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artist spotlight: erika tham | music

You may already know Erika Tham as an actress. Her direction has since changed, and as a musician, she knows exactly the sound she wishes to produce and how she wishes to reintroduce herself...

Her latest release is distinctly Erika, blending the pop and r’n’b influences she loves so much with an incredibly unique combination of Asian-inspired strings in the production.

“More specifically with this EP, I wanted to implement Asian instrumentation into the tracks and sort of see what I could do with that over or underneath modern pop r'n'b type melodies and just play with the juxtaposition. And I think because that felt so personal to me and my heritage, it’s why these songs ended up being the first songs that I’m putting out...”

Hailing from Singapore, Erika has recently been in LA writing. I got the chance to talk to her about her recent release Shhh and the newly-released video to accompany it. Asking where the song and music video’s idea stemmed from, her response was one I have a feeling at least half the planet relates to;

“ know when someone’s really cute until they open their mouth and they start talking, and completely ruin it for themselves?... So I think from that sort of initial explanation of what I was thinking when I was writing the song, Patrick was able to take that run with it, and frame it”.

The video was an incredibly collaborative process with Director Patrick Wilcox, and it’s sure to win over those who are already familiar with her as well as those just getting to know her.

How does it feel now that the video is out?

It’s super cool, you know, coming from an acting background and geting to do musical comedies, I had been doing music videos since I was like fourteen, but this was my first chance to do one and really be involved in it from the ground up, from the treatment to obviously doing it to my music, and working with choreographers and casting people, so this one felt special.

Where did the initial video’s concept for the video stem from? More specifically, the introduction.

So Patrick Wilcox, the director and I worked together on all the concepts and the treatments and everything like that. I had explained to him sort of what my concept was with the song and how when I wrote it in Atlanta with my friends, I had just said, like, ‘you know when someone’s really cute until they open their mouth and they start talking, and completely ruin it for themselves?’ So I think from that sort of initial explanation of what I was thinking when I was writing the song, Patrick was able to take that and run with it.

Does it feel revealing to put those opinions that others have or may have of you into your video?

I think, you know, initially, we just thought of it as something that’s more general to women. He understood the situation, he was naturally just freestyling things that he maybe thought would fit me better, or things that he knew that I had heard. I think things that I hear from people are the things that a lot of women hear from people, especially in this age of social media and only fans and stuff like that, it’s kind of just a very prevalent narrative that people have of women.

Do you feel that being both Singaporean and Canadian, that that affects people's perceptions of you?

Yeah, more specifically with this EP, I wanted to implement Asian instrumentation into the tracks and sort of see what I could do with that over or underneath modern pop r’n'b type melodies and just play with the juxtaposition… But definitely, I think it’s been a bit of a culture shock moving to America, ‘cause I obviously grew up in Asia, so almost everyone I was around looked like me or they were full Asian or mixed.

So in regards to the sound that you’re creating for your music, when I initially listened I heard drill in the beats, but you said it’s more inspired by Asia and pop and r’n’b, so how in the studio did you decide to put all of that together?

They are definitely drill inspired beats, especially Shhh and the next single we’re putting out, playing with fire. I think, again, when it comes to my heritage and my background, it’s such a melting pot, my mom is Dutch and Ukrainian and was raised Catholic, my dad is Chinese Malaysian and was raised Buddhist. I grew up moving around a lot, so I think I’ve just been able to pull from so many different things growing up and have had such an open mind when it comes to what I like and what I consume and what I wanna, sort of recycle and put back out there. So I think naturally what happens when I make music is there’s a whole bunch of different factors, and I really enjoy playing with juxtaposing things together, so with this I was like ‘What would happen if we put Asian instrumentation into a drill beat, and whispered over the track? what would that sound like?’ So it’s just a lot of experimenting and being open minded and having fun I think at the end of the day.

Who do you think inspires you as a songwriter?

I don’t really know, to be honest. I listen to a lot of rap music and I am really inspired by great MCs and rappers. Obviously, I’m not a rapper and I’m not writing bars, but I think I really like playing on those types of cadences. I like to be conversational sometimes.

Do you think that makes your music more personal, given that it’s conversational?

I hope so, I think so. I think it just makes me want to day a lot of words in my songs, and it’s about finding the balance of when to sort of reign it on and let the quieter moments speak for themselves. As a songwriter I think I'm naturally inclined to want to say the most, so having songs that have such simple choruses and very simple one-worded messages, can sometimes be a challenge for me to end up with, but yeah, Shhh was definitely that.

Was having so much you wanted to say what led you to want to become an artist?

I think so, I always loved performing. I was not only on set but also in the studio recording for the first time and I think I slowly started to realise how much I loved the music end of things. And then when I moved to LA I continued to act but I think I sort of came to the realisation that as an actress you are kind of limited creatively by what roles are out there for you. You kind of have to hope that someone’s gonna write a role that you can play that you feel connected to, and being a young, mixed-race Asian girl, there wasn’t a lot for me, you know? So I think what really drew me to music was this sense of no boundaries.

Is the EP coming next?

This is part of a three-song EP that we’re putting out, at the top of this year, and all three songs kind of live in the same sonic world.

How do you want this song and video to introduce you as an artist, to people who don't know who you are yet?

I think I view it in two ways; I think I view it as a re-introduction to people who have gotten to know me through my acting work and have seen me grow up in that Disney Nickelodeon bubble, and it's been really exciting to put something forward that feels so authentic to me and have it be so well received by people who see me from that. But also, I guess, for anyone who’s just discovering me now, I want it to be just this fun, empowering, cool, sexy world that people can be invited to and just feel great about themselves. Music is such a free uplifting thing for me, and so I think I kind of just want people to feel this way too when they listen to my work.

Can you tell us about the EP date?

It’s still something we’re figuring out, it’s changing every day as new opportunities arise, so the first half of this year is all I can say.

What do you hope comes next for the year?

I would love to perform live, open up for somebody on tour, or have my own shows, and I am sitting on so much music that I've just been working on for the past year that I think I'm really excited for people to hear. It's very different from the EP. I think the EP is its own little thing, and just getting to share that and expand the sonic world that I feel like I've started to figure out.

Her track Shhh is out now as is the official music video.

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