Architecture student, journalist, designer, musician: Eric Lin is all of these and more

Welcome back to another interview in TaiwaneseAmerican.org’s “New Creatives” series! For this article, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Lin, a 21 year-old rising senior at Princeton University studying architecture and journalism. He is originally from Phoenix, AZ and considers making music to be his passion. 

As a child, Eric grew up learning classical piano; he also spent seven years touring with the Phoenix Boys Choir. It was in high school when he started writing his first songs and experimenting with song production on GarageBand. The first songs made during this time were more hip hop, with rapidfire lyrics and simple autotune melodies. However, they were exploring the same themes as his current songs: love and loss. After the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in the spring of 2020, Eric was sent home from college and decided to take a gap year. That gap year gave him the opportunity to explore his interest in music in greater depth. He set up a makeshift home studio in his childhood bedroom and got to work. Finally, in April 2021, Eric released “Cloudboy” before returning to his studies that summer. Then, he released his most recent single “Going Dark” the following year.

With that, I’m excited to present my interview with Eric, lightly edited for clarity and length. I hope that you enjoy this reading this interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it.

Alyssa: I loved listening to “Going Dark” and “Cloudboy.” Your songs seem to have a very distinct electropop, futuristic, even dreamlike quality to them. Can you tell me a bit about your songwriting and recording process?

Eric: My recording process starts in the shower. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a shower singer– sometimes I’ll just be in there humming and suddenly a melody idea will pop into my head. That melody usually becomes the hook, and the lyrics and verse melodies develop quickly from there. “Cloudboy” is one of those songs that came to me in the shower, and I actually stopped the shower just to get out and record the hook so I wouldn’t forget it.

So for me, that’s the easy part– if I’m feeling inspired, the melody and lyrics will just come to me naturally. The hard part is the production because 1) there are so many more steps, elements, and moving parts to the actual production, and 2) I often don’t have a sense yet of what the production will sound like even if I already have the melody/lyrics. In that way, a song will often be written in a couple of hours, but its production will take months or even years until the sound sits just right in the mix.

In terms of the electropop/dreamlike sound– as I said, I usually don’t have a specific idea of what genre/atmosphere I’m going for when I first start production. I usually simply play around with a bunch of different sounds and rhythms until something sounds good. It seems as though I naturally tend to gravitate to electropop/R&B sounds, which is completely unintentional, but I think it works well with my lyrics.

I can also talk a bit about my studio setup. The DAW software I work in is Logic Pro, and I use a Scarlett 6i6 interface along with a basic RODE condenser mic and a midi keyboard. I tend to mostly use Logic’s stock sounds/loops as well as sounds and samples from Splice.com. Sometimes I’ll utilize free online beat packs as well.

Alyssa: Both of your songs thus far have explored similar themes– primarily the experience of lost love or ambiguity in terms of romantic relationships. Particularly in “Going Dark,” we hear the lyrics: “Your heart a robber stealing mine/ Through tears and faded memories/ You’re going dark, and I don’t hear a thing/ So tell me what I mean to you.” A lot of popular media today delves into the complex and often convoluted emotions associated with falling in love as well. Why do you think that these themes are important to explore in your music and what drives you to write and sing songs about them?

Eric: In general, I think the reason that love– and specifically “lost love”– is such a common topic in pop music is that most people can resonate with that experience. Everyone goes through love and heartbreak at some point in their life. With music being (in my opinion) the most visceral expression of feeling that a person can both make and experience via listening, it is obviously going to express what’s most frequently on our minds. Additionally, knowing this to be a ubiquitous experience, I wanted to write about something universal to give my music the best chance to reach a wider audience.

More importantly, I write about what exactly I’m feeling at the time. And I believe that channeling my own raw, real-time emotions through my music is the best way to make people listen; even if they can’t directly relate, the authenticity is something that will capture their attention. When I wrote both of these songs, I was clearly going through/reminiscing on difficult experiences in my relationships. For the lyrics you picked out specifically, I’ll be honest– I was being ghosted, which I think is something a lot of people can relate to. 

Alyssa: Singing about universally relatable topics such as lost love is definitely an effective way of reaching a larger audience. Along a similar vein, what or who has inspired you in terms of artists? Does any particular genre or person speak to you in this respect?

Eric: My biggest musical influence is probably The Weeknd; I just love his unique vocal production, and his perfect blend of R&B, hip-hop, and pop into this moody yet catchy musical atmosphere. I particularly drew influence from his “After Hours” album, which I definitely had on repeat for most of my gap year.

I also draw influence from the mainstream appeal of R&B pop artists like Khalid, SZA, and Drake, as well as the alternative/experimental production of artists like Billie Eilish or groups like 100 Gecs. 

Peer feedback is also very important to my musical process. I’m particularly inspired by some independent artists I know personally like Luke Chiang (who is also Taiwanese), Jack Kolbe (who produces for Jelani Aryeh), and JP Rabusa. I try to get their input on my music when possible.

Alyssa: Did you run into any significant challenges during the creative process (songwriting, composing, etc.) and if so, how did you work to overcome them? What do you believe the most difficult part about being a musical artist to be?

Eric: The most difficult part of the creative process is probably musician’s block. I spent a lot of time at home rather than being out experiencing the world, especially over my gap year during the pandemic; I think the lack of interpersonal experiences during that time made it hard to find inspiration. It was just monotonous day after monotonous day, which is part of why I spent so long learning to produce rather than working on my actual songs.

I actually encounter this “block” problem in all of my creative fields– architectural design, graphic design, journalistic writing, music– sometimes you just get stuck. I’ve found that what works best for me is that whenever I run into this roadblock, I pivot to something else. Music isn’t coming to me? I start working on my graphic designs and circle back to it later (and vice versa). After taking a break by being productive in something else, the creative inspiration always returns and I get into that flow state where I’ll bang out a song in around two hours.

Alyssa: We’ve heard a lot about your process for your more recent songs, but I’m curious if you produced/worked on anything musically-related before “Cloudboy” was released?

Eric: Back when I was taking classical piano, the Yamaha program I was in required everyone to compose an original piano piece every year. I had fun doing that as a kid, but I think the first serious piece of music I wrote was in middle school. My grandma had sadly just passed away, and I composed a piece called “Remember.” 

Alyssa: Thank you for sharing; the song sounds beautiful from its title. Speaking of titles, the titles of your songs are interesting in light of the vivid mental imagery that they conjure. How did you come up with the titles for your songs? On a somewhat related note, what are the stories behind the album covers?

Eric: For “Cloudboy,” I just copied the title of the free online beat that I sampled. The title is what originally inspired my lyrics and therefore meshed perfectly with the message of my song. I also really liked the portmanteau and thought it was pretty unique.

I came up with the title “Going Dark” at the last minute before releasing my song. Originally, I was just going to call it “Tell Me”– the most repeated two words in the song– but I felt like that was somewhat boring. In the end, I picked the title “Going Dark,” a phrase essentially used to mean that someone is ghosting you.

As a graphic designer, I create all of the graphics for my music projects. I designed both single cover artworks on Adobe Illustrator. Essentially, I don’t want my covers to be too similar, but I want a coherent visual theme to tie them all together, so I went with silhouettes. From an aesthetic standpoint, I like silhouettes because they give just enough information to make the graphic understandable, but they don’t share every detail about the identity of the person whose outline it is.

Alyssa: It sounds like music and graphic design are two great passions. Why did you choose to study architecture and journalism?

Eric: When I was four years old, I arbitrarily decided I wanted to be an architect. I’ve stuck to my guns since then, as I’m about to enter my senior year in the architecture department at Princeton. I really like studying architecture because I think, as a discipline, it is at the perfect intersection of creativity (in the design and exploration) and practicality (in the engineering and functionality). I also just love being creative – whether it’s in my architectural design or in my music. Journalism also sparks my creativity as a writer, and I love picking through interviews and digging deep to produce a meaningful story about a person.

Alyssa: Do you believe that your Taiwanese or Taiwanese American identity influences either the themes you incorporate in your songs or your songwriting/producing in general?

Eric: To be honest, I haven’t thought much about how my Taiwanese American heritage/identity influences my music. I like to think my music is more universal than reflecting a specific group of people.

However, as a proud Taiwanese American, I can’t ignore that this part of my identity is inherently embedded in my music since my music reflects my personal identity and experience. In light of that, I think that how my Taiwanese identity relates to my music is perhaps something I should consider more closely moving forward because being Taiwanese is definitely something very important to me.

On a somewhat related side note, I attend TAF (Taiwanese American Foundation) camp every summer. My Taiwanese friends from that camp are always so supportive of my music endeavors and encourage me to keep going, which I very much appreciate. 

Alyssa: Lastly, do you have any other details that you’d like to add about yourself, your songs, or any upcoming songs that you’d be comfortable dropping some hints about?

Eric: I don’t have a set date yet, but I’ve got a throwback cover in the works. I won’t say what song it is, but my next single will be a dance-pop take on an alternative rock hit from the early 2010’s. That cover is set to be released sometime this summer.

I also have two other original songs in the pipeline. I’m hoping to release those later this year, so definitely be on the lookout for more music coming your way.

Alyssa: That sounds exciting; I’m looking forward to hearing more from you soon! Thanks so much for your time today.

Eric: Thanks! 

If you’re interested in checking out/supporting more of Eric’s content, feel free to visit his website, social media, or Spotify/Soundcloud accounts linked below. 

 

Website: https://www.cloudboymusic.com/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericlin29/ 

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2tISsVIakWQkqYGML4AlBc?si=urPA-f5NR_iHmax4ii3RVw&nd=1 

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-453834100 


Alyssa Lee served at Johns Hopkins TASA president and is currently leading the TaiwaneseAmerican.org “New Creatives” Initiative.  She is currently studying Molecular and Cellular Biology and History of Art.

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