Interview: Singer JJ Lin
Right at the top of our interview in Taipei, JJ Lin – aka Singapore’s hottest male music export over the last decade – drops the bomb. After whipping up hit album after hit album (twelve in total and an average of one per year since 2003, to be precise), he’s breaking all that tradition. “Exactly because an album a year has become such a routine, I decided quite some time ago that I won’t be having a new one this year,” he tells us.
What Lin will be busy with instead: a documentary of his music making journey, including his music production process and tour. With the project, which has been two years in the making, he hopes to “inspire people to work hard for their dreams”. For those who are impatient for new music, the singer-songwriter has just launched his latest single Infinity and Beyond, and promises that there’ll be more projects to be announced. “I’m definitely not taking any breaks soon!” he says.
While on the topic of elaborate productions, JJ Lin’s involvement with a particular hit reality singing competition has been the subject of wide media and fan speculation. After life as a two-time guest on Hunan Television’s popular I Am a Singer show, Lin tells us: “I believe it’s all about prioritizing and going according to my plans at any given time. So far, I’ve only been able to find time for special appearances.”
In fact, so frenetic is his schedule that the Taipei-based star says he plans his trips back to Singapore solely based on “work opportunities” and the Chinese New Year celebrations. And if there’s one thing he misses most about home, it’s the harsh weather. “You might be surprised, but I do miss the sun back home! Somehow, as hot as the weather might be, it’s something familiar and unique to Singapore,” he adds.
Congratulations on your recent double win at the 27th Golden Melody Awards. You’ve picked up countless awards, but how do these ones make you feel?
This album is different because it is an experimental one. In fact, no one has ever done a binaural 3D album for a pop record. So these wins mean a lot for me and my production team.
Surely there isn’t space for all the awards you’ve won?
I make it a point to bring the trophies home for my family. That way, if they miss me, at least there’s a good reminder that I am working hard for my dreams!
What’s the most important thing to you when it comes to writing a song?
I get my inspiration from life events, and real life emotions. I feel that’s crucial when it comes to writing and producing, be it for myself or for others. While lyrics can be often geared towards different purposes or themes, composing melody and music arrangement must always be honest, and reflect your current state of mind.
What would you say has helped you most in preparing you for your incredible career?
I am an introvert, and I used to be quite anti-social as a kid. Being part of the church worship band was my main “training ground”. It helped me get comfortable with speaking and singing in front of the crowd. The main struggle and challenge for me was putting aside that self-consciousness, and serve the bigger purpose of sharing life through music.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve received as a singer?
I consider that to be something I’ve taken from Michael Jackson, that is to “believe in yourself” and your instincts.
What’s on heavy rotation on your iTunes at the moment?
It’s been Adele’s 25 for the past few months. I’ve also been quite impressed by new local talent Gentle Bones – he writes good songs!
What would you say has been the most memorable collaboration for you so far?
My most memorable collaborations must have been with Jason Mraz on “I Am Alive”, and with CNBLUE singer Jung Yong-hwa on “Checkmate”. With each, I co-wrote and co-produced with the respective artistes, which made the process more engaging, personal and fun.
You’ve sung a couple of National Day songs. Do you have a personal favourite one?
It has to be “Count On Me Singapore” by Clement Chou! I grew up singing that song.
You’ve always been known for being quite the streetwear fan. Has your personal style has evolved?
I’ve always been a fan of Japanese streetwear culture. I would say my personal style has always been Military-inspired, with a sporty touch. My current fashion obsession are Goro’s accessories and Hiroshi Fujiwara designs.
Fess up. How much time do you spend on fixing your signature do?
In my own time, I usually just put on a cap and go. When it comes to work, I usually need about 30 minutes to get my hair fixed.
It’s such a big part of your look: would you ever consider changing your hair style?
It has to suit me and the occasion. There have been unique occasions I actually do drastically different looks, like for charity.
If you could spend 24 hours as anyone else, who would you pick?
I’d love to spend a day as Kiki Raikkonen – to have his skills and know how it’s like to be a professional Formula One driver.
What would you consider your biggest achievement to date?
I think that I’ve been fortunate to have worked with the greatest artistes and musicians from different parts of the world. I do look forward to taking that further, and to bring music-making to the next level – to bridge the gap between languages, genres, and even industries.
Photography Shao Ting Kuei
Styling Titien Wang
Hair Peter Wu / Headline Salon Taipei
Grooming Ara Wu / Pretty Cool Taipei
Outfits Prada, Gucci, Dior Homme, Valentino, Fendi, Ermenegildo Zegna Couture, Tod’s, Jimmy Choo, Omega.
This article was first published in Men’s Folio.