VERSED: The ASCAP Podcast / Ep. 22 - Elevating Asian Voices
April 8, 2021
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VERSED is a bi-weekly podcast illuminating the heart and soul of music. Featuring in-depth interviews with songwriters and composers, plus tips and insights to help you navigate your music career. Brought to you by ASCAP, home of the world's greatest music creators.
In response to the recent wave of racism and violence against the Asian-American & Pacific Islander communities, this special episode of VERSED is devoted to lifting up our many AAPI songwriters and composers. We've invited a diverse group of ASCAP members to give voice to their Asian heritage, and how it has impacted them as music creators and people.
EP. 22 CO-HOST: BRIAN REYES
Brian Reyes is the current Associate Director of Pop/Rock Membership at ASCAP and an accomplished songwriter. His work has been featured in numerous film and TV projects including Gossip Girl, New Girl as well as international broadcast campaigns for brands such as Guinness, Citibank, Microsoft and Paypal. Brian’s current work at ASCAP includes signing new songwriters, producing songwriter workshops/showcases/networking events and finding new ways to help ASCAP’s talented membership reach their musical goals.
Follow Brian on Instagram @elbrianreyes
VERSED Ep. 22 featured guests
Kazi is a singer, rapper, songwriter and producer from New York City. His Lower East Side upbringing paired with a keen ear for melody yield a unique brand of pop built on influences ranging from Swae Lee to Speaker Knockerz to Springsteen.
Following performances at SXSW in Austin and at KTOWN Night Market in Los Angeles, Kazi independently released his debut EP Growing Pains in 2019. Most recently, he released the single “Going Thru The Motions” from quarantine in New York. It is his most-streamed song to date, following his viral TikTok video hearing it played on 88rising Radio for the first time. Kazi is currently working on his second project which is set to release in 2021.
Follow Kazi @kazi on IG
Jihye Lee is a jazz composer and bandleader based in New York, highly regarded for her personal and adventurous storytelling approach to large-ensemble jazz. She has organized successful crowdfunding campaigns for April, her 2017 debut album, as well as Daring Mind, released on March 26, 2021 on Motéma Music. The music reflects her struggles, doubts, and hopes while living in the amazing city of New York. All the compositions explore the human mind, heart and soul, the various states of the human psyche from confusion to rage to enlightenment.
A native of South Korea, Lee had no jazz or classical training growing up, though she found success in Korea performing as an indie pop singer. She graduated from Dongduk Women’s University with a degree in Voice Performance, discovering her love of large-ensemble jazz only after beginning her studies at Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 2011. Confidently she began to explore her own identity and voice within this exciting, historically rich medium, winning Berklee’s Duke Ellington Prize just months after declaring her Jazz Composition major (and again the following year). Though she could never have anticipated this new path, she has followed it to greater heights, moving to New York in 2015 and earning a master’s degree at Manhattan School of Music under the guidance of the great Jim McNeely, with generous funding from school scholarships and the CJ Cultural Foundation.
In addition to the BMI Foundation’s Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize and Manny Albam Commission in 2018, Lee has received the 2020 ASCAP Foundation/Symphonic Jazz Orchestra Commissioning Prize. She has written music for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis as well as Carnegie Hall’s NYO Jazz.
Nick Lee is a Chinese- and Japanese-American record producer, songwriter, composer and trombonist. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, he attended the Harvard-Westlake school before transferring to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) to pursue music seriously. Upon graduating from LACHSA, Nick moved to New York to study jazz trombone at the Juilliard school for a couple years before heading back to LA to pursue a career in music production. Since then, Nick has established himself as a producer-songwriter rising through the ranks among a new era of pop production and songwriting talent. Signed by Scooter Braun to Atlas Music Publishing, Nick has been in the studio with the likes of Demi Lovato, Lil Nas X, CL, Stray Kids, Poo Bear, Social House, Rachel Platten, LP, PRETTYMUCH and Audrey Mika. Recently, he co-produced and co-wrote "Sunshine" by K-Pop group Stray Kids on their album Levanter (which charted as the #1 K-Pop album in the world and debuted as the #1 album in 18 countries), co-wrote and co-produced the recent Dillon Francis singles "You Do You" and "Touch,” and co-produced and co-wrote Rachel Platten’s comeback single “soldiers,” which was licensed by CBS in a network promo ad. In addition, Nick has had his songs licensed by TV shows such as American Idol and The Rookie on ABC. On top of producing, in 2020 he segued into scoring for TV/film, composing for series-order shows Grand Crew (NBC) and This Country (FOX).
Alex Ritchie has been identified by the Grammys as part of the next generation of music industry leaders. Chosen as part of the LA Chapter’s esteemed Grammy NEXT class, this artist, songwriter, producer and music entrepreneur is well on her way to success as a multi-faceted creative in entertainment. Ritchie has worked with the likes of Ziggy Marley, super producer and Interim Grammys CEO, Harvey Mason Jr., as well as a number of other Grammy-winning and Grammy-nominated talents. She released her 404 EP last year and just recently dropped her new single, “Isn’t You,” co-written by Grammy-nominated songwriter and artist, Gizzle. “Isn’t You” debuted on Apple Music’s “New in Pop” Editorial Playlist.
In addition, Ritchie is a brand ambassador for Fender guitars, Rastaclat, G7th Capos and ZR Acoustics. She teamed up with Rastaclat and the It Gets Better Project for her “Isn’t You” single release in honor of PRIDE Month, and was also featured in the Grammy’s first ever LGBTQ+ National PRIDE Event, “Stay In, Come Out, Let’s Talk,” alongside LeAnn Rimes, Troye Sivan and others. She is a proud member of the Asian American girl club and is excited to be part of the new wave of Asian representation in American entertainment. Having been named one of the "Future Power Players" in the music industry by the Recording Academy, she is ready for takeoff.
