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Jennifer Chung | “Know that the fact that you’re different is beautiful, and you’re going to offer something that no one else can offer.”

Author // TheOtherAsians
Posted in // Blog

Talented, down-to-earth, and bubbly. These are the general adjectives that come to mind whenever someone meets Jennifer Chung for the first time. It’s inspring to think that a simple girl publishing YouTube videos for her friends in a college dorm would eventually become a voice to the Youtube generation. Who would’ve known right? She has been able to engage an audience all over the world using her raw lyrics and powerful vocals balancing the whole shabang of student life –classes, loans, late night study sessions, part-time jobs.  Now with school out of the way, she is now settling in with her new life in Los Angeles, with a debut album releasing VERY soon! Join OA as we sit down with Jennifer and she shares her experience as a pioneer in new media, her feelings about her video featured on New Yorks Time’s Square, and her development as an artist.

** Order Jen’s debut album 4 Years & Counting now :) **

Fun Facts:

  • What takes up most of your time right now? Moving from Irvine to LA. Packing and unpacking, packing and unpacking, organizing and cleaning.
  • Guilty pleasure? I really enjoy watching Switched At Birth on ABC Family.. and Pretty Little Liars… if you figure out who “A” is on the TV show and tell me… I’ll buy you a cookie and hug you forever.
  • Favorite song to sing in the car? “Love On Top” by Beyonce. Her whole “4” album is money.
  • Relationship status? “ALL THE SINGLE LADIES! Now put your hands up!”
  • What would you look for in a guy? Honestly, from physical attributes? The smile is the biggest thing. I feel like you can tell a lot about a person when they smile. Even friends. But they would genuinely have to be kind-hearted. I love nice guys – nice guys who know what they want and will work hard to get it.. not the passive ones. I know Wong Fu and them joke around that nice guys finish last and stuff, but in my book they’re number one.
  • Pet peeve? There’s a lot. The biggest pet peeve? I hate it when people write on their hands. I just would never write on my hand. Some people like to write designs, reminders, notes on their hands and stuff – it’s funny because I have a tattoo, but I think that’s different because it literally becomes a part of you. But when people write on their hands and do face paint and stuff, it’s overwhelming. Weird, right? haha
  • Favorite color? I’ve always loved the color green, but right now, to be specific, it would be mint/neon-ish green.
  • Go-to dessert? Urth Caffe’s Matcha Blended Green Tea with Boba. yummay!
  • Favorite ride at Disneyland? Space Mountain. And Thunder Mountain Railroad. And Screamin’. Okay that’s more than one.. but Disneyland is just that awesome.
  • Why number eight? There was a time in my life where something had happened and I was just listening to this song over and over again that lifted me up from wherever I was. It just happened to be track number eight. From then on, I noticed that an album’s track number eight is always really good.
  • What kind of car do you drive? A white one with a ghetto trunk in which I must manually use my key to open the trunk. I believe this will build character.
  • Do you speak, read, and write Korean? Yeah, I can also type in Korean without looking. When I was about 10 I visited Korea and I guess my grandparents didn’t know what to do with my brother and I so they sent us to computer classes where all we did was learn how to type in English and Korean. I type 144 wpm in English and Korean ahahah. My Korean grammar isn’t the best, but I do what I can!
  • Give us a fun fact about yourself. I lived with three guys, before I moved to LA. You know that upcoming show with Zooey Deschanel? New Girl? Story of my life. PRETTY MUCH. Shout out to “Maria’s” Love and miss you all.
  • Funner fact. When I was younger, whenever I went to Disneyland (I lived in the Bay Area, so going to Disneyland was a big deal for me), I would sing while walking around because I thought I would get discovered and be asked to sing in the next Disney classic! Didn’t happen though. I suppose Hollywood doesn’t quite work like that.

OA: Walk us through a day in the life of Jennifer J. Chung.

JC: Well, my life’s about to change because I just stopped working at the restaurant that I was working in before. But back then, I would usually go running for half an hour, get ready for work from eleven to four, come home, maybe eat something, then if I had time I would try to make a quick Youtube video for fun. Travel to perform on the weekends. However, during the past seven months, we’ve just been cranking out the album to make sure things are on schedule.

OA: Through social media outlets, you appear to be very open and have a very public online life since 2007. Do you feel your fans have grown along with you? Have there been instances where a fan has come up to you and commented on something that you updated right away?

JC: Definitely! Me being really public about my music and who I am has been helpful in the sense that I’m really honest with people, so before they meet me they can have a good grasp of who I am and what I’m like. When you go on stage, you usually have a set time out, so that’s all you can show them; whereas, on your own channel, you can show them whatever you want, and you have that freedom. I really love Twitter because it’s my own Google. Whenever I have a question, people just answer immediately. Things have happened where I ask a question about an area I’m in and people will give me recommendations! It’s so helpful and nice how people who don’t know me really are still willing to help me. When I upload a new video, it’s also a conversation a conversation topic my friends and I have.

OA: From high school to college to post graduation, you’ve always managed to get involved with the local community through student organizations, hold down a day job, while pursuing music. Where do you find time for all of this?

