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Asiahn seeks to heal with ‘The Interlude’ and spark a conversation around orchestral music in R&B [Interview]

Between her soprano notes, sweet spirit, and superb songwriting skills, Asiahn is a treasure that just gets better with time. Not many musicians have scratched the surface of what the New Jersey native has achieved: landing radio singles as a teenager, collabing with legends like Dr. Dre and Quincy Jones, scoring three Grammy nominations, and touring with hip hop’s greatests. Yet, the accolade Asiahn holds dearest, and frankly, the main reason why I’m such a huge fan of the triple-threat wonder, is her sense of innate mindfulness, “I feel like music is such an energy exchange. It's a thing that us artists, sometimes we don't see just how much our music influences people,” she shares with EARMILK over the phone.

For the music industry veteran, everything she puts into the universe––be it her song lyrics, affirmations, or conversations––are acutely intentional. Asiahn is ever-mindful of the fact that she is exchanging energy every time her words touch a listener’s ears. Yet she speaks with a free-flowing spirit. As we chat, I get a sense of both of her worlds: the old-soul whose polished reflections feel almost prophetic, and the playful, light-hearted Sagittarius who is able to find optimism in every situation. Her words drizzle like a drop of golden honey: sweet, lovingly and methodical. And for Asiahn, her words all tie back to one thing: healing. “My purpose is to heal people through art,” she shares. “[I'm] using my creativity to create things that help people gain a different perspective on everyday life occurrences and to find peace in knowing that you can make it out of anything.” Indeed, Asiahn has made it a point to emphasize the need for healing, both in and out of music.

Using her life experiences as a muse that’s reflective of her own self-work, Asiahn carefully crafted The Interlude. With heartbreak serving as catalyst for realignment, The Interlude rings with an aura of otherworldly escapism from start to finish. Its rich, refreshing melodies feel like a soothing soul reset. The record gives us a much-needed change of pace, a chance to slow down and just breathe.

In The Interlude (Orchestral Performance), the feeling of everlasting serenity comes to life fully. Delicate harp strings set the tone of tranquility on “My World”, while weeping violas command respect on “Gucci Frames”. The performance is 16 minutes of pure bliss and delicious vocals. A challenge, yes, but not for the pitch-perfect vocalist whose runs sound exactly the same live.

Asiahn gently evokes the most vulnerable of emotions in her listeners, pulling their heart’s strings like a seasoned harp player. Ironically, playing instruments is one of Asiahn’s first loves, but it has had to take a backseat for the singer and multi-instrumentalist in recent years: “I stopped playing guitar and piano for a long time because I got a really bad cut on my right hand on my knuckle that went through to the nerve so I don't have full function of my middle finger anymore.” But that didn't stop Asiahn from taking the lead in orchestrating the project’s sound. “I took a more hands-on approach because I knew exactly what sound I was going for,” she explains. “I wanted all parts of the track, and me, to have a perfect marriage. And I feel like the only person that could really get that sound the way I wanted it was me, so I was like, ‘Okay, let me get in my producer bag and sit down and get at this computer.’ And literally every session [I’d be] out there, going through tracks. I'm out there slicing and dicing, moving things around. And making it what it turned out to be, what you guys hear.” The result is an impeccable soundtrack that sounds like a beautiful movie score.

Read on to learn more about the heart behind The Interlude, in Asiahn’s own words.

EM: Why was it important for you to have an orchestra on The Interlude?

First of all, before we even get into how amazing the Blackness of it was, it's just important to have an orchestra in general in R&B. Like R&B music used to have so much orchestral pieces and it’s taken a very very long walk away from it for quite some time, and I just miss that in music sometimes. And being an orchestra band geek myself, I always [said] “Listen, as soon as I get the opportunity and the budget to do so, I am putting an orchestra together in one of these records, I don't care which one it is, it's happening.” Like it’s one thing to play it on a piano like make a sound, like put a violin sound and play it on the keys, but to actually have the physical violin and hear the bow across the strings, there’s certain essences that you don't get from just picking a sound and playing it. And then [I] wanted to show that orchestras are cool, like, “Yeah, you can twerk to orchestral music! Who said you couldn't? Why? Why not?” And it’s just like because nobody’s trying to. So I’m like, “Let's do it.” And I'm not saying nobody is trying to...I’m pretty sure somebody is using [an] orchestra somewhere. But just for me, I hadn't been seeing it a lot.

