Arthur Yoria hasn't always been the easygoing guy he is today. Not long ago, Yoria suffered from panic attacks, attacks so severe that for a while the singer/songwriter was housebound because of his fears. When talk therapy and other remedies didn't help, Yoria started taking antidepressant medication. It worked. “I had always been a pretty anxious person; I was just a big worrier. It all just kinda came to a head; I don't know why. It lasted about six months. I was really lucky that that drug happened to work.”
Yoria's recovery was slow and painstaking. “At first it was just getting in the car and going around the block. Then it was getting in the car and going around another.” Now fully recovered, Yoria says the change in his life has been huge. “I think I'm a different person, completely different from what I was before.” And a different performer, who just happens to have a new CD out, Handshake Smiles.
“I recorded it at a friend's house using just one mike, which is a different approach for me. Initially it was a budget issue, but then it kinda turned into a little bit of a challenge. It became interesting. Without having to concentrate on huge drum sounds or driving guitars, it left more room for the actual song to take center stage, the lyrics, the vocals,” he says. “A lot of CDs, what they have going for them is great production. Having all that takes away from the song. On this, each song definitely had to fly on its own. Songwriting-wise, I definitely had to step it up a bit.
“This time around the songs are pretty autobiographical, about the last couple of years or so. They deal with a couple of relationships gone wrong, and being broke, but at the same time finding the humor in the situation. I hope that that's the one thing that comes through, even though there are going to be some bumps ÉI'm finally able to see the humor in all of this. I'm just not done in by it like I used to be.”
Yoria is quick to say that while autobiographical, his songs are not literal readings of his life. “I have a wild imagination,” he laughs. “When you listen to my songs you would think that I have a tumultuous life, and that's not so. It would be exhausting if I had to live all these things that I write about.”
Yoria calls “Should Be,” the opening tune on Handshake Smiles, “a disclaimer.”
“I'm making fun of myself. It's sort of a disclaimer: ‘Look, I'm about to talk about a lot of stuff; actually, I'm about to talk shit about a lot of stuff,'” he says with a laugh.
“Trash Bag,” the last song on the disc, is a positive song, something Yoria says might seem a rarity in his work. “For people who are familiar with my records, I mainly focus on relationships gone sour and maybe getting back at someone for the way they treated me, whether it's fiction or truth. It definitely is a positive song; I'm declaring my love for someone wow, that was a huge cliché, wasn't it? I don't think I've ever said that, and now it's [in an interview]; how about that?” (Laughs.)
Yoria happily calls his music pop, even though most other singer/songwriters working in the same style would bristle at the term. “It's such a vague term, and it's such a relative term. When I say pop, I mean a certain structure, and I use that as a base. I've never been offended by that term, it's just popular, and that's what I want. I want as many people as possible to be exposed to what I do.”
In fact, millions of people have heard Yoria's music. Several of his songs have been featured on TV and in films. One of the first songs was heard on the television show The O.C. after a girlfriend entered his music into a songwriters' contest without his knowledge.
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So is it fun turning on the TV and hearing his own music? “It's fun because you get money for those things,” he deadpans. “Actually, in my opinion, it's where it's at for songwriters right now. It's better than a record deal. You're getting plugged into an audience that you wouldn't get otherwise. All of a sudden you're getting e-mails from 14-year-old girls saying how much they like your song.”
Those 14-year-olds now have a whole new batch of songs with Handshake Smiles.
“I hope that I've evolved. I hope that I've become a better songwriter as well as a better musician. I'm really happy with it. Just the fact that it's a new approach, and that it doesn't suck in my opinion, I'm ecstatic about it.
Arthur Yoria performs Saturday, April 28, at the Houston International Festival, 1111 Bagby, 713-654-8808.