JC: I don’t sleep! I mean, I do sleep – actually, when I sleep, I sleep (there are days where I’m just “I’m not going to do anything except recharge!”). But I think surrounding yourself with people who are positive helps too. If I was around people who were negative Nancies all the time, I don’t know how I’d get through the day. But in general, I feel like my friends are all very hardworking people, even though we’re pursuing different industries. I think that’s helpful too, because I’m not always with just musicians. I get inspired by my friends who are going into business, or accounting, or people who do engineering – it encourages me that everyone’s working hard for something that they believe in. That’s why I really loved doing on-campus stuff, because then your peers really support you. I have this CD release show coming up, and there are people from my old job, UC Irvine SPOP group, and my dance team coming to watch me.

OA: Talk about the experience of having your video featured on New York’s Time Square. How did that impact your decision to pursue your music?

JC: I unfortunately didn’t get to go see it! But people sent me pictures of it. It’s kind of surreal because I wasn’t there, but people told me that they saw it. It just seemed crazy being a part of MTV Iggy’s 25 up and coming musicians, I felt like I was actually doing something! However, the moment when I really thought that if you put your mind to it, you could do it, was when I won the BroadwayWorld.com contest. They flew me out to New York, I got to stay at the Marriot Marquis, watched The Little Mermaid musical from the best seats in the house, went to the recording studio and meet Alan Menken (who writes all the music for the Disney Movies), and meet the cast. And why did I get to be there? Because I sang a song that I loved (Part of Your World), and people voted for me. I recorded that in the dorm rooms at UCI, and wore an I <3 New York shirt even though I’d never been there. I got to do all that because I was blessed with the right people and the right influences.

OA: Who are you listening to?

JC: Beyonce. Jason Mraz. Brook Fraser. India Arie. Sara Bareilles I’ve been listening to a lot of Laidback Luke, Deadmau5, Kaskade, & Calvin Harris lately. Honestly, I’m all up about Beyonce right now. She’s just a powerhouse performer. In her Experience tour, she sings a song called “Flaws and All”. It’s live taping, you know? And when they zoom in on her face, you could see a teardrop fall when she sings that song. That’s just how devoted she is. It’s so genuine. I want to be that in sync with my music and my audience, too. I listened to it over and over. When I love a song, I listen to it until I get sick of it. My friends get so annoyed haha.

OA: Given you were always surrounded by performance arts, and you were doing talent shows, jazz bands, musical theater, drama in college – what caused a snowball effect of being immersed in the arts, and out of all of these different performances, why did you choose singing?

JC: Well, I grew up mainly dancing. My mom brought me up on her own after my parents split and dancing was just part of life.. Even though I loved to dance, it wasn’t something I was passionate enough about. I felt like singing was my own thing – I had my own identity, instead of just following under my mom’s footsteps. My mom was actually a modern dance major, so she would choreograph to all types of modern music like Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, etc. I would listen to those songs and fall in love with them. I would listen to Mariah Carey and repeat the riffs she was doing and see if I could do it. Something that I’ve recently been embracing is that my voice is an instrument. I didn’t have the financial means in my family to take voice lessons, or a piano or guitar lessons – I wish I did, but I was still able to pick up things with my voice. I think that’s why stylistically, I am able to embrace other genres and sing musical theater, where every consonant and vowel is emphasized. I can also sing R&B, and do some riffs and trills; I can sing jazz; I can sing regular pop, and even singer-songwriter acoustic stuff. There’s different styles, but it’s just something I’ve been cultivating for a long time. It’s not even because I want to be a jack of all trades – it’s just because I love music that much. Why limit yourself? Obviously, there are things that I gravitate towards more. That’s why my album is soulful pop. The core of the songs came from an acoustic feel since that’s the instrument we used to start building the songs, but there are some times where I get nitty gritty soulful in my songs, and I love that musical freedom I have.

OA: In an older interview, you’ve talked about your experience with writing your first original, and you started the song and finished it because your friends encouraged you to share the song. How’s the songwriting process nowadays?

JC: When I think about the time I was writing my first song, I was scared to share it. But now, when I have an idea, I just have to write it down. If I’m influenced by something, or if I have a melody in my head, I have to write it. I record my melody on my phone or whatever tape recorder I have because when you hear a certain tone to a song, even to an instrumental, it automatically makes you feel a certain emotion. So when I hear a melody in my head, I start writing down how I feel. That’s kind of how it trails off.

OA: You have a few upbeat songs, but typically you are known for having really sad-girl lyrics. Where do you draw the inspiration for these sad, emotional songs, and what motivates you to keep smiling?

