Catch up with dream pop singer-songwriter Whitney Tai, listen to her single "Falling", and look for her Forever EP to be released in May.
What first got you interested in music?
Whitney Tai: Since I was a little girl, I've been singing, writing poetry, drawing: I was born an artist. My parents noticed early on that I was not a normal kid, 'she's out there, she's writing screenplays, she's doing this and that,' so I think, for them, it was a natural thing and, as I grew older, I started to write my own music and I started performing a lot in different talent shows and in church. Then, I pursued a career in design and I met a lot of people in the music industry through that and I started collaborating with a lot of interesting artists because I was trying to create a brand of art and music together, as a concept, fusing my musical talent and background with my artistic background to start an art movement as a way of supporting upcoming artists - like myself - and other artists who need a platform to be represented on. That was where it started, it's really just this idea that I could help other artists reach their greatness through inspiring them with provocative art, thought, and poetry.
Do you remember the first song you wrote that you were happy with?
It's funny, my first song - and I always forget about this because it was so early - I wrote my first song when I was 10 and it was called "Sheer Ecstasy"; I don't know where the hell, as a 10 year old, I would come up with this [laughs], but it was because I love nature, I love being outdoors, doing outdoor activities, and just admiring the beauty of nature itself - simplicity-wise - so I wrote, basically, a poem or a song that captured what the breeze felt like and the feelings you would get from that solidarity of being you, yourself, alone with nature. So, that was my first song. It was not even a love song [laughs] it was more of just an appreciation for life.
Which musicians have you been influenced by?
It's interesting, my influences of who I gravitated to when I was young is totally different than what I would say I've become as an artist now, but my earliest influences would be Metallica, Pink Floyd, The Beatles - I had a wide range. My parents opened me up to a lot of jazz music as well and I used to listen to Fleetwood Mac a lot, they were a big influence, The Pretenders. When I got into my teens, I loved No Doubt, they were a huge favorite of mine, and I like a lot of solo artists. I don't really identify with Celine Dion, but I always felt in awe of her vocal ability and how she was able to use her voice so powerfully and that was inspiring; as a vocalist myself, you're not always looking at the music, sometimes you're looking at the technical skill behind an artist and the message they're sending. Sarah McLachlan was definitely another early vocal influence; I loved her, the way she used the different tenors of her voice, the different variations of sound and emotion, and I think that's what brought me into doing dance music - not just pop music - because in dance, you can use your voice artistically in different ways to make people feel things, whereas in pop, you're kind of fitting a format of one sound, so it's nice to be able to jump between genres. I'm trying to think of another band, there's so many! I listened to everything growing up. Stevie Wonder was another big influence for me, so it was a mixture of rock and soul.
Is there a current band you've got on repeat now?
There's three bands I have on repeat right now. I have Minus the Bear; I've been listening to this indie band that I found on YouTube, his name's Thomston, he's been on repeat; and I love The Weeknd, I've been listening to him for awhile, too. But it's always different, it changes depending on what my moods are.
How would you describe your sound or brand?
I wanna say rock and roll glamour; it's a little bit edgy, but it's still soft around the edges, there's this grunge pop. Also, dreamy. Whenever I've been creating music, even when I was younger, I always had this desire to evoke emotions in people, whether it's through lyrics or voice. You always wonder, what is it about a song that makes the hair on your arms stand up, some kind of scientific thing, and every time I would listen to a song that was my favorite, I would be like, 'why is it that I feel like I get shivers?'. You know, when you hear a certain sound in a song? I would love to provoke that feeling in other people, because those are the moments where you contemplate life is beautiful, I can overcome this situation, or this song is getting me through something that I maybe couldn't have gotten through on my own. I guess, music as therapy is my motto.
Could you tell us more about your inspirations behind your single "Falling"?
