Over the years, pop music has seen many pianists turned singer/songwriter solo artists, but what does it take to make it alone? Although musicians in a band have to deal with creative disagreements, complex travel logistics, and the occasional ego battle, solo artists may have little to no support network; a DIY solo act must be the whole team in one person. So what does it take to not only create your own music with only your name on it, but also cover your own publicity, press, design, management, etc.? We caught up with one such musician to find out how he makes it all work.
Jeffrey Chan is a classically-trained pianist hailing from Sydney, Australia. At age 14, he discovered a love for singing and songwriting and began crafting his own music. Since then, more instruments have been added to his repertoire as displayed on his first studio release Spectrum, a self-produced full-length album introducing his definitive pop style to the world. Traditionally performing acoustic piano gigs at intimate venues, the new release has a digital upbeat attitude that begs the listener to tap and bounce along with the tracks. Depending on the live performance, the auditory style may vary. “Up until only recently I was playing my live sets completely acoustic,” explains Chan, “but I got some new equipment and have been a one-man band, playing my tracks the way they are supposed to sound with that electronic dance pop vibe. I do still enjoy playing a set that’s just me and the piano because I feel it allows for a more intimate connection with the audience.”
Chan cites pop music as a strong influence, though he’s experienced a variety of different genres and styles. “I listen to pretty much any type of music so I have an array of musical influences; it’s a mishmash of artists,” says Chan. “Whenever I write a song, I want it to be able to be stripped back to piano; if it can sound good like that, it’s a winning track.” Growing up listening to mainstream radio, he mixed what he heard with his piano training and was also influenced by jazz in his teen years. This eclectic background laid the foundation for Spectrum, as well as a follow-up album coming in 2018. “In a way, it will be a counterpart and companion piece to the first album. Where Spectrum was very bright and bubbly, the follow up is going to be a bit darker; get ready for a mishmash of pop genres!” An early single from the new release is expected to drop in late 2017.
Musicians often say that performing and connecting with audiences is their favorite aspect of being a working artist, and Chan is no different. “To have people come up and tell you how your music has affected them or how they love your work is really rewarding because one of the main reasons I make music is to create a connection and establish relationships.” He certainly appears to have accomplished that, playing a number of sold out shows in Sydney as well as performing in the U.S. “There’s a lot of independent music in Sydney, but a lot of it is rock-band oriented and it’s harder to find a local market for the type of music I am doing. I recently came back from New York and L.A. and the music scenes there seem much more catered to my sound.”
Beyond carving out a niche, Chan faces other challenges as a DIY musician as well. “I fear repetition; I don’t want songs to sound the same or things to look the same. One of the challenges I face as an artist is evolving and constantly growing with each new release. I want each one to read and be viewed as a different story.” Many musicians can relate to the struggle of getting pigeon-holed and trying to break style and genre barriers. On Spectrum, Chan explored many different avenues for tracks and curated an album with a theme. “It developed into this idea of representing life on a spectrum, that there is never a black and white representation of anything,” recalls Chan. “I wrote over 40 songs for the album but only the top 10 made the cut.”
Despite the challenges, he pushes forward, fueled by a passion for creativity. “My main motivation is just my love for the craft. Even if my music only affects or resonates with one person, that’s the person I was aiming for.” He advises other musicians to never lose their drive and stay the course if they truly love what they do. “Definitely don’t give up because what you’re aiming for could be right around the corner.” Chan plans to tour back through the U.S. to spread his music further and to promote the follow-up release slated for 2018. We hope to see him around our neck of the woods and look forward to the new music. You can find Jeffrey Chan’s music and more info at www.jeffreychanmusic.com.
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