Meet Lexie Liu, The Voice of a Chinese Generation
Lexie Liu doesn’t play by the rules, because for her, there aren’t any—as one of the first modern pop musicians from China establishing a global presence, she’s a trailblazing artist who’s building a sonic legacy in her own right. While she might seem like an overnight hit, the 19-year-old from Southern China has been putting in the work for years, building a sound that is uniquely her own as she comes to understand herself as an artist. 2018 marks a major year for Lexie, signing with label 88rising and joining the ranks of artists like Joji, Rich Brian, and the Higher Brothers. Mixing and meshing Chinese and English in her raps and songs, Lexie Liu is poised to become the face of a generation of new Chinese artists breaking into the American mainstream with a uniquely cross-cultural sound.
On the heels of the release of her lo-fi jam “Sleep Away” and her brand-new, cyberpunk-influenced single “Nada”, read on below to get a glimpse into the artist’s creative process, what it’s like to work with 88rising, and all that’s going on behind the scenes as she finishes up her first record.
How would you describe your sound? What genres or styles influence your music?
My sound is best described as the color dark blue because I’m inspired by visions of the universe, the ocean and the night sky. I’m most inspired by pop, R&B, hip-hop and trip-hop, and you’ll find elements of those genres in my music.
Despite your young age, your music (particularly ‘Sleep Away’) shows off a mature and introspective side. How long have you been making music, and how did you fall in love with the artistic medium?
I’ve been making music for four years and I feel very lucky to be able to do it. I’ve been a music lover since forever, but when I first started, I was dabbling in music just for fun as something to balance my schoolwork in high school. In college, I majored in something unrelated and it didn’t work out for me. That was when I decided to focus on music, because that’s what I always wanted to do. I am emotional, and I have a lot of things to say in my music. I don’t hold back on my feelings and views, especially in my music, because someone else might be able to relate and connect to those same feelings.
Can you describe the modern music scene in China, and what you think makes you different from your contemporaries? Is your music meant for Chinese audiences, audiences abroad, or a mix of both?
In China, people are embracing more genres year by year and they are getting more open-minded about music. There are a lot of young musicians coming up too. For me, as someone brought up by Chinese culture, that identity and perspective will naturally be in my music. But I also include what I’ve learned from western culture into my music, on top of being bilingual in my songwriting.
I always try not to limit myself to a certain genre or field in music, because I know there always possibilities out there for me to explore.
You wrote ‘Sleep Away’ yourself. Can you talk about the creative process behind the amazing single?
Thank you! I wrote “Sleep Away” one fall night while alone at home to tell the universal story of romance and the feelings that come with it. I had millions of visions popping into my head like whales kissing in the ocean or a boat leaning on a shore. I was inspired by elated moments when dopamine takes over.
What has the reception been like for the song? Did you have any expectations or apprehensions before releasing the track?
The reception has been pretty good! In China, people are often listening to it at night and they would share their own love stories and feelings in the comments section of my socials. I anticipated that the Chinese audience would vibe with Sleep Away, because it has a soft and friendly sound that’s familiar in M-Pop. I added my extra spice, of course, and luckily, it all worked out. The warm reception abroad has been a huge surprise to me and my team.
You were once on a reality singing competition in South Korea. How old were you then, and when you look back on that experience, how would you say you’ve changed as an artist?
I was 16 and had just graduated from high school. Ever since I was a kid, I had wanted to be a member of a pop idol group. Even though I knew at the time that it would be more fulfilling for me to focus on creating my own sound as an independent musician, when the show called, I had to jump on the opportunity and live out my childhood dream. It was a chance for me to be adventurous and experience a country that I’ve never been to, where I don’t know the language at all. I changed a lot during those years. I learned to have stronger conviction in order to make quality music, as well as how to clearly express my vision.
What has it been like so far to work with 88rising? How are you influenced or inspired by the other artists working with the label?
It’s been great and I have lots of love in the family. I am very inspired by Higher Brothers. They are coming up in China and they are showing the younger generation, me included, that our stuff can be heard by people across the world if we continue to work hard.
What does it mean to you to be heralded as “China’s next global female superstar”? Do you feel pressures as a rising artist?
It means a lot to me because it’s such a big title and I’m only just getting started. There’s pressure, but I am flattered to hear that there’s people that think I can even be “China’s next global female superstar.” I’m going to work hard and try to live up to it.
You’ve also been very involved in the fashion scene. How would you describe your personal style? What draws you to fashion?
I don’t think my personal style is that special because I prefer cozy and sporty outfits on the daily. Sometimes I get dressed up for editorial shoots, music videos and events and those outfits are not always as comfy. When I take off my heels and lashes I feel relieved in some way. Fashion is a way to self-express and to create identity and sometimes, it does allow me to show another side of me. I enjoy the balance between my cozy-self and a more invincible part of me.
The release of ‘Sleep Away’ hints at the upcoming release of a full-length album. Can you tell me anything about the body of work and what it’s been like to work on it? Are you excited to release it? Generally speaking, when can your fans expect to hear the record?
I’ve been working on the record for a year and a half. It has been a long journey and the project depicts my evolution, as a person going through her life and as a musician diving deeper into the artistic world, within that time. There’ll be personal stories like family and dropping out of college, as well as my experiences as a growing, independent woman-to-be. The project is pretty versatile in sound since I am trying to build my own style. Hopefully, the project will be well received abroad and put my name on the map. It’s coming out at the beginning of 2019 and I am excited to share more about me, my story and the possibilities.
Images courtesy of Lexie Liu
Stay tuned to Milk for more global stars on the rise.