JC: Personal experience, whether it’s getting my heart broken, or being there for my friends who have gotten their hearts broken. I feel like people are able to relate to it because we all go through relationships. Even if it’s not a romantic relationship; family-life & friendships can be very intense, too, especially when both people are very devoted to each other. I think the reason I am able to smile is because first of all, songwriting and singing is very therapeutic in itself. It’s an expression of how I’m feeling. Instead of bottling up inside, I have a medium to let it out. I also find it gratifying when people tell me that they know exactly what I’m going through, or they say, “Your song really spoke to me, because I’m going through this,” and when people tell me that, that’s the best thing anyone can hear. One of my old songs, You Won, I wrote about someone I had been seeing back in college. But a fan had messaged me and told me that they loved the song because it reminded them of their husband that had left recently, and that they prayed everyday that they would come back. People can interpret my songs and put it into their own situation. I think that’s the most beautiful thing. You could capture a picture, but someone else could see something so different – and that’s how it is with music. Even today, I was sharing that someone tweeted me their rendition of my old song, Almost… even the way they sing it and play it is a little different. I think it’s because they hear it differently. I think that’s beautiful. I’m also able to smile because these experiences, this heartache, it’s all worth it because you’re growing from it. In a sense, you’re moving on when you get to express the situation that you’re in, because the song will end.

OA: Congratulations on your debut album, “4 Years & Counting,” being released soon. Can you walk us through the process of putting the album together in terms of picking the songs, building the team behind it, and in general putting the whole package together?

JC: Picking my team was important because these are the people that are going to have to put their heart, mind and love into this project. Hopefully, they’ll be as passionate about it as I am because they’re my songs. The musicians I worked with were people who were down for the cause: TO SPREAD THE JEN CHUNG MUSIC. They are not only talented, but they gave up so much of their time to help me out. I just knew that I wanted to have a variety of musical styles, just so that when I meshed the soul and the singer-songwriter-ness to it, and the pop, that it was still a mixture of eclectic sounds. I didn’t want it to be just one certain way, because that’s not how my songs are themselves. Deciding what songs we were going to do – well, I’ve had an EP before, so we took a couple songs from there and redid them for this album, because a lot of people enjoy those songs, and I wanted to have a new take on it. So the people who have my EP, they’re the only ones who’ll ever have it, because I took it off of iTunes, and I’m not reprinting the EP anymore. So they’ll get to hear how different it is, but still have the same core. There’s twelve songs. Originally we were going to have just ten, and then we were like, “One more song!” and then I ended up writing a song with Travis Graham from New Heights, and the song was just so easy to write, and fun, and we had to put it onto the album, even though nobody knows it yet, but I think that’ll be fun for my fans who haven’t heard the tune.

OA: Going back to the building the team part – can you elaborate more on that?

JC: In general, I don’t really perform with a band, so it was really awesome asking these musicians to make my songs fuller. Having someone play electric guitar the way Mike plays is crazy, and Johnny and Ben both got to play acoustic guitar, and they’re both unique in their own way, but it was nice to have that variety. Leo B. is an amazing bassist, and I really learned the importance of having bass during this process. BK played the keys – I’ve always loved his attitude. He has always been someone who encouraged me about my vocal capabilities, and I really felt like he could be that push – someone who could hear my voice and complement it with his piano skills. Steve and Daniel, both from Feats in Inches, they worked on Clara’s album, they’re friends of mine too, and they’re so great at what they do! They’re meticulous, and really good at being specific, and listening.

OA: Can we expect Broadway and Disney movies and such from you in the future?

JC: I really hope that one day I can do musical! I just don’t have an agent right now because I haven’t tried getting one yet due to my schedule. At random times, I find out about a gig, whether I have to go to Florida or New York or Boston… that’s something I can’t give up right now. But eventually, I’d love to get an agent and try out acting in a way, too, because that’s what I studied in college, and I did musical theater in high school. I love Disney – that’s what inspired me to do musicals in the first place. I would love the opportunity.

OA: You have been involved with a number of shows revolving around the Asian American community such as: BHere, International Secret Agents (ISA), Kollaboration, etc. and in the upcoming feature documentary Uploaded: The Asian American Movement you stated that “I didn’t have that many Asian Americans to look up to –musically. I mean there were some actors and actresses, but musically not so much.” How has your involvement in this community supported you? How would you like to be a role model towards the younger generation?

JC: I have a younger brother – it was just me, my mom, and my brother – so I always wanted to be a good influence on him. Ultimately, I’ve always stayed out of trouble, and in the end, it helped me a lot, because I focused on the right things. Putting myself out there, I did realize earlier on that I have a responsibility because people did tell me that I inspire them, or that my music has helped them. When you put yourself out there, people look at you in a different way. We’re kind of under a microscope. I don’t consider myself a celebrity, but I do consider myself an artist who is pursuing the arts. I do have supporters. But when I do have supporters, people are watching you – they’re seeing what you do, so the things that you do has an effect on them, too, whether it’s their conceptions of you or things like that. There are rumors about all of us that are on YouTube, good or bad. Unfortunately, I can’t always walk around with a smile on my face, and it’s hard to stay positive all the time. My music shows that I can be a broken person, I have gone through stuff, but I do it in a way that I can positively move forward, by using it for good. I hope that my fans recognize that, too. At the end of the day, in our life we try to work on being better people. I am a flawed human being, but I want to better myself, and we should all strive to better ourselves. If I don’t seem like a perfect person, that’s okay – but as long as I’m trying to go about things the right way, hopefully that will come through to people.


OA: Do you see a change in the presence of Asian Americans musically, given the support you’ve received?

