In the latest installment of our occasional conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, Fort Worth artist YASMEEN* spoke with arts and culture fellow Juan Salinas II about balancing an engineering job at Lockheed Martin with her music career and the differences between the music scenes in Dallas and Fort Worth.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For the unabridged version, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.
Juan Salinas II: Could you introduce yourself to the people who don’t know you?
YASMEEN*: Sure! I’m a Pop and R&B singer in the DFW area. I had an album come out last year in October called “Pure Bliss.” It was my debut album. I’ve been doing live shows for the past year or so. But I’m no stranger to the stage.
I don’t know if you’ve seen “Pitch Perfect.” But that’s actually based on a real-life acapella competition.
Salinas II: You went to the University of Texas at Arlington for engineering? So how was that, balancing engineering and music?
YASMEEN*: Very stressful. My sophomore year I had already done a year at UTA, starting with engineering. I saw that there were auditions for an acapella group called RISE Acapella. I was like, ‘Hell yeah, I want to be a part of that,’ because I was a show choir kid, [a] huge “Glee” fan. I did the whole high school choir thing, and part of me wanted to continue to do music because I love doing talent shows. How I started singing in front of people was (at) talent shows from sixth grade and on and then, of course, choir, so I wanted to make sure I could still do music somehow, some way.
When I found a way, I could still do music and pop music this time instead of just cheesy choir music — no offense to the choir nerds out there, I’m a choir nerd too — I want(ed) to continue to do this. It was rough. I’m not gonna lie. I think that first year that I was in an acapella group, I was kind of on the fence (about) whether to quit or continue because engineering was taking a toll. Mechanical engineering is pretty difficult.
Salinas II: I assume it’s one of those degrees where you have to spend most of your time on it, and you don’t really have time to do other stuff.
YASMEEN*: Exactly. After that year, I (was) kind of like, ‘Hey! Get your priorities together,” (I) started doing better in my classes. I kicked myself into gear like, ‘You know, Yasmeen, if you actually really want to do engineering and do music, you need to put your 110%,’ and I did, and it paid off. I stayed with the acapella group. I was even able to become president for two years. I don’t know how I did it to this day.
(I) had to learn how to really time manage and had a planner on me at all times. It was a lot of fun. I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I met amazing people, and I was able to get a (internship) with the current job that I’m at right now. It’s been a blast, even though it was very stressful.
Salinas II: I don’t know how you did that.
YASMEEN*: I was driving to three different places. I didn’t even live near campus.
Salinas II: (You) didn’t even live on campus either?
YASMEEN*: Yeah, like a 40-minute commute to UTA and then I would haul (it) to Fort Worth for my job [and then back] to UTA for evening rehearsals for music.
Salinas II: (Laughs) You’re dedicated.
YASMEEN*: I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I was even president of (the) Society Of Women Engineers. I know that I could put a lot on my plate, but I feel like if I know I can do it, and I can balance it and be OK mentally and physically after, I’ll do it. I’ll put my mind and my heart to things. Even now as an independent artist, if there’s a project that I have in mind, I’ll actually take the time to sit down and plan it and actually try to execute that project.
Salinas II: Can we talk more about your inspiration for music? I’ve read a couple of write-ups on you. You’re really into early 2000s pop music. Could you go into more detail about that?
YASMEEN*: Sure, I love the early 2000s and ’90s R&B and pop music. I’m Middle Eastern. Both my parents are from Afghanistan. I came to the States when I was like two months old. Growing up with my mom, she didn’t really know the music here. The only way that I was exposed to music was (through) the radio, like everyone else.
I feel like a lot of the parents back then, if you were at least in the States, you had some kind of idea of pop culture, right. It was also her getting exposed to pop culture and she would just turn on whatever the mainstream music was at the time. I grew up listening to *NSYNC, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and some old R&B too. It wasn’t until I got older that I started appreciating that genre a lot more.
I’ve been releasing a couple of newer pop slash R&B music, and I kind of want to pay homage to some of that old kind of music.
Salinas II: How would you compare old pop music to pop music nowadays?
YASMEEN*: I feel like today’s pop kind of sounds the same from artist to artist, and I’m not making a dig at all. I love a lot of the mainstream pop artists, but I feel like people are more gravitating toward trap feeds. That’s becoming pop now. That’s what’s become popular. I feel like pop is just an evolution. It’s always ever-changing. And it’s very hard to pinpoint exactly what pop is.
Salinas II: What skills have you learned from studying engineering that you could use in your music career?
YASMEEN*: That’s a good question. Obviously, none of the technical stuff is very math and science-heavy, (but) I was always kind of a planner. I always liked sticking to schedules and making to-do lists. My planning and leadership background that I had in college, even though it wasn’t primarily engineering, I use that a lot in my everyday planning and organization for music as well, not just (for) my job.
Salinas II: How would you compare the Fort Worth music scene to the Dallas music scene?
YASMEEN*: Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to play a lot in Fort Worth. I think I’ve had maybe a total of four shows in Fort Worth ever since I started.
Salinas II: Why is that?
YASMEEN*: It kind of goes along with that first question as well. What’s the difference between the Dallas and the Fort Worth music scenes? I don’t think there’s a lot of pop or R&B music, at least in Fort Worth. From what I’ve seen, at least some of the shows that I’ve done, I’ve been primarily the only pop or R&B musician, and from lineups, (it’s) usually rock-oriented.
I have been reaching out to other venues in Fort Worth. (I’m) still waiting on dates and stuff like that, but I would love to continue to push for pop and R&B in Fort Worth.
Salinas II: What could the Fort Worth music scene do to better promote local pop artists?
YASMEEN*: Booking more pop and R&B artists. I’ve seen some Latin artists perform at Tulips, which is really cool because I don’t think I’ve seen any other venue highlighting many Latin musicians.
I haven’t really seen any other venues open up to a newer genre of music besides punk or rock. I don’t know if it’s (due to) the crowds that are primarily going to shows, but I know (Texas Christian University) is here, and there’s a lot of younger crowd that I’m sure would love to have more R&B and pop artists featured.