I love [my producer] D’mile, and I love that fact that he really incorporates orchestral sounds and transitions in his music...So when we did the orchestra live performance, I was like “Yo, we have to take this to the next level, somehow, some way. ‘Cause it's already amazing, but like let's really try to go there.” And this orchestral performance allowed me to do that, and not to mention, Evonee, the girl who helped do the sheet music for this and compose and arrange it, she's a Black woman and I loved that. I loved the fact that it was just so full of Black girl magic and just Black magic in general. Everyone was super talented and it was such an amazing experience to be honest.

“Yeah, you can twerk to orchestral music! Who said you couldn't? Why? Why not?”

EM: What did it mean for you to have a Black orchestra in particular?

You know what, when people, and this may just be my experience and that's the only thing I can speak to, [but] when people think of orchestras, they always think of white people and like opera and that’s it. And it’s like no, there are amazing Black musicians out here who play in an orchestra. Like I remember seeing the wedding for Harry and Meghan…when I saw that, I saw comments about the gentleman that was playing the violin, and they were like “Oh wow, I didn't know Black people really played like that.” I'm just like, “What do you mean you didn't know?? We do everything, what are you talking about?” So of course, because of where we are in the world and how we’re showing our importance of Black lives, I wanted to show that importance with the orchestra of how beautiful a whole melanated cast is and how talented a whole melanated cast of Black people looks like within an orchestra. I don't see it much. And people were commenting that they hadn’t seen it. And to think about the newer generation who doesn't even really get to experience orchestras as much, [I wanted them to] see it...I want kids in orchestras in high schools to think “Oh, it's cool to do!” [and] they move on to do other great things, they don't just do it in highschool and leave it alone. I want people to feel good about it and I want Black people in general to see themselves reflected in an orchestra.”

“I wanted to show..how talented a whole melanated cast of Black people looks like within an orchestra”

EM: A theme in The Interlude is serenity. What does serenity look like to you?

Serenity to me looks like feeling free. Free to be myself, whatever that looks like, whether I'm happy, sad, in between. And free to make my own decisions, free to just exist. Serenity is something that not a lot of people find in one, two, or three lifetimes. We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get peace and I feel like once you get to that space where you got peace, and you feel free then you’ve hit another level of unfuckwithable that nobody can touch, because you're in this space where nothing bothers you. Like once you find peace, most things that you would normally go off about you don't even care about anymore. It’s just like, “Oh that doesn't fit my bigger picture, whatever.” And you just move on. You just hit a level of peace that is just, ugh––I wish it for everybody. I really, really do. And it’s not that you don't care about things and things don't affect you. It’s just that if they are not important to your overall goal in life, what is your purpose of giving it energy? It's like giving yourself poison expecting other people to get sick. You're the only one dwelling on this. So serenity to me is finding that level of “I don't care” and freeness to just exist. And I'm definitely all up in that area. I'm swimming in it girl. Ugh it’s lit.

EM: You’ve mentioned that reconnecting with yourself helped you create The Interlude. Can you tell us about this process of reconnecting with yourself and what it looked like?

Ooh girl, it was ugly. It was ugly! Reconnecting with yourself is not a cute, pretty thing that just happens overnight. It's taking the time to sort through your issues and take accountability for things you chose to do, or things you chose not to act on, or if you saw signs of something and you chose to disregard them. Like, at the end of the day, when things happen in life, I feel like we could be mad at so many different people, but we really gotta check ourselves and say “Okay listen, I saw the red signs, I saw the red flags and everything, and I didnt pay it any attention,” right? And when it comes to rediscovering yourself or remembering who you are, you have to go through those moments so you can pinpoint what the root cause of something was, so you can stop making the same mistakes.

