GROWING up, Chelsea Chan’s world was open to all kinds of music. Born and raised in Malaysia, the honest oceans singer is professionally known as JAIE.
“I was exposed to a lot of music growing up,” said the current New York-based singer-songwriter and music producer in an email interview.
“I remember listening to Sade, Earth, Wind & Fire, [and] Jacky Cheung in the car with my parents, and in the 2000s, John Mayer really stuck with me after I picked up the guitar.”
Chan added about her early musical exposure: “Of course, you can’t grow up in that era without listening to NSYNC, Westlife, and Britney [Spears] as well.”
The 23-year-old, who just graduated from Cornell University’s College of Engineering in May, debuted her four-track EP December in late 2017.
While “not doing music full time yet”, Chan’s next EP is expected to drop later this year.
With hopes of also starting work at a start-up soon, her initial SoundCloud foray putting out covers has evolved to creating original music, including collaborations like discohaze with Lost Spaces and the latest track Daylight, with fellow Malaysian singer-songwriter NYK.
What is it like being a musician living in New York?
“Living in NYC is kind of surreal when I think about it. There’s a never-ending list of concerts, free shows, random pop-ups, and just new things to try.
“It’s also really nice to get inspired by the people who live here, even little things like seeing cool outfits on the streets.
“It’s crazy how big it is and that so many interesting companies/ collectives are based right here.”
Do you remember the feeling of putting your first song out on SoundCloud?
“I used to put some covers on SoundCloud, but the first time I shared my own song, which I wrote, recorded and (badly) produced was an incredibly exciting process.
“Even though I had no idea how to make the production sound polished, the whole act of creating it from scratch and sharing a piece of myself that felt so personal with the public, was really special.”
What production tip would you share with new producers?
“You’ll start off making beats that sound like trash, but just keep going! Put in some time to know your tools inside out, but don’t feel pressured to buy some new piece of gear unless you really feel like your creativity or expression is being limited.
“And don’t be afraid to put your work out there.”
Can you describe the best summer day you’ve had in New York?
“The best summer day in New York, I walked from Soho to the Brooklyn Bridge, sat there till the sun set, went to watch a free concert in the park and then headed to Koreatown for some late-night Korean food.”
What is the story behind Daylight?
“For Daylight, I was really trying to capture the mood and scenes I experienced during my study abroad in Copenhagen – rainy, grey skies and barely seeing any real sunlight for months.
“I was in love with the romanticism of walking alone through quiet streets, and feeling a sense of awe in the rare and fleeting moment when sunlight would peek through.
“I was listening to a lot of laidback Korean R&B then, so that was the whole mood in my head while writing the song.
“I sent NYK the instrumental I recorded with me humming, and he helped me flesh out the lyrics and song after that.”
How do you usually decide to collaborate with other musicians?
“I collaborate with whoever I vibe with, both musically and personally.
“If I spend too much time producing, recording and editing my own music/ voice, it can get kind of tiring after a while, so I feel [that] working with someone else helps keep things fresh.”
Which part of the day do you usually find yourself inspired to write songs?
“Late at night, especially when [I feel] sad and alone.”