Bursting with bright colours and exuberance, Falling Feathers’ (or better known by his real name JJ to some) brand of unapologetically mainstream pop is making him the next local music name on the brink of a breakthrough. And with a new single release and a major label signing to Warner Music Singapore in tow, Falling Feathers is set for takeoff. We speak to the passionate musician to uncover his metamorphosis.
Hi JJ! Tell us how you came up with the moniker Falling Feathers?
I used to play in a pop punk band, JJ and the Paperplanes. When we decided to split up, I wanted to come up with a name [for my music] and the name JJ is already taken up by JJ Lin. The idea of ‘Falling Feathers’ is like how animals shed their skin, and how birds shed feathers and grow new ones. So the idea of Falling Feathers is [to symbolise] the constant growth of getting stronger and better – the cycle of improvement.
So… if you were any type of bird, which would you be?
I love flamingos! When I was younger, I was always fascinated by how they can stand on one leg for so long and their feathers are really vibrant, so I really like that.
Congratulations on signing with Warner! What was the process like getting signed to a major label?
It was a very surprising thing that happened because when I started Falling Feathers, I just wanted to make pop music and to be able to relate to more people. This signing came as a surprise but I’m really glad this happened because the Warner folks are way more experienced than me. When I first started out, I had to learn everything myself by talking to people who have done [music] or googling how the industry works.
What do you think is the biggest difference in your artistry, transitioning from JJ and the Paperplanes to Falling Feathers?
For JJ and the Paperplanes, it was pop-punk, and the music I really liked back then. I listened to a lot of Anberlin, We the Kings and Mayday Parade. Whatever I was listening to, I just wanted to get friends together and make music. I think Falling Feathers is more… “legit”, if that’s the right word to use. I told myself “Okay, I’m going to write palatable pop music that can relate to people my age or teenagers”. I think the working process and the way I execute the music is different too, in terms of doing it myself [now]. When you are doing [music] in a group of friends, you’re able to work off each other. Even though I have support now from friends and from Warner, it’s still pretty much a solo project so no one is responsible for my music except for myself. That gives me more to work on and to be more confident in putting out good material.
You’ve opened for bands such as Mayday Parade and Before Your Exit. What would your first reaction be if Warner surprised you and said “Hey, you’re going to be opening for Ed Sheeran in Singapore”?
(Laughs) Firstly, I think Ed Sheeran is a bit too far away [from being able to open for]… He is an artiste that I really respect. He’s one of those people whose story is really “from rags to riches”. Even before he got signed, he has been trying to make it for the longest time and the perseverance is what I really respect. How genuine he comes across in his music, writing stuff about personal experiences and being able to put that into context to become one of the biggest pop stars of today is really cool. If that happens (opening for Ed Sheeran), it’d be dope.
You’ve played a ton of shows already so early in your career. What’s been your favourite gig or festival to play at so far?
Definitely opening for Mayday Parade – it was an emotional rollercoaster. It was one of my first gigs as Falling Feathers actually. The promoters were kind enough to let me showcase my music in front of a huge audience. It was nerve wrecking because the audience was a few thousand people. And many things happened during the gig – the band’s flight got delayed, then they announced that the band may not be able to make it [on stage], and the people queuing outside were getting pissed. Naturally I was nervous because [as an opening act], I would be the first performer they’d see when they walked in. What was great was that the crew and organisers there comforted me and told me to just do my thing. They finally announced that Mayday Parade was going to do an acoustic set. So when I first came on stage, I thought they were either going to throw rotten eggs, or they were going to cheer. But luckily, there was no rotten eggs – people were really supportive and shouted encouraging words from the crowd. It was a really heartwarming show.
Tell us more about your new single ‘Hush’, how did this song come about?
The idea of ‘Hush’ is just like how love songs go. The best part about ‘Hush’ is the creative process and how I made the song. It was a collaboration with Zie (from Disco Hue) who’s doing really well and a senior who I really respect.
What’s it like working with a fellow musician (Zie from Disco Hue), first for the ‘Perfect’ video and now for ‘Hush’? Will we see a collab with the full band in the works, or any other local musicians soon?
Hopefully! We’re working on some stuff [currently]. I think collaborations are always great, because collaborating means you’re learning from each other and everyone has different strengths. Like Zie is really good at synth production, so I really learnt a lot from him. Even the video stuff, he really inspired me to just go out and direct a music video. There’s nothing to lose, so just do it.
You’re gonna be doing some school tours soon. What kind of student were you back in school?
I was definitely one of those students that didn’t study. I was in Zhonghua Secondary School and it was a good school where people really studied – I didn’t know how I managed to get in! Every year, parents would be called in and the comments [for me] were always “Why this boy never study one” because I was just jamming out to music and playing basketball all the time. Studying wasn’t a priority for me back then. I really wanted to get into Singapore Polytechnic’s Music and Audio Technology course because it was the only place where I could study what I am interested in, so I decided to really study. Thankfully I managed to get into the course.
When I was going to SP and recording, it was really what I wanted to do. There was nothing holding me back and I was more motivated. When everyone in the course was a musician or wanted to do something in music, it’s fun to go to school and it was less of a chore.
Most local music is either punk rock or indie music. What are the challenges of being a mainstream pop act in Singapore and how are you overcoming those obstacles?
The reason why I decided to do mainstream pop is because not many people are doing it here. So I wanna step into it and try it out. I think the difficult part about doing pop music is that the biggest artistes in the world are making really good quality music and videos and the fact that artistes like me are putting out music out on Spotify against all these amazing global acts – that really makes me more motivated to match up their standard. There are so many great pop acts – Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, etc. Music in general is not just the writing and the production, it’s a super steep learning curve to learn everything else too. Because of the fact that I’m an independent artiste, I have to do many things myself, even though now there’s help from Warner. I think that’s the tough part, to always seek to improve and to stay on par with everyone else.
What’s next for Falling Feathers?
There’s going to be an EP coming out next year, it’s called Pipe Dreams and I really like the concept of the EP. It’s a series of songs I put together with an idea of Falling Feathers and this “pipe dream”, about how it might be impossible to achieve certain things, but if you never try you’ll never know. There’s definitely going to be more collaborations and more shows too. Ignite Music Festival up next!
For more about Falling Feathers and other rising young local talents, stay tuned for our August issue out on newsstands soon!