This week I got to chat with hip hop artist Jason Chu. His new album, ‘living.room’ is available for purchase and streaming.
Listen to ‘living.room’:
An Interview With Jason Chu
Aaron Iara: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me this week. Please tell the readers about yourself and the work you do.
Jason Chu: My name is Jason Chu. I am a Chinese-American rapper, poet, and activist. I grew up on the East Coast in Delaware. About eight years ago I moved to Los Angeles. I really started taking my career seriously. I moved out, started putting music out, and it has been a great ride since then.
I have had the opportunity to do a lot of things. I tour colleges (back when touring was a thing). I performed at the Obama White House. I’ve worked with NBC. My music has been in shows like Warrior on Cinemax, Wu-Assassins on Netflix, and elsewhere.
Generally, I just try to make music that is informed, hopeful, and helps feed people as they go about their days in this crazy world.
Aaron Iara: It is nice to meet you! How long have you been producing music? How did you get your start?
Jason Chu: I have been making music my whole life, honestly. I started when I was a kid in high school. My friends and I would listen to rap music, we love rap music. Eventually, we started making music. I have been rapping my whole life.
When I got to college, I was lucky enough to have a recording studio there. I got to learn how to engineer music. I started recording tracks and gradually pieced it all together, bit by bit.
I have also learned online, on YouTube, and from friends. I just started writing and recording.
Aaron Iara: That is similar to how I got started as well. I was in bands in high school, but I really didn’t start to learn about audio production and engineering until college.
How would you describe your creative process?
Jason Chu: Honestly, it varies. It is sort of based on whatever I am inspired by at the moment. It could be that one of my producers send me some music and I hear it and I’m like “that’s beautiful and makes me feel things”. Then I sit down and start writing about these feeling.
I usually start with the song title. I use the title as a way of organizing my thoughts. I will sit down, hear some music, and then figure out the vibe that it gives me. Boom! Here’s the title. Let me write a hook and some verses.
But really, it’s just whatever inspires me whether it is hearing music or going out and living life. I try to use that as the starting point for a lot of the music I make.
Aaron Iara: Making music takes a lot of time and energy. What do you do to stay productive?
Jason Chu: It is actually not that hard for me to be productive. I have always been driven to make dope shit, you know? I just keep trying to go at it. No matter what, I feel like some of my friends and my community knows that I hustle and work really hard.
For me personally, I would say that staying productive means being myself. Naturally, I am driven to work. I actually have to push myself to step back and rest sometimes.
Aaron Iara: I am the same way. I feel guilty if I am not working all of the time. It can be difficult for people like us to take a breath and a break.
What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to making music? How do you overcome them?
Jason Chu: A lot of the time, it is about getting too much into my head. I start getting distracted. How am I going to release this one? What is my promotion going to be? I can easily lose myself.
So for me, pushing through obstacles is telling myself: “Hey man, whatever happens with this, whatever comes with this, I am just going to make something. If I think it is beautiful, and if I think it is good, I am going to put it out.” That usually works. I remember the joy of making things.
It is good to have a good team around. A good team can help inspire, push and motivate me to do more.
Aaron Iara: How do you foster creativity? Do you work at it, or wait for inspiration to strike?
Jason Chu: One of my favorite quotes about creativity comes from Jerry Seinfeld. He says something like “Anybody can be funny, but it takes a professional comedian to go ‘Alright, I am going to sit here from 9 to 5. I am going to write, and work at it until it is ready to go.'”
That is something that has always stuck with me. I think the idea of creativity striking whenever is a lie. Creativity can defiantly be nurtured, trained, and cultivated. You can get ready to receive whatever creativity gives you. Working diligently at it helps.
But honestly, resting also helps. My best records and creative sessions come after I work, rest, and come back to it.
Aaron Iara: Do you ever suffer from performance or release anxiety?
Jason Chu: Not anymore. My team and I work so hard at what we do, and whenever we release something into the world, its gone by at least 3, 4, 5 pairs of eyes and ears. Whenever we put something out, I am confident. Even if not everyone loves it, it is what it needs to be and is the best things that we can make.
I don’t get a lot of release anxiety. At this point, I’ve done 100s of performances. I don’t really feel that anxious. I can just put it out there and create.
Aaron Iara: What advice can you give to those who want to start producing their own music?
Jason Chu: Just do it. Just go in. Fuck perfectionism. Make whatever you’re making, and just keep putting it out. Keep trying to refine it and make it better. That is what I always do.
Whenever young artists hit me up and say “What’s the move? How do I get better at this?” I ways say “You just gotta do it. You gotta perform, go to open mics, go to the studio. You go through the motions as much as you can in order to get better.”
Aaron Iara: Do you have any new releases, gigs, or events you would like to promote?
Jason Chu: My new album, living.room, is out everywhere right now. We worked on it for a year in a half. Honestly, we thought we would never put it out. With everything that is going on with the world, the pandemic, the protests, the social change, it felt like it was time to put this record out and share it with people who are tired and looking for hope.
It is available on my Bandcamp, and all streaming services.