JC: For sure. I really didn’t have anyone I could look up to as a musician in America, and it doesn’t seem like a foreign concept anymore to people, that Asian Americans can go on stage and sing their songs or make their films and act. What’s cool is when people cover my songs, and they’re not necessarily Asian American. You know how I’m talking to you about Beyonce a lot? Her Beyonce I Am tour DVD basically is clips from every tour stop that she did, and she compiles it together – she’s in Milan, she’s in Japan, she’s in Paris, all these random places – and they don’t all exactly speak English. Her music is the universal language. They don’t understand everything, and if she were to sit in a room with them, they probably can’t all have a conversation with her, but they are spending time with her when she’s performing. I want to do that.

OA: What does being Korean American mean to you, and how strongly do you identify with your background?

JC: Korean American means that I am of Korean descent and heritage, but I have also grown up in America. To be Korean American, or Asian American in general, you have to have cultivated your culture in your home.  For me, it was being Korean – learning how to speak Korean, knowing how to interact with other Koreans, learning about manners and respect, traditional things. With American culture, too, simple things like knowing how to say bless you after you sneeze. In Korean, you don’t bless someone if they sneeze. To be someone who is meshed with multiple cultures can be tough. I think it’s a tough responsibility because you gotta go back and forth with principles depending on your circumstance. I feel like it can actually make people grow more, to not just be one thing. I’m Korean, and I embrace it because it was my first language. My mom and I came here to America when I was thirteen months old, but my mom couldn’t really speak English so I was an interpreter. From the get-go, I just had to learn how to speak English and speak Korean, and be able to interpret everything to my mom. I think at a younger age, I was just learning how to be a chameleon. It’s not that I’m not being myself, but you have to be able to adapt to different situations. I think that’s also helped me a lot as a performer, too, because you have to go in and out of certain feelings since I have fans/supporters of all different ages and ethnicities. Obviously, everyone’s different, but ultimately you have to treat everyone with respect.

OA: Do you feel that YouTube is still a good outlet?

JC: It’s tough because I know that right now, there is a formula that everyone talks about to be a success on YouTube. I would say I was one of the luckier ones who just happened to post videos for a long time. There wasn’t a formula back then but I have accrued a great support system during my span of posting. It’s been 4 years.. When I moved from Millbrae to San Jose, my friends old friends wanted to still hear me sing, so I started posting up videos. I think it’s great to do YouTube because it’s an archive for me, it’s a yearbook that I can look back on and remember where I was at that time. At the same time, for artists who want to be up and coming, why not post your stuff? If it’s for the love of it, why not share what you love and do it? But I’m a little fickle about people who literally just say, “I want to do YouTube because I want to be famous” because I feel like there has to be more to it.

OA: Looking back, how have you grown as an artist? What do you feel like you have accomplished in the past four years, and what are the biggest lessons you’ve learned?

JC: Four years and counting, huh? I definitely have learned to really embrace my voice and knowing that I have my own path. There are so many artists and talented people that I’m surrounded by, but I can’t belittle myself, because I don’t think I could have come this far if I had nothing to offer. I think everyone should look at it that way. There are so many singers, but there is only one Jennifer Chung. There are so many singers, but there’s only one Kina Grannis. There’s only one David Choi. We all love to sing, we all love to perform, but we’re all different, and I think that’s what’s fun. Even in my iPod, there are so many different musicians that I listen to. Just embracing my own path and seeing where it takes me… I’ve gone through three different managers, and it’s been a learning process, learning what decisions to make, who to trust, who to work with, and not letting it beat you down. I’ve hustled, too, in terms of working my part time jobs, and really workings towards it. It wasn’t just handed to me on a silver platter. Still now, I have great opportunities. I have my album coming out, but I don’t know how it’s gonna do. But I do know that people support me, and people are going to take the time to listen to it. I know because people have been pre-ordering it. Some people I do know. Some people I don’t know. How much happier can I get, to know that someone believes in me enough to pre-order something?

OA: How is all this traveling affecting you musically and creatively? What are you expecting to get out of moving to Los Angeles?

JC: Traveling is definitely an eye-opener. I think people need to travel, because you have to realize how small you really are. You’re just one little speck of dust in this huge, huge world. But what are you going to do about it? How are you going to make your mark in this world? I grew up in small, suburban areas – even Irvine’s like a big bubble! – but I knew I had to come to LA for my music and try it out. There’s a lot of producers here, and there’s a lot of musicians that I’d love to collaborate with now that I’m nearby. We’ll see. For example, DJ Peter Rocks, he’s a good friend of mine. I’m looking forward to collaborating with him more. I always felt like that was the barrier, me always having to travel so far, from Irvine to LA with the crazy traffic. I feel like I always have stories to tell, and I’m constantly having to challenge myself. I think it’s good that I’m kind of a gypsy, even though I’m such a homebody, being able to adapt and make some places your home because home is where the heart is.

OA: Words of wisdom for anyone trying to pursue their passion.

JC: You really have to appreciate yourself for your individuality. Don’t look at other artists and think, “Oh, I have to be like this.” You have to look at yourself and think, “What do I want to be?” I feel like everyone should give themselves a self-check. Do you want to be a good person? Then work on being a good person, and work hard on it. Know that the fact that you’re different is beautiful, and you’re going to offer something that no one else can offer. Embrace it while you pursue the career that you’re going for. It’ll take you a long way. People will remember you because you’re not just everyone else. There’s only one!

