relationships, I’ve taken more risks in allowing myself to be loved, yet not settling for anyone who makes me feel any less of a human being. And with myself, I’ve taken far more risks than I ever took trying to love and care for myself, whether it was going through therapy, cutting ties with toxic situations and people, or merely being alone.

I used to hate taking risks. But now it’s all that ever makes life more exciting and worth living. It will always be scary taking a huge leap because it may or may not end up what you expected. But you’ll never know what’s on the other side until you jump. So whoever is reading this, take that risk, whatever it is.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I started singing when I was 4. I would perform at family parties/events, post a few covers on Youtube, and even write music when I got my first guitar at 9 years old. I had this blue butterfly notebook where I filled these pages with songs about falling in love, ruling the world, and a bunch of other cringey stuff a 9 year old would write. But from middle school to my sophomore year of high school, there was a time period where I rarely ever touched my guitar let alone write a song. And I remember getting more insecure about my voice and music especially because I found comfort in comparing and doubting myself all the time. So I kind of almost gave up on music.

It wasn’t until my Junior year of high school where I decided to enter my school’s talent show and perform an original song that I wrote literally a night before auditions. Now, performing in front of people was obviously a huge risk I was taking considering I barely ever did. But performing an original was even more risky. I remember scouring through a bunch of songs I was debating on covering instead because of course it was easier, knowing people would know the songs instead of bombarding them with an original. But when I sat down that night with my guitar, played a simple chord progression, and let myself pour out random lyrics, I felt this feeling I haven’t felt since I was a kid. This rush or wave of newfound passion that was hidden for so long because I was scared. Next thing I know, I’m singing this song I wrote about leaving my doubts and insecurities on a stage in front of my class advisor and 2 of my friends, who gave me a yes. On the actual night of the show, I remember holding in my tears at the end of my song after hearing my friends saying my name. But what made me realize that music was more to me than I thought, was when one of my classmates messaged me later that night and told me how my lyrics touched her. And I just knew that this was it, maybe this is what I’m meant for.

After high school, I produced my first ever single, “garden of roses” (with the help of my friend Shawn), under my old stage name “Sabrina Pineda” and released it during my first year in college. It was a song about wanting to be this healed or better version of yourself (i.e this garden of roses), but knowing you need time to patch the broken pieces of yourself first. I initially put it out on Soundcloud and eventually Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, etc. and I was so overwhelmed with the amount of support and love people gave to it. In the beginning, I saw “garden of roses” as this one time thing I would be putting out because I really didn’t think more of it. I was focusing on school at the moment, studying to become a digital marketer, still battling with doubts and insecurities, but after people told me how much the song meant to them, I felt that same feeling I had the night before my talent show audition. So I started to produce more, and in 2020 I released my first single under my new stage name Yna, called “if i was an artist”. In the beginning of this year, I released another single called, “unaligned”, and most recently, “south loop”. And all these songs were huge risks I took because they weren’t conventional. They’re not these songs that I think people would dance to on TikTok or blast at a party. Some of these songs don’t even have a conventional structure (i.e. verse to chorus to bridge to chorus). But a risk I always take with my music is writing about the most vulnerable and darkest things that although may be too much for other people, bring me comfort. And it scares me every time because I never know if it’s something people like or if it’s something good enough to get out there. But I realized because of music, risks were no longer that scary. They’re exciting and riveting and an emotional rollercoaster. They’re like huge tidal waves that carry you to different parts of the shore and while it seems frightening to get sucked back into the current, it feels so liberating once you’re out at sea.

That’s what it feels like with music. I may not be the best vocalist, songwriter, or producer in the world. I can’t sing high or belt. I only know the bare minimum when it comes to producing or mixing. I’m not a prodigy. I’m not the greatest. But I am something. And music has given me a reason to be something, whether it was for myself or for someone else. All I hope with my music is that the listener feels understood and heard. That perhaps part of their story is woven into mine. Because isn’t that the beauty of music?

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I think I would probably start off with my town, Mira Mesa, and show them the parks I love to go to for journaling or meditating, prominent Filipino restaurants, and boba stops. For places to go around, I’d say Balboa Park, Self-Realization Meditation Garden, Liberty Station, Cabrillo National Monument. Little Italy, Seaport Village, Old Town, or Coronado Island. I love thrifting too so I’d bring them around thrift stores like Goodwill, Amvet, Salvation Army, Rocky Thrift, or Father Joe’s. For hidden spots (though no longer hidden because many people have found out about it), I’d say the “hidden swings” that are on a hill near La Jolla, Spruce Street Suspension Bridge, Sunny Jim Cave, SS Monte Carlo Shipwreck, or Potato Chip Rock (even though I hate hiking). In terms of food, I’d definitely hit the food scene in Convoy since they’re known for all the best food spots like sushi, ramen, korean bbq, and desserts such as ice cream, donuts, and of course, boba. Lastly, I’d probably close off the trip with a cliche sunset watching at the beach since I absolutely love the beach. Some of my favorites are La Jolla Cove, Sunset Cliffs, Moonlight Beach, or Coronado Beach!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
To my amazing not-so-little sister anymore, Chloe. You are my biggest inspiration and number 1 supporter in everything I do. I would literally not be here if it weren’t for you. Let me also promote her art because she is insanely talented and deserves every bit of attention in the world so follow her on Instagram @h1chole!!

To my cousin Kayla and aunt (even though I’m older than you) Loren, thank you for also being my biggest supporters and inspiring me with your wisdom and maturity at such a young age.

To my best friends (yall already know who you are), you have saved me countless times with your words. Thank you for always trying to understand me and being patient with me, whether it was during my highs or lows. No one else gets me like you.

To Shawn for helping me produce the first ever song I put out “garden of roses”. Also to Dylan for bringing “if I was an artist” and “south loop” to life (thank you Liam for mastering the latter!).

To mom, thank you for supporting me with my music especially when I was too scared or doubtful to share any of it when I was younger. I hope you know that I know you tried your best.

To my late grandpa, Lolo Vic, who I still think about to this day. Thank you for teaching me the keyboard when I was little and for reminding me to “sing my way home”. I love and miss you dearly.

Lastly, to Madelyn Jacobs for introducing me to Shoutout SoCal and giving me this opportunity to share my story. You are an absolute angel. Thank you for sharing your art (fun fact: Maddy did the cover art for “unaligned”!). Please check out their amazing art and work on Instagram @gobelyn.png!

Website: ynapineda.com

Instagram: thisyna

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/ynapineda

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuHCyeHVt3bGUy-OFm3OrPQ?view_as=subscriber

Other: Stream my new single, “south loop”, here! https://linktr.ee/ynapineda

Image Credits
JP Eduria, Loren De Los Santos, Tiffany Vilay

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