An Interview With New York-Based Pop Singer, TIGERLILY, On Transitioning to A Solo Career, Being As Asian American in The Musiz Biz, Her New Single ‘Lisbon’ and More!
Meet the New York City-based pop artist tigerlily! She makes sultry pop, a sound described by Northwest Music Scene as, “the musical equivalent of a blurry low-exposure Polaroid of one of the best nights of your life.”
Growing up in Seattle, tigerlily fronted an all-girl grunge band that was named “Seattle’s Best Underage Band” by Seattle Weekly and received support from KEXP and The Seattle Times.
For her solo debut, tigerlily worked with acclaimed producer duo Nima Skeemz and Elan Wright, whose credits include Macklemore, Travis Thompson, and Dave B. She’s opened for artists including Grammy-nominated duo Social House and rising Chinese star, Bohan Phoenix.
Connect With tigerlily Online Here: WEBSITE
Learn more about tigerlily in the following All Access interview:
Thank you for your time. So, given these unusual Covid-19 times, what does a typical day look like for you? How have you adjusted to these times?
Well, the beginning of quarantine I was a mess. There were a few weeks I was going to bed at 7 am and waking up at like 5 pm and since then I’ve tried to add some structure to my days, haha. Now, I’ll make some green tea when I wake up, go for a 15 minute run, then hop on a call with my manager, Maya and we’ll work for a couple hours on all of the things that need to happen for this release. It’s funny, my friends are like wait, hasn’t the song been recorded for a year? What’s left to do?! I’m like, you have no idea: this is a bottomless to-do list. But we have fun working on it!
What has been the hardest/most challenging part about being quarantined? Is your city starting to open up more now?
For sure the most challenging part has just been being away from my friends since I’m someone who is super social. I’m that friend who calls you up and is like, “Hey! Want to go to UPS together?” Haha, so that’s been hard, but I’ll still FaceTime people and I basically live in my Instagram DMs.
How have you been able to use social media during these unprecedented times? Are you finding that you use it even more to stay connected to fans and other musicians?
Yeah! I’ve become way more involved on social media since quarantine and feel so much more connected to my fans/friends. I’ve been spending most of my time covering songs on Instagram suggested by them and doing Q&A sessions there. I also got on Tik Tok and they have a tool where you can reply to people’s comments using video so that’s fun.
Since we are all desperately missing live music, can you recall a favorite show of yours from the past? What do you think ultimately makes for a great show for you?
I went and saw my friends Deep Sea Diver at Elsewhere in Brooklyn a few months back which was spectacular. Honestly, all their shows are killer since Jessica is such a badass front-woman and Peter is so fun to watch drum. Now that I’ve moved to New York City, it’s always sweet seeing bands I know from Seattle who pass through on tour, I’m just so proud of everyone.
I’m curious to know more about how you changed from being in an all-girl grunge band, Bleachbear, in Seattle to being a solo pop singer today in New York. What has this transition been like for you? Did you always know that pop was in your blood and that you would eventually make the genre shift?
I grew up idolizing rock stars like Freddy Mercury, Kurt Cobain and David Bowie. For me, they were always the coolest and who I wanted to be like when I grew up, but I also always loved listening to pop music. When I was in Bleachbear, I never thought about a future not in the band, but I also had written a bunch of pop songs that didn’t fit our sound. So when the band ended, I was like, why don’t I release these as a solo pop artist? Part of me was worried about doing pop since something I always struggled with as a female musician, even in a rock band, was being taken seriously. I can’t tell you how many times someone has listened to my music and said, “she has a pretty voice” or just skipped the voice part and said “she’s pretty.” And I appreciate that, that’s nice, but like, in addition to singing, I also play electric guitar, bass, ukulele, piano, write all my own music, directed my own music video, and managed my music career since I was 15 years old, and nobody ever comments on that. I think female musicians have to work much harder to be taken seriously and I know it’s going to be an uphill battle, especially as a pop artist, but I’m down to grind.
Tell us how you think attending and graduating from business school has helped you as a musician today? What was that time like for you?
Business school was a big change. I moved from Seattle to New York City for school; I think my roommate was horrified when I showed up to our tiny shared bedroom with a bass, piano, two guitars, two amps, and a massage chair, haha. I think that basically sums up my reputation freshman year: “the girl in a rock band with a massage chair.” My band-mates were still in Seattle though, and I underestimated how hard working cross-country would be, so I really ended up throwing all the energy I previously had put into the band into college. My freshman year I founded the women in business club which became the university’s largest student organization and I graduated Summa Cum Laude with the highest honor bestowed on a graduating business student. I was beyond proud of this, but I also was worried the entire time I was in business school that I was destroying my music career being there and thus not focusing 100% on my music. Looking back, however, I realized that to make it in music, of course you must create spectacular music, but you also have to be strategic, which is something business school taught me how to do well. A fallacy I had growing up in the band was that my job was to be a great musician and eventually some powerful record label exec would discover me and make me famous. By the time I enrolled in business school, I’d given up on that plan. I was like, no powerful music industry dude is coming to save me, I’ve got to learn to do this for myself. So I studied hard, I interned at top management companies and major labels, and I became that dude you could say. And yes, I’m still learning and figuring it out, but I’m no longer waiting on anyone.
