My heroes ‘changed my life’ says singer who wants to inspire others
At 14 Yanni Outerbridge was writing songs and thrilled to hear them play on local radio.
In university however, his interest turned to marketing.
“There comes a point where you have to be honest with yourself,” the 26-year-old said. “You ask yourself, ‘Am I good enough to give this a real go?’ There was a point where I was saying maybe it is time to hang it up and go do something realistic.”
Flora Duffy’s gold medal win at the Olympics in 2021 was “an epiphany”.
“I have watched her from afar for years. Her success didn’t come when she thought it would happen. Her bike slid out once. She had so many trials and tribulations.”
He was so inspired by her success that he redoubled his efforts in music, writing songs under the name Yanni Michael.
In April he released Nothin To Me on YouTube. Written after a break-up, it has been viewed more than 48,600 times.
A second song, Strictly Business, has also been doing well since its release on YouTube in July.
The music is completely different from the songs he put out as a teenager.
“I am actively working to rebrand myself,” he said. “When I listen to the things I did back then I cringe. I think the frontal lobe develops at age 25. The stuff I was saying in my music back then, I would not stand behind now. I have matured.”
Today he prefers his music to hold a positive vibe. He described it as having “an island vibe with a universal appeal” although the sound does vary from song to song.
“My music may sound like an afrobeats record or a dance hall record, but then you hear me singing like an R & B singer and then there is this deep voice rapping,” he said. “It is all me. I like to think that even though I am one person, I am providing people with numerous sounds. It keeps my audience engaged.”
His songs are on the radio; feedback has been good.
“Power 95 DJ Miss Thang has always been a supporter,” he said.
Helping a friend with a marketing start-up taught him a bit more about how to promote his music.
“Being tapped into Google ads and understanding that you can market through Instagram and all the different tools available, is definitely helpful,” said the singer, whose songs now appear in the local YouTube feed, whether you search for him or not.
A couple decades ago musicians needed the attention of a record producer to get their name out there. The internet and social media have levelled the playing field.
“People are finding out about me through different platforms,” he said. “We, as the artists, have to not focus so much on being signed to a label. We have to recognise that we ourselves can be the label.”
Great strategies have helped independent artists such as Chance the Rapper and Macklemore rise to prominence, Michael added.
“In college I worked on the front desk at a hotel for a couple of summers,” he said. “I was amazed by the number of celebrities that came through around Cup Match.
“I realised that if you were to upload a video on a holiday like that, your level of exposure would be much higher.
“A lot of celebrities travel here during Cup Match. All I need is the right person to see it and pass it on to one of their friends. You never know.”
Although Strictly Business does not yet have as many views as his Nothin To Me, more people have clicked the “like” button, meaning the engagement is higher.
“As an artist you want your views-to-likes ratio to be proportionate,” he said. “I have seen that people tend to resonate a little bit more with that song. Strictly Business is a song about people being honest about their intentions.”
He wants his audience to identify with his subject matter. “I want people to say, ‘I’ve been there too,’” he said
Staying motivated can be difficult for musicians in a market such as Bermuda’s.
“If you are doing something in the fine arts field in Bermuda – singing, choreography or whatever – you have to be OK with freelancing,” he said, explaining it meant that sometimes you have to accept jobs that feel a little beneath your skill set.
“Sometimes you will be deterred by people you thought would be your biggest supporters. That is where strength in yourself plays a huge role.
“You have to say I am not going to worry about whether my uncle Larry supports my music. You really have to be diligent and be strong-minded.”
In his music videos, the singer often wears aviator shades, a nod to another one of his heroes.
“Collie Buddz changed my life,” he said. “As a kid I was a big fan of WWE wrestling. There is a wrestler called Kofi Kingston. His theme song was Collie Buddz’s song SOS.
“Then Collie Buddz’s video Mamacita was everywhere on the show MTV Jams. I was like, wow, this is a guy from a little speck, the same place as me, and he is doing things on an international stage.”
He said it would be great if the accolades came in his career, but what he really wants is to be a role model like Flora Duffy and Collie Buddz were for him.
“If I can do that for some kid, then I have succeeded,” he said.
The biggest thing he wants to get across to young people is that it is OK to be multifaceted.
“You can be the artist and own the label,” he said. “You can play soccer and then eventually start your own team.”
He is currently working on a mixtape, Open Hours, with a view to releasing it this year.
“I want to thank everyone that has supported my endeavours thus far. I’m super optimistic about the future,” he said.
Follow Yanni Michael on Instagram and YouTube @yannimichael. Nothin To Me is available for download on iTunes and Spotify