Tigerlily: A Woman on a Mission — MACG Interview (pt. 2)

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In part 1 of my interview with Tigerlily, we got to know a little bit about this young woman’s history. Got to see the beginnings of her drive and ambition. In this part, we get to see all that fire and ambition at work!

Learning the Business

While taking a hiatus from music, Tigerlily remained proactive in pursuing her interests. She enrolled in Fordham University where she majored in business. She was determined to learn the ins and outs of the music industry. Keep herself, as ever, ahead of the curve. During her time there, her drive never faltered. She founded Fordham’s Women in Business club, where she invited women in the industry to speak to the young ladies. She interned at a label in their A&R department. Studied abroad in London, where she interned for “Metiza” magazine and established and curated the “Badass Babes” column. A segment where she highlighted female up-and-coming independent artists. All this, and she still managed to graduate summa cum laude with the Alumni Chair Award.

Tigerlily is incredibly sharp. Most who enter the industry don’t actually focus on the business aspect. Something that gets most of the minto to trouble in one way or the other. Tiger’s proactive nature (from forming a grunge band at 15 to founding Fordham’s Women in Business club) makes her a force to be reckoned with.

Lisbon and the Boy That Got Away

It’s Tiger’s time studying abroad in Europe that fascinates me. Her debut single, “Lisbon” is set for official release July 15. I wonder if any of her adventures inspired the track.

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“When I was studying abroad,” Tigerlily begins, “I met this guy. It was so funny. When we met, he had been dancing with my friend at the club. I remember seeing him and thinking to myself, ‘This guy looks like Spanish Adam Levine.’ And I was so shook. I let him dance with my friend for a long time. It was so hard. He doesn’t speak a word of Spanish. He doesn’t speak a word of English. So how can I tell him that he looks like Spanish Adam Levine? But they kept on dancing, so I went to dance with someone else purposely to make him jealous.

“Eventually they stopped dancing, and I told him he looked like Spanish Adam Levine. My Spanish wasn’t very good, but somehow we ended up talking the entire night. He said, ‘I promise to take you to the beach tomorrow.’ I remember he didn’t show up for our date and I got super mad at him. Anyway….” She trails off with a laugh. 

“I guess I assumed we were in love with each other,” she continues. “I guess he never assumed that. Somehow we had his big misunderstanding for five years. I flew to Portugal to chase him down. And we kind of had this realization at the end of our trip together that we’d had a five-year misunderstanding. It was horrifying! It was the worst moment of my life! When you have that moment when you feel your heart dropping. I literally felt my heart dropping. So I immediately flew away, came back here, and wrote the song ‘Lisbon.’

… But theres a silver lining

“I was so proud of the song and I liked it so much that I sent it to him. We ended up working out our differences, getting back in touch, and we’re friends now. So I sent him the other day the music video, which I actually made from footage from our actual trip together. I had no intention of making it into a music video. The song had been written. But I was like, ‘You know what? You owe me this! For that heartbreak. I’m going to use our footage for my music video!’”

Awesome in the worst possible way.

“Yeah. I mean in the end it all worked out. It was absolutely horrible. But he always says to me, ‘You should thank me that I did that to you. Because now you have this dope song and this dope music video. All because I broke your heart.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah. Maybe. That’s one of looking at it.’”

Tigerlily and Feminism

If her choice of subject matter is anything to go by, Tigerlily seems to have a real passion for feminism.

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“I would say that it definitely came out of my experience being a woman in the music industry,” she admits. “Honestly it’s a lot of things. I think part of it was growing up, being in a rock band as a woman and receiving those sexist comments. Part of it is also after I got into the music industry I began to realize just how few women are also behind the scenes. I was interning as A&R, and they largely play a part in who gets signed. There really weren’t any women. That’s problematic. If it’s only men scouting out these artists, they probably aren’t going to see the brilliance of what all these women are doing, all the amazing songs they’re writing. So that’s always been something I’m passionate about.

“Having graduated and being older, I really want that to be central to my cause. WIth this solo project I really want to shed a light on the lack of Asian representation in the US music industry, and also the lack of women in the industry. That’s why I wanted to make an all-woman team. That’s why I have Maya as my manager. The other teammates, they’re both Asian women. When I was younger and in the band I was always waiting for the white male powerful dude to sign me. And I was like it’s just not gonna happen. These dudes didn’t get what I was doing before. I don’t know if they’ll get what I’m doing now. I don’t need to wait on them. We’re gonna hustle and we’re gonna do this ourselves.”

Love of Writing

Beyond her fervor for highlighting other talented women in the industry, Tigerlily has always had a love of the pen. Whether writing about one-way love affairs or badass women in music, she’s got the heart and grit of a writer.

