Q: Your single “Roses” was released a couple of months ago. What can we expect from your debut album? Tell us more about it.
A: The album will have total of 8 different songs and 2 more that will be Korean versions of 2 tracks. If “Roses” was considered neo-soul/R&B, there will be songs that have more pop elements, R&B/ballad, R&B/Funk and even an intimate/acoustic song. Every song has its own style/character, it’s a nice blend/variety of styles as a whole. Even though each song is pretty different from one another, they make sense as a collection. So I consider the style of my album as a perfect blend of Neo-Soul, R&B and pop.
Q: Berklee has produced some of the greatest voices and composers of the generation. How has Berklee helped shape your musical voice?
A: While attending Berklee, I was exposed and introduced to all the R&B/Soul artists that I’m influenced by and look up to now. It’s where i came to truly love R&B/Soul. I can say that I wouldn’t be the R&B/Soul artist that I am now if I didn’t attend Berklee and got to know/study all the artists I know today. And Berklee is where I found my true voice and color as a singer. And also because of the education I received at Berklee, I was able to develop myself as a well-rounded musician, not just an artist who only know how to sing, but know the music theory inside out, know how to arrange, produce, write charts, have perfect pitch.
Q: Your mother is a professional organist, and your father is an orchestral conductor and composer. Was there always an expectation that you would follow along their classical footsteps?
A: Not at all actually. My parents knew that I was talented in music and would eventually want to become a musician but they were worried and almost against me pursuing music because they knew all about the hard life of a musician and didn’t want me to go through what they went through. So my dad actually didn’t want me to even apply to Berklee and wanted me to find something to do other than music. And also was opposed to pursuing “contemporary music” and wanted me to do classical music instead. But of course, in the end, they gave in to my passion.
Q: Neo-Soul, R&B, have they always been genres you’ve identified with?
A: No. I wasn’t exposed to the genre until I got to Berklee College of Music. Back when I was in middle school, my sister gave me her small mp3 player that could fit like 20 songs and I only knew to listen to pop/rock and whatever was on the radio. And then in high school, when I found some early 2000’s R&B music, I loved it so much. I loved the groove, harmony and melody in all the R&B songs I found and tried so hard to find more songs like it. Then I eventually started singing along and LOVED learning to sing all the songs and find karaoke versions on YouTube and sing my heart out. But in high school, I didn’t even know “Neo-Soul” existed. It wasn’t until I got to Berklee that I was exposed to Neo-Soul, more old school R&B and Funk.
Q: Who, or what inspires you?
A: Throughout my life, I was so blessed with amazing people, opportunities and even finances. I was selected as one of 7 presidential scholars to go to Berklee so I paid nothing for college! It makes me realize it’s what I’m called to do in life and motivates me to work harder and get better day by day. As someone who will be standing in front of people and doing music that people will listen to for the music/message and also just being an entertainer, I realize I will have an influence on the people. I want to have a positive influence, give to the poor, encourage and give hope to my fans/listeners. And also be an artist that can inspire others, especially my fellow Asian-American artists who are also in the American entertainment market. I don’t want to keep things to myself, I want to be able to give to others. All these desires motivate/inspire me to become a better person/musician/singer day by day.
This interview originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands now.