How did the vision for "Bali" come about?
This track came from a jam session from my last album The Sailor with me and Bēkon and the Donuts, who did a lot of Sailor production. I really liked the reggae tone with the guitar and the synths, so I wanted to make a whole song out of it. We did so many different versions of this song, I added the drums and we ended up with the most feel-good song ever. With the whole "Bali" metaphor -- Bali is an island in Indonesia, it's a very touristy area and very beautiful -- people go there to experience nature, surfing, night life, just paradise for a few days. Every time I've gone there it's been a lot of fun. Not every song has to have a super-deep meaning, but with every song I'm trying to let people get to know me. Even if this is a really feel-good song, you listen to it and you're getting to know who I am. I really wanted to put that into the verses.
How did Guapdad 4000 get involved in the track?
Guapdad is a really cool person, in general, and I wanted to get him on the song because he has a very versatile voice -- he can do a lot of things, all kinds of different genres. I hit up Guapdad on Twitter, we started texting and I sent him the instrumental. The really cool thing about Guapdad is that he's down to collaborate and take notes, which is really rare; most people just send their parts and it's "take it or leave it." You have to be really careful if you want them to change anything. But with Guap he sent the vocals, he asked what I thought and he took my notes -- it was the easiest collaboration ever really.
Is "Bali" leading to a new album? What have you been up to lately?
I'm trying to be as flexible as I can. Even before the lockdown, I was making a lot of music. Now that everybody's staying inside, I'm working on recording myself and just making as much as I can every day. I'm not currently in the headspace trying to come up with a whole concept album, I'm releasing things as I like. I may come out with a short EP or something, but right now it's all up in the air. Home recording is going well though, I'm learning ProTools which I've never touched before but it's going surprisingly well.
The Sailor saw you collaborating a lot more than your past work. What are you finding while recording on your own?
Collaborating with people is something I'm still getting used to -- I'm used to being so hands on and just doing things myself instead of telling people what I want. But I'm so comfortable working with Bēkon and the Donuts that I didn't make beats for three months because I trusted them completely and I just had to focus on the writing and the vocals. But I think it's great being by myself and getting to experiment. My favorite thing is that you don't have to think as much when you work with other people because you don't want to waste other people's time. But when you're by yourself you can do 500 takes of something, you can think for hours and look for inspiration. I've always felt like I make the best music when I'm in Indonesia because when I go back it's just me in my old bedroom on my laptop. That's where I feel most at peace and not bothered by anything else, and where the experiments and wild new ideas come. So recently I've been noticing little things that wouldn't have came out if I was working with other people. For example, I have a new song that's a ballad -- it's just me singing on the keyboard and I don't do that very much.
While it's tough to predict the future, what are you looking forward to in 2020?
I just hope everybody stays safe. A lot of things we can postpone, and it sucks, but we have to be responsible and do our part in not letting the virus go on any longer. A lot of things are being cancelled but I'm not that upset about it. It's nice to be alone for a while. [Laughs] I learned to cut my own hair a couple days ago, it surprisingly wasn't that bad, and I'm slowly getting back to video editing again which I used to do a lot.
COVID-19 concerns have made this a particularly tough time for Asians and Asian-Americans. Do you have any messages you want readers to know?
We're all just trying to flatten the curve and we're all fighting this together. Just remember that being ignorant is not helping. Make sure to get your facts straight, violence is not the answer, it's pretty basic stuff.