Some of you may have heard her smooth and heartwarming voice at Taiwanese American Professionals (TAP) and Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association (ITASA) events or even watched her music lessons and songs on YouTube. Jazz, folk, and indie singer, Cynthia Lin, chatted with me about her recent tour, the release of her music video, and her future projects.
For those not familiar with your work, you do a lot of jazz, folk, indie, and acoustic. You sing, but you also play the acoustic guitar, the ukulele, and the kazoo. What would you classify your musical style as?
I like to say that I’m a cross between Joni Mitchell and Ella Fitzgerald – a focus on vocals and classic songwriting, acoustic. Genre wise, I’d fall into indie acoustic with a jazz-folk leaning. Basically all the things you mentioned. With my band (Blue Moon All Stars), I definitely have a more big band sound.
You recently have been touring on the East Coast (D.C., Virginia, New York), how has that been going?
It’s like seeing old friends, old haunts. I’ve been catching up with old friends, sharing new music with them. I’ve been especially catching up with my artist friends in the different cities, and sharing new inspirations.
Do you ever find inspirations for new music when you travel or tour?
I think traveling and being on the road is an inspiration for many artists. I enjoy the time in transit (on plane, train, etc) to reflect on new experiences, recent inspirations and observations. It’s time to sit still and step outside of the daily routine. I also enjoy trying out new material on the road, got to test new songs in front of different crowds and see how they feel in the real world.
I believe in craft – I believe practice makes better. I love singing and songwriting, and my passion is practicing both in pursuit of a well-crafted song and an honest performance. What keeps me inspired is that I know I can keep getting better, that the work will pay off.
Your new music video, “Microscope”, was released earlier this summer. How did this video come about and what was the vision for it?
I met choreographer Philein Wang at an ITASA event, actually. She saw my performance of the song Microscope and was inspired to create a duet for her dance company, Ziru Dance. By the way, Philein happens to be Taiwanese-Chinese, like myself.
I saw the duet at her dance company’s show, and had the vision of it being performed in black and white on the beach. From there, I was introduced to videographer Robert Gomez Hernandez, who also happens to be a dancer, which I think was integral to the editing and flow of the music video.
I became close with the dancers as well, working with them to express the meaning of the song. I’m just so thrilled that all these talented people came together to shoot and produce this work. I’m really proud to present this collaboration of various art forms.
In this song, you sing about trying to be yourself and this fear of being judged under a microscope by a significant other, what was the inspiration for writing this song?
When you get deeper into a relationship, your partner begins to see things in you that you may not have noticed about yourself. It’s revealing, and learning to be vulnerable and be seen is a way that we grow as individuals. You learn to trust, to be more open, and you grow, you accept more of yourself.
I come from a jazz background, so I choose covers that I can interpret as my own. I want to bring something new and personal to the song, as if I had written it. Usually, I pick songs that I wish I had written.
There’s always pressure in covering a classic, but it’s a good challenge. It stretches me as a performer, and learning well written songs improves my songwriting.
Your most popular song on YouTube is a cover of Teresa Teng’s “The Moon Represents My Heart” (Yuèliàng Dàibiǎo Wǒde Xīn), which you covered to raise money for the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan back in 2010. I believe this is the only song you have sung in Mandarin that has been made public, so what was it like seeing so many positive reactions towards one of the most classic Chinese songs?
It’s really heartwarming to read the sweet comments on YouTube, and to feel that I have brought something new to this classic song. It’s a lovely song, and again the timeless melody and songwriting are what make it great. I’m most surprised that many Asian cultures outside of China and Taiwan know this song. It really is a world classic.
I am actually working on a Mandarin version of Microscope, and there will be more Teresa Teng covers coming in the next year.
You have performed all over the country, have you ever thought about performing in Taiwan and is that something you plan to do in the future?
I’d love to perform in Taiwan. My parents recently moved back, so I will be visiting more often, and will look into organizing a Taiwan tour.
You have released three albums (Blue and Borderlined, Doppelganger, Microscope) in your career with a number of singles as well. You are ending your tour by coming back to San Francisco next week for the release party of the “Microscope” video. Tell us about that and is there any new music to look forward to in the coming future?
I’m super excited for the Microscope video release party – I want to celebrate and thank everyone who contributed their energy and support to this project. Next up is a full band recording! We’ll be running a Kickstarter to fund a professional recording for Cynthia Lin and the Blue Moon All Stars, my beloved Bay Area band, as well as a fully styled video for my new ukulele-based song Zombie Heart. Recording dates are set for this fall, so look for the album early next year.
If you’re interested in supporting her Kickstarter project, click here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cynthialin/cynthia-lin-and-the-blue-moon-all-stars-new-album! Also, check out her YouTube videos for quick music lessons, tips, and her music! All of her digital albums are pay what you want and she has physical CDs for sale as well, so go check out her Bandcamp page! Support your local artist!
Microscope Release Party:
Michael Chen graduated from California State University, Los Angeles, with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and also studied at the Mandarin Training Center in Taipei with an emphasis in reading and writing. He is a part of Taiwanese American Citizens League (TACL) – Leadership Identity Development (LID) Camp, serving as a camp counselor or helping with fundraising events. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys playing basketball, listening to music and buying vinyl records in his spare time.