From a young age, Baiyu has been forging her musical path. Her talents don’t stop there however! While singing has always been the core of Baiyu’s creative experience, she also immersed herself in activities outside of music such as dance and theatrical arts. As a model and actress, she has worked with Seventeen Magazine, appeared in multiple independent films, and was a host for MTVu’s hit show “The Freshmen” for three years. Armed with intelligence, beauty and ingenuity, Baiyu will pave the way for a new generation of R&B singers. I had a chance to sit down with her and discuss the recent passing of Whitney Houston, her new music videos, and a possible audition for The Voice! Read below for the full interview…
Growing up in China, was musical pursuits as a child frowned upon in general? If so, do you feel you escaped that fate because you had a father who was a musician as well?
Baiyu: I left China at the age of eight, and so I didn’t really feel as much of the social pressure, one way or the other, about choosing the route of being a musician. Musical pursuits, in general, are actually very much encouraged as a youngster! I think it’s when you get past the hobby stage, and your hobby isn’t playing piano, but rather, singing urban music, that it becomes unconventional. My parents are both musicians so they understand my passion for the arts.
What impact did Whitney Houston have on you and how did you feel when you heard the news about her recent passing?
Baiyu: Coming to the States in the 90’s and being hit pretty hard in my gut with the rawness and talent of Pop R&B greats such as Whitney, Mariah and Mary definitely had a huge impact on where I stand creatively. When I heard about the passing of the legendary Ms. Houston, you can imagine how much of a loss I, and the world, felt. It’s like losing a mother, a sister and a mentor all at the same time.
You recently premiered your new video ‘Take A Number’. It seems clear you wanted to present a specific message in this song. What was the mindset behind this single?
Baiyu: There’s definitely a message that goes along with this song, and I think part of it is even conveyed in my body language throughout the video. A lot of us live in fear – the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of all the things that shouldn’t really matter to us because within is what matters. I get a lot of positive press and positive pushes in the right direction, but there’s always going to be haters out there, or just people that are indifferent to you one way or the other. “Take a Number” is my way of telling everyone who tries to sell me the “no you can’t” mentality that I don’t really care what you think because yes I can!!
Similar to Whitney, you try to instill soul with a blend of pop as well. What is your creative process like when experimenting with new sounds?
Baiyu: I’m a singer, but at the core, I’m a storyteller and a songwriter. For me, the creative process can stem from any point of inspiration, but for the most part, my songs get their spark from personal life experiences. I think there’s something very intimate about being able to share yourself in that way with your fans, and being able to connect with people that may have gone through similar or sometimes even vastly different stories as your own.
In terms of experimenting with new sounds, I’m always absorbing not only the latest tunes hitting the airwaves, but also some of the more unconventional/independent tunes. Usually when I hit up the booth, things just become a melting pot of not only the emotion and energy that I want to get across through a song, but also all the sights and sounds of my recent and not so recent past.
How do you feel about social media and its ability to connect you with your fans?
Baiyu: I’m a huge advocate of social media having seen firsthand its abilities to empower artists, and create direct dialogues with fans. I think the ever changing technological landscape has definitely thrown larger labels and musical giants for a loop, but at the same time, provided smaller and independent musical ventures a means to really self-promote and get out into the public eye via some really creative means.
Personally, I just love how Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and a slew of other social media outlets have allowed me to stay so closely connected with my fans. In a sense, I myself am a bit fanatical about sharing updated images, music, content and all that good stuff.
Do you feel as an Asian American, you have had to face cultural roadblocks in the industry that has made you work harder to reach your goals?
Baiyu: Absolutely – and maybe there’s also a masochistic side of me that says unless I earn the right to be that person that I’ve always dreamed of being through hard work, and overcoming challenges, then I don’t really deserve whatever it is that comes my way. There’s definitely some cultural obstacles to overcome when diving head first into the Pop/Urban industry because outside of Far East Movement (I have so much love for them), there really hasn’t been all that much Asian American presence in this space. You would think that in the days of Obama and Linsanity that we could look past color-lines and define someone’s worth, and the worth of their craft, through the sheer value of their artistic abilities, but that isn’t always the case. A lot of times, the story ties back to whether or not there’s a blueprint for marketing Asian American talent but there’s where I hope I can roll in!
I think it was amazing last year, you decided to donate all profits from her latest EP, “Fan Fair” towards Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief. Could you tell us a bit about what it feels like to use your talents to help make the world a better place and the outcome of your charity work thus far?
Baiyu: For me, it’s more than just about making good music; it’s also about using music as a platform to create a positive impact. Donating the proceeds from “Fan Fair” seemed like a no brainer for me because it was the best way for me to kill two birds with one stone. This way, the families in Japan that are direly in need of supplies and financing to rebuild their lives gets an extra push, and I get promote a project that not only am I passionate about, but also allows me to remind others to continue to give back to those of us who deserve our love and attention.
I try as much as possible to donate my time and talent to charitable events and organizations just because I think it’s the right thing to do… and why not right?
Were you at all motivated to audition for The Voice? It seems like the perfect platform for semi-established artists. What are your views on todays reality shows?
Baiyu: That’s actually one of my favorite shows on television! I wouldn’t be opposed to being a part of The Voice, but honestly, I’ve just been so busy with the day to days of what I currently have going on that I haven’t given it too much thought. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and whatever my path may be, will be. Outside of that, I think reality shows that really put forth the effort to showcase up and coming talent are a wonderful source of exposure and is a great launch pad for a lot of artists!
You worked with director Eif Rivera who has worked with a number of high profile artists from Jadakiss, to Fat Joe, to 50 Cent. How much creative control do you have over the initial video process for your songs and do you have a specific vision in your head for videos when you record your songs?
Baiyu: With all of my creative collaborators, it’s always a very hands on experience. With Eif especially, we work closely together on locations, concepts and the overall feel of a project before we actually dive in on shoot day. I try to surround myself and work with people who share the same creative and aspirational visions as me, while at the same time are still able to bring something unique to the table. There’s no doubt about it, Eif knows what he wants, and he knows what he needs out of a shot – he’s one of the realest people that I’ve ever met – but I also know he has my best interest in mind and cares whether or not I personally dig the video. That makes for a great synergy.
When you find time to unwind do you watch any Asian films? Have any favorites?
Baiyu: I’m actually a huge film buff. If I’m not streaming stuff online, I’m hitting up the theaters whenever I have time to unwind. In terms of Asian films, I like the oldies but goodies, especially those from my childhood crush Jet Li. My all-time favorite flick of his is probably from the Wong Fei-hung series.
What do you have in store for 2012? Any new LP’s, tour dates, or new singles?
Baiyu: Where do I begin? This summer I have a full length LP coming out by the name of “Hunter”. I have a ton of performances, and am constantly updating my songkick to reflect the latest tour dates. My new single with Paul Kim was released in February, and our video for the duet is out last month.
There’s also two independent films to watch out for in 2012, along with a graphic novel series, and a book of poetry. Get excited!!
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