Asian-American musician, designer, artist, and content producer Boywithahalo works independently and is currently putting out singles from their upcoming album, “innerspace.” The artist explores new ground in RnB, rock, and dreampop while also delving deeper into their familiar indie pop genres on this self-produced, AWAL distribution release.
The theme of Innerspace is self-discovery and identity, touching on the artist’s teenage struggles with social media and mental health. Check out his single ‘collide’ and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
BOYWITHAHALO: I was born in Tianjin, China, and am currently in the Dallas area. I started professionally as a hiphop and trap producer, entering competitions and producing for some fairly known acts and collaborating with some high-selling producers! I shifted genres eventually during 2020 while quarantined inside of China, and after over a year of staying stuck overseas my head just kind of rewired itself and I began creating whatever I felt like personally instead of chasing beat placements.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
BOYWITHAHALO: Everything I know about music has been self-taught! I didn’t know anything about music theory until recently and have always created by instinctively feeling my way through a song.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘BOYWITHAHALO’?
BOYWITHAHALO: My 1st spark came from Jay Chou, a really innovative musician back in the 2000s in the East. His songs would be a blend of so many genres and influences but would all collectively pair together so well that it was like its own style. There would be R&B, rap, rock, electronic, world genres, and traditional instruments on the same album. That’s the kind of music I grew up to, and what inspires me to this day.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
BOYWITHAHALO: A major component of my music is the atmosphere. A lot of it has to do with the way music is mixed and mastered, and I’ve gotten really bored of the formulaic methods we’re so used to when finalizing a song. There used to be way more variety in that department, with grunge and EDM for instance receiving way different treatments. Now that every song is trying to sound so clean and sterile for maximum attraction, the music crowd like me who listen for that atmospheric factor isn’t being fed enough new and varying stimuli. I would describe my sound as the middle child between pop and underground, in a way where it carries elements that make a pop song great and catchy, but it’s philosophically rooted in the more underrated and artistic aspects of music.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
Music is the best resonating outlet for such topics. The currently released music isn’t about anything bigger than self-exploration and adolescence, but there’s many songs on the upcoming album that speak of higher topics like bullying, cancel culture, Big Pharma, higher powers, space colonization, and even one about school shooters. I fully plan on speaking my mind about these things, it’s just as important as self-expression.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfilment as the amount of work you are putting into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
I definitely hope that things get better than it currently is. I’m not able to financially hold this up for long or consistently, and because of that I have to handle all aspects of it myself, and it domino effects into prolonged progress and make it harder to hold up. That’s just the financial side though! I love everything else about it and wouldn’t ask to do anything else. The people I meet through doing this are so amazing, and the friends I’ve made I don’t think I would ever have if I did something else.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
I follow wherever my mind goes to, and if after a few days the idea still holds up, I eventually finish it and it becomes a song. It could be an idea from the ether of incoherent thoughts and sounds inside my head, or it could be inspired by an experience or vision. Sometimes the song came to me in a dream! I always try to reach out for collaboration, and send people ideas, it usually doesn’t work out because I hear nothing back from them. I’m always scared of this because I start assuming what I sent wasn’t good enough to get anything back, so eventually I just stopped. It’s more comforting to me working on my own ideas even if it takes longer and can be exhausting and routine at times.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
Everything! Trying to be a musician in a non-music interested family that’s also really poor and not from the US thus expects the polar opposite out of me, it’s not a comfortable situation. I’ve also recently realized the childhood traumas and experiences that made me distant myself from making friends and forming connections, and it all made sense why life is so hard back then and now. There’s no structure of support and it’s always felt like it’s me alone against the world, against the family, against myself, with results to show that no one knows about yet. I’m optimistic that it would be different down the line, which is why I am continuing!
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
BOYWITHAHALO: This next album is so important to me and everything I stand for! It’s me letting out some of the thoughts I could never speak, and some of my perspectives on topics people would otherwise never give a chance to understand. I am slowly but surely finishing the most important songs of my career, and though because of this focus some other aspects are slacking, I know that in the end it will help free me from the old feelings and open doors to something refreshing and new.
KEEP IN TOUCH:
Photo credits: boywithahalo