Interview by Melly Lee
Photography by Melly Lee

Transcribed by Yvonne Law

OA: How to stalk Jennifer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jenniferjchung
YouTube: www.youtube.com/jenniferjchung
YouTube (Vlogs): www.youtube.com/jenchungenjoyslife
Twitter: www.twitter.com/jenniferjchung
Tumblr: www.jenniferjchung.tumblr.com
Album Preorders: www.jenniferjchung.bigcartel.com

***Don’t Forget to Check out Jennifer Chung’s Album Release Show at Hotel Cafe on Saturday, September 10! For more info, click here: Jennifer Chung Album Release Show***

Fun Facts:

  • What takes up most of your time right now? Moving from Irvine to LA. Packing and unpacking, packing and unpacking, organizing and cleaning.
  • Guilty pleasure? I really enjoy watching Switched At Birth on ABC Family.. and Pretty Little Liars… if you figure out who “A” is on the TV show and tell me… I’ll buy you a cookie and hug you forever.
  • Favorite song to sing in the car? “Love On Top” by Beyonce. Her whole “4” album is money.
  • Relationship status? “ALL THE SINGLE LADIES! Now put your hands up!”
  • What would you look for in a guy? Honestly, from physical attributes? The smile is the biggest thing. I feel like you can tell a lot about a person when they smile. Even friends. But they would genuinely have to be kind-hearted. I love nice guys – nice guys who know what they want and will work hard to get it.. not the passive ones. I know Wong Fu and them joke around that nice guys finish last and stuff, but in my book they’re number one.
  • Pet peeve? There’s a lot. The biggest pet peeve? I hate it when people write on their hands. I just would never write on my hand. Some people like to write designs, reminders, notes on their hands and stuff – it’s funny because I have a tattoo, but I think that’s different because it literally becomes a part of you. But when people write on their hands and do face paint and stuff, it’s overwhelming. Weird, right? haha
  • Favorite color? I’ve always loved the color green, but right now, to be specific, it would be mint/neon-ish green.
  • Go-to dessert? Urth Caffe’s Matcha Blended Green Tea with Boba. yummay!
  • Favorite ride at Disneyland? Space Mountain. And Thunder Mountain Railroad. And Screamin’. Okay that’s more than one.. but Disneyland is just that awesome.
  • Why number eight? There was a time in my life where something had happened and I was just listening to this song over and over again that lifted me up from wherever I was. It just happened to be track number eight. From then on, I noticed that an album’s track number eight is always really good.
  • What kind of car do you drive? A white one with a ghetto trunk in which I must manually use my key to open the trunk. I believe this will build character.
  • Do you speak, read, and write Korean? Yeah, I can also type in Korean without looking. When I was about 10 I visited Korea and I guess my grandparents didn’t know what to do with my brother and I so they sent us to computer classes where all we did was learn how to type in English and Korean. I type 144 wpm in English and Korean ahahah. My Korean grammar isn’t the best, but I do what I can!
  • Give us a fun fact about yourself. I lived with three guys, before I moved to LA. You know that upcoming show with Zooey Deschanel? New Girl? Story of my life. PRETTY MUCH. Shout out to “Maria’s” Love and miss you all.
  • Funner fact. When I was younger, whenever I went to Disneyland (I lived in the Bay Area, so going to Disneyland was a big deal for me), I would sing while walking around because I thought I would get discovered and be asked to sing in the next Disney classic! Didn’t happen though. I suppose Hollywood doesn’t quite work like that.

OA: Walk us through a day in the life of Jennifer J. Chung.
JC: Well, my life’s about to change because I just stopped working at the restaurant that I was working in before. But back then, I would usually go running for half an hour, get ready for work from eleven to four, come home, maybe eat something, then if I had time I would try to make a quick Youtube video for fun. Travel to perform on the weekends. However, during the past seven months, we’ve just been cranking out the album to make sure things are on schedule.

OA: Through social media outlets, you appear to be very open and have a very public online life since 2007. Do you feel your fans have grown along with you? Have there been instances where a fan has come up to you and commented on something that you updated right away?
JC: Definitely! Me being really public about my music and who I am has been helpful in the sense that I’m really honest with people, so before they meet me they can have a good grasp of who I am and what I’m like. When you go on stage, you usually have a set time out, so that’s all you can show them; whereas, on your own channel, you can show them whatever you want, and you have that freedom. I really love Twitter because it’s my own Google. Whenever I have a question, people just answer immediately. Things have happened where I ask a question about an area I’m in and people will give me recommendations! It’s so helpful and nice how people who don’t know me really are still willing to help me. When I upload a new video, it’s also a conversation a conversation topic my friends and I have.

