Interview by: Jamie Lee
Feature and interview material translation by: Jocelle Koh
Author's note: Once again, its been my absolute pleasure to collaborate with Jamie Lee, the writer behind prolific Taiwanese music blog Jamie Deer music. Here we've used a translation of excerpts of his most recent interview with singer Yen-J, pieced together into a feature article about the all-rounder's personal growth. Enjoy!
Yen-J has come a long way since he entered the music industry as a fresh-faced newbie at the tender age of 19. Now 27, it seems that the two-year break he had from the industry has done him a world of good, leaving him wiser, and more in touch with himself as a person.
“Before we turn 18, you can say we are in the protection phase. We don’t really have the ability so we are always relying on our elders to watch over us. Then when we reach 18, its like “yes! We’re adults” …But actually we are not that strong. I feel like we are in a ‘Supported’ stage. The person supporting you may be a lover, or a boss or friends, just people you trust. And so these people’s ideas will accumulate on your person and you will become a jigsaw puzzle of many people’s parts. Once you finally overcome this stage you can go into the “Infinite phase” where you don’t have anything that can influence you anymore... Once you get to this stage, you finally become a unique individual in this universe. Just like how no one star is identical in the universe, you are like that star. So I feel like I’m moving towards that point.”
But taking time off from the bustling music scene doesn’t mean that the creative singer-songwriter has been slacking off in the least. Between 2013 and 2015, he has written over 220 songs out of which 21 made the cut to his two latest albums, “Thanksgiving” and “Why?Art?”. He spoke fervently of his songwriting process as more emotional healing than anything else.
“When you are free of stress-I feel like the process didn’t even feel like songwriting anymore, it’s more like a journal. If you only write in it once a month, sometimes you may forget to write in it. But if you write in it everyday, after that you would feel like there was something amiss, and have to go back and write in it.”
In fact, these 220 songs were inspired in part from Yen-J’s questioning of his dreams and measurement of success over the last two years, which forged the concept for his “Thanksgiving” album.
“A child’s blood-relations with you can never be broken. Money and all these material things when compared to it have no value, because such things last for a lifetime. All these other things are like clouds; with a gust of wind, they’ve blown away. So with this concept in mind, I wrote a lot of the songs in the “Thanksgiving” album, such as “Little Angel” and “You are my everything”, so on and so forth.”
When asked which of his two latest albums “Thanksgiving” and “Why?Art?” he liked better, his answer was fair, yet honest:
“Each of them is made of my own flesh, blood and tears. But I feel that Y6 is like the black sheep in a family. So my six albums are like my six children. Y6 represents the most strange one that needs the most care. So I feel that being able to let everyone hear Y6’s music makes me very happy. Because he is a part of me that I rarely take out and show everyone. I believe that everyone has a hidden side to them, and won’t show that off at every opportunity of performance or with first impressions bring it out. But since I’ve already been in the business for six years, bringing this side of me out for audiences is a good thing.”
I’ve been a huge fan of Yen-J since the start of his career, and creative as he may be, I’ve always wanted to see him push his limits as a creative type, producing fusions of sounds that were hard-hitting and critical, rather than his usual light-hearted and relaxing stuff. So in my opinion, this two-year break has done a world of good for the talented guy, allowing him to create music that was risky yet honest; supplying him with courage and the mental capacity to take on even greater challenges in his musical career. I for one, certainly look forward to what he’s going to do next.
Yen-J's 5th and 6th albums "Thanksgiving" and "Why?Art?" are out now on iTunes and in stores.