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Meet Jennifer Hsu of Black Jade in San Gabriel Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Hsu.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in a family that loves and appreciates music, so there was always music playing. I remember Boyz II Men and Brandy during car rides, the Beatles, Elvis, and Jay Chou during weekend karaoke nights with my parents, and Tupac and H.O.T. blasting on the boombox at home. I’m grateful that my family exposed me to so many different styles of music because I appreciate all kinds of music now.

I grew up singing and playing the piano and guitar. In high school, I covered a bunch of songs by The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Libertines—all that indie rock stuff that was big at the time. I’d record 10+ layers of myself singing and playing all the different musical parts. My brother had a copy of FruityLoops on our family computer, so I programmed the drums in there. I wrote some songs at the time, but I kept them to myself because I was too embarrassed to share them. During college, my best friend and I started a dreampop band and wrote a bunch of songs together. We performed two times as that project in LA–the first time we played in the streets of Little Tokyo, and the second time, we got to perform at a cool little jazz bar!

While I was working on my Master’s degree, I learned how to code software synthesizers and audio effects. My friend set me up with a copy of Ableton and taught me the basics of music production. I was terrible at making beats at first, but I got obsessive and practiced every day. I don’t know why, but at the time, I wasn’t writing lyrics or singing over my music. After the Master’s program, I moved down to San Diego for my Ph.D. There, I met some great artists that invited me to join their music collective, Tribe 20:4. They’re like family now. My friends in Tribe encouraged me to start singing and writing over my beats, and most importantly, they’ve made me excited to release my music. These days, I’m back home in LA, producing, writing songs, and singing. I’m pretty much doing exactly what I did when I was a high school student, but this time, instead of keeping my songs locked away on a hard drive, I’m releasing and sharing my music with anyone who would like to listen.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest struggle has been my self-doubt. Is this not good enough? Are these lyrics dumb? Is this chord cheesy sounding? When I show my music to people, it feels like I’m showing them all my insecurities and flaws. At times in the past, the self-doubt has been so strong that I drop fully completed songs and later on, I regret not releasing them. Honestly, it’s still a struggle for me today, but I’ve found that, like anything, the more I practice finishing and releasing music, the easier it gets.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I write, sing and produce dreamy, electronic r&b music. I like incorporating the sounds of East Asian zithers and West African and Latin-inspired percussive elements. I like to think that my music blends multiple genres because of my wide range of musical influences. I’m also an audio software research engineer by day, and that feeds into my music-making process. I’m most proud that I’m doing everything that I love and that I stuck to it even when I doubted myself.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
My friends tell me that I’m thoughtful and considerate, while my mom says that I’m TOO thoughtful and considerate! But I think that is a part of what makes my music special—from each element that I choose to include in a song, to the lyrics and words that I use to tell stories in my lyrics, to the songs that I choose to play when I’m DJing—it all comes from my personality. I feel like music is here to connect people, and I love connecting with people through my music.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Denise Chan, Kazuma Ono

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