We had the good fortune of connecting with Cindy Zhang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cindy, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I decided to pursue a creative career in music because it gives me the opportunity to be vulnerable through songwriting. The topics I cover in my songs are usually very personal, and are difficult to talk about casually. Putting these emotions into a song gives me the chance to really understand what I’m experiencing. Through songwriting I have so much freedom to use words, imagery and melody to describe my thoughts. I also love the creative process of making a song and seeing it transform through its different stages. A track often starts as a simple voice memo with just a simple melody and chords. Adding other musicians and seeing their interpretation of the song is also really exciting—everyone has something new to bring to the table. In the end, it’s always astonishing to see how far the song has come, and to design cover images or make videos that match the song’s aesthetic.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a Chinese-American singer songwriter blending jazz elements with Pop and R&B/Soul. What I believe sets me apart from others is my ability create a story through my music, not only with the track itself but with supporting videos and visuals. My consistent branding and aesthetic is something I spend a lot of time on, and accompanies the storytelling that goes on in my songs. It was not easy to get to where I am today. There are many challenges as a musician: the first is learning how to sharpen musical ability and develop your own sound. The second is figuring out how to distribute and market your songs effectively without anyone’s guidance, which is especially difficult as an unsigned indie artist. Being patient and working through everything step by step is the best way to overcome challenges. A problem might seem daunting at the start, but it’s actually really fun to break it apart and solve it in small stages. An important lesson I learned is to not to let my lack of confidence or fear of rejection stop me from writing or recording new songs. Music is very subjective, and you can’t expect your songs to resonate with or please everyone. I want the world to know that I put a lot of thought and time into every step of my creative process. I also want the world to appreciate more art from Asian Americans. We’ve been neglected a lot in the media, but it’s refreshing to finally see more films and music showcase our stories!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There are so many great places in San Francisco! Eat: Mandalay Restaurant for the best Burmese food in a homey setting. Drink: I don’t drink alcohol for health reasons, but Urban Ritual has the most unique Boba/Milk tea flavors! Visit: Moraga Steps (16th avenue tiled steps) is a set of stairs imbedded with a beautiful mosaic. At the top of the steps is a gorgeous view of the Outer Sunset. Hang out: Go see a show at SFJAZZ. Bobby McFerrin, Lizz Wright, Hiromi, and Cyrille Aimee were some acts I was really lucky to see there. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to a photographer I worked with named Sophie Cheung. She’s the owner of a visual studio called “Sophie.Vision” that helps other creatives tell their stories. Before I recorded any of my music, Sophie was the one who suggested that I buy a microphone and introduced me to the first production company I worked with. She encouraged me to just go for it, even though I had a lot of doubt and fear holding myself back. Seeing her hard work and collaborations with so many other creatives inspired me to drop my hesitation and work tirelessly for my goals as well. If I hadn’t met Sophie and gotten this push from her, I don’t think I would’ve released any of my songs.
Other: Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7jcxdl5JqHWfuq00QC6egz?si=qwKVUCP8TaOJ82RRAql87g SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/cindyzhang