So that was what it looked like for me, it was going through those incidents that hurt me, and heal from those, and taking my ownership in those moments and also forgiving everyone around me and myself. Regardless of if I told them I forgive them––just actually forgiving them in my own heart. Saying you forgive someone to a person is not necessarily for them, it’s for you. So if you don't have access to people who’ve hurt you or you put up your boundaries like we discussed in “Gucci Frames”, it's not required. Forgive them within yourself and move on. You know what I mean? So that’s what it looked like for me. And then once I got to a place where I'm like, “Okay, my foundation is real sturdy, like hella sturdy. There’s nothing anybody can do to sway who I am in this moment,” that’s when I was like, “Okay bet, we lit now. Now I can write about where I'm at in this space.” And I felt like that was a monumental thing for me because it started to change my ear and my own music and what I wanted to say and how I wanted to hear it.

EM: An important theme throughout your music is self-love. What message do you have for women who may be struggling with self-love?

There are so many things that are introverted issues that we’re using outward things to define. So what I would say is to stop looking outward. Stop listening to everybody else, stop looking at everybody else. Nobody’s life is as easy as they paint it on social media. Everybody’s insecure, and honestly you just gotta love you. You gotta get in your bag and love every part of you - the thicker parts, the skinny parts, when you feel you look good, when your hair ain't done, when you ain't got no lashes, ‘cause girl I don't have any lashes for real, and I gotta love that about me because it’s not gonna change, so it’s like do I sit here and be miserable with myself throughout life, about things that A) Can't change, or B) I have the ability to change but wont get up to change them. We have to take accountability.

So to the girls who are struggling with self-love, babygirl, look in the mirror, and think about all the things that someone’s done to you or you allowed someone to do to you and just let that go. write it out, do whatever you have to do. Read it back to yourself, look at yourself in the mirror and say “I forgive you.” Forgive yourself for those things, forgive yourself for the things that you allowed people to do and then, it’s gonna be an emotional ride for sure, then look in the mirror and say “I love you” and repeat it back to yourself over and over and over again until you start to feel it. And you say “I love you” in the mirror every day until...if you gotta fake it till you make it babe, do what you gotta do. ... And you know what, even saying all that, it’s something I still struggle with sometimes, you know like I still have to go back and forth with myself on things that you know I deem as ugh not good enough and it's like, “Well girl, are you gonna do something about it to fix it? Cause if not just be quiet and enjoy your life and love what you got,” and you know it’s an all-the-time thing that we have to work towards. We have to choose it. We have to choose love, we have to choose happiness, the same way that we choose a partner or choose a job or choose a career. We have to choose it.

“There’s so many things that are introverted issues that we’re using outward things to define.”

They say life imitates art and that saying couldn’t be more fitting for the artistic trajectory of Asiahn. Having been in the industry for nearly 15 years, her roots run deep and her values are unshakeable. She’s done it all: writing, singing, playing instruments, producing, engineering, and touring (and she may just have to add public speaking to that list with the incredibly motivating interview she gave us). The plethora of experiences Asiahn has had over the years have helped her to tap into a goddess-like essence of beauty within her own soul. Her G.O.A.T. status level of longevity comes with a slew of lessons. She’s learned a lot, hurt a lot, but most importantly, healed a lot: “I don't wanna do things from a hurt place. I wanna do things from a healed place,” She shares. “I wanna talk to you about the hurt, but then I wanna show you the recourse of how I got out of it so you don't have to just sit with my negativity and my feelings that I just threw on you.” It’s clear, Asiahn’s patience in rediscovering herself was well worth the painstaking process. She came out with an eternally bright perspective and is inspiring us all with the way she lives, loves, and creates from a healed place.

Connect with Asiahn: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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Connect with Evonee: Instagram

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