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by James Hawkridge

Musician in appearance, Magician in nature.

Music is a craft as much as it is an innate talent. Much like a muscle, it has to be exercised, to be flexed, its strength tested, and boundaries pushed until you reach something phenomenal. Before winning the game, comes the long process of try-outs and relentless practising. For WANYI, every song she releases is a home run.

Released in April, debut single Meet Me Tonight is a firecracker. A sultry, otherworldly banger that will have you inching for the repeat button and for your car keys, as you gear up to ultimately make a move you’ve lacked the confidence for until now. WANYI describes the track as ‘about a girl who’s taking a leap of faith and doing something despite having previous bad experiences. It’s a song about bravery, being positive and uplifting, and I really felt that resonated as the first single, for me’. It can’t be explained explicitly just the scar that Meet Me Tonight will leave in your chest, but I can promise you, it’s a pain you’ll be forever hungry for.

‘I think when we were deciding what would be the first single that song always made me feel really good, and playing it to other people I was always really excited to share that song, and so that was really what was the decision-maker. Showing people ‘this is me now, this is my sound’.’ The track, like all of WANYI’s music, is autobiographical to its core, and MMT is detailed as the moment of courage when introspection resolves to a resounding urge just to feel free, and live. I think she could be magic.

Naturally, the current global climate has left plans a little scattered, but adaptability is a strong suit for any artist, and under the guise of total chaos is a chance for reinvention, and for new skills. Based in Hong Kong with most of her team settled in the U.K., WANYI is no stranger to utilising the internet, but this year has been a new ball game entirely. Mixing sessions through Zoom and co-ordinating photoshoots with a laptop are but some of the hurdles that have had to be jumped, but in every storm, there are rainbows.

‘I have a home studio now, for this next single, the third single that’s coming out, I have vocal produced that whole thing by myself at home, so that’s something cool, I guess it’s cool, is it cool?’. I reassure WANYI this is in fact, very cool, and we delve into the intricacies of upcoming single, the tranquil ‘Our Escape’. It’s a stark comparison to the questioning ‘what if?’ natures of Meet Me Tonight and second single All In. With every single, it feels as if we take further steps in the same romantic journey, with All In the lucid, conscious successor that dips its toes into love further. With Our Escape, we aren’t just testing the waters. We’re diving right into them.

‘I get a lot of inspiration from films. To me, Our Escape is the romantic getaway scene, driving down the highway, you have the wind blowing in your hair, and you’re with your favourite person, that’s the essence of the track’ is how WANYI retells the emotions felt when listening. An optimum time to excel her own skill, the single is a little closer to her heart, because it’s a little more hers. ‘I really enjoyed writing that song. It’s very personal to me because I wrote it myself. The top line, the lyrics and obviously I did the vocal production, so that’s why I feel very attached to this song, in that way. I’m really excited for that one to come out’.

‘It’s a very summery song, whenever I listen to it it feels like outdoors, open-air’. Started in October, Our Escape was mulled for a few months, simmering warmly over the winter months while a verse and the chorus were perfected, before being left to rest until February. Revisited and perfected quite quickly, production soon followed. The entire tracks’ vocals were self-produced in Lockdown, another new trick up WANYI’s sleeve. In her words, ‘we have to do what we have to do in this kind of situation’.

But, this adaptability has been engrained into her heart with a determined education. After applying to study both music and liberal arts, WANYI eventually settled on Berklee College of Music after deservedly earning a scholarship. A budding artist since age 11 this came as a reassuring confidence boost for WANYI and ushered in sighs of relief from her parents. Studying songwriting for three years, WANYI was able to hone music (‘It’s always been my best friend that I’ve always had, and I’ve always been able to find comfort in’) into what it has become today; something truly remarkable.

In between writing and releasing future classics, of course, WANYI has been busy, not least getting to grips with new ways to interact with fans, such as intimate acoustic sets for us on Instagram Live, with anecdotes in-between wherein she can ‘really go into the songwriting and the stories’. ‘I’ve learned that I’m super introverted, actually, and I guess being comfortable with myself. I’m getting really good at Zoom’. All sounds like life skills to us.

But where is the future going for WANYI- well, as much as we can predict or plan these days, which is subject to change? After graduating in 2018 and a spell in Taipei, Taiwan (standard), WANYI plans to reside in Hong Kong for the foreseeable, working towards an EP which she is, naturally, excited about. ‘It’s definitely a body of work. It captures a lot of what I was going through emotionally, like moving back to Asia from the U.S., and kind of being unsure of my place in the world. I think every twenty-something feels that, and so it’s like ‘where do I fit in all of that?’. ‘Who do I like spending time with?’. Those are the kind of questions I feel like a lot of my peers and my friends all experience at this time, so definitely exploring my own place in a reflective way, because I feel like my songwriting is quite reflective and quite candid, and also it’s quite honest, I think’.

Anything else you need to know? Five words, ‘Max Martin is a genius’. When put on the spot for what springs to mind when asked for a ‘perfect pop song’, the answer Into You by Ariana Grande (a favourite artist of hers) is given. Add another two home runs to the final score. As for personal taste overall? ‘I’ve always gone back to pop. I’ve tried a lot of different genres, especially when I was at Berkeley, I tried funk, electronic, even country for a while, I tried almost everything, but I always come back to pop music, it’s just what I grew up listening to, it’s my love, I think’.

As an artist whose trademark of a song is ‘to feel like a diary entry… I like it to feel like I’m writing to someone’, WANYI is remarkably candid, and self-aware. Put, in other words, ‘it’s my songwriting, my story that I’m sharing’… and it shines through. Glossy, polished, and truly remarkable, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything at the moment, in a year, or even five, that is half as inspiring. WANYI has perfected the art of putting into song a mental photograph, of conjuring up raw emotion you never knew existed.

Like I said, pure magic.



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