OA: From high school to college to post graduation, you’ve always managed to get involved with the local community through student organizations, hold down a day job, while pursuing music. Where do you find time for all of this?
JC: I don’t sleep! I mean, I do sleep – actually, when I sleep, I sleep (there are days where I’m just “I’m not going to do anything except recharge!”). But I think surrounding yourself with people who are positive helps too. If I was around people who were negative Nancies all the time, I don’t know how I’d get through the day. But in general, I feel like my friends are all very hardworking people, even though we’re pursuing different industries. I think that’s helpful too, because I’m not always with just musicians. I get inspired by my friends who are going into business, or accounting, or people who do engineering – it encourages me that everyone’s working hard for something that they believe in. That’s why I really loved doing on-campus stuff, because then your peers really support you. I have this CD release show coming up, and there are people from my old job, UC Irvine SPOP group, and my dance team coming to watch me.

OA: Talk about the experience of having your video featured on New York’s Time Square. How did that impact your decision to pursue your music?
JC: I unfortunately didn’t get to go see it! But people sent me pictures of it. It’s kind of surreal because I wasn’t there, but people told me that they saw it. It just seemed crazy being a part of MTV’s 25 up and coming musicians, I felt like I was actually doing something! However, the moment when I really thought that if you put your mind to it, you could do it, was when I won the BroadwayWorld.com contest. They flew me out to New York, I got to stay at the Marriot Marquis, watched The Little Mermaid musical from the best seats in the house, went to the recording studio and meet Alan Menken (who writes all the music for the Disney Movies), and meet the cast. And why did I get to be there? Because I sang a song that I loved (Part of Your World), and people voted for me. I recorded that in the dorm rooms at UCI, and wore a I ? New York shirt even though I’d never been there. I got to do all that because I was blessed with the right people and the right influences.

OA: Who are you listening to?
JC: Beyonce. Jason Mraz. Brook Fraser. India Arie. Sara Bareilles I’ve been listening to a lot of Laidback Luke, Deadmau5, Kaskade, & Calvin Harris lately. Honestly, I’m all up about Beyonce right now. She’s just a powerhouse performer. In her Experience tour, she sings a song called “Flaws and All”. It’s live taping, you know? And when they zoom in on her face, you could see a teardrop fall when she sings that song. That’s just how devoted she is. It’s so genuine. I want to be that in sync with my music and my audience, too. I listened to it over and over. When I love a song, I listen to it until I get sick of it. My friends get so annoyed haha.

OA: Given you were always surrounded by performance arts, and you were doing talent shows, jazz bands, musical theater, drama in college – what caused a snowball effect of being immersed in the arts, and out of all of these different performances, why did you choose singing?
JC: Well, I grew up mainly dancing. My mom brought me up on her own after my parents split and dancing was just part of life.. Even though I loved to dance, it wasn’t something I was passionate enough about. I felt like singing was my own thing – I had my own identity, instead of just following under my mom’s footsteps. My mom was actually a modern dance major, so she would choreoraph to all types of modern music like Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, etc. I would listen to those songs and fall in love with them. I would listen to Mariah Carey and repeat the riffs she was doing and see if I could do it. Something that I’ve recently been embracing is that my voice is an instrument. I didn’t have the financial means in my family to take voice lessons, or a piano or guitar lessons – I wish I did, but I was still able to pick up things with my voice. I think that’s why stylistically, I am able to embrace other genres and sing musical theatre, where every consonant and vowel is emphasized. I can also sing R&B, and do some riffs and trills; I can sing jazz; I can sing regular pop, and even singer-songwriter acoustic stuff. There’s different styles, but it’s just something I’ve been cultivating for a long time. It’s not even because I want to be a jack of all trades – it’s just because I love music that much. Why limit yourself? Obviously, there are things that I gravitate towards more. That’s why my album is soulful pop. The core of the songs came from an acoustic feel since that’s the instrument we used to start building the songs, but there are some times where I get nitty gritty soulful in my songs, and I love that musical freedom I have.

OA: In an older interview, you’ve talked about your experience with writing your first original, and you started the song and finished it because your friends encouraged you to share the song. How’s the songwriting process nowadays?
JC: When I think about the time I was writing my first song, I was scared to share it. But now, when I have an idea, I just have to write it down. If I’m influenced by something, or if I have a melody in my head, I have to write it. I record my melody on my phone or whatever tape recorder I have because when you hear a certain tone to a song, even to an instrumental, it automatically makes you feel a certain emotion. So when I hear a melody in my head, I start writing down how I feel. That’s kind of how it trails off.

OA: You have a few upbeat songs, but typically you are known for having really sad-girl lyrics. Where do you draw the inspiration for these sad, emotional songs, and what motivates you to keep smiling?
JC: Personal experience, whether it’s getting my heart broken, or being there for my friends who have gotten their hearts broken. I feel like people are able to relate to it because we all go through relationships. Even if it’s not a romantic relationship; family-life & friendships can be very intense, too, especially when both people are very devoted to each other. I think the reason I am able to smile is because first of all, songwriting and singing is very therapeutic in itself. It’s an expression of how I’m feeling. Instead of bottling up inside, I have a medium to let it out. I also find it gratifying when people tell me that they know exactly what I’m going through, or they say, “Your song really spoke to me, because I’m going through this,” and when people tell me that, that’s the best thing anyone can hear. One of my old songs, You Won, I wrote about someone I had been seeing back in college. But a fan had messaged me and told me that they loved the song because it reminded them of their husband that had left recently, and that they prayed everyday that they would come back. People can interpret my songs and put it into their own situation. I think that’s the most beautiful thing. You could capture a picture, but someone else could see something so different – and that’s how it is with music. Even today, I was sharing that someone tweeted me their rendition of my old song, Almost… even the way they sing it and play it is a little different. I think it’s because they hear it differently. I think that’s beautiful. I’m also able to smile because these experiences, this heartache, it’s all worth it because you’re growing from it. In a sense, you’re moving on when you get to express the situation that you’re in, because the song will end.

