Growing up, most of the ethnically Asian kids in my school participated in band or orchestra. We were told things like “it’s good for your brain” and “you’ll need it to get into college.” However, past middle or high school, music and other creative pursuits were often replaced by studies. Careers in music and the arts were often treated unstable and looked down upon. Yet, this still hasn’t stopped a few Asian-American independent music artists from breaking the mold. In recent months, the media company 88 Rising has shaken the music industry with their Asian artists (e.g. Joji Miller, the Higher Brothers, and Rich Chigga), changing the way ethnically Asian musicians are viewed by Americans outside of the KPop idol image.
AN INTERVIEW WITH JERARD LOUIS: INDIE MUSIC ARTIST BY CHRIS STONE (NJ) How do you think being Asian might affect how people perceive your music?
By Ch ris Oliver As an Asian-American, I feel as though my ethnic
09 | YALAMERICA.ORG
background tends to make people stereotype me. “Oh of course you’re good at music, of course you play piano, of course you sing. Asians are supposed to be good at that kind of stuff right?” All of which are things I’ve been told in the past, and I think that in a way these stereotypes diminish all of the work I’ve put into music. I was never naturally talented at music, I used to spend hours working on my guitar playing and on my voice just to be half as good as my peers. How does your Asian heritage influence your style? I would like to say that my Asian heritage influences my music style. However, I don’t entirely believe that it does. Growing up as an Asian American, I’ve been surrounded by both Asian and American music, and, without a doubt, my sound is entirely influenced by the American music I grew up on. Although, Asian-American artists such as Daphne Loves Derby have been a massive influence on my writing style. Lyrically speaking, I think I draw a lot of influence from Filipino culture. In the Philippines we have a word called “Hugot,” which means to “draw from within” or “get you in your feelings” as we’d say in English. I grew up watching a lot of Filipino media with my mother, and Filipino media tends to be very “hugot”. The lyrics that I write are very heavily inspired by Filipino artists like Up Dharma Down who inspired me to embrace the beauty in my native tongue and make my music as “hugot” as possible. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jerard is a New Jersey-based singer-songwriter and a first generation Filipino-American. Like many other first generation immigrants, Jerard spoke Tagalog at home as a child, later taking English Second Language (ESL) classes in elementary school. English, being a dominant tongue, eventually caused him to lose fluency in Tagalog for a while, but he noted that “for the last year I’ve been speaking in full Tagalog at home and with my internet friends.” I spoke to him about to get his own perspective on growing up as an Asian-American artist. Are there any stereotypes you regularly find yourself subjected to due to your culture, and how have you learned to face them? As an Asian male, I feel as though people perceive me as automatically feminine. For a while, I wished that I could be more masculine and attractive in masculine/Eurocentric standards. I realize now that my femininity is a central part of who I am and that, regardless of my race and gender, I shouldn’t have to feel confined to my gender roles, and I should feel free to express my racial-gender identity however I see fit. Korean fashion has always inspired me to embrace my own femininity. Seeing other Asian men wearing makeup and embracing their slender figures really helped me to forget Western gender roles and Eurocentric beauty standards and find beauty in my own body. Do you have any Asian American music artists that you personally look up to? I’ve always been a huge fan of Daphne Loves Derby. Kenny Choi was one of a handful of Asian-American artists in the emo scene back in the day, along with My American Heart, and seeing him go against societal expectations for AsianAmericans really inspired me to step outside of my comfort zone and be myself. Do you have any words of encouragement for other young Asian Americans who are also interested in pursuing music? To all the young Asian-Americans interested in pursuing music, don’t ever let the world tell you you’re not good enough. Don’t ever let your peers tell you that you can’t achieve great things, and don’t ever let yourself believe that you aren’t capable of greatness. One of my largest regrets in life was never believing in myself and suppressing my own dreams and goals to fit the needs and desires of others. To learn more, follow Jerard on Instagram @JerardLouis.