We had the good fortune of connecting with Su San and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Su San, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I was born and raised in a close-knit family in Malaysia. Growing up in an average Asian household, I put a lot of energy and focus on my academics during my childhood because that’s what we do to be perceived as ‘successful’. In retrospect, it’s kind of funny because I don’t remember my siblings and I receiving a lot of pressure from my parents to do well in our studies. None of us went for extra tuition classes outside of school, which was extremely rare where I came from. Of course, my parents were there every step of the way, supporting us and making sure we had the resources we needed to learn and grow as holistic individuals. But overall, they just sort of let us do our thing and trust that we would do our best in school and in any endeavors. Most importantly, they never stopped us from pursuing the things we wanted, no matter how unconventional or taxing they were to them. They would always provide the best they could. I remember begging my parents to send me for piano lessons when I was 7. Music classes and exams were not cheap. But my parents did it anyway because I wanted it. It was unconditional love. And I am always, always grateful for that. I also understand that it was a privileged position to be in. I am now able to pursue my creative goals relentlessly because of them. And I don’t take things for granted.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Enigmatic, haunting, and experimental are often the words I use to describe my music. I’m not necessarily drawn to a genre, but to the process of songwriting itself. Songwriting to me is like building a cathedral. I set a subject, then I build the melody and paint the lyrics. Once a song is done, the cathedral no longer belongs to me. I can only hope that people will come into this cathedral to find connection and belonging through my music. My purpose is to always serve the songs first.
I think the music industry can be confusing to navigate as a singer-songwriter now. With the bedroom recording trend, so much music is being released and consumed so rapidly. The lifecycle of an album or a song is shortened drastically. On top of that, we have social media. Many artists like myself are forced to be content creators so that we can garner enough fanbase on social media that could help us sustain our careers. When in truth, we identify ourselves more as an artist, a songwriter, or a performer. It is easy to lose sight of the reason why we started pursuing music in the first place. In all honesty, I don’t think I have everything figured out yet. But I have learned that being authentic and having a strong support system are two core ingredients that have gotten me this far. It is not always rainbow and sunshine. But I’m glad to be where I am now where I feel more secure about my place in the music industry.
Earlier this year, I was selected to be one of the awardees to receive the BBC Horizons Launchpad fund. It was such a fascinating experience to be able to be a part of a bigger community packed with people who are as passionate about music as I am. Apart from that, I have also been working hard on writing and producing more songs in the last few months while soaking up new knowledge, experiences, and the ever-so-gentle sunbeam in Wales. I’m really looking forward to putting out new music whereby people could experience the growth I am going through. It’s going to be very exciting!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
OH! Malaysia is a beautiful tropical country. We have summer all year long. I really love the islands off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. So we’d probably do island hopping on the first few days. Then, we’d fly to Sabah for a road trip from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang and enjoy the beauty of Mount Kinabalu from afar. We could also explore some hiking trails with luscious flora, fauna, and mesmerizing peak views. The end of the trip has got to be at Penang because the food there is just marvelous. Just something a little different from the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I don’t think I’ve ever told him personally but I want to say my elder brother, Chris M. Yong, who is also a songwriter and a music producer. As a child, I always looked up to him. I remember begging my parents to send me for piano lessons at the age of 7 because he started taking piano lessons around that age. So for the longest time, we were shoved into the same studio every Tuesday for an hour, learning how to play piano and music theory from the same teacher. Because of my competitive nature, I always wanted to be as good as, if not, better than him. Did I succeed? Debatable. Did it matter? Definitely not! Because he was (and still is) the most hardworking person I know. Looking back, the shared experience we had was something I cherish a lot because he’s inspired me to work hard for the things I am passionate about. The fact that I started songwriting and got my first contract with a publishing company was because of him too. He’s been my role model from day one. I cannot imagine how my life would turn out if he didn’t exist.
Other: Spotify: https://spoti.fi/36lfjgI