OA: How did you pick your team?
JC: Picking my team was important because these are the people that are going to have to put their heart, mind and love into this project. Hopefully, they’ll be as passionate about it as I am because they’re my songs. The musicians I worked with were people who were down for the cause: TO SPREAD THE JEN CHUNG MUSIC. They are not only talented, but they gave up so much of their time to help me out. I just knew that I wanted to have a variety of musical styles, just so that when I meshed the soul and the singer-songwriter-ness to it, and the pop, that it was still a mixture of eclectic sounds. I didn’t want it to be just one certain way, because that’s not how my songs are themselves. Deciding what songs we were going to do – well, I’ve had an EP before, so we took a couple songs from there and redid them for this album, because a lot of people enjoy those songs, and I wanted to have a new take on it. So the people who have my EP, they’re the only ones who’ll ever have it, because I took it off of iTunes, and I’m not reprinting the EP anymore. So they’ll get to hear how different it is, but still have the same core. There’s twelve songs. Originally we were going to have just ten, and then we were like, “One more song!” and then I ended up writing a song with Travis Graham from New Heights, and the song was just so easy to write, and fun, and we had to put it onto the album, even though nobody knows it yet, but I think that’ll be fun for my fans who haven’t heard the tune.

OA: Going back to the building the team part – can you elaborate more on that?
JC: In general, I don’t really perform with a band, so it was really awesome asking these musicians to make my songs fuller. Having someone play electric guitar the way Mike plays is crazy, and Johnny and Ben both got to play acoustic guitar, and they’re both unique in their own way, but it was nice to have that variety. Leo B. is an amazing bassist, and I really learned the importance of having bass during this process. BK played the keys – I’ve always loved his attitude. He has always been someone who encouraged me about my vocal capabilities, and I really felt like he could be that push – someone who could hear my voice and complement it with his piano skills. Steve and Daniel, both from Feats in Inches, they worked on Clara’s album, they’re friends of mine too, and they’re so great at what they do! They’re meticulous, and really good at being specific, and listening.

OA: Can we expect Broadway and Disney movies and such from you in the future?
JC: I really hope that one day I can do musical! I just don’t have an agent right now because I haven’t tried getting one yet due to my schedule. At random times, I find out about a gig, whether I have to go to Florida or New York or Boston… that’s something I can’t give up right now. But eventually, I’d love to get an agent and try out acting in a way, too, because that’s what I studied in college, and I did musical theater in high school. I love Disney – that’s what inspired me to do musicals in the first place. I would love the opportunity.

OA: Being involved with all these Asian American shows, how has the support been from that community? How would you like to be a role model towards the younger generation?
JC: I have a younger brother – it was just me, my mom, and my brother – so I always wanted to be a good influence on him. Ultimately, I’ve always stayed out of trouble, and in the end, it helped me a lot, because I focused on the right things. Putting myself out there, I did realize earlier on that I have a responsibility because people did tell me that I inspire them, or that my music has helped them. When you put yourself out there, people look at you in a different way. We’re kind of under a microscope. I don’t consider myself a celebrity, but I do consider myself an artist who is pursuing the arts. I do have supporters. But when I do have supporters, people are watching you – they’re seeing what you do, so the things that you do has an effect on them, too, whether it’s their conceptions of you or things like that. There are rumors about all of us that are on YouTube, good or bad. Unfortunately, I can’t always walk around with a smile on my face, and it’s hard to stay positive all the time. My music shows that I can be a broken person, I have gone through stuff, but I do it in a way that I can positively move forward, by using it for good. I hope that my fans recognize that, too. At the end of the day, in our life we try to work on being better people. I am a flawed human being, but I want to better myself, and we should all strive to better ourselves. If I don’t seem like a perfect person, that’s okay – but as long as I’m trying to go about things the right way, hopefully that will come through to people.

OA: Do you see a change in the presence of Asian Americans musically, given the support you’ve received?
JC: For sure. I really didn’t have anyone I could look up to as a musician in America, and it doesn’t seem like a foreign concept anymore to people, that Asian Americans can go on stage and sing their songs or make their films and act. What’s cool is when people cover my songs, and they’re not necessarily Asian American. You know how I’m talking to you about Beyonce a lot? Her Beyonce I Am tour DVD basically is clips from every tour stop that she did, and she compiles it together – she’s in Milan, she’s in Japan, she’s in Paris, all these random places – and they don’t all exactly speak English. Her music is the universal language. They don’t understand everything, and if she were to sit in a room with them, they probably can’t all have a conversation with her, but they are spending time with her when she’s performing. I want to do that.

