Singaporean singer-songwriter Linying got her start after catching the eye of European house music giants, including Felix Jaehn and KRONO, who asked to feature her vocals on their tracks. Moving onto solo work, Linying’s debut single “Sticky Leaves” landed her a spot on Spotify’s Global Viral 50 chart (earning her over 5 million streams) and was featured on Netflix series “Terrace House.” Her first EP, “Paris 12,” was released at the end of 2016.
Earlier this month, Linying returned with the first single of her second act, “Tall Order,” a poignant electronic-folk track that sees the singer look inward. “The song is about seeing yourself deteriorate,” she says. “It’s like being half-asleep and half-assing everything for a long time, and all of a sudden waking up — you see yourself in a different light and realise that without knowing it, you’ve become a lousy shell of a person: the kind who complains about little things and lies to themselves and evades hard questions. ‘Tall Order’ was me realising that about myself.”
In our exclusive interview with the up-and-coming star, Linying talks about the Singaporean music scene, the video she directed for “Tall Order” and Asian representation in pop culture.
Untitled: How did you originally get into music?
Linying: I used to post videos of myself singing on Youtube when I was a kid, embarrassingly. A few EDM producers found me online and asked me to topline on their tracks. It wasn’t really my genre, but I enjoyed the writing and singing, so I went ahead and did it anyway. That taught me my very first lessons about the industry.
You grew up in Singapore and currently live there. What is the Singaporean music scene like?
It’s really small but it has a lot of talent and has been changing quickly in the last few years. English is the official language of the country but for a long time, if you listened to Singaporean music, it was likely sung in Mandarin, Malay, or Tamil, because those industries were easier to access and were therefore better developed. It’s a little different now with the Internet and all this increased connectivity. Because we’re so used to consuming English-language media exclusively from the United States and the Unite Kingdom, it’s still weird for the Singaporean audience to see an Asian face pegged to the English language and for them to consider it on the same level as they do everything else
You recently signed with Nettwerk Music Group, which is based in Canada. Would you ever consider moving there or to the US?
I sometimes think about it! But I think I’d be a bit miserable without the diversity of Singaporean food. I don’t mind all the travelling to the States I have to do, though. I feel like not staying for too long helps retain the novelty and charm of a place.
Who or what are your biggest musical influences and inspirations?
I started writing music because of Bon Iver and Bright Eyes, so my influences are always artists who are able to flesh out a feeling in song. For the last couple of years it’s been Chance the Rapper and Frank Ocean.
How has your music evolved over the years?
When I first started writing, I was less attentive. I’d let whatever came to mind flow naturally and wrap the whole thing up in an hour or two, but sometimes it would turn out quite vague and understandable only to me. Now, I value the accuracy and conciseness of what I’m saying a bit more. I feel it’s just as important for people to understand your message as it is for there to be one.
Describe your musical style in three words.
Sad, bop, butter.
I wanted to get the feeling of a tantrum across for this song—the kind of petty, childish fit you throw when you’re so tightly wound that it only takes one thing to not go your way for you to snap. I thought a “Hostess with the Mostest”-type dinner party would be an apt setting.
There is a lack of Asian representation in American pop culture. Did that absence ever affect you growing up, and do you hope to serve as a role model for Asian girls in America and around the world?
I never thought much of it growing up because American pop culture was something that we all consumed, but with the understanding that it’s something far away and far removed from our own realities. Even though we spoke the same language, it wasn’t with the same accent and it wasn’t with the same cultural norms. I never had to see myself next to Caucasian, American girls in real life and compare myself that way. American pop culture existed, and sometimes still exists, as a fairy tale to me. While I hope for greater diversity as the American experience continues to be represented, I myself am exempt from this milieu.
I’m of a majority race in my own country, and didn’t grow up having to feel like my stories weren’t being told. Spending time in the States and knowing what it’s like to be “othered” has given me a taste of this experience, but it’s nothing compared to what Americans of color and the people of minority races in my own country live through every day. Unlike Asian Americans in the United States, I actually am a foreigner—I am Asian both in ethnicity and nationality, and I actually don’t belong. I can only imagine the frustration of having a place be the only home you know, only to feel as if it doesn’t claim you as its own.
Singapore is a pretty small country so I try to be understanding when people make misassumptions about it, but I seriously hope that in the near future I, as well as everyone else who has similar aspirations, stop getting asked why our English is so good. [I hope] people start getting used to an Asian person speaking and singing in perfect English. I think that would make it easier on anyone in any oratorial creative field. Cultures have melded and become non-exclusive and should by now be recognised as such.
Do you have any upcoming or in-the-works projects you can talk about?
“Tall Order” is the first single from a new collection of songs. There are more to come and I’m really excited for them.