In 2016, TRACE brought her first project, the Low EP, to life through a Kickstarter campaign. The 4-track piece earned her comparisons to the “west-coast cool of Lana Del Rey" and the “R&B-kissed ruminations of James Blake,” as well as over 20M streams and her first record deal. In early 2018, TRACE made her Ultra Records debut with her single “Blood and Bones,” followed by two more singles: "Side Eye” (which was featured on The Fader's fall list of "Best New Pop Songs") and "Anxiety." For the latter, TRACE partnered with the non-profit organization National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) to raise awareness on anxiety in the entertainment industry.
Recently in efforts to broaden the Asian-American voice and support the #StopAsianHate movement, TRACE personally curated and was featured on the cover of Spotify’s “Dope AF” (Asian Females) playlist that highlighted a range of AAPI artists and the nonprofit, Asian Mental Health Collective. With over 55 million streams across her catalog, and press support from Refinery 29, Teen Vogue, NYLON, Forbes, HypeBeast, C-Heads Magazine, The Line of Best Fit and L’Officiel, TRACE feels she has only just begun creating a voice she hopes you keep coming back to.
Currently, TRACE is working towards her third EP independently while also stepping into film as she prepares her first feature. Story is everything to her. And if you haven’t, you can listen to her latest, the Like Hell EP.
Amritha has always been interested in telling stories with a purpose. Prior to scoring film and television projects, she was a human rights attorney. She later embarked on her composer career, writing with Academy Award-winning composer Mychael Danna on 500 Days of Summer, and has since moved on to scoring her own film and TV projects, most recently as composer for Disney’s Mira, Royal Detective and an episode of AppleTV’s Home. Amritha writes in a broad range of styles, and plays a variety of Eastern and Western traditional instruments. In 2018, Amritha helped found the Composers Diversity Collective, an organization devoted to promoting awareness of music creators of diverse backgrounds. She is an alumna of the prestigious Sundance Composers Lab, and a 2021 nominee for both the ASCAP Composers' Choice and Annie Awards.
Wendy Wang is a producer-writer based in Los Angeles, who was signed by Greg Kurstin to No Expectations Publishing, his joint venture with Sony Music Publishing. She’s a multi-instrumentalist who also plays in the bird and the bee. Wendy produced/co-wrote The Aces single “Fake Nice,” Flawes' "Ghost Town (feat. Rozes), Superfruit’s “Everything (feat. Inara George),” Terror Jr’s “Kinda Iconic” and co-wrote "Half Truth" by Joseph. She has recently collaborated with Elle King, Mozella, Fran Hall, Miriam Bryant, Teddy Geiger, Lauren Jauregui, Bea Miller and Noah Kahan to name a few.
Follow Wendy @wendywangmusic on Twitter
Born in Los Angeles, California, Brian Warfield found his love for music after joining his elementary school’s orchestra. After picking up the trumpet and continuing his education through continuous music schools, he met Mac Robinson in their high school jazz band. They would later join and form the production duo, Fisticuffs. Since then, they’ve been the creative force behind hit songs for artists like Jhené Aiko, Miguel and Yuna. They are responsible for a number of major tracks, including Jhené’s multi-platinum singles “The Worst” & “Sativa,” Miguel’s gold-certified “Quickie” and Mariah Carey’s multi-platinum single “#Beautiful.”
Warfield and Robinson began producing music together as Fisticuffs in 2005 and the following year, they teamed up with Miguel and produced five songs on his debut album, All I Want Is You. Fisticuffs had another breakthrough moment in 2008 when they co-produced Jazmine Sullivan’s “One Night Stand” from her debut album Fearless, which went gold and received a Grammy nomination. In 2010, the duo began working with Jhené Aiko and produced the majority of her debut mixtape Sailing Soul(s). They then contributed to every track on her debut album Sail Out, which was up for a Grammy in 2014. Jhené’s double-platinum single “The Worst” went on to become Fisticuffs' first Billboard #1 on the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop chart and earned them a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Song. In 2020, Fisticuffs hit #1 on the R&B Producers chart for the first time – thanks to 11 production credits on Aiko’s Grammy-nominated album Chilombo.
Follow Brian @bobbycoleslaw on IG
From the first time Will Yip stepped in a recording studio as a drummer at age 12, he immediately became engrossed in the process of creating something incredible in the studio setting. From that day forward, he always had a dream of working at Philadelphia’s legendary Studio 4.
While in college at Temple University, Yip managed to land an internship at Studio 4, and in 2013, he bought into the studio. Yip worked tirelessly to continue expanding his resume of musical credits. He appeared on recordings as a drummer with artists like Lauryn Hill, Schoolly D, Say Anything and more, while simultaneously working as producer and engineer on projects by Tigers Jaw, Turnover, Turnstile and Title Fight.
Since becoming a partner in Studio 4, Yip has consistently opened doors for up-and-coming bands to polish their sound and create something spectacular, with someone genuinely invested in helping them craft something special and maximize the breadth of the sound and songwriting.
Over the last decade, Yip has produced hundreds of records at Studio 4, with more than sixty landing on the Billboard charts. He received a Grammy nod for Code Orange’s Forever in 2018, the same year he was inducted into the Temple University Hall of Fame. In addition to his production work, Yip also partnered with Run For Cover Records to form the label Memory Music in 2015, which has released projects from Anthony Green and Turnover. Two years later, he inked a label deal with Atlantic Records to launch Black Cement and release records from Tigers Jaw and Mat Kerekes.
In March 2021, Yip and friends launched a massive raffle of music merch, gear and more, which raised over $128,000 in support of the Asian American & Pacific Islander Community Fund.