OA: What does being Korean American mean to you, and how strongly do you identify with your background?
JC: Korean American means that I am of Korean descent and heritage, but I have also grown up in America. To be Korean American, or Asian American in general, you have to have cultivated your culture in your home.  For me, it was being Korean – learning how to speak Korean, knowing how to interact with other Koreans, learning about manners and respect, traditional things. With American culture, too, simple things like knowing how to say bless you after you sneeze. In Korean, you don’t bless someone if they sneeze. To be someone who is meshed with multiple cultures can be tough. I think it’s a tough responsibility because you gotta go back and forth with principles depending on your circumstance. I feel like it can actually make people grow more, to not just be one thing. I’m Korean, and I embrace it because it was my first language. My mom and I came here to America when I was thirteen months old, but my mom couldn’t really speak English so I was an interpreter. From the get-go, I just had to learn how to speak English and speak Korean, and be able to interpret everything to my mom. I think at a younger age, I was just learning how to be a chameleon. It’s not that I’m not being myself, but you have to be able to adapt to different situations. I think that’s also helped me a lot as a performer, too, because you have to go in and out of certain feelings since I have fans/supporters of all different ages and ethnicities. Obviously, everyone’s different, but ultimately you have to treat everyone with respect.

OA: Do you feel that YouTube is still a good outlet?
JC: It’s tough because I know that right now, there is a formula that everyone talks about to be a success on YouTube. I would say I was one of the luckier ones who just happened to post videos for a long time. There wasn’t a formula back then but I have accrued a great support system during my span of posting. It’s been 4 years.. When I moved from Millbrae to San Jose, my friends old friends wanted to still hear me sing, so I started posting up videos. I think it’s great to do YouTube because it’s an archive for me, it’s a yearbook that I can look back on and remember where I was at that time. At the same time, for artists who want to be up and coming, why not post your stuff? If it’s for the love of it, why not share what you love and do it? But I’m a little fickle about people who literally just say, “I want to do YouTube because I want to be famous” because I feel like there has to be more to it.

OA: Looking back, how have you grown as an artist? What do you feel like you have accomplished in the past four years, and what are the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
JC: Four years and counting, huh? I definitely have learned to really embrace my voice and knowing that I have my own path. There are so many artists and talented people that I’m surrounded by, but I can’t belittle myself, because I don’t think I could have come this far if I had nothing to offer. I think everyone should look at it that way. There are so many singers, but there is only one Jennifer Chung. There are so many singers, but there’s only one Kina Grannis. There’s only one David Choi. We all love to sing, we all love to perform, but we’re all different, and I think that’s what’s fun. Even in my iPod, there are so many different musicians that I listen to. Just embracing my own path and seeing where it takes me… I’ve gone through three different managers, and it’s been a learning process, learning what decisions to make, who to trust, who to work with, and not letting it beat you down. I’ve hustled, too, in terms of working my part time jobs, and really workings towards it. It wasn’t just handed to me on a silver platter. Still now, I have great opportunities. I have my album coming out, but I don’t know how it’s gonna do. But I do know that people support me, and people are going to take the time to listen to it. I know because people have been pre-ordering it. Some people I do know. Some people I don’t know. How much happier can I get, to know that someone believes in me enough to pre-order something?

OA: How is all this traveling affecting you musically and creatively? What are you expecting to get out of moving to Los Angeles?
JC: Traveling is definitely an eye-opener. I think people need to travel, because you have to realize how small you really are. You’re just one little speck of dust in this huge, huge world. But what are you going to do about it? How are you going to make your mark in this world? I grew up in small, suburbian areas – even Irvine’s like a big bubble! – but I knew I had to come to LA for my music and try it out. There’s a lot of producers here, and there’s a lot of musicians that I’d love to collab with now that I’m nearby. We’ll see. For example, DJ Peter Rocks, he’s a good friend of mine. I’m looking forward to collaborating with him more. I always felt like that was the barrier, me always having to travel so far, from Irvine to LA with the crazy traffic. I feel like I always have stories to tell, and I’m constantly having to challenge myself. I think it’s good that I’m kind of a gypsy, even though I’m such a homebody, being able to adapt and make some places your home because home is where the heart is.

OA: Words of wisdom for anyone trying to pursue their passion.
JC: You really have to appreciate yourself for your individuality. Don’t look at other artists and think, “Oh, I have to be like this.” You have to look at yourself and think, “What do I want to be?” I feel like everyone should give themselves a self-check. Do you want to be a good person? Then work on being a good person, and work hard on it. Know that the fact that you’re different is beautiful, and you’re going to offer something that no one else can offer. Embrace it while you pursue the career that you’re going for. It’ll take you a long way. People will remember you because you’re not just everyone else. There’s only one!
OA: How can we stalk you online?
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jenniferjchung
YouTube: www.youtube.com/jenniferjchung
YouTube (Vlogs): www.youtube.com/jenchungenjoyslife
Twitter: www.twitter.com/jenniferjchung
Tumblr: www.jenniferjchung.tumblr.com
Album Preorders: www.jenniferjchung.bigcartel.com
CD Release Show Ticket Link: www.hotelcafe.com/tickets/?s=events_view&id=1075

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