Yes [laughs]. Actually, the whole EP is called Forever and Forever was this concept that there were so many things happening around me at the time with my own love life and other friends of mine who were going through some difficult times and I just kept coming back to this one thought: what if the reason we can't find this peace within ourselves is because we're always fighting ourselves? We're always going against the grain, but I think if you could pick a moment in your life where you were your happiest or if you could pick an ideal moment that belongs to you and no one can take it away, why not make that the moment you live in forever; why not make it your every moment? So, what does that mean? That means that life becomes simpler, your expectations vanish because you're so present in the now that you don't care. So, "Falling" is a love song, Forever is an ode to life that's saying, 'listen a moment, stay with me forever because I'm not letting you go, I deserve happiness, peace, and love that belongs to me, as a human being'. "Falling" is, I'm in love with life, I'm in love with people, why don't we think about how beautiful that feels; just that innocence of being in love - your first love or your first friendship with someone new - and embracing that and letting it be what it is and not complicating it with other circumstantial things that happen in our lives. So, it's about innocence, romance, acceptance, and living in the now.
You've touched on this a bit already, but could you tell us more about what we can expect to hear from Forever?
I would say that soul, blues, and rock and roll are the influences. I collaborated with a couple of artists who are very genre-ly different: one of my co-writers is in a pop-punk band and my producer is a soul, blues, rock guy, so there's some elements of even their artistic style and, as an artist, I believe in collaborating with other artists. I like to let people express themselves freely because I think it makes for a different concoction of sounds and you have to be open to that as an artist. I think most solo artists get stuck in this idea that it has to be their way and I don't think that's how you grow as an artist and that you have to open up your mind.
My first album was more alternative, it had a little bit of rock in there, a little bit of pop - more classical pop, I would say - and this one is a little edgier, there was a different group of people I was writing with. I've always wanted to be a rockstar; from when I was born, my parents were like, 'alright, she's going to be a rockstar,' so it's just something that I envisioned for myself because, when you have big dreams and big hopes and passions and you think big, you just want to be able to help other people with that; bring them up and not push them down. It goes back to what I first said about a movement: music as therapy, music as a movement. We're all artists and I think, sometimes, we don't see ourselves that way, we just see ourselves as music makers, but we're artists and art speaks to, not just the ears, it speaks to the senses, it speaks to the emotions.
As for my future sound, I don't know, I'm evolving; I'm fairly new in the music scene. The EP is three songs; it's two remixes and "Falling", but I have some singles that I'm going to be releasing in the next few months that are different because, again, they're with different artists. Some indie pop stuff, I'm doing some trance, I'm collaborating with Blackmill, I'm also collaborating with a new artist out of Chicago, doing some experimental stuff, so I'm always looking to push myself to the next level that I expect from myself as an artist.
What do you hope your fans and listeners can take away from your music?
I just want them to know that I'm going to keep making music for everyone and not just for me. I want people to enjoy music as an art form and not as an automated, I deliver you the same thing every time. I want people to be part of that movement, I want them to realize that they can do anything they want to do, they just have to put their mind to it. Whatever their passions are, I want people to be inspired so that they can go out and chase their dreams and do what they want to do. I want to talk to them through my music and make them feel things that are going to provoke their actions into doing something positive.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I have an EP release show on May 13th at The Bitter End at 7 PM in New York City. I'll be performing with a few other bands there and my flyer is up on my music page on Facebook. That one I'm really excited about. I feel like The Bitter End, in general, is one of the oldest rock clubs in New York City and it has history in itself, just of the people who've stood on the stage and performed there; artists from 30/40 years ago to, now, Lady Gaga, so it's just a nice venue and I feel honored to be able to perform there.
I just want to say, for me, I look at myself as a singer - aside from being a songwriter and a producer - because when I was little, I felt like my voice could heal, that it had the ability to heal people, and maybe that means heal them through a time. I had a pretty rough childhood: my mom died when I was 11 and I was left to fend for myself for many years and it was very tough to lose somebody that young that is a major figure in your life - especially when that person was the one who supported you in your music and was pushing you towards your dreams - so that was something that changed me as a kid. It made me realize that I only have one life to live and I can't waste a single second doing anything that doesn't help me or benefit others in a positive way, because we're not guaranteed tomorrow or a week from now. My goal is to give back the love that was taken away so that people know that they're not alone, that they have somebody, that my music can be a friend to them. Whether it's rock and roll or if it's dance music or if it's pop, you'll know it's me; it's always going to be me coming through there.