“Actually the next thing I’d want to do,” she begins, “this is totally not what I was doing before. But I always wanted to write a book about my grandma’s life. She has such an interesting story. Having escaped from North Korea and come over to the US. I’ve always been like I need to write this story. That is a huge undertaking  writing an entire book. But that’s definitely on my to-do list.”

As with Bleachbear, she tried to confvince her younger sister and cousin to get in on the act. That didn’t go over as well. Each one of them insisting the other should write it. She has the same sort of trouble convincing her younger brother to be in her Tik Tok videos (despite even getting her mother involved). I suppose trying to force your younger brother to play cowbell in your TIk Tok videos could make him a little prickly. (Of course at the mention of cowbell, I had to reference the legendary “Don’t Fear the Reaper” SNL sketch.)

Slow Progress

But as someone who’s been in the business for almost a decade, I can’t help but wonder if Tigerlily has actually seen any shifts for the better. She and Maya would both agree change has been slow. More than anything, there’s a definite awareness, but, Tigerlily says, it could be so much better.

“What I encountered in the industry side was people didn’t want to talk about it,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s because they were afraid of it getting around that they were the woman talking about the lack of representation at the record label. Don’t really know why people aren’t talking about it. I am seeing it a little more, but there’s still so much more that could be done.”

“Black Hole Sun”

Tiger’s no wilting violet. That’s for damn sure. But as it happens, while she was part of a “dreampop grunge band,” her voice sounds nothing like Eddie Veder or her idol, Kurt Cobain. She truly has a pretty voice. Lovely and lilting in all the right ways. She might be a steel magnolia, but that voice is as delicate as cotton candy. So where does she draw her vocal inspiration?

“I always wanted a raspy voice Bonnie Raitt, Kurt Cobain voice. That would be awesome. My voice is the complete opposite,” Tigerlily says with a laugh. “I tried out everything. I had vocal lessons and was like, ‘Okay. I’m going to learn how to belt. I’m gonna learn how to scream.’ But at the end of the day I go back to my signature voice.

“I learned I could sing through Wii Rock Band. I think it was ‘Black Hole Sun.’ Every time I sang it I got 100 percent! Maybe that’s part of why I thought, ‘I’m gonna be a dope ass rock singer!’” Honestly, Chris Cornell, particularly when he sang this song acoustically, had one of the prettiest voices ever pressed. It makes sense, then, that Nintendo’s algorithm thought her voice was a perfect match.

Tigerlily the Pop Star

There is a noticeable shift in sound when she started doing music outside of Bleachbear. Her collaboration with Adam Nystrom (“Going Places”) points toward Tigerlily going in a more overtly pop direction.

However, another collaboration (with Mason Turner & the Reign on track “Summer Man”) shows she has the range for acoustic blues. Her dreams of collaborations even extend to the world of Reggaeton.

“You know K-pop could be cool. Who knows? I’m in love with different cultures. So it’d be fun to collaborate with people outside of the US.”

What the Future Holds

This, of course, leads to a conversation about visiting Korea and Japan (she’s also part Japanese). Which then leads to an all-out frenzy about Korean and Japanese food. Before it devolves any further, we talk about her plans for the future.

“So the single ‘Lisbon’ is going to be coming out July 15. Then we have the music video, which comes out July 22. Then we have some collaborations coming out after that, which I’m super excited about. Actually working with some other dope Asian-American artists. It’s all exciting and it’s all happening soon.”

Can we anticipate an EP or full-lenght in the near future?

“Actually,” she says thoughtfully, “when I made the song, I was thinking of turning it into an EP of cities. I think we’re going to work up to that. We’re going to focus on releasing them as singles and see how that goes.”

End of an (Ice Cream) Era

As we get to the end of our conversation, I have to ask her something that’s weighed heavily on my mind since we started. Does she still have aspirations of being a professional ice cream taster?

“You know,” she begins after the laughter dies down, “I don’t think so. Yesterday, I ate some ice cream mochi. When I was younger I could get through a whole pack. Yesterday I ate three and I was like this is too much! I don’t know if I got it in me any more.”

Tigerlily has ambition, experience, vision. She’s an artist that refuses to allow the industry to define her. She’s a woman with a mission and the guts to pull it off. This was truly one of the more intriguing interviews I’ve had the pleasure of doing in 2020. Please stay on the lookout for Tigerlily. Who knows, you might see her headlining Coachella in the future!

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Keep up with Tigerlily. A;sp watch out for her debut single, “Lisbon,” dropping July 15!

Official Website | Bandcamp | iTunes
Instagram | Tik Tok | Facebook | Twitter

(Bandcamp, Seattle Times, The New Yorker. Metiza Magazine, YouTube [1][2][3][4], Soundcloud.)

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