I’d love to know about your music industry experience as an Asian American. What has it been like? Who has been truly instrumental to your career so far? What advice would you want to give to others that are just getting started and thinking of careers in it?
For me, music has been a lot of ups and downs. When I was in the band, we were playing every weekend for years, performing with kickass bands like La Luz and Hey Marseille, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d never make it in music… we were teenage Asian girls in an industry dominated by old, male rock bands. It was badass, but I always felt out of place. When I went to business school, it was the opposite. As an Asian American woman, stereotypes led people to assume I was smart and academic success came easily so it was really hard for me to look in the mirror and tell myself, you can’t just go with the flow and manage the books for someone’s tour, girl you belong on stage! Despite the downs, I always had mentors who kept me inspired. Lacey Brown and Jessica Dobson are both extremely talented artists I’ve learned so much from. Masao Yamada, Rich Coppolino, Maya Levy, and Vincent Cunningham have given me so much great advice I’m beyond thankful for. As far as advice to artists starting out, I actually played basketball for ten years, so I’d leave them with this Kobe quote: “Life is too short to get bogged down and get discouraged. You have to keep moving. You have to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, smile, and just keep rolling. Mamba mentality.”
Let’s talk about your forthcoming new single “Lisbon.” What was the inspiration for this song? What was it like making the music video for it? I understand that you directed and edited it yourself during quarantine. What was that experience like for you? Do you think that you will take all that on again for future videos?
Haha, it’s a wild story that actually starts years back when I was studying abroad in Barcelona in high school. I was at a dance club and my friend was dancing with this guy who looked exactly like a Spanish version of Adam Levine. My friend was visiting from Scotland and didn’t speak any Spanish so she asked me to be the translator so she could talk to him, but he and I hit it off (my friend forgave me, haha). He asked me to go to the beach in the morning and that somehow blossomed into a complicated but beautiful relationship. When I left Spain, I wrote him a letter telling him he’d always be my Spanish boy and I’d never forget him, and I didn’t. I flew back every summer to see him, and last Thanksgiving I flew to Portugal where he was then living and we had the most magical road trip down the coastline of Portugal, which I filmed. On the last night of the trip, we were talking and realized the past five years had been a huge misunderstanding: he just thought of me as a friend meanwhile I’d been in love with him the whole time. This is the part where people are like, how is a misunderstanding that big even possible!? Haha, I always say things get lost in translation when you’re speaking Spanglish. So, I was heartbroken, flew back to the US with no intentions of ever speaking to him again, and wrote ‘lisbon.’ Quarantine hit before I could make the music video and I was like, man, what can I do? And that’s when I remembered I still had all the footage from our trip in Portugal! So, I took that footage and edited it together to make the music video. So as far as would I do that again? No, haha, certainly not, it was absolutely heartbreaking having to rewatch all the clips of us over and over and over again while editing, but at the same time, I’m glad there was a silver lining to the whole mess. And as far as what happened to me and the guy, we’re back to normal. The other day I was teaching him how to pre-save songs on Spotify so he could pre-save ‘lisbon.’ He was like, “But Tiger I forgot my Spotify password!” and I was like, “This is your song Dani, you better figure it out!” haha.
Do you have plans to release more new music soon? An EP or full-length album later this year perhaps? Do you have several songs that are done and you are just waiting on releasing them?
I have several songs that are done that I am super excited about that will be coming out throughout the year, so stay tuned. I’ll also be throwing a single release concert on IG Live on July 15th to support Black Trans Womxn, going to have an incredible lineup of BIPOC artists, so come through to that!
How do you think future music is going to be influenced by this incredible and absolutely necessary Black Lives Matter movement that the US and even the world is going through now? Is it inspiring you and your music today at all?
It’s definitely inspiring me! I cover a lot of songs my fans/friends suggest to me on Instagram and lately I’ve been covering protest songs. I did Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Childish Gambino’s “This is America”… there are so many beautiful and iconic songs that have arisen from social justice movements and I hope to see more of that. More importantly, I hope to see the industry shedding light on more BIPOC artists. America is such a beautifully diverse country but when you look at the Billboard Hot 100 you really don’t see that diversity represented. There are so many languages spoken in the United States, but all you hear on the radio is English. We need more diversity both onstage and behind the scenes advocating for BIPOC artists because we need their voices and stories to be heard, and we need role models that people can look up to and see themselves in so they feel empowered that if their dream is to be headlining Coachella, they can do it; if their dream is to be the CEO of record label, they can do it.
If you could get into the studio with any artist today and collaborate on a new song, who would it be and why?
That’s so hard! Haha, how do you choose? Fun fact, I lived in Medellin, Colombia so I’m a big fan of Latin music. Paloma Mami is dope, A.CHAL is dope, Sebastian Yatra… now that’d be a dream come true.
Would you like to share anything else about yourself or your music with our readers?
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me! I would love to hear from you guys and keep in touch, you can find me @tigerlily_music on Instagram.