Jia Lih thinks music is almost like a language that he’s spent the last eight years getting fluent in it. His latest track, ‘Keep Talking’ ft Hopium, drops this Friday, a release that he’s blessed us with an original and a club mix for. It genuinely feels like he’s only just getting started.
So, it’s pronounced Jaa Lih?
Yeah that’s right. Jia Lih is actually my Chinese name. My English name is Alex, which is a translation of Jia Lih. Growing up I got called Alex. It wasn’t until I went to high school and you know how they do roll call every morning? So one teacher was looking through and was like, “Hold up why is your name Alex, it says Jia Lih right here, why don’t you go by Jia Lih?” And everybody was like, “whaat?” So my mates started calling me Jia Lih, and then JL and then I thought yeah, why not use that name?
When did you move to Australia?
I was born in Malaysia and my whole family migrated to Perth when I was 11. From there I attended high school and went to a music school, I think that’s where the whole music thing started for me. I went to college in Perth and then moved to Melbourne about two years ago.
And now you have a new track, ‘Keep Talking’.
I wrote ‘Keep Talking’ with Hopium, we got into the studio and the chemistry was just kinda right. The track is about someone expecting something better, like a perfect side from you, and then suddenly you realise that social perfection is not what you want—it’s what they want. If I’m not good enough for you then the problem isn’t with me, it’s with you.
We’ve done the original version and also a club version. That’s what I wanna do with my music, have more mellow stuff and then if you wanna feel a little bit more energy then the club version showcases that.
How would you describe your style of music?
I think I’m more leaning towards the pop and electronic side of things. When I started it was more hip-hop and R&B, but I think music style changes. This whole thing started for me when I discovered K-pop, I’m not Korean and I don’t understand Korean but you don’t have to understand the lyrics to listen to music. When music is good it just moves you, right?
What are some other influences?
My earlier influences are from the late ‘90s and early 2000s era. Timbaland was the kind of producer that really made me look at production more seriously and have more fun with sounds. I think what really changed it for me was—remember the album that he did with Justin Timberlake?
You mean FutureSex/LoveSounds?
That really flipped a switch for me because I was a big hip-hop head and he merged electronic influences into the album. It was mind bending for me. But I think that era has had its time, things keep moving, and as artists and producers we have to keep moving as well. Recently I’ve been leaning more towards the Night Slugs crew from the UK. I’m after the more edgy, not so typical sounding stuff because for so long I’ve been involved with pop projects. When I’m writing pop stuff it’s quite clean so I’m trying to discover the other side, the more dirty side of the music.
Is there anyone you want to work with in the future?
I think it would be awesome to get a track with Wiley. It’s a funny story because I met the dude a few years ago. I was his driver every time him and his crew would come to Australia, back when I didn’t know who they were. From there it kind of introduced me to the grime scene. I was like so this is grime; this is like a different world of rap from what I know. I think back then he knew that I was producing so he was trying to help me in out some ways. He did rough recordings for me but nothing really got finished so to hear his vocals on an official collaboration would be awesome.
What else should we know about you?
I like meeting people in music; it’s just different you know? A lot of the time when you meet people it’s hard to get along but then you can relate to music so it’s almost like a common language. Working with Hopium on this track was weird at first because we had never met. But I caught up with the dude for a coffee and as soon the music talk started he was like, “Yep, I got you.”
Jia Lih’s new single ‘Keep Talking’ is out October 13.
